ARLINGTON, Va. - Sure enough, two-time MVP Alex Ovechkin says he was ticked off when he was left on the bench with the game on the line.
He also says he understands why the coach did it and that it could happen again as part of the Washington Capitals' season-long theme that calls for everyone to be more accountable.
Ovechkin wasn't among the players coach Bruce Boudreau sent onto the ice after pulling the goalie with a one-goal deficit late in regulation Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks.
Television cameras caught what appeared to be some unpleasant words from Ovechkin directed at the coach.
But Boudreau's move worked. The Capitals tied the score then won 5-4 in overtime.
"Well, I was (ticked) off," Ovechkin said Wednesday. "Of course I want to be in that situation on the ice, and you know it doesn't matter who I said it (to) and what I said. It look funny on TV.
"It's right now a big story. 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."
Boudreau said he was "playing a hunch" by going with the third line of Brooks Laich, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward, supplemented by Nicklas Backstrom. Laich, Chimera and Ward were playing very well; the threesome accounted for seven points on the night.
"Ninety-nine per cent of the time Alex is the first guy I'm looking at," Boudreau said, "but these guys were going pretty good."
But Boudreau hasn't been shy about reducing ice time for top players in this young season. The message: Play well or sit.
"It's the theme for the whole year. ... I hope the message has gotten clear from July 'til now. I'm hoping we don't change that message," Boudreau said. "We're going to try to stay strong with it. That's what it is, and I think that's the only way that we're going to be successful."
Boudreau says he didn't hear what Ovechkin said on the bench but understands why his star player wouldn't be happy.
"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.' "
Ovechkin said it's been a long time since he's been left on the bench during such a crucial moment in the game.
"When I was little kid," he said with a laugh. "So I'm right now back to young age again. So thanks, Bruce."
Nevertheless, Ovechkin said Laich's line deserved to be on the ice after having such a good game. Also, as the team captain, it's important that he buy into the accountability theme.
"Yeah, it's one team," said Ovechkin, who has five goals and five assists through 10 games. "It doesn't matter how good you are or who you are.
"If we want to win, we have to be on the same page."