- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Alex Ovechkin acknowledged that he did not play for the Washington Capitals on Tuesday in their 5-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks because he overslept, thereby missing the morning skate and, according to team rules, preventing him from playing that night.

“I just messed up with my alarm clock,” Ovechkin said Wednesday morning, following the team’s practice. “I put 8:30 p.m., not a.m., so I fall asleep and make mistakes and that [discipline is] fine.”

The Capitals had initially said Ovechkin missed the morning skate, and then the game, because of personal reasons. Coach Barry Trotz stood by that explanation when asked about it again after the game.

San Jose skated to an easy victory, scoring three goals in the first 28 minutes before topping off its night with a pair of empty-netters as time expired.

Andre Burakovsky filled in for Ovechkin as the top-line left wing, with Brooks Laich moving up from the fourth line to take Burakovsky’s spot. Matt Niskanen and Stan Galiev, a healthy scratch in the opener on Saturday, assumed Ovechkin’s responsibilities on the top power play unit.

It was only the 27th time Ovechkin has missed a game in his career, which is now entering its 11th season. He missed one game last March because of an unspecified lower-body injury; he has missed more than four games in a season only once — in 2009-10, when he sat for six games with a shoulder injury and was disciplined by the league for penalties in four others.

On Wednesday, Trotz said he cited “personal reasons” for Ovechkin’s absence, rather than acknowledging it was a disciplinary matter, because it happened on the day of the game and he didn’t want to distract the rest of the team.

Ovechkin said he left home for the practice facility as soon as he woke up. Trotz said he and Ovechkin discussed the matter once he arrived, but neither the player nor the coach would say when that was.

“It’s a team rules, and we talk,” Ovechkin said. “We have a conversation, and I think we understand each other.”

Once practice ended on Wednesday, players left the ice together — an unusual move, as Ovechkin typically steps off first and others trickle off after taking extra time to skate, shoot or mingle. They then changed and vacated the dressing room fairly quickly following practice, but Ovechkin returned, handed the responsibility of explaining his absence before Trotz had to do so.

“It was an honest mistake, but we have certain accountability rules and everyone is accountable in our room,” Trotz said.

Trotz, entering his second season with the Capitals, has remained steadfast in his support of Ovechkin. He has acknowledged that on several occasions before he was hired, he heard that Ovechkin could not be coached, but has frequently said he’s found that to be untrue.

The coach also has been willing to be stiff with his players when warranted, including benching several veterans at times last season because of their poor play.

“Coaching is not about equality, but there are certain foundational things [that apply],” Trotz said. “I mean, we’ve done a lot of things from a cultural standpoint that makes this team very accountable to each other, and that’s why it’s very important that certain things apply to everybody.”

Ovechkin arrived at Verizon Center approximately an hour before the game began on Tuesday and watched it with injured center Nicklas Backstrom.

It was only the fifth time since Backstrom entered the league in 2007-08 that he and Ovechkin both missed a game — a fact that was shared on the television broadcast.

“I didn’t even know that,” Backstrom said on Wednesday. “We looked at each other and when we heard that, we said, ‘I don’t think we’ve been out, but maybe we have, at the same game.’ That was kind of funny. That doesn’t happen too often.”

Trotz said after the game that Ovechkin will play on Thursday, when Washington hosts the Chicago Blackhawks, the defending Stanley Cup champions. He also said Ovechkin understood that the discipline was especially important because of his role as the captain and one of the team’s leaders.

“I think that’s just good leadership, you know?” Trotz said. “If you lead and mess up — everybody messes up, that’s just the way it goes.”

• Zac Boyer can be reached at zboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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