Coach Michel Therrien said Friday there was nothing unusual in calling out star defenceman P.K. Subban for a turnover that cost the Montreal Canadiens a game.
And he was able to smile about the firestorm of controversy that ignited around his struggling team when he appeared to accuse Subban of selfishness for losing the puck trying to make "an individual play" in a 3-2 loss on Wednesday in Colorado.
"This is our market," Therrien said. "We didn't like the play but it could have been any player who made that play at that time of the game, in that situation, and we would have mentioned it.
"But because it was P.K., it's 100 times bigger."
There were about three minutes left in the game when Subban made a risky move to try to get around Mikhail Grigorenko but slipped and lost the puck, leading to a rush the other way that Jarome Iginla converted into the winning goal.
That Subban was benched when Montreal tried to get the equalizer in the final minute and that Therrien pinned the blame for the loss on him was interpreted as a rift between the coach and his US$9-million-per-year rearguard.
There were even suggestions on social media that Subban was being shopped for a trade.
"I have a very good relationship with P.K.," said Therrien. "He's adorable.
"We believe in him. He brings a lot of emotion to the team."
The flashy defenceman was also all smiles when he met the media for the first time since the turnover, insisting he is committed to helping the Canadiens get out of the funk that has seen them plunge from first place overall to six points out of playoff position since Dec. 3.
But while Therrien called the play a learning moment, Subban saw it more as bad luck than poor judgement.
"Instinct is a big part of my game," he said. "Sometimes things go your way and sometimes not, and that's fine.
"I'm able to take my lumps when things happen. I'm not afraid of failure, that's how you become successful."
And he denied being a selfish player.
"The best players in this game play the game on that edge, where they try to make those plays, and that's why they get paid a lot of money," he said. "I don't think it comes down to being selfish.
"Everybody has a role to play. Last game, my job was to make a better play than that. I didn't anticipate losing an edge, but those things happen."
The Canadiens went into a downward spiral after star goalie Carey Price injured a knee in late November. In many games, they've played well only to find ways to give up leads and fall further down the standings.
Captain Max Pacioretty said that while Subban turned over the puck, it was not an odd-man rush the other way and that others, himself included, blotched the coverage.
"Obviously P.K. would like to take that play back, but at the same time, it's a three-on-three and we didn't get the switch we wanted," said Pacioretty. "Stuff like this happens every game, but it's magnified now with the ways things are going."
He also took issue with the notion that the team is wracked with dissension.
"I support P.K. 100 per cent," he said. "Everyone in this room supports all the players and the coaches.
"To try to say there's a rift because of this is unfair and untrue. P.K. is one of the best defencemen in the league and he has been for years. Mike (Therrien) has shown that he's an unbelievable coach with the success he's had. There are no hard feelings between anyone."