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Ovechkin willingly takes blame for Caps' loss

by Adam Kimelman
Less than 48 hours after his season came to a stunning conclusion in a Game 7 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin still is struggling to find the right words.

"When you lose, you try to forget about it, but when you lose in a game like this, it's pretty hard to say something," Ovechkin told reporters on breakdown day. "Just try to forget about it, but it's hard."

The Capitals won the Presidents' Trophy and were expected to, at the very least, cruise through a first-round series with the Canadiens. But after building a 3-1 series lead, Habs goalie Jaroslav Halak spent the next three games doing a stand-out imitation of a brick wall as Montreal took the next three games and advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

"When you get the lead 3-1 you think, 'OK, maybe they're going to give up and maybe we're going to win an easy game and be ready for next round,'" Ovechkin said.

Instead, the Capitals scored just 3 goals in the next three games. That's a far cry from the team that scored a League-best 313 goals during the regular season.

"I think how we played in the regular season and how we played the last couple games in the playoffs, it was two different teams," Ovechkin said. "We didn't score goals. I know in the regular season we scored lots of goals. If we were losing 3-1 or 4-2, we know we can come back and win the game."

Ovechkin said he should shoulder the blame for losing, saying any and all criticism was warranted.

"Yes, it's fair. It was my fault," he said. "We need to score goals. I have a chance to score goals, I didn't score goals." But he scored 5 goals and 10 points in the series, while other players -- notably Alexander Semin and Mike Green -- were major disappointments.

Semin, who had a career-best 40 goals during the regular season, fired a League-high 44 shots in the first round, but none found their way into the net, and he finished with just 2 assists. Green, who's led NHL defensemen in scoring two-straight years and goals for three straight, was whistled for twice as many minor penalties as he had points (3).

"Everybody knows how they can play," Ovechkin said. "They had chances. Semin hit the post in the first period. When you don't score, it goes through your mind, you feel like, 'Why can't I score right now?' Next time you have a chance and you can't score, you feel like, 'Jesus what happened to me?' You start concentrating on that and forget different things."

What won't be forgotten is how the Capitals had their season end so early. There was a mix of boos and cheers from the Verizon Center crowd following Game 7, and Ovechkin believes both were right.

"When fans boo us, it's the right decision (and) what fans cheer us and say good job, it's a good decision," Ovechkin said. "The fans are the most important thing in our organization. They want to win. You can see how they celebrate and how they were happy when we won Game 2 in overtime. We can feel their energy.

"We fight, we want to do our best. They want to win. If you're losing everybody is going to say bad things. If you're winning everybody is going to say how good you are, how special you are. It's always like that. If you win you're always on top; if you lose you always go down."

Ovechkin said it's too soon to know what the future holds, but said he liked the mix in the dressing room and coaching staff. Next for him is taking what happened as another learning experience.

"Everybody wants to win not in the regular season -- everybody wants to win the (Stanley) Cup," he said. "You can see right now -- we lost, Buffalo lost, New Jersey lost. The top three teams lost in the first round of the playoffs. We all played great in the season, but in the playoffs something we missed. We have to concentrate more on the playoffs and more on how we have to play in the playoffs, not the season. … We just have to be ready for playoffs and be ready for that kind of pressure."

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