Washington Capitals\' Alex Ovechkin, right, of Russia, celebrates with Mike Green, centre, and Alexander Semin, of Russia, after scoring against Toronto Maple Leafs during second period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday March 24, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
ARLINGTON, Va. - Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau accused the media Thursday of blowing out of proportion the controversy over Alex Ovechkin's 50th goal celebration and revealed he called Tampa Bay Lightning counterpart Rick Tocchet to talk about the superstar's antics.
The Capitals host the Lightning on Friday, the first meeting between the clubs since Ovechkin hit the 50-goal milestone at Tampa on March 19. The NHL's reigning MVP, whose on-ice exuberance had already been a source of debate around the league, took his act to a new level when he celebrated the goal by putting his stick on the ice and pretending it was too hot to touch.
After the game, Tocchet said Ovechkin "went down a notch in my books." Players, coaches and pundits have since weighed in on whether premeditation celebrations have a place in the NHL. Growing tired of the subject, Boudreau erupted Thursday when asked about the possibility that the Lightning will seek retribution.
"You want to go there? It's 10 days since it happened," Boudreau said. "We have talked to Tampa's coaches. We have said our speech. The people that are bringing this up are you guys. Nobody cares about it anymore. But you guys want to bring it up because you want to see a riot, then you want to talk about retribution. It's the dumbest thing in the world. You've got to have better stuff to talk about.
"There should be no retribution at all. He scored his 50th goal in a 0-0 game. It wasn't 8-0 where he made a mockery. If Tampa scores a couple of goals and wants to do a celebration, go for it. It's a done deal as far as I'm concerned, and that's it."
"Alex has not had a fight in four years in the NHL," Boudreau added. "Do you think he's going to go out there and people are just going to jump him for something that happened? I forget things that happened 10 minutes later. They'll probably try really, really hard to beat us, and that would be the best retribution for Tampa, to work their rear ends off to beat us. But for something that was not meant to harm anybody in any way - it was a personal celebration - to me seems like the dumbest thing in the world and I know Tampa's players are smarter and more professional than that."
Boudreau said he called the Lightning coaches as a "professional courtesy." Asked if it was an apology, Boudreau said: "What we said is between us, but that was it. Certainly hockey has got more stuff going on. The playoff races are so intense and so tight that we're talking about a three-second thing. I feel like Allen Iverson talking about practice, for crying out loud. It's dumb. Let's get over it."
Boudreau did not take the celebration well when it happened. He addressed it afterward with Ovechkin and said he doesn't expect a repeat performance. Ovechkin later compared his celebration to someone reacting to winning a million dollars in the lottery: "It's good for our league, it's good for our fans. Some players are just like robots," he said.
As for the Lightning, Tocchet agreed with Boudreau that the best way to get back at Ovechkin would be to beat the Capitals.
"It's kind of blown out of proportion," Tocchet said Thursday before Tampa Bay's game against the Montreal Canadiens. "The only thing I was upset about was that he did it by our crease, in front of the goalie. You want to do it, do it by their bench. Sure, you like to see players react, but reacting is beating Washington and playing abrasive. It's not being stupid. That's the way I coach."