Ovechkin Nets Winner as Conflict Percolates

Ovechkin Nets Winner as Conflict Percolates

When he unleashed that game-winning wrist rocket from the point Monday night, Alex Ovechkin was battling a variety of forces. There were the rugged Rangers players who skated with him, the rabid Rangers fans, who counted down before each “Ovi (rhymes with Pucks!)” chant and, yes, his greatest neutralizer of all this postseason: Dale Hunter.

Ovechkin’s late goal that drew the Washington Capitals even in their Eastern Conference semifinal against New York at a game apiece got his coach off the hook for playing him the fewest minutes of his playoff career.

If the Caps go down 0-2 and Ovi doesn’t score in his paltry 13 minutes and 36 seconds of ice time — or almost five minutes less than Jeff Schultz and six minutes less than Dennis Wideman — then Hunter is the culprit in a second-guessed strategy that can only be reasoned as foolishly turning The Great Eight into Alexander The Decoy.

But they didn’t. The Caps won without Ovechkin for much of the night. Again. So who cares, right?

When a two-time league MVP is played less than a quarter of an entire playoff game by his defense-obsessed coach, that has to be a story. But is it, especially if a once-potent offensive juggernaut keeps winning ugly when it matters?

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