Alex Ovechkin was kicked out of Sunday's NHL game against the Chicago Blackhawks for a hit from behind into the end boards.
But that seemed to give his Washington Capitals teammates the push they needed to come roaring back from a 3-0 deficit in the third period to win 4-3 in overtime on a goal by Nicklas Backstrom.
Ovechkin, the NHL's leading scorer this season and a two-time MVP, was racing into the Hawks' end about a step behind defenceman Brian Campbell late in the first period.
Just as they got to the end line, Ovechkin shoved the defender, who went heavily into the boards at the United Centre, shoulder first.
After being attended to by a trainer, Campbell skated off under his own power but did not return.
Ovechkin was first sent to the penalty box, but then left the game to a chorus of boos from the Chicago faithful, assessed a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct.
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau was livid, shouting profanities in the direction of referees Dan O'Halloran and Frederick L'Ecuyer from the bench.
"I don't think it was a real good check. He just kind of fell and it was a dangerous moment. It was not a hard hit. I just wanted to push him," Ovechkin said.
"I didn't hit him hard. I pushed him, but he fell bad. It probably looks bad. I thought it was going to be two minutes, but the linesman came to me and said 'Game over."'
Blackhawks' Hjalmarsson calls for suspension
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville suggested Campbell could miss some time, but didn't want to speculate on whether Ovechkin could face further discipline from the NHL.
"The league will do what they do," Quenneville said. "Soupy [Campbell] is going to be out for a bit here. It was a dangerous hit."
Blackhawks defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson would like to see Ovechkin punished by the league.
"I hope they take a good look and suspend him for a couple of games," he said.
Ovechkin was given two game misconducts earlier this season, the first for a shoulder check and the second one for a kneeing incident that eventually led to a two-game suspension.
This latest episode is sure to draw more attention as the NHL has been under the microscope recently over how the league deals with violent hits.
Earlier this week, NHL general managers decided to recommend a rule change that would penalize players for blindside hits to the head. The move came a few days after Boston's Marc Savard suffered a Grade 2 concussion after taking a blow to the head from Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke.
With their top player out of the game, Washington fell behind 3-0 after two periods on goals by Chicago's Jonathan Toews, who notched a pair in the first period, and John Madden, who added another in the second.
But the NHL's highest-scoring team erased the big deficit with a furious rally over a span of just 2:16 early in the third.
Brooks Laich started the rally with a power-play goal at 5:29, and Backstrom brought the Caps within a goal when he converted a rebound just after a 5-on-3 power play expired. Thirteen seconds later, Eric Fehr tied it by tucking the puck just inside the left post.
In overtime, Backstrom bulled up the ice and beat Hawks goalie Antti Niemi for his second of the game and 28th of the season. The dramatic goal improved Washington's NHL-best record to 46-14-9.
"It's a strong sign, especially now at the end of the season," Backstrom said. "We know [Ovechkin] is a key to our team and he scores a lot of goals. We have shown that we can play, that our other key players can play too."
Chicago dropped to 44-18-6 — third in the league behind the Caps and Western Conference leader San Jose, which has a two-point lead on the Blackhawks.
"We've got the most skill in the league, on any team," said Toews, the Chicago captain. "There's no reason, up 3-0, we can't go out and finish the team off."