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Alex Ovechkin: 'It didn't work' for Team Russia

Captain laments defeat to Team Canada in World Cup semifinal

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Sidney Crosby was his usual brilliant self for Team Canada in its 5-3 win over Team Russia in the World Cup semifinal Saturday night. His counterpart, Team Russia captain Alex Ovechkin, struggled. 


He had one shot on goal in the game, and that did not come until eight minutes were gone in the third period, until Team Russia was down by two goals and the end seemed near.

Crosby? He scored the opening goal for Team Canada and had the primary assist on each of Brad Marchand's two goals, one of which tied the score and one of which put Team Canada ahead. Oh, and his team won.

"I tried to do my best, obviously," Ovechkin said. "Sometimes it doesn't matter if you score goals or not. You just have to play hard, and I tried to play my hardest. Everybody was on the same page, playing the same system."

But that was not about only Ovechkin, whose linemates were smothered by the Team Canada defense, just as he was smothered. That was a credit to the players on Team Canada assigned with defending him, including defensemen Shea Weber and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

"Time and space," Vlasic said of the way the pair shut down Ovechkin, as well as linemates Evgeny Kuznetsov and Vladimir Tarasenko. "Against those three guys, his line especially, time and space, just be in their face. As soon as they get it, if you're there or your stick is there, it doesn't necessarily frustrate guys, but he can't make his plays."

Video: Crosby, Marchand lead Canada to 5-3 win over Russia

Especially not when his linemates are equally silenced. As Vlasic said, "Kuznetsov likes to pass it, but if he never has the puck, he can never pass it to Ovechkin, so you try to stay above him in the middle."

They did. And that was the problem for Team Russia, but not only on Saturday.

Through the tournament, Ovechkin had six shots on goal, though he did manage three points (one goal, two assists), none against Team Canada. This, from the player who has led the NHL in goals in each of the past four seasons, with 50-plus goals in each of the past three.

Still, his team could not and would not blame Ovechkin. It was them, they said. Not him.

"Maybe he doesn't have enough of luck," Team Russia coach Oleg Znarok said. "We are very content with his game."

One of the biggest misses for Team Russia was on the power play, when Ovechkin usually is otherworldly. It went 0-for-11 in the tournament on the power play, including 0-for-3 against Team Canada, with eight shots in those 11 chances.

Eight shots. Ovechkin is the type of player capable of eight shots in a single power play.

But not in this tournament. Not against Team Canada.

"We tried all the different things, but sometimes it just doesn't work," Ovechkin said. "We were on the same page. Everybody knew what they had to do. But it didn't work."

And that was something that Team Canada exulted in, in its ability to shut down Ovechkin, in the patience it showed.

"Obviously, he's a guy that can score at will," Weber said. "He scores 50 goals a year in the NHL. He's a dangerous player. Any chance you get to play against a guy like that and shut him down, yeah, you take pride in that side of the game."

They had reason to be proud. Ovechkin had reason to be disappointed. He had not been himself on the big stage, and though that was not solely his fault, he wasn't the offensive savior that Team Russia needed to balance the stellar play of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and push the team to greater heights than it has seen of late in international play.

Unlike Crosby, who, granted, had a much better supporting cast, Ovechkin's mark was not on this game. He did not have a goal or a point. He had only that single shot and two blocked shots in his 20:29 of ice time, and he was on the ice for the goal by Marchand that tied it 2-2 1:12 after Team Russia had taken the lead in the second period.

It was, at times, hard not to sneak a peek down to the Team Russia bench, just to recall the shape of No. 8, just to be assured of his presence, just to spy him as he leaned up against the boards seemingly eager to get back on the ice and work his magic. He was there, of course. The magic was not.

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