“It’s hard to see a player go down,” Alex Ovechkin, right, said of Sidney Crosby’s injury. (Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH — Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby have often been pitted against each other as the NHL’s two brightest stars for the past decade. But even on opposite teams in this Eastern Conference semifinal series, Ovechkin took no joy in hearing Crosby suffered a concussion on Monday night and is out for at least Game 4.

“It’s hard to see a player go down, and it’s hard to see he get hurt,” Ovechkin said. “He’s a player you don’t want that stuff to happen, so it’s sad. I hope he’s going to be fine and come back in the series.”

Just 5:24 into Game 3 between the Capitals and the Penguins, Crosby drove to the net on a two-on-one, and Ovechkin’s stick made contact with Crosby’s head. With Crosby already going down, Matt Niskanen then cross-checked Crosby, and his stick caught Crosby in the head. Niskanen was ejected from the game, and Crosby, who has a history of concussions, suffered another in that incident.

But just as Niskanen’s actions on that play have been criticized, so have Ovechkin’s, since he was the one who made contact with Crosby first.

“It’s hockey, you know?” Ovechkin said. “He’s a player you don’t want to get hurt, and you don’t want to see somebody leave the ice with the doctors. Again, we’re focusing on the games. It’s happened, so it’s your job, guys, to talk about what happened. We move forward, and they are. I’m pretty sure they’re going to be strong on the puck, they’re going to play physical, and it’s going to be interesting game.”

Ovechkin and Crosby both entered the league the season after the 2004-05 lockout, and their rivalry has been an entertaining story line since. Crosby is Pittsburgh’s captain and Ovechkin is Washington’s, so with those teams in the same division, the two stars play each other at least four times a year during the regular season. They each scored the 1,000th points of their careers this year.

Crosby had one of his best seasons with a league-leading 44 goals and 45 assists. While Ovechkin acknowledged Crosby is a significant loss for the Penguins, he still expects a competitive series. Pittsburgh has a two-games-to-one series lead.

“They still have lots of talented players, experienced players,” Ovechkin said. “Obviously, he’s their captain and their leader. You know, he’s the best player in the game, and he’s key for their success. I think [Evgeni] Malkin going to step up pretty big, and we have to play very smart against his line.”