Barry Trotz publicly criticzed Alex Ovechkin for spending too much time in the penalty box. (Nick Wass/AP)

After Capitals Coach Barry Trotz publicly expressed his displeasure with star forward Alex Ovechkin on Monday night over an “unacceptable” recent rash of penalties, he promised to “address it harshly” with Ovechkin on Tuesday.

The actual discussion seemed to be a relatively routine chat between a disappointed coach and an apologetic player. As for the harsh part?

“If it’s going on again, then there’s not going to be a lot of power play and playing time,” Trotz said. “If my message is not getting through, then the only thing I have is really ice time.”

Against the Buffalo Sabres, Ovechkin was called for his fifth minor penalty in the past three games, prompting criticism from Trotz after the game. By Tuesday afternoon, the issue seemed to be resolved: Trotz said their conversation “went well,” and Ovechkin admitted he needs to spend less time in the penalty box.

Trotz reasoned that his comments on Ovechkin after the game wasn’t a “calling out.” But asked if publicly voicing his displeasure with the team’s captain is something he had to think twice about, Trotz joked, “sometimes I don’t think twice.”

“I think one of the things that Alex understands is that to be the captain you have to be the front guy,” Trotz said. “You have to man up. It’s a big weight to carry the ‘C’ because you have to be the leader of a hockey team and you have to be the guy when things aren’t going right. You’ve got to help be part of the solution, not the problem. So, he understands that. It’s not really a calling out.”

This isn’t the first time Trotz has held his superstar forward accountable. In their first meeting after Trotz was hired in 2014, Trotz told Ovechkin he wanted him to be a more two-way and defensively responsible player without hindering his offensive production. Trotz also wanted to help mold Ovechkin into a better captain, which meant he would have to take responsibility when occasion called for it. When Ovechkin overslept for a morning skate early last season, Trotz scratched him that night as a disciplinary measure, and the next day, Ovechkin admitted an error in setting his alarm clock.

Ovechkin leads the Capitals in penalty minutes (22) and minor penalties (11) this season, and he’s on pace for the most penalty minutes since he had 89 in 72 games during the 2009-10 season. Ovechkin had 53 penalty minutes in 79 games last year. He’s the Capitals’ second leading scorer with 12 goals and six assists in 24 games.

“Obviously, I have to be on the ice and not in the penalty box,” he said. “It’s a good thing we talk. It’s my mistakes, and I just have to handle it and don’t take those penalties.”

Six of Ovechkin’s 11 minor penalties have been for slashing, something referees might be looking out for now that they’ve repeatedly warned Ovechkin for it. Ovechkin slashed Carolina’s Jordan Staal and then Staal scored on the ensuing power play in what was ultimately a 5-1 loss for Washington. On Saturday night, Ovechkin slashed Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman, and Hedman setup Nikita Kucherov’s goal on the resulting power play. The Capitals lost that game in the shootout, 2-1.

It’s possible referees are more sensitive to slashing after Calgary star Johnny Gaudreau’s finger was broken by repeated whacks in a game, which prompted Flames General Manager Brad Treliving to express his frustration in several discussions with the NHL. On Monday night, Ovechkin slashed Marcus Foligno in the offensive zone, and though he said it was “not that hard” of a slash, it was avoidable.

“Slash in the hands, of course they’re going to call it,” Ovechkin said.

“Some of the referees have come by and said, ‘Hey Alex. The next time I’m going to call you,’” Trotz said. “And then you get called. So they’ve been very fair in warning him, that type of thing. So he’ll respond the right way.”

Ovechkin isn’t the only star player who’s made frequent visits to the penalty box this season, as Justin Williams has 16 penalty minutes and Nicklas Backstrom has 14, ranked fourth and fifth on the team, respectively. Backstrom said Trotz hasn’t approached him specifically about penalties yet.

“Every time you take a penalty, you feel bad, even if he hasn’t said anything yet,” Backstrom said. “I know it, and it’s not good enough.”

After being one of the least penalized teams to start the season, the Capitals have taken the fifth-most minor penalties in the league in their past 11 games with 47. But Washington has recently played more disciplined, called for just eight penalties in the past three games. Ovechkin has been the guilty party for five of them.

“Alex doesn’t hide from anything,” Trotz said. “He mans up, all that. So, it was good. He understands the best way to help the team is to not be in the penalty box. Especially some of the stick penalties and stuff, he can get those out of his game. He knows that. We need him on the ice. He knows that we need him on the ice. That’s where he’s going to be most productive. So he knows as a leader of our team he can’t be putting us down in terms of being a man short as often as he has lately. I know he’ll clean it up.”

isabelle.khurshudyan@washpost.com