Caps winger Tom Wilson moved up to the team’s top trio with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom last game, and those three guys are likely to see some time against Tampa Bay’s top six tonight.
Coach Barry Trotz was concerned as Ovechkin clutched at his left knee and put no weight on his left leg after the borderline hip check from Nazem Kadri before limping down the tunnel late in the first period. But Ovechkin returned to start the second and could laugh it off after the Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 in Game 5 Friday night to take a 3-2 series lead.
He surpasses Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals this week and has dual-eligible category cog Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars in his sights at the one-quarter mark. Gaudreau is doing his damage alongside usual center Sean Monahan and has put forward Micheal Ferland (LW/RW, 20 percent owned) on the cusp of the top 100 forwards. Gaudreau has a 10-game point streak with seven multipoint games in the span.
“Watching film on them, they’re as electric and dynamic as it gets right now in the NHL,” says Wilson. “We’re going to have a big job, not only at five-on-five, but special teams where they’re good as well.
The Russian Hockey Federation also said Ovechkin, who had five goals and three assists in 13 playoff games, would not be able to play at the world championships in Europe because of the injury.
“They have five dynamic guys on the power play, and everybody thinks it’s just Ovechkin, but if you cover him, then you’ve got Oshie and Backstrom, Kuznetsov and [defenseman John] Carlson to worry about, so it’s a very difficult lineup to handle,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said Friday before the team headed off to the nation’s capital. “The best thing is not to take any penalties.”
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, a shoo-in for Team Canada if the NHL was going, respects what Ovechkin said but doesn’t believe he would be willing to go to South Korea if there were no official deal.
The Capitals are their usual soap opera. Backstrom and Ovechkin started the season on different lines and remained there until this week, when coach Barry Trotz reunited them. They produced a goal in the win over the Ottawa Senators. Ovechkin has 14 goals and seven assists on the season; Backstrom has struggled to three goals and 13 assists, with his helper on Ovechkin’s goal on Wednesday night his fourth assist in 14 games.
By the end of the Pittsburgh series, coach Barry Trotz had moved him down to the third line, and Ovechkin finished the playoffs with five goals and three assists in 13 games as he battled knee and hamstring injuries.
In the statement, Ovechkin thanked Capitals owner Ted Leonsis for his support. Leonsis had gone on record saying he would allow Ovechkin and other top players to go to the Olympics if they wanted to, even if it meant missing Capitals games.
Fellow Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov assisted on each of Ovechkin’s first three goals Saturday night, as Washington took a 4-0 lead into the first intermission. Ovechkin added a fourth goal, also assisted by Kuznetsov, in the second period.
Ovechkin crushed Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner on his first shift back, nhl jerseys cheap and Kadri said the Capitals’ captain “was running around a little bit when he came back, so he must have been fine.” Ovechkin took some jabs at Kadri the rest of the night but said he didn’t see the replay to judge whether the hit was dirty.
Wilson shoveled the puck to Nicklas Backstrom, who went back to Wilson just as the trio entered Tampa Bay ice. Wilson fed Alex Ovechkin on the left side, and the Caps captain cranked a one-timer past Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy with just 1:24 remaining in the period.
Ovechkin, who will turn 32 on Sunday, played for Russia in the past three Olympics. Russia has a long history of using its top players in the Olympics, well before the NHL began participating in Nagano, Japan, in 1998. The Soviet Union, and then the Unified Team, won eight of 10 Olympic gold medals from 1956 to 1992.