ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alex Ovechkin
had the opportunity to represent his country on a grand stage Sunday night. Thirteen hours and a little less than 3,000 miles of air travel later, the Washington Capitals
captain was back at work.
Ovechkin participated in Washington's 80-minute practice Monday morning after flights from Vancouver to Seattle to Chicago to Washington, D.C. helped him arrive in time for the team's 10:30 a.m. practice.
"It says a lot about him because a lot of guys would have wanted to take the day off or not have gone (Sunday) night," Capitals General Manager George McPhee
said. "Knowing him as we do, we're not surprised that he did both. He stayed late, his country asked him to do it and he did it. We asked him to make sure he was here for practice and he did it. That's why he is who he is."
Participating in the closing ceremonies was important for Ovechkin, who has been named an official ambassador for the 2014 Winter Olympics in his native Russia. It also helped him put a positive finish on what was a disappointing couple of weeks for the two-time NHL MVP.
"It says a lot about him because a lot of guys would have wanted to take the day off or not have gone (Sunday) night. Knowing him as we do, we're not surprised that he did both. He stayed late, his country asked him to do it and he did it. We asked him to make sure he was here for practice and he did it. That's why he is who he is."
-- Capitals GM George McPhee
Ovechkin went to Vancouver hoping to lead a talented Russia squad to gold in a hostile environment -- much like he did at the 2008 World Championships in Quebec. Instead, he left without a medal and with plenty of criticism from North American journalists about his lack of accessibility during the Games.
After losing to Canada in the quarterfinals, Ovechkin stayed in Vancouver so he could represent his country in the symbolic transition from the 2010 host city to Sochi, Russia. He was part of a group that included hockey legend Vladislav Tretiak
and figure skating star Evgeni Plushenko.
"It was a great time for me and my team, but the result wasn't really what I expect. I am kind of disappointed, but it is what it is," Ovechkin said. "(The closing ceremonies) was unbelievable atmosphere and a great time for me. I saw lots of people and it was a good experience me and a good moment."
"I just that love that he's the center of Russian sports, and especially when it comes to ice hockey," said Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau
. "I don't think us over here can realize -- we know he's big over here but he's twice as big in Russia and I can't even fathom that. I think Russia picked the right guy to represent them at the end."
Ovechkin said he only watched the overtime in Sunday's gold-medal game before attending the closing ceremonies. He finished the tournament with 2 goals and 4 points in four games, but he was held without a point in both of his team's losses, including a 7-3 defeat against the host Canadians in the quarterfinals.
"I think every game against Canada is something special for everybody. We lost and we lost pretty badly," Ovechkin said. "I don't know what happened in that moment, but we could see how they moved and how they play and we didn't play at all. It was a pretty bad situation for us and for our country in that moment."
He returns to a team that is atop the NHL standings and has a stranglehold on the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Ovechkin leads the League with 89 points and is locked in a duel with rival Sidney Crosby
for the goal-scoring title.
When asked about Crosby's gold-medal clinching goal, Ovechkin said it didn't matter who scored for Canada. Still, Crosby's heroics likely will add more depth and intrigue to what already has become one of the most intense personal rivalries in sports.
The Capitals certainly won't mind if Ovechkin's disappointment in Vancouver pushes him even harder with the NHL postseason approaching.
"I think every situation, whether it is a good situation or a bad situation, is going to give me motivation," Ovechkin said. "We still have 20 games until the playoffs and lots of guys had lots of days off. I think it will be a fresh start, a new start for us to finish the second half of the season."