The Washington Capitals' offense looked sharp Tuesday night, but it may have lost a key component in the process.
In the third period of Washington's 3-1 win against the Calgary Flames at the Verizon Center, Rene Bourque lifted his right elbow into the head of stud center Nicklas Backstrom, who had earned assists on all three Capitals goals.
"The puck isn't even close," Capitals center Marcus Johansson said. "And it's very, very unnecessary."
Bourque went to the penalty box for elbowing, while Backstrom stayed in the game for two more shifts. He was unable to finish the game.
"It was precautionary, and he's getting evaluated," Washington coach Dale Hunter said of Backstrom, the team's points leader with 42 points. "We'll know more (Wednesday)."
Washington has now won fourth straight, while Calgary has dropped four in a row. Alex Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer scored power-play goals, Dennis Wideman added a goal, and Tomas Vokoun made 18 saves for the Capitals, who improved to 9-6-1 under coach Dale Hunter.
Washington also blocked a season-high 24 shots, won 63 percent of its faceoffs and didn't allow a power-play goal for the ninth straight home game. Vokoun has stopped 125 of the last 131 shots he has faced, and the team is allowing only 2.25 goals per game since Hunter replaced Bruce Boudreau in late November.
"This is too good (of a) group to be in the middle, middle of nowhere," said Ovechkin, who has seven goals in seven games. "We just want to be in the playoffs."
Bourque's reviews weren't as good. Calgary coach Brent Sutter said a team can't "take a penalty 200 feet from the net" on the first shift of the game against a team like the Capitals. Ovechkin's one-timer soon made the score 1-0, his 17th goal of the season.
"I just felt like I was stuck in the boards, and even though it looked like I was holding him, I couldn't really move because my arm was on the other side of him," Bourque said. "But, yeah, it's a back-breaker. They scored right away in the first minute, and ... I take a stupid penalty."
Bourque was more nebulous about his hit on Backstrom. Bourque was suspended two games last month for a hit on Brent Seabrook of the Chicago Blackhawks.
"Did it look really bad? Was he hurt? I didn't even know if I clipped him," Bourque said. "I didn't even know if I hit him in the head."
The Capitals got another boost with the return of defenseman Mike Green, who had missed 23 straight games and 29 of 30 with a sprained right ankle and then a groin injury. Yet while Green was back, forward Alexander Semin was out - listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed upper body injury.
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.