Coach, Star Discuss Celebration

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 21, 2009; Page E03

TAMPA, March 20 -- Less than a day after Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin commemorated his 50th goal of the season with a controversial celebration, Coach Bruce Boudreau said he talked to his star player and does not "expect it to happen again."

"We had a little talk," Boudreau said. "It's the first and only time I've seen that happen in all the time I've been watching Alex. I've never seen him do a celebration like that."

Boudreau did not share the specifics of the brief discussion, but Ovechkin said his coach asked him to explain his actions and warned the reigning MVP about tarnishing his reputation.

Ovechkin also said he was unaware of the simmering controversy and did not apologize for dropping his stick near the net and then repeatedly pretending it was too hot to pick up. His antics upset the Tampa Bay Lightning and fans at St. Pete Times Forum, and they ignited an Internet debate among fans split over whether the premeditated celebration was amusing or an expression of poor sportsmanship in a game that has traditionally frowned upon individualism.

"Bruce asked me what I mean [by] this," Ovechkin said after practice Friday. "I just have fun. He said people might think I don't respect different team. But I respect everybody. I don't want to show bad things. I show my thing. It was not disrespect."

With the goal, Ovechkin became the first Capital to score 50 goals three times and joined Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy as the only players to accomplish the feat in their first four NHL seasons.

"Everybody right now don't like my celebration when I score a goal and jump to the glass or do something like that," Ovechkin added. "But I only do something new. It's just my thing. I was just happy that I scored 50 goals."

When asked if he would celebrate a future milestone in similar fashion, Ovechkin smiled and said: "Not this [celebration]. A different one."

Laing Out for Season

Left wing Quintin Laing suffered a torn spleen Thursday night and will miss the remainder of the season. The 29-year-old grinder, who was playing in his first NHL game of the season, was taken to a Tampa hospital after the Capitals' 5-2 victory and remained in intensive care Friday, Boudreau said.

Laing was hurt in his second shift and experienced discomfort in his abdomen after the second period, but the extent of the injury was not known until he was examined by the Lightning's team doctor afterward.

"I feel sick about it because he's been waiting all year to get recalled," Boudreau said. "He loved it here. The fans in Washington loved the way he played. He gets in there and that line scores a goal for the first time in a long time. As soon as he blocked that shot, you said, 'Wow, he's back.' So it's a really tough break for him."

It's unclear how Laing was hurt or whether he will require surgery. Team spokesman Paul Rovnak stayed behind in Tampa with Laing, who will return to Washington as soon as doctors clear him to travel.

The recovery time for a torn spleen, Boudreau said, is three to four months. Laing was recalled on Thursday to replace Boyd Gordon, who is sidelined for two to three weeks with a broken finger. Boudreau said the Capitals will not need to call up a forward if Donald Brashear is able to return from a sprained knee.

Green Misses Practice

Mike Green did not practice Friday morning after missing the final four minutes of Thursday's game with an apparent abdominal or rib-cage injury. The defenseman, who scored goals No. 26 and 27 before getting hurt, said he hopes to skate Saturday morning, and at that time, will determine whether to suit up against the Carolina Hurricanes at RBC Center.

"It was, 'Let's take a day off and see how it is tomorrow,' " Boudreau said. "If you ask Mike, it's automatic that he's playing. But we want to do what's best for the Capitals and Mike in the long run."

If Green cannot play, the Capitals will not have to recall a defenseman because they are carrying seven. . . .

Washington's 15-point lead in the Southeast Division through Thursday night matched the biggest lead in the division's history.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company