The last time Alex Ovechkin remembers getting benched in a situation like Tuesday night, he was 14 years old. As a superstar going up the ranks all the way to the NHL, Ovechkin was used to being the man his team counted on to score the tying goal when down by one.
So when Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau told Ovechkin late in the third against the Anaheim Ducks that he would stay on the bench, the captain was less than pleased and muttered what appeared to be an obscenity about his head coach.
“Well, I was [ticked] off. Of course I wanted to be in the situation on the ice. It doesn’t matter who I said it and what I said,” Ovechkin said. “It’s just a little bit frustrating because I’m a leader on the team and I want to be on that kind of responsibility.”
On Wednesday, both parties put a good face on the story, which highlighted the Capitals’ team-wide desire for accountability. Ovechkin and Boudreau said they didn’t talk about the benching because they didn’t need to.
“There’s nothing to talk about,” Boudreau said. “We all understood it from Day 1.”
Ovechkin, in his coach’s words, “gets it.” He complimented the line of Brooks Laich, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward that helped create the tying goal by Nicklas Backstrom, and accepted the idea that he and his teammates are treated the same.
“It’s one team and it doesn’t matter how good you are or who you are,” Ovechkin said. “If you want to win, you have to be on the same page. Everybody.”
Ovechkin said just about everything he should have Wednesday, surrounded by reporters as if he was in Canada. He admitted what he said “looked funny on TV” but tried to brush it aside. Boudreau, for his part, said he didn’t hear what Ovechkin muttered and didn’t care.
“All our players — they’re all competitive,” Boudreau said. “And yeah, I don’t want them to be complacent and say, ‘Oh that’s nice.’ I think that’s what the idea was — knowing him, he’s going to be upset.”
He was, and everybody knew it.
“It was frustrating and that kind of situation [ticks] me off,” Ovechkin said. “It’s good for the team. I have to respond for it.”
Ovechkin came back and had the primary assist on Backstrom’s overtime winner. He was one of the first players on the ice during Wednesday’s practice and took his usual spot in front of the group for Boudreau’s on-ice talks.
“He’s a great captain that way. He gets mad because he wants to play and he wants to compete,” Boudreau said. “But at the same time, the next day he wants to get better and show that yesterday was yesterday, let’s get going to tomorrow. I would have expected nothing less from him because he leads by example.”