WASHINGTON (AP) – Alex Ovechkin was injured and the Washington Capitals missed a great opportunity to move up in the standings by breaking a lead and losing 4-3 in a shootout Sunday night to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ovechkin crashed hard into the boards early in the third period and was ruled out with what the team called an upper body injury. His status on the way forward was not immediately clear.
The Capitals coughed up a two-goal lead, which they built not long after Ovechkin left the fight with obvious pain. They left with just one point after Toronto’s Alex Kerfoot scored to end the seven-round penalty shootout.
Washington had the chance to move into third place in the Metropolitan Division with three games left to play in the regular season after rival Pittsburgh Penguins lost to Philadelphia earlier in the day. A failed power play in OT cost the Capitals after the Maple Leafs were called for too many men on the ice.
As disappointing as it was for the Capitals not to beat the Leafs, the loss of Ovechkin could be a much bigger issue going forward.
Ovechkin tripped over Toronto goalkeeper Erik Kallgren’s stick after failing to score on an outburst attempt. His left arm and shoulder made contact with the boards, and the 36-year-old remained on the ice for several seconds while the arena became quiet.
Before he could get medical attention, Ovechkin got up and skated off the ice without his stick. He shouted to officials that no punishment was imposed on the play.
The consistently durable Russian superstar usually shakes off minor injuries and stays on the bench, as he did earlier in the night when he took a puck off his right shin. But Ovechkin went straight down the tunnel this time, and his status is unclear with the start of the playoffs just over a week away.
Not long after Ovechkin left the match, Lars Eller and Marcus Johansson scored to make it 3-1. Ilya Mikheyev scored to halve the Leafs deficit, and Jason Spezza equalized with 57.3 seconds left to force overtime.
Kallgren won his first NHL shootout after making 34 saves in regulation and OT. Ilya Lyubushkin also scored in the first period for the Maple Leafs, who were closer to wrapping home advantage in the first round.
Toronto must open against either the back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning or the Boston Bruins. The Capitals could still face the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes or New York Rangers in the first round.
NOTE: Maple Leafs captain John Tavares and defender Timothy Liljegren were given the night off to rest. … Defender Jake Muzzin missed a sixth game in a row with an undisclosed injury. … Toronto rookie of the year nominee Michael Bunting was out after being injured Saturday night in Florida. Coach Sheldon Keefe said Bunting woke up feeling better, but the team still did not have an expected time frame for the striker to return.
Maple Leafs: Return home to face the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday in their penultimate game of the regular season.
Capitals: Host the New York Islanders Tuesday night in the first half of a home-and-home series with former coach Barry Trotz’s team.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports