NEW YORK | Alex Ovechkin couldn’t have been happy sitting on the bench so much Monday night in Game 2. His 13:36 was a career-low in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he was all smiles after scoring the game-winning goal for the Washington Capitals.
“It’s most important thing right now guys just win the series and win the game,” Ovechkin said. “If you gonna talk about my game time and all that kind of stuff, it’s not a season – it’s the playoffs. How I said before, you have to suck it up and play for team.”
It was the lowest ice time for Ovechkin in his NHL career in a game that did not include his being ejected or injured. Even that only happened four times since he came into the league:
Dec. 2, 2006 (9:33) – Ovechkin gets game misconduct for boarding then-Buffalo Sabres forward Danny Briere.
Nov. 1, 2009 (7:43) – Ovechkin gets into shoving match with then-Columbus Blue Jackets forward Jason Chimera and hurts his shoulder. He did not return until Nov. 17.
Nov. 30, 2009 (3:08) – Ovechkin gets game misconduct for knee-on-knee hit on Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason.
March 14, 2010 (4:50) – Ovechkin gets game misconduct for hit on then-Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell.
This time, it was by Dale Hunter’s choice.
“This night, one way and then the next night I double-shifted him a few games during the year. He played 25 minutes or something, and he’s fine with that, being extra tired at the end,” Hunter said. “He’s one of these guys that he’s a team guy and he wants to win very badly. He’s the biggest cheerleader there late in the game there when these guys are going down blocking shots.”
Ovechkin played over 26 minutes twice during the regular season, 26:19 March 25 vs. the Minnesota Wild and 26:45 Feb. 13 vs. the San Jose Sharks.
Just like Games 5 and 7 of the Boston Bruins series, it worked. Under coach Bruce Boudreau, Ovechkin never played less than 19:32.
Then came Monday night.
“Sometimes if you’re not there you feel like you’re not in game but if you have 10 second shift or 5 second shift you just have to go there and do something,” Ovechkin said. “It’s kind of hard but it is what it is.”