During Washington's 7-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning late Tuesday, Ovechkin was accused of a "dirty" play for a hit in the third period on Tampa Bay's Steve Downie, and the pair later dropped their gloves and were set to fight in the Lightning zone with six minutes left. But Washington right wing Matt Bradley skated in front of Ovechkin and fought Downie.
"Downs makes a move, he [Ovechkin] sticks his knee out, leaves his knee out there," Tampa Bay center Jeff Halpern said of Ovechkin's hit. "It's not the cheapest hit in the world, but it's still a dirty hit. I think it's a dangerous hit."
Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said he didn't see the play, but added that several Lightning players told him that Ovechkin did stick his knee out. Ovechkin served a two-game suspension from the NHL for a kneeing penalty on Nov. 30.
Ovechkin had already talked with reporters before Halpern made his comments. The Washington captain addressed his near fight.
"I dropped my helmet and I dropped my gloves, so I was ready to fight," Ovechkin said. "Brads jumped in to fight for me. He did a great job."
Bradley received four penalties, including two minutes for instigating, a fighting major and a game misconduct. Downie got a fighting penalty and a 10-minute misconduct, while Ovechkin received a minor penalty.
The NHL office was expected to review Bradley's action. He was on the bench when the altercation started, but said he waited until another Washington player returned to the bench before going on the ice.
"I would never leave the bench and just randomly go after the guy," Bradley said. "We've got a guy like that going after our best player. Obviously, we can't let that happen."