-- Prior to heading to Verizon Center for Game 7, Alex Ovechkin
sat in front of the television, staring at the Detroit Red Wings
throttling the Colorado Avalanche
in Game 7 of the 2002 Western Conference Final.
He should have changed the channel.
"Detroit went up, 4-0," Ovechkin said late Wednesday night, "and after that, I thought, 'Jesus, it can't be like that.'"
Unfortunately for Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals
, it was almost just like that.
The Penguins needed only 2:12 more than the Red Wings needed on May 31, 2002, to take a 4-0 lead in this highly anticipated Game 7. It was lights out early at Verizon Center -- and Ovechkin couldn't believe it.
The final score was 6-2, better than the 7-0 final in that Red Wings-Avalanche debacle, but the final four goals Wednesday night, including Ovechkin's 11th and last of the 2009 playoffs, were nothing more than filler in the box score.
"They just scored everything," Ovechkin said with a deadpanned look on his face, droopy eyes and messy hair. "They have chances to score and they scored. That's it."
What's worse for the Capitals' magnificent No. 8 is that he had early chances to score before the Penguins chased Simeon Varlamov from the net the same way the Red Wings chased Patrick Roy
seven years ago.
He couldn't capitalize, and that's a weight Ovechkin will carry with him into his longer-than-anticipated summer.
"Especially in a Game 7, it's so hard when you're so close," Ovechkin said. "I tell you if we had scored one goal, if I had scored one goal, maybe it's going to be a different game. They use their chances, but we don't, especially me. The first two shots, in my position, I have to score."
Ovechkin was limited to three shots on goal. He scored on the last one -- but he easily could have scored on his first two as well if not for Marc-Andre Fleury
A mere 80 seconds into the game, Fleury came far out of his crease to cut down the angle Ovechkin had and gobbled up No. 8's hard drive from the high slot. Just 100 seconds later, only three minutes into the game, Fleury made the save of the night.
Ovechkin got free on a breakaway by blowing past Rob Scuderi
. He kept the puck on his forehand but shot it right into Fleury's outstretched catching glove, which was about a foot off the ice as Fleury was falling to his own left.
"Yeah, I think I do the right thing, (but) I just shoot the glove," Ovechkin said. "I was afraid when (Scuderi) was behind me, when he fell I was afraid his stick would hit my stick and I lose a little bit balance, so I can't go to my backhand. I had to use my normal hand, and I just missed it."
If Ovechkin scores there, who knows what happens? Maybe Sidney Crosby
and Craig Adams
still score twice within eight seconds later on in the first period. Maybe they don't.
That's the mystery that now haunts Ovechkin, whose goal late in the second period came off a giveaway by Fleury and made it 5-1.
"I didn't score the breakaway, and if I score the first goal maybe it's going to be a different game," he said. "They scored the first two goals and they go back and use our mistakes. They're experienced guys and they're good."
Struck with disappointment, Ovechkin didn't want to talk any more about himself, but it should be noted that he finished with 14 points in the series, becoming only the eighth player in NHL history to average two points per game in a playoff series.
Despite being injured, which Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau
admitted in his post-game press conference, Ovechkin had 8 goals and 6 assists against the Penguins, barely besting Crosby's 13 points (8 goals, 5 assists).
"He had 14 points in seven games playing against their best defensive players all the time," Boudreau said. "So, I mean, his play was what it was -- magnificent. And, he is another one that if this was the regular season, he wouldn't be playing. If you want to know how good he is, that's how good he is."
"I tell you if we had scored one goal, if I had scored one goal, maybe it's going to be a different game. They use their chances, but we don't, especially me. The first two shots, in my position, I have to score." -- Alex Ovechkin
When it was finally and mercifully over and the teams were meeting in the traditional handshake lines, Ovechkin took the time to mend some old wounds.
He grabbed Sergei Gonchar
, the Pittsburgh defenseman and fellow Russian he took out with a knee-on-knee collision just 14:55 into Game 4, and told him he was sorry.
"I just tell him I don't want to hit him and I just said, 'Sorry,' " Ovechkin said. "I explained what happened over there. I have a good relationship (with him). I don't want to hit guys to get them injured."
Ovechkin did a chest bump with Brooks Orpik
, a defenseman he battled with all series, jawing back and forth on the ice and off it. He had a quick talk with Bill Guerin
and then, when he met Crosby at center ice, he had a few words for his rival and the Pens' captain.
"I just wished him good luck and tell him to win the Stanley Cup," Ovechkin said. "You always wish good luck when you lose to a great team. It's hockey. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Right now, they win."
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