Their first playoff win in nearly 10 years came at a cost for the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night.
In a bout featuring a pair of unlikely combatants, 19-year-old rookie Andrei Svechnikov was knocked out in a first-period fight by 33-year-old Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin.
As one of the greatest goal scorers of all-time, Ovechkin doesn’t fight very often. Monday’s bout was just the fourth fight of his career, and the first in eight years. Svechnikov’s participation in the fight was even more surprising, given Ovechkin must have been a hero for him growing up in Russia — not to mention the fact that he gave up 40 pounds to the future Hall of Famer.
So the fight between Svechnikov and Ovechkin was the first ever Russian fight in the playoffs. And the first Russian fight in more than 20 years. It's funny that the first ever NHL fight that involved a Russian player was between Alexei Kasatonov and… Rod Brind'Amour! #ALLCAPS
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) April 16, 2019
The Hurricanes weren’t happy with Ovechkin, as you can imagine, with head coach Rod Brind’Amour saying that the Capitals forward jumped Svechnikov.
Brind'Amour: "One guy’s gloves comes off way first. And that’s Ovi, not our guy. So it’s a little bit frustrating because he got hurt. It's his first fight. He's played 90 games. He’s never fought in his life, and I'm pretty sure Ovi knew that. So that stuff bothers me.”
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) April 16, 2019
Here are Rod Brind'Amour's thoughts on the Andrei Svechnikov/Alex Ovechkin fight. Does not have an update on Svechnikov, said he left the building before the game was over. pic.twitter.com/bi95lwEdDY
— Emily Kaplan (@emilymkaplan) April 16, 2019
Ovechkin, for his part, says that Svechnikov challenged him.
“First of all I hope he’s ok,” Ovechkin told reporters after the game. “I’m not a big fighter, and he’s the same. He asked me to fight and I said, ‘let’s go, yeah.’ I hope he’s ok. You don’t want to see a guy get hurt.”
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There’s some debate about Ovechkin’s explanation, with Brind’Amour saying Tuesday that “there’s two versions” of the story.
Asked if Svechkinov confirmed Ovechkin's account that Svechnikov asked Ovechkin to fight. Rod Brind'Amour said, "There's two versions of that going around. I'll just leave it at that."
— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) April 16, 2019
The “code” for this type of fight is a little murky. Targeting a smaller rookie in a fight is completely against hockey decorum, though if Svechnikov was looking for trouble as Ovechkin contends, that unwritten rule goes out the window.
The Hurricanes went on to win the game 5-0, cutting Washington’s series lead in half with Game 4 scheduled for Thursday in North Carolina. Svechnikov, who went to hospital after the fight, will miss the next game (and probably more) with a concussion.