Washington: Alex Ovechkin apologised to Russian fans and blamed himself for failing to give the host nation an Olympic medal on Tuesday as he returned to the Washington Capitals for the resumption of the National Hockey League season.
Only two days after Canada beat Sweden in the Sochi Winter Olympic final, the NHL season resumed with players switching from a hunt for gold in Russia to the Stanley Cup title quest.
Ovechkin, who led the NHL with 40 goals before the Olympic break, was unable to take Russia beyond the quarter-finals on home ice, a loss to Finland ending their dream.
“I want to say sorry to the fans,” Ovechkin said after his first post-Olympic workout with the Capitals.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent your country in your country and we didn’t get the result. We didn’t get a medal.
“But life goes on. Right now we’re here and we’re going to do our best to try and take a play-off spot and try to win the Cup.”
Ovechkin put much of the blame on his own shoulders.
“It was my job to score goals up there and I didn’t score lots of goals,” he said. “I scored one on my first shot and that was it.
“Of course, the most criticism I’m going to have it. But so what? That’s life. I had chances, moments to score goals. I played with great players up there but I didn’t score. Blame me. Nothing you can say.”
Ovechkin, 28, struggled after Russia went out to 2010 Games hosts and eventual winners Canada in Vancouver and knows he faces a challenge to put the latest disappointment behind him.
“Vancouver was a tough loss and this was a really tough loss,” he said. “I have to fight through it. My teammates are going to support me and I’m going to support them.
“We’ve been in the play-offs seven years and we lose in the first or second rounds. That’s our goal, to move forward. We’re all rested now. We’re going to make a push and we’re going to fight.”
Ovechkin, who vows “we’re going to win it next time,” has also been dealing with his father suffering a heart attack and undergoing surgery. Ovechkin was not told about his father’s condition until after Russia had been eliminated.
“He’s OK after surgery. That’s the most important thing,” Ovechkin said. “He’s fine. He’s getting better. That’s probably the thing I’m worried most about.”
Ovechkin was not angry about being kept in the dark.
“I understand it,” he said. “Once I found out how he was doing I forget the Games and everything. I went to spend time with him.”
The Capitals have 27 wins in 59 starts for 63 points, level with two other clubs one point out of the last Eastern Conference playoff berth.