The Capitals pulled off an improbable 6-3 win over the New York Rangers on Monday without T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Justin Schultz, Ilya Samsonov and, after one shift, Alex Ovechkin.
As good as the win was in the moment, the status for each player looms large with the Stanley Cup playoffs on the horizon.
Ovechkin had missed the last four games with a lower-body injury. He took one shift of 39 seconds before coming out of the game on Monday. Towards the end of the shift it looked like he was skating awkwardly and he grimaced as he headed to the bench.
"[Ovechkin] felt really good in the morning and you saw him practicing before he left," head coach Peter Laviolette said. "He felt really good in the morning and went into the warmups and it was not quite as good. We were already shorthanded, so it’s not like we were making a lineup decision. He got into the game and the first shift he just didn’t feel comfortable, so at that point, again, we’re not going to push or risk"
Laviolette added: “We were going more on how he felt yesterday, how he felt in the pre-game skate. There weren’t any issues and it just wasn’t quite as good in the warmups, so he came out for a spin and decided to call it off.”
Laviolette said the undisclosed injury was not reaggravated or made worse, just that it felt bad enough for Ovechkin to come out as a precaution.
"That was the whole thing," Laviolette said. "If he felt anything that didn’t feel right or normal, then he was going to come out."
As for Kuznetsov and Samsonov, who were surprising scratches after being late for a team function, Laviolette would not provide any further details on the situation saying the team 'usually keep things internally."
The Caps were already facing the possibility of a shorthanded lineup before their potential benching was announced, but even so Laviolette said the decision to hold them out was not a difficult one.
“It’s about we’ve got to work together inside here," Laviolette said. "There’s got to be rules, there’s got to be boundaries and there’s got to expectations set and you have to be accountable to them.”
Laviolette would also not commit to their benching being limited to just one game.
“You know, we’ve got a lot on our plate today," Laviolette said. "You can ask that question again tomorrow.”