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Capitals Notebook: Lack of ice time not angering Ovechkin

BY ZAC BOYER

ARLINGTON—Alex Ovechkin downplayed his lack of ice time in the third period of the Washington Capitals’ 2–1 victory over Boston on Thursday—a move that head coach Dale Hunter attributed to line matching.

Ovechkin played a total of 17:01 in Game 4 of the teams’ first-round Stanley Cup playoff series, third among all forwards, but only 1:58 in the third period. He did not play at all in the final 5:50 and took a total of four shifts, with his first two lasting 1:04 and 39 seconds, respectively.

He was on the ice for just 15 seconds over the final 14 minutes of the game—a two-second shift from 8:54 to 8:56, apparently when he took to the ice in error, and another from 13:57 to 14:10.

“We were matching lines, and they were going back to the [Patrice] Bergeron line a lot,” Hunter said Friday morning following practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, referring to Boston’s top line. “Sometimes some lines get shortchanged a bit, but they do whatever it takes to win the game.”

Asked if it’s a difficult decision to keep Ovechkin out of the game, Hunter said it’s not a decision, but merely part of the game plan.

When asked whether Ovechkin would be playing if he’d scored 60-plus goals this season—as he did in 2007–08—instead of the 38 goals he has, in fact, mustered, Hunter again demurred.

“It was just one of them matchups and putting out at the end of the game your shot blockers,” the head coach said.

Ovechkin made no mention of the decision after the game Thursday and was only bothered Friday that it came up. He said “it’s no time for this” and used the victory as a reason why he didn’t want to talk about not playing.

“Of course, I want [to be] out there, but it’s his decision and I can appreciate for guys for how they play and we win the game,” Ovechkin said. “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.”

Alexander Semin also saw his time limited in the third period as he played only five shifts. That time instead went to Matt Hendricks, Jay Beagle and Troy Brouwer, whose line played roughly 10 shifts and eight minutes together.

It worked, as the defensive-minded forwards blocked 12 shots—including five from Beagle, with the dive in front of Johnny Boychuk’s slap shot from the point with seven seconds remaining the highlight.

“That’s my job, I feel like,” Beagle said. “When the coaches put me out there in the last nine seconds, you’ve got to do whatever it takes to block that shot. I was kind of rattled because I basically blocked it and gave it right back to him. At least I took the one-timer away.”

NEUVIRTH BUMPED UP

Michal Neuvirth, who sustained an undisclosed left leg injury against Florida on April 5, will serve as the team’s backup goaltender for today’s Game 5 at Boston.

Neuvirth missed the final game of the regular season and the first four games of the playoffs with the injury. Dany Sabourin, a journeyman, was optioned to Hershey after Thursday’s game.

The goaltender did not reveal the exact nature of the injury, and he was not wearing a visible brace or padding in the locker room following practice.

“You need a lot of painkillers and try to get through the pain,” Neuvirth said. “That’s what I’m trying to do. It’s not going to be 100 percent. This thing’s got to heal up over the summer, and it is what it is.”

LAUGHS OVER CLOCK WOES

Both Hunter and goalie Braden Holtby joked about the timing malfunctions at the end of the game Thursday that delayed the start of the clock until 5.3 seconds after the final faceoff.

The NHL released a statement attributed to senior vice president of hockey operations Mike Murphy after the game acknowledging the errors, and said any goal in the final 5.3 seconds would have been disallowed by the league.

“I think all of us thought after Beags blocked that shot that they might get one more chance with the puck—not the whole cycle,” Holtby said.

Zac Boyer: 540/374-5440

zboyer@freelancestar.com

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