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Another key move by Hunter was limiting captain Alex Ovechkin’s minutes, saying it was dictated by game situations and the opponent’s line changes. But it was clear that Hunter wanted players to focus on preventing goals more than scoring them.

Used to playing more than 20 minutes a night, every night, Ovechkin wound up with a career-playoff-low 13 1/2 minutes in one game, and also had only his second zero-shot postseason performance.

“For me, personally, it was pretty hard, to be honest with you,” Ovechkin acknowledged Monday.

The two-time NHL MVP and team captain called it a “hard year, mentally.”

Other players generally said they understood Hunter’s motives for moving on _ and generally expressed that they would have liked if he’d stuck around.

“I just had a little short chat with him and shook his hand and said thank you. I asked him if there’s anything I can do to convince him to stay,” forward Brooks Laich said. “He taught us as much about leadership and team aspects and respect amongst players and trusting your teammates as he did about hockey. He was like having another veteran in the locker room. He changed the culture around here a little bit, which the rest of us really enjoyed. He’s leaving the team in a better state than he found it.”

Whether Hunter’s lessons will be followed when a new coach arrives remains to be seen.

“I know it’s a long summer here, but hopefully guys remember that to win in the playoffs you have to sacrifice, block shots, do the right things,” forward Troy Brouwer said. “That’s just what he tried to instill in us the entire time he was here and the entire stretch down the playoffs.”

Here’s how Hunter summed it up: “You put skill with a hardworking, gritty team, and you’ve got a winner.”

McPhee doesn’t have a specific timetable for finding a replacement, saying it might happen by the NHL draft in June or perhaps not until August.

“I’m not in any rush,” McPhee said.

NOTES: G Tomas Vokoun said he won’t be back. Injuries to him and Michal Neuvirth allowed Braden Holtby to become the starting goalie for all 14 playoff games. “I wasn’t planning on being back here anyway. It was never my intention to be here more than a year,” Vokoun said. … F Jay Beagle broke his foot while blocking a shot in Game 5 against the Rangers and stayed in that game, but couldn’t balance enough on the ice to play in Games 6 or 7 and needed surgery. He said he expects to be able to skate again within 2 1/2 months. … McPhee said D Tom Poti, who missed all season injured, “may have played his last game in the NHL.” … Among the team’s unrestricted free agents: F Alexander Semin. Among the restricted free agents: D Mike Green. “I believe that we’re going to win a Cup here,” Green said, “and I want to be a part of it.”


Howard Fendrich can be followed at