A week ago, Alex Ovechkin’s immediate future on the ice looked in question.
Taken to the hospital with what seemed to be a serious right knee injury during a round-robin game against Germany, Ovechkin’s time captaining the Russian team at the world championship in Minsk was thought to be over.
Not so fast.
The Washington Capitals star returned for Russia’s quarterfinal win over France, played in the semis against Sweden and capped off a perfect tournament by scoring a key goal in a 5-2 win over Finland in the gold-medal game Sunday.
The Russians won despite the absence of coach Oleg Znarok, who was suspended for making a throat-slashing gesture at Swedish assistant coach Rikard Gronborg in the semifinals.
"If you don't know Znarok, he is a very emotional man, who answers for his words and for his men," Ovechkin said on the IIHF website. "He was the captain of this ship and he led it on the right course. And this leader was taken away from us. But we fought for him. And for our relatives, our children, the entire Russia."
The gold medal is Russia’s fourth at the worlds in the last seven years and helped erase some of the hurt left by an early exit at the Sochi Olympics.
Ovechkin tied the final 2-2 in the second period then Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins netted the winner eight minutes later. Danis Zaripov, Viktor Tikhonov and Sergei Shirokov also scored for the Russians.
Iiro Pekarinen and Olli Palola scored for Finland.
"I think winning silver is an accomplishment," Finland’s Tuukka Mantyla said. "It was awesome to win something. Of course I am disappointed and wanted to win a gold medal but considering where we were to start this tournament, this is an accomplishment."
Sweden posted a 3-0 win over the Czech Republic to take the bronze medal. Afterwards, New Jersey Devils forward Jaromir Jagr announced that he was retiring from international play.
"That was my last game for the Czech Republic," Jagr said. "I'll be back to play in the NHL next year, but I won't play for my country again."
Finnish goalie Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators was named tournament MVP despite giving up five goals in the final. American Seth Jones of the Predators was the top defenceman and Tikhonov was the top forward.