With Wilson out, Ovechkin’s physicality catalyzes Caps win


Tom Wilson’s absence was felt mightily by the Washington Capitals as they dropped Game 2 to the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night. And when the puck dropped for Saturday's Game 3 matinee, it was none other than Alex Ovechkin who made sure there was no lack of physical presence by the Capitals this time around.

The Capitals’ captain filled in the void left by Wilson for much of the dominant 6-1 win, bum-rushing the Panthers each time he hit the ice.

“If the big man's hitting — I guess everyone's got less games than him, less experience, less GOATness — so if the big man's hitting, you better be hitting, too,” T.J. Oshie said after the game. “He's going to drag everyone else along with him.”

Ovechkin tallied two points in the contest, assisting on Oshie’s goal late in the first period and scoring a blistering one-timer in the third. He notched six hits in the game, tied for most on the Capitals with Garnet Hathaway and Lars Eller. His impact was felt by his teammates.

“He wears the 'C' for a reason,” Oshie said. “He leads us into battle. When he's going hard and he's being physical that just bleeds into the rest of the team.”

Contributing to the physical battle in the absence of Tom Wilson can’t be understated. Though hits are sometimes a misleading stat — teams often hit more when they don’t have a lot of possession and are conceding turnovers — Ovechkin was the driving force behind Washington storming back from a 1-0 deficit to score six unanswered goals and take a 2-1 series lead. 


Wilson’s status remains unknown for Game 4. Laviolette and the Caps will hope he can suit up after the lower-body injury he suffered 90 seconds into Game 1. If he’s out, Ovechkin will likely need to step into the physical role again. 

“Which we need. Everybody's got to chip in with that. Tom's not there again tonight and he's a big guy that provides some physicality and so everybody's got to ante up,” head coach Laviolette said postgame. “For a guy who scores goals and is going to go down as one of the greats of all time, his physical play is always evident and needed. And so it set the tone.”

A goal, assist, and six hits later, Ovechkin and the Capitals lead the NHL’s best regular-season team 2-1 in the first round. An absolutely critical Game 4 awaits on Monday night in the nation’s capital.