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No smiles for Ovechkin after Caps' Game 7 loss

by Dan Rosen
WASHINGTON -- The smile was gone, washed away by Jaroslav Halak and the Montreal Canadiens. All that was left on Alex Ovechkin's face was an expressionless look that told the captain's story of shock, despair, disbelief and regret.

Ovechkin met the media in front of his dressing room stall at Verizon Center for exactly four minutes and 46 seconds after Montreal dispatched his team by a 2-1 margin in a Game 7 that nobody thought would ever come to pass.

He fielded 17 questions, said "I don't know" seven times and had three one-word answers. Ovechkin was as somber as you would expect him to be, and as morose as anyone has ever seen the usually energetic superstar.

"I don't know. I think we have everything and we just lose the game," Ovechkin said in response to the 10th question he had to answer. "I don't know. How do I say? I really don't know what to say right now."

Forget about the fact that Ovechkin finished the series with 5 goals, 5 assists, a plus-5 rating and 34 shots on goal because as the captain and the face of this normally happy-go-lucky franchise, No. 8 is going to feel the burden of blame for his team's meltdown for a long, long time.

The Capitals led 3-1 in the series a week ago, but on Wednesday at 9:37 p.m. ET they officially became the first top-seeded team in NHL history to blow a 3-1 series lead to the eighth seed.

Ovechkin did not need to be reminded of that. He already knew he was on the wrong side of history.

"I don't know what I have to say right now," he said in response to question No. 9. "It's a terrible feeling right now."

Typically, what you expect in these situations is to find the teammates going to bat for their leader. Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin's center and one of his good friends, tried to hit one out of the park when he was asked about No. 8 and the blame he'll take.

"Hockey is a team sport, it's not about him," Backstrom said. "Even if he's the captain and he's a great leader, it's the whole team. I mean, he doesn't need to put the blame on himself. I'm going to put blame on me, too. I wasn't good enough. The whole team, especially us guys that get a lot of ice time and play in the power play and everything, I think we have to look ourselves in the eyes and see what was going on."

Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said "nobody tried as much as Alex and Nicky. Sometimes you just don't score goals -- the other team takes it away. I give Montreal credit. They -- the last two guys I mentioned -- didn't have success in the last game scoring, but they tried."

Ovechkin had 10 shots on goal in Game 7 after getting eight pucks on Halak in Game 6. He was not credited with a single goal even though he thought he should have had one 24 seconds into the third period.

Ovechkin's shot from the left circle beat Halak, but referee Brad Watson waved off the goal, saying that Mike Knuble made contact with Halak in the crease. Ovechkin said he hadn't seen a replay of the no-goal yet and didn't want to see one either.

"Well, he made the call and it's no goal, so why do I have to see it?" he said in response to the final question he was asked. "It's the decision and it is what it is."

The Capitals power play cost them a chance at moving on. It was a dreadful 1-for-33 in the series and 0-for-3 Wednesday. Ovechkin finished Game 7 with one shot on goal in 5:13 of power play ice time.

"We used Alex in four different positions on the power play in this series because they were taking him away," Boudreau said. "That's why we had so many slot shots -- because (Brian) Gionta or (Tom) Pyatt were just staying on him and making it like a 4-on-3, but we'd get the shot away and we wouldn't have anyone in there for the rebound. Tonight we put Alex in the middle of the slot hoping we could get Mike (Green) going backdoor. They did a tremendous job and your goaltender is your best penalty killer, and he made some pretty good saves."

Suffice to say, Ovechkin has not had a good last two months.
"I don't know. I think we have everything and we just lose the game.  I don't know. How do I say? I really don't know what to say right now." -- Alex Ovechkin

He was supposed to lead his country to a medal in Vancouver, but they fell flat against Team Canada and departed Vancouver with nothing hanging around their necks but shame. Ovechkin was also caught on video shoving a cameraperson and criticized for not being forthcoming with the English media in Vancouver.

He was supposed to lead the Capitals to the first Stanley Cup in team history, or at the very least to the Stanley Cup Final. They couldn't make it out of the first round against a team that couldn't even win when it had to in order to make the playoffs.

"You know, it's hard for me but for everybody," Ovechkin said in response to question No. 15 about how this loss personally affects him. "We know we can win, but we don't win it. It's pretty hard."

We'll have to wait a calendar year to see how he responds to this bout of adversity.

"I'm in shock right now," he said in his 13th answer. "I don't know what to say."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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