The Russian Machine, such as he is, still never breaks.
The Washington Capitals got a scare Friday night when Alex Ovechkin had to be helped off the ice late in the first period after a hit from Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri.
Ovechkin writhed in pain, clutching his left knee, for over a minute after his body slammed to the ice. He was not putting weight on his left leg as a trainer and teammates Nate Schmidt and Nicklas Backstrom helped him off the ice and down the tunnel.
A major injury seemed like a possibility until Ovechkin came back out, good as new, to start the second period. The hit came after 17:32 in the first so, all in all, he probably missed a single shift.
“I just needed a little break,” Ovechkin said.
Kadri was given two minutes for tripping and the penalty wound up costly, as T.J. Oshie scored on the ensuing Capitals power play.
“I tried to get a piece of him, he tried to get out of the way. It’s not like I stuck my knee out or got my arms high,” Kadri said, defending his hit. “It happened pretty quick. I thought it was okay.”
Ovechkin didn’t have a problem with the hit.
“It’s playoffs,” he said. “I didn’t watch the replay, but if it’s dirty it’s dirty. League gonna watch it and if not, it doesn’t matter right now.”
Leafs coach Mike Babcock, however, felt the penalty wasn’t deserved.
“[Capitals coach Barry Trotz] probably thought it should have been a major, I thought there should have been no penalty,” Babcock said. “That’s the beauty of the playoffs.
Babcock said that he thought Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik should have gotten a major for the hit he put on Toronto defenseman Roman Polak in Game 2 that ended Polak’s season.
“That’s kind of the playoffs, so we try to get someone in between who’s probably more reasonable than a coach,” Babcock said.
Trotz declined to share his feelings on the officiating, but was relieved that Ovechkin was fine.
“First of all, I’m just going to keep my own opinion about the hit,” Trotz said. “But when you see a star player down, you’re always quite concerned. He’s the face of this franchise, and you saw obviously he came back and how tough he is. That was a big hit.”
To hear Ovechkin tell it, too, it didn’t sound like anything too dramatic went on in the training room while he was off the ice. He did get to see Oshie score.
“I was watching TV,” Ovechkin said. “Just have a Coke and enjoy the match.”
Almost immediately after Ovechkin returned to roaring applause, he delivered a hit to defenseman Jake Gardiner, perhaps as proof that he was A-OK.
“He was running around a little bit when he came back, so he must have been fine,” Kadri said.
Ovechkin said there was no lingering pain when he came back, or when he laid the hit on Gardiner.
“It doesn’t hurt,” he said. “Nothing.”