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Ovechkin celebrates his go-ahead goal in New York.


He sat on the bench for much of the game, drawing the attention of the CBC crew covering it and those watching at home mainly for just how little he was on the ice.

Alex Ovechkin played only 18 shifts on the night, with 3:33 minutes in the first period, 5:41 in the second and 4:22 in the third.

And his 10:36 at even strength was more than only three teammates: Mike Knuble, Alex Semin and Keith Aucoin.

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This is a new way of deploying a $9.5-million four-time 50-goal scorer, but it ended up paying off, with Ovechkin scoring the winning goal in Monday's Game 2 on a late game power play.

"You have to suck it up and use time what Dale is giving to me," Ovechkin said of his coach, Dale Hunter, after the game.

Ovechkin's ice time on Monday was a career low for the playoffs, but it's part of a trend under Hunter where he's kept on the bench in favour of pluggers like Jay Beagle as the Caps play a far more defensive style than we've seen since the lockout.

"Ovi is a team guy and he is cheering his guys on," Hunter said. "He knows what these guys are going through at the end of the game. They've got to go out and slide and block shots. He appreciates that.

"The one thing is that he has been real fresh for the power play."

No kidding.

As a long-term strategy, this doesn't particularly seem like the most effective one, although Ovechkin has without question had a mediocre season by his standards.

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At first, this all appeared to be a motivational move by Hunter. Now, it simply seems the coach feels he has a better chance to win in the playoffs with his shot blockers on the ice.

One interesting tidbit from all this? Game 3 will mark the second most postseason games Ovechkin has played in a season in his career, matching the nine the Caps had last year when they were swept in Round 2.

His average ice time over the five playoffs he's taken part in, meanwhile, has been very consistent until now: 24:03, 23:21, 23:06, 23:30 and 19:09.

Here are those numbers game-by-game:

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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