<
>

Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin scores game-winning goal in return from COVID-19 protocols

WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin didn't know how he would feel after not skating, let alone playing hockey, for the past 10 days while in quarantine.

It turned out to be pure jubilation.

In his first game since Jan. 19, Ovechkin scored the overtime winner to help the Washington Capitals beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 on Saturday night in a showdown between the top teams in the NHL's East Division.

After Ovechkin missed the previous four games because of COVID-19 protocols, the high-scoring forward showed his career-long flair for the dramatic by beating Tuukka Rask with a perfect shot 28 seconds into overtime.

"It was fun," said Ovechkin, who also had an assist while being eased back in with 14 minutes of ice time. "It was kind of tough ... but we battled through it, and we'll take the win."

Ovechkin's goal salvaged two points for the Capitals, who blew a 3-0 lead by allowing goals to Nick Ritchie, Brad Marchand and then Charlie McAvoy with 57.3 seconds left in regulation. In the process, Washington's captain tied Hall of Famer Mike Gartner for seventh on the career goal-scoring list with his 708th.

Ovechkin has missed only 35 games out of a possible 1,191 in his career -- with only 17 because of injury.

Coach Peter Laviolette wanted to keep Ovechkin under 15 minutes because he hadn't been on the ice for so long, and he noticed the 35-year-old improve as the game went on.

"In the second period, I thought he was better, and in the third period, I thought he was better, and the fourth period, he looked like he wanted to finish the game," Laviolette said. "For him to come out of the 10 days and play a game the way he did, I thought that that was a real bonus for our team."

Ovechkin was sidelined after goalie Ilya Samsonov tested positive for COVID-19, which forced the NHL to conduct contract tracing. It was determined that Ovechkin, forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, defenseman Dmitry Orlov and Samsonov were all in the same hotel room, which violates the NHL's strict road trip rules for the 2021 season. The Capitals were fined $100,000 as a team.

"It sucks, obviously," Ovechkin told reporters before Saturday's game. "No one wants to be suspended. No one wants to put yourself in that position. It's over. You learn from it and move on."

Orlov was cleared off the NHL's COVID-19 protocol list but was not in the lineup on Saturday. Samsonov and Kuznetsov have yet to be cleared.

The Capitals on Saturday remained unbeaten in regulation at 6-0-3 and extended their franchise-best point streak to start a season to nine games.

Former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara played almost 21 minutes in his first game against his former team, which didn't see him as a full-time player at age 43. Chara -- who doesn't wear a visor -- took a puck to the face late in the first period but returned for the second and didn't miss a shift.

ESPN's Emily Kaplan contributed to this report.