The Washington Capitals defeated the Metropolitan Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes 4-0 on Thursday. The Capitals’ embattled captain, Alex Ovechkin, scored the team’s third goal of the game, a power-play marker, on a one-timer from just outside his office.
The goal was Ovechkin’s 33rd goal of the season and the 763rd of his career. Ovechkin now sits three goals behind Jaromir Jagr for third place on the NHL’s all-time goals list. He’s also 38 behind second-place Gordie Howe and 131 goals behind first-place Wayne Gretzky. The tally was only Ovechkin’s fourth goal in the last 12 games. The Capitals have fallen to the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference during that time
None of this felt important, however, last night.
— Capitals Replays (@capsreplays) March 4, 2022
After scoring the goal, Ovechkin returned to the bench and a large contingent of the Capitals’ fans chanted his name as play began again. In the above video, the crowd begins chanting “Ovi” at 1:12, and at the 1:35 mark, Ovechkin took a towel to his face and *appeared* to wipe tears away from the corner of his eyes.
Ovechkin has faced fierce criticism for his relationship and support of Russian president Vladimir Putin as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has unfurled.
At his press conference last week, Ovechkin tried to thread the needle, pleading for “no more war” without condemning the invasion, allowing him to be interpreted favorably both here and abroad. That message was not enough for many fans, who wanted Ovechkin to fully denounce Russia’s war and change his avatar on Instagram (which he’s had for many years) posing with Putin. But those calls do not consider that dissenting political speech in Russia is often forcefully discouraged. Ovechkin’s family, including his wife (Nastya) and children (Sergei and Ilya), flew to Russia before the conflict began. It’s unclear if Ovi’s family could return to DC due to flying restrictions implemented by the United States and Russia.
Since the invasion, some of Ovi’s sponsors, including CCM and MassMutual, have distanced themselves from him and fans have been spotted holding up Ukraine flags during warmups.
Ovechkin encountered paparazzi after the morning skate on Thursday while leaving MedStar Capitals Iceplex.
Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan spoke about the “incredible amount of pressure” Ovechkin has been put under during a press conference on Wednesday.
“He’s a good person,” Brian MacLellan said. “He’s an emotional person. He takes things personally. I think he’s been put under an incredible amount of pressure. For us, how do we support him? He’s been the face of our franchise and the face of hockey for this area. His family has grown up here. His kids are from here. Because of his status, he’s put in a hard situation to probably handle the situation I’m not sure he’s fully thought out. Or anybody has really.
“It’s hard for him,” he added. “We talked to him. He gets pressure from all sides. From North America. From Russia. From family. From a lot of different people. He tries to sort it out. We try to support him. We talk to him. We have people that are talking to him all the time asking him ‘how can we help?’ Help him get through what he needs to get through.”
Ovechkin has visibly shown frustration as the Capitals’ have fallen down the standings. During Monday’s game against the Maple Leafs, Ovechkin broke his stick across the bench as left the ice. Ovi was on the ice for Toronto’s game-winning goal.
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) March 1, 2022
Capitals season ticket holder, Phil Owen, also told RMNB that Ovi could be overhead yelling to John Carlson, “GIVE ME (THE) F***ING PUCK” after two failed entries for a power play that night.
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