– Paul Stastny
figures it will take a little time before he can really appreciate the Olympic silver medal he helped Team USA win at the Vancouver Games.
"I think I'll enjoy it more later," the Colorado Avalanche
center said Monday, a couple of hours before facing the Detroit Red Wings
at the Pepsi Center. "I don't think we won the silver; we lost the gold. That's the way we look at it."
The medal dangled from around Stastny's neck as he spoke about his first Olympics experience while wearing his Team USA jersey.
"It's good to be back, but it was a fun two weeks, something I won't forget," said Stastny, who had a goal, two assists and a plus-2 rating in six games. He also won 54 percent of his faceoffs.
Referring to Sunday's emotional gold-medal game, a 3-2 overtime loss to Canada, he added:
"Unfortunately, we were on the receiving end of a great game. I'm sure later on I'll say it was fun to be a part of. The atmosphere was a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
The Americans were considered long shots to win a medal of any color but won their first five games – including a 5-3 upset of Canada in the preliminary round – to advance to the gold-medal game.
Team USA's Zach Parise
tied the game with 24.4 seconds remaining in regulation, but Canada's Sidney Crosby
won it at 7:40 of overtime when he whipped the puck past goalie Ryan Miller
It's tough," Stastny said. "We had the momentum after scoring late in the third. Going to overtime we had nothing to lose and we just went for it. Then a quick play and a quick shot … it kind of surprised everyone when it went in. Crosby is one of the best players in the world, but it's tough to take.
"It's only been 24 or 30 hours ago that it happened. (The silver medal) is awesome, to tell you the truth. It's cool, but I'd love to have the gold. That's what we came in there for. That was our main goal. It didn't happen, but getting silver is quite an accomplishment, too."
Aside from playing with and against the best hockey players on the planet, Stastny said the fans who attended the Games made the experience even more memorable for him.
"Whether they were pro Canada or pro for good hockey, they were mostly North American, so there was good support for Team USA," Stastny said. "They showed a lot of respect even after we lost. It was a nice ovation. A lot of people were rooting for the U.S., but you probably couldn’t hear them. You probably couldn't see them because they were hiding behind the big red flags.
"(The atmosphere) was ridiculous. It was awesome. The fans were jacked. In warm-ups it was so loud. You had everything going against you, but that's what makes the game so fun. You see red when we go to Calgary, but this was different; everyone, in the stadium and outside the stadium, was wearing Canada jerseys."
Stastny found the experience so enjoyable, he's hopeful NHL players will participate in the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.
"Absolutely," he said. "Any time you get the best players in the world to represent your countries in the Olympic Games, it's going to be a plus for the game to grow. All the players had a blast in Vancouver and want to play four years from now. But that's something that's going to be decided by the owners."
Stastny said he was eager to get back into the NHL stretch drive now that he's traded in his red, white and blue Team USA jersey for a burgundy, blue and white Avalanche sweater.
"This is the No. 1 priority now," he said. "For two weeks, it's Team USA and now it's back to Colorado."
"(The atmosphere) was ridiculous. It was awesome. The fans were jacked. In warm-ups it was so loud. You had everything going against you, but that's what makes the game so fun. You see red when we go to Calgary, but this was different; everyone, in the stadium and outside the stadium, was wearing Canada jerseys." -- Paul Stastny on gold-medal game
It helps that the Avalanche are in a fierce race with Vancouver for first place in the Northwest Division, especially after Colorado missed the playoffs last season for the second time in three years.
"The last quarter of the season, there's a lot of jostling for positioning," Stastny said. "Every game means so much; all those points mean something. It's sort of like every game is a playoff game. That's what it’s going to be like.
"You always hear, games 40 through 60 are always the hardest and the last 20 are the easiest because they mean so much."