The Washington Capitals found themselves skating away with a rare 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks Monday, marking the first time in two years that the team has accomplished such a feat.
A slow start to the first period was followed by an offensive explosion — Devante Smith-Pelly, Alex Ovechkin, Brett Connolly and Jakub Vrana all scored, and the Capitals seemed to be doing everything right. However, the positives were somewhat eclipsed by a few negatives, including an injury to T.J. Oshie, which leaves yet another Capitals player injured.
In the second period of Monday’s match-up, T.J. Oshie was skating on the penalty kill and checked Logan Couture hard into the boards, which resulted in him somewhat losing his balance. As he went down, Joe Thornton went backward into Oshie, sending a blow to his head. The 30-year-old Capitals’ winger fell to the ice and stayed down, and after athletic trainers tended to him on the ice, he was able to skate off under his own power.
Tom Wilson, who didn’t see the hit in real time, was unhappy with the play and decided to avenge his fallen teammate, dropping the gloves with Thornton in the third period.
“In that instance, that hit, I didn’t like personally, I don’t think the team liked it, anytime a guy is down, it’s kind of a no-hit zone,” Wilson said. “It’s part of the game. He stood up for himself afterward and I respect him for that.”
According to Wilson, he wouldn’t comment on whether or not the hit was necessary until he got to see a replay, but said he holds Thornton in high regard as a player.
“I think he’s an honest player, he was one of my favorite players growing up,” Wilson said. “He’s what’s good for the game.”
Still, the hit was one that took away one of Washington’s top-six forwards, as well as someone who brings a lot of energy and positivity to the locker room.
“[Oshie] is one of our best players. He’s one of the leaders in the room, and it’s honestly not great to see that hit in that instance, and obviously, hoping Osh makes a full recovery and feels better soon,” Wilson said.
Head coach Barry Trotz had no updates on Oshie’s status after the game, and he did not practice Tuesday and is doubtful to draw into the lineup Wednesday against Chicago. In the meantime, Tyler Graovac will draw back into the lineup in his place, likely until Chandler Stephenson and Andre Burakovsky are healthy enough to fill that void.
Alex Ovechkin’s Hot Streak
The 32-year-old captain continued his hot streak, which has been burning since after he broke a six-game goal-less drought. Ovechkin scored his 20th goal of the season Monday on a quick backhander that beat Martin Jones. His 578th career goal was also a historic one, which helped him steal away the #20 spot on the all-time NHL scoring list, putting him ahead of Mark Recchi.
“I was surprised,” Ovechkin said of his goal. “I don’t have a good backhand but it goes in.”
While Ovechkin said he was shocked, Philipp Gruabuer admitted that seeing Ovechkin’s success this season is nothing new, to him, but it’s mesmerizing to see each time he accomplishes a new feat, which to Grubauer, seems often.
“You can’t even keep up with all the guys he passes, that Bossy guy and that Recchi guy today. He’s a great guy,” Grubauer said. “He can shoot the puck… he shoots awesome. He’s one the best goal-scorers in the game in the game and he knows where to put the puck and he’s dangerous and you can’t leave him alone too many times.”
Trotz himself was taken aback by Ovechkin’s ability, saying that he “had lots of jump” in his game against the Sharks, and he has been seeing a lot more effort and drive in the captain’s game this season.
“When he’s focused on making a point or trying to reach something, he gets some jump,” Trotz said.
And, when it came to passing Recchi on the all-time goals list, Trotz was nearly at a loss for words.
“It blows my mind that you can pass some great players in terms of production, and to do it in the difference of 700 games, that blows my mind,” Trotz said. “I don’t even know how to respond to that.”
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.