The Alexander Ovechkin show rolled through the 2010 Olympic city on Friday, generating plenty of buzz but no points as the Washington Capitals lost 3-2 to the Vancouver Canucks. Ovechkin's first visit to Vancouver in more than three years offered him and hockey fans a small taste of the excitement that awaits in February, with the charismatic Russian expected to become one of the Winter Games' biggest names.
The whirlwind stopover included an autograph session at the Vancouver Winter Games store that attracted nearly 1,000 fans. "Everywhere Alex goes he is like a rock star and when you only come here once every two, three years it's even more," said the Capitals' coach, Bruce Boudreau. But it was the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, not the fast-approaching Vancouver Olympics that were in Ovechkin's thoughts.
With the NHL yet to commit to its players participating in Sochi, Ovechkin has taken up the Russian cause, saying he is determined to play no matter what the NHL decides. "I'm going to continue to say what I have to say, especially when it's about the Olympics in my country," Ovechkin said. "It's the same for Canada. If someone says to a Canadian player, 'You know what, you can't go play the Olympic Games in your country', what do you think their reaction is going to be? The same.
"You represent your country. You represent your home, parents, family and friends. I just want to play there." Limited to just three shots by the Canucks, Ovechkin will be expecting a better performance and result the next time he appears on the GM Centre ice in February, when Russia will be among the gold medal favourites. Vancouver opened the scoring through a Washington own goal, the Capitals defenceman Jeff Schultz deflecting Ryan Kesler's pass into his own net. Kesler was credited with the goal. The Capitals hit back with goals from Alexander Semin and Chris Clark to take a 2-1 lead into the second period.
Mason Raymond collected the only goal of the second with a nifty solo effort then scored the winner with a power-play strike with 6:04 to play in the third. Elsewhere in the NHL, Martin Brodeur celebrated an NHL landmark with a victory as the New Jersey Devils returned to the top of the Eastern Conference by beating the Ottawa Senators 4-2. Brodeur was making his 1,030th appearance for the Devils, passing the record mark for NHL appearances by a goaltender previously held by Patrick Roy, and although he was not able to celebrate a record 104th shutout he at least saw his side win.