Playoff loss is a bitter pill for Ovechkin

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Sports,NHL,Capitals,Brian McNally

Star shows frustration of another playoff loss

Another season had come to an end for Alex Ovechkin, and once more he had a flight to the World Championships in Finland.

The frustration was palpable after a 5-0 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of an Eastern Conference first-round series on Monday. That setback -- after once leading the series 2-0 -- takes its place alongside all the other Stanley Cup playoff disappointments for Washington.

And so on Tuesday afternoon, Ovechkin met with reporters at Kettler Iceplex one final time before heading to Helsinki to play for Russia in the ongoing World Championships tournament. It was the last place he expected to be just three days earlier when the Caps led New York 3-2 in the series and had two chances to advance to the second round. Instead, they were held without a goal over both games and another summer of questions looms. Can this organization ever find a way to advance beyond the second round and push for a Stanley Cup?

"Every year after we lose in playoffs, I have that kind of question. What lesson? What lesson?" Ovechkin told reporters at Kettler. "The lesson is keep trying and keep doing what you have to do and do your best. I think we have too much lessons, this group of guys. Bad lessons. I hope next year is going to be much, much better."

Ovechkin was held without a point for the final five games of the series by a Rangers team that played exceptionally well defensively and relied on its star goalie Henrik Lundqvist when things did break down and Washington created chances. Ovechkin had a goal in Game 1 and an assist in Game 2.

Other than that, the normally-reliable postseason player stayed quiet. Ovechkin has played 58 playoff games in his career and even after this disappointing series, he still averages over a point per game in the playoffs, with 61 total. The Hart Trophy finalist led the NHL in goals scored during the regular season with 32 in 48 games. He also eventually adjusted to playing right wing for the first time in his life at the request of new coach Adam Oates.

It didn't go smoothly at first and Ovechkin quickly asked to be switched back to the left. But after four games playing with Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb -- two role players -- he quickly realized what Oates needed from him and accepted it.

Ovechkin said he could take satisfaction in that. And he was also proud of his team for shaking off an awful 2-8-1 start to rally and win the Southeast Division and make the playoffs as a No. 3 seed. But elite players aren't judged by such things. The final result colored Ovechkin and his team's season.

"Winning give you everything," Ovechkin said. "Nobody remembers losers. Everybody remembers only winners. Right now again, we're in that kind of position when we're bad. But that's why you're growing up, that's why you don't step in one spot. You have to move. I think we're gonna do lots of work in this summer and I hope this group of guys is gonna stay together a long time."

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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