RALEIGH, N.C. | Nicklas Backstrom and Jose Theodore had their most productive games in a long time, but this victory was marred by another ejection and another injury for Alex Ovechkin.
Backstrom had two goals and assisted on a third, and Theodore had 38 saves as the Washington Capitals defeated the lowly Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 Monday night at RBC Center. It was Washington’s third straight victory, and the Caps kept pace with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Ovechkin was ejected for the second time in three games, but that could be the least of the worries for the Caps. He collided with Carolina’s Tim Gleason and was given a five-minute major for kneeing and a game misconduct 12:05 into the first period. His right knee hit Gleason’s left, and both writhed on the ice in pain.
Both went to their respective dressing rooms, but Gleason returned before the end of the period. Ovechkin was unable to put any weight on his right leg when he skated off while head trainer Greg Smith and Nicklas Backstrom helped him off the ice.
A Caps official said there would be no update on Ovechkin’s condition until Tuesday at the earliest.
Ovechkin was tossed from the game against Buffalo at Verizon Center on Wednesday for a hit on Patrick Kaleta. He was assessed a major for boarding and a game misconduct on the play, though he was not fined or suspended, and both Caps coach Bruce Boudreau and Ovechkin felt the 15 minutes in penalties and the ejection were too severe.
This isn’t the first time Ovechkin has been involved in a knee-on-knee hit. He knocked knees with Pittsburgh’s Sergei Gonchar on a similar play during Game 4 of the teams’ second-round playoff series last postseason.
The Hurricanes entered the night four points behind Toronto for 29th place in the 30-team NHL, but they got off to a fast start. Carolina had 12 of the first 13 shots on net, and Joe Corvo’s rebound tally 4:35 into the opening period gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead.
It could have been worse if not for Theodore, who was making his first start since Nov. 14 at New Jersey. He gave up five goals in that game and was yanked after yielding three on five shots in his previous appearance, but this was one of the best efforts Theodore has produced in a Washington uniform.
Backstrom scored on his team’s second shot of the game — a one-timer on a beautiful pass from Ovechkin at 6:11 of the first. It was Backstrom’s first goal in 13 games.
Eric Fehr pushed the Caps in front late in the opening period. Moved to the top line after Ovechkin’s injury/ejection, Backstrom fed him with a perfect pass on a two-on-one for his seventh of the season.
Fehr had two goals Saturday night in Montreal and now has six goals and 10 points in his 11 games since returning from a rib injury three weeks ago.
Backstrom added his second of the night with the lone goal of the middle period. Carolina goaltender Michael Leighton slid way out of position to the right of his net, and Backstrom collected the puck after it was deflected before depositing a spin-o-rama, backhanded shot into the empty net at 14:53.