WASHINGTON — On the same night Tom Wilson beat up a player he grew up admiring, Alex Ovechkin beat the team he grew up rooting for.
Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading 20th goal of the season and assisted on another, helping the Washington Capitals snap their recent run of futility against the San Jose Sharks with a 4-1 victory Monday night.
The Capitals beat the Sharks for the fourth time in 18 meetings since Ovechkin entered the league in 2005-06. It’s just Washington’s second regulation win against San Jose in that time and first since Oct. 15, 2009. It ended a four-game skid in the series.
“It was a situation where everybody step up and everybody play for each other,” said Ovechkin, who considered Owen Nolan his favorite player and the Sharks his favorite team as a kid in Moscow. “I think we just move our feet. I think we have lots of speed in our game. We didn’t have lots of turnovers. We managed the puck well. That helps us a lot.”
Halting the Sharks’ recent mastery came at a cost: T.J. Oshie left in the second period with an upper-body injury and didn’t return. As Oshie was already engaged with Logan Couture and falling down along the boards, he took Joe Thornton’s backside to the head.
“He was just falling a little bit,” said Thornton, adding that he hopes Oshie makes a full recovery. “It’s not like I ran him or anything. I bumped him and it felt like my hip kind of hit him in the head. So it’s just unfortunate what happened.”
Washington coach Barry Trotz said the team would “go through all of the protocols” with Oshie as it does any injured player.
Tom Wilson took exception to Thornton’s hit and fought him in the third period of a chippy game that also included a fight between Alex Chiasson and Barclay Goodrow. Wilson called Thornton an “honest player” and one of his favorites to watch but wasn’t a fan of the hit that injured Oshie.
“He’s what’s good for the game, and in that instance, that hit, I didn’t like personally and I don’t think our team liked,” Wilson said. “Any times a guy is down, it’s kind of a no-hit zone.”
Sharks coach Peter DeBoer wasn’t happy that Wilson went after Thornton so long after the hit, calling it premeditated “garbage.” He and Capitals assistant Lane Lambert shouted expletives at each other after the fight between Wilson and Thornton.
“I think our group appreciated the fact you’ve got a 38-year-old Hall of Famer out there that’s basically forced into that by their coaches and their bench,” DeBoer said.
Before those tensions rose, Ovechkin continued his climb up the career list with his 578th goal, passing Hall of Famer Mark Recchi for 20th — in 703 fewer games. He only recently passed Mike Bossy and is now the 11th player in NHL history to score at least 20 goals in each of his first 13 seasons.
Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said D Paul Martin is close to returning from an undisclosed injury that has kept him out since Oct. 12.
Capitals F Travis Boyd made his NHL debut, replacing Chandler Stephenson, who’s day-to-day with an upper-body injury.