In the short term, R.J. Umberger ended a wild and entertaining 5-4 victory for the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday evening at Verizon Center by scoring in overtime on a pass from Rick Nash.
Of more pressing concern for the Washington Capitals is their hurting superstar.
Alex Ovechkin left the game with what appeared to be an arm/shoulder/chest injury in the second period. Ovechkin leveled Jason Chimera with a hit in the first period, and then Chimera bumped him as he skated past the Blue Jackets bench early in the second.
Coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game Ovechkin was day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Ovechkin stopped and give Chimera a two-handed shove, and then chaos ensued with all 10 skaters on the ice involved in the scrum. Chimera and Ovechkin earned roughing penalties at 1:11, while Jared Boll was tagged with a roughing minor and a 10-minute misconduct.
The two-time MVP left the scrum favoring his left arm/shoulder and continued to try and rotate it in the penalty box. During Ovechkin’s next shift, he collided with Raffi Torres and put his left arm out to brace for the fall. Ovechkin immediately winced in pain and left the ice with 13:50 left in the period.
Quintin Laing returned after missing three games with three games with swine flu and scored his first goal of the season with 3:26 left in the third. Matt Bradley took the first shot from the right wing, and David Steckel deftly sent the rebound to Laing for what looked the game-winner.
But Torres netted his second of the contest with 22.4 seconds left, redirecting a slap-pass from Derick Brassard near the left post to force overtime.
With Ovechkin missing, it was Brooks Laich who helped rally the Caps in the third period with a pair of goals. Columbus goaltender Steve Mason was en route to another masterpiece against the Caps, but Laich struck twice 2:08 apart to erase a one-goal deficit.
The first was a rebound of a shot from Tom Poti, who was replacing Ovechkin on the left point of the top power-play unit, and the second came with Mike Knuble providing a perfect screen in front on a shot from the top of the circles.
Torres leveled the score at three with 6:24 left. His backhanded wraparound attempt hit Caps goalie Jose Theodore on the inside of his left leg and squirted through.
Nicklas Backstrom gave the Caps the lead with the only goal of the opening period. The Caps couldn’t put the puck past Mason in two games last year, but a passing clinic on the power play helped them break through at 12:13.
Tomas Fleischmann sent a pass from the left to wing to Backstrom, who flicked a pretty, behind-the-back dish to Alexander Semin on the right side. Semin went across the ice back to Fleischmann at the inside of the left circle, and he made the final play to Backstrom for an easy score and his fourth of the season.
The Blue Jackets struck twice in the middle period to gain the lead. Rick Nash went around Mike Green before depositing a nifty backhanded shot past Jose Theodore at 5:03.
Then with Columbus on the power play, Nash tried to send the puck along the boards, but it caromed out in front of the net and R.J. Umberger was there to put it in the empty cage. Theodore had gone behind the net to wait for the puck, but it never got to him thanks to the awkward bounce.
Note — Boudreau altered his forward lines before the game, moving Brendan Morrison and Knuble to the top line with Ovechkin. Fleischmann earned a promotion to a new-look second line with Semin and Backstrom, which allowed the coach to reunite the Laich-David Steckel-Matt Bradley combination that thrived in the playoffs last season.