MONTREAL—It was the shot seen ‘round the hockey world. In which one of the game’s biggest superstars was caught on camera, seemingly berating his head coach from the team’s bench before falling off his seat and appearing to say the words, "Do your job," in the final seconds of a 5-3 loss for his Colorado Avalanche to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday.
Now, less than two full days later, the incident is ancient history, according to the player in question, Nathan MacKinnon.
"It’s all good," he said following Colorado’s practice at the Bell Centre on Friday. "It was all good 20 minutes after the game."
Of airing his frustrations from a space in the arena that rarely, if ever, escapes the camera’s view, MacKinnon said, "That’s unacceptable on my part, I can’t be doing that stuff."
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said on Friday that he’d have preferred MacKinnon air his frustrations in private, but also said he wasn’t particularly bothered by his outburst.
"I think that if you look at it from a player-coach (perspective) in this business, confrontation and emotion—to me—isn’t always a bad thing," Bednar said. "It can be a good thing as long as you’re channeling it in the right way, and I have no problem with players showing emotion. I’ve got thick skin. I’m not a sensitive guy, neither is Nate, and we have exchanges like that every once in a while. Whether it’s with him or other players, I’m fine with it."
They’re the type of exchanges that happen when teams are losing games at the rate the Avalanche have been losing them over recent weeks.
The team is 1-6-2 in its last nine, having suffered back-to-back regulation losses to the Winnipeg Jets and Flames in games where they sloped the ice towards the opposition’s net and out-shot them by a combined margin of 76-37.
MacKinnon said his outburst came in response to a 14-second delay in getting goaltender Semyon Varlamov to Colorado’s bench so an extra skater could be added on the ice as they chased down a one-goal lead with 38 seconds to go against Calgary, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.
His team’s play in general this past few weeks put him on tilt.
"There’s a lot of things," MacKinnon said he’s been dissatisfied with. "We’ve been doing a good job on the other team’s shot count, but we just give up those big chances—breakaways, two-on-ones, point-blank shots at our net from guys’ one-timers."
"Our power play could be better as well," MacKinnon added. "I think we went 0-4 against Calgary last game and it could’ve been a difference maker."
He made no mention of the Avalanche’s penalty kill of late, which has slipped into 27th in the NHL and is operating at 75.5 per cent after running the fourth-best numbers in the league through the month of October.
MacKinnon also had nothing to say about the team’s goaltending, which has been catastrophic over the last month (Varlamov and Philipp Grubauer have combined for a sub-.870 save percentage since late-December).
Bednar didn’t mince his words on the subject.
"I’d say (goaltending has been) below average recently," he said. "We need ‘em to be better, I think, if you look at the last couple of games. I know it’s not from lack of try and want, but they’re going to have to be better. We’ve done a nice job with our scoring chances that we’ve created lately, and the scoring chances we’ve given up have been pretty good. We like the numbers in that fashion. Like I said, we’ve made some big mistakes (and we) can’t give up the homerun mistakes, but we’re going to need our goaltenders pick us up a little bit too."
It was about as serious as Bednar got on Friday. He and MacKinnon were all smiles as they discussed Wednesday’s (non) controversy, just as they were throughout the team’s lighthearted and spirited practice.
When asked how their relationship is, MacKinnon said, "It’s great, we’re really close."
"I think that’s part of the reason why I think I feel like I cannot do that but I can express my opinions in a more calm way, a more respectful way," he added. "It’s just unfortunate it got caught on camera. I saw it after the Calgary game (and) I was pretty rattled in my hotel room. Just looking like an idiot, screaming. That can’t happen again, so I’ll get better from it."
As for the Avalanche, they’ll try to stop the skid on Saturday with a win over the Canadiens, who have lost three of their last four games and fell 2-1 in Colorado back on Dec. 19.