The Washington Times - April 20, 2012, 02:08PM

Even though his production is down, Alex Ovechkin is still often referred to by opponents and teammates as one of the best players in the world. Yet the Washington Capitals captain and highest-paid player saw just 1:58 of ice time in the third period of Game 4 on Thursday night against the Boston Bruins, including just 15 seconds in the final 14 minutes.

Ovechkin said coach Dale Hunter didn’t tell him why, but the star left wing didn’t seem to care for an explanation.


“I don’t think he had to tell me something about this,” he said. “Of course I want to be out there but it’s his decision and I can appreciate [the] guys for how they play and we win the game. It’s the most important thing. It doesn’t matter how many minutes I play. Of course I want to be there, but it’s his decision.”

Hunter said: “It’s not a decision. It’s just your game plan what you go into. You’re matching lines.”

The Caps’ coach stuck to his line-matching answer.

We were matching lines and they were going back with the Bergeron line,” Hunter said. “So, sometimes some lines get short-changed a bit. They do whatever it takes to win the game.”

Some lines getting short-changed isn’t as true as some players getting taken out of the rotation, though. Ovechkin’s linemates to start the game, Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson, got nine and eight shifts, respectively, in the third period. Ovechkin had four.

Ovechkin seemed to accept and understand why he wasn’t on the ice.

Of course I understand and accept it, I want to be out there but again it’s his decision but we’re not going to be talking about it because it’s not time for this,” Ovechkin said. “We win the game, it’s most important thing right now. It doesn’t matter if I’m going to play 10 seconds or five seconds, most important thing is team result.”

Hunter praised Ovechkin’s defensive game Thursday in the 2-1 victory over the Bruins, crediting him for sparking the first goal.

“Ovi, he’s a team guy. He’s rooting for the guys on the bench. When [Jay Beagle] goes down there, he’s the first one to jump up and yell,” Hunter said. “You appreciate what guys like that do, and that’s why he’s a real team guy.”

Ovechkin with 17:01 of ice time. Asked to assess his own play, Ovechkin smiled.

Well, like, we win,” he said. “So I play good.”