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Ovechkin and Kuznetsov still want to see Russians in the Olympics, even if it is as a neutral team

Ovechkin and Kuznetsov still want to see Russians in the Olympics, even if it is as a neutral team

The feeling from the Capital's Russian athletes on Wednesday was one of disappointment over the International Olympic Committee’s decision to ban Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics.

 “It’s hard for athletes,” Alex Ovechkin told reporters. “Some athletes work out for maybe three years and get ready for Olympics.”

He continued, “I don't know where it goes but obviously the athletes who's not going to be in the Olympic Games because of the rules, they work so hard to get ready and do their best in Olympic Games. It is only one lifetime opportunity. It's hard.”

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Ovechkin was one of the most outspoken critics of the NHL’s decision not to participate in the Olympics even going so far as to say he would still go despite the league’s decision. He later had to back down from those comments, but his passion for representing his nation has been clear so the fact that no one will be able to compete under the Russian flag in PyecongChang obviously stings the proud Moscow native.

Fellow Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov was quick to point on that the IOC’s decision affects more than just hockey players saying he felt for those athletes who compete as individuals.

“I can imagine how that feels for those athletes...who prepare like 3-4 years before the Olympics and now it's a little bit tough situation for them.”

The Olympics holds a special meaning for Russian athletes like Ovechkin and Kuznetsov. For fans in North America, they get the opportunity to watch the best hockey league in the world every year. To most Americans and Canadians, winning the Stanley Cup is the pinnacle of the sport.

For Russians, however, they grow up dreaming about winning international tournaments.

“When I've grown up,” Kuznetsov said, “I've watched all the Olympic Games and the World Championship because we don't have those cable TV back home and all we have to see just how the national team played. That's how we've grown up.”

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The IOC left a path for clean Russian athletes to still participate as neutrals under the name of “Olympic Athlete from Russia.” The decision those eligible athletes now face is whether to participate as neutrals or whether to boycott the games in protest.

Despite their shock over the IOC’s decision, it was clear both Ovechkin and Kuznetsov would still support their nation’s athletes competing under a neutral flag.

 There were some reports out of Russia saying Ovechkin said the team should not go given the IOC's decision, but he denied saying that.

“I'm pretty sure they're going and I'm going to cheer for them,” he said.

Kuznetsov also echoed that sentiment saying that if he could, he would go for “the Russian fans in the tournament and if you will win the medal, they will sing the national anthem for you. That's probably what will be best when lots of Russian people will sing the national anthem.”

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4 reasons the Caps lost to the Islanders

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4 reasons the Caps lost to the Islanders

A red-hot Capitals team traveled to Brooklyn where they were handed a 3-1 loss by the New York Islanders. Washington gave up an early goal in the first period and two early goals in the second that ultimately put the game out of reach.

Here is how it happened.

The first 94 seconds of the second period

The Caps trailed 1-0 at the end of the first and seemed fortunate to be down by only one. That luck ran out very quickly in the second period. Andrew Ladd scored just 36 seconds into the period and John Tavares added another just 58 seconds later. A 1-0 deficit turned into a 3-0 deficit in just 94 seconds.

Defensive breakdowns

Braden Holtby was pulled in the second period after giving up three goals, but if is hard to put this loss on Holtby's shoulders. He did not get much help at all from the defense as the Caps were frequently caught out of position by the Islanders. Watch how little movement there is from the players in white on this play.

Josh Bailey found himself in the middle of four Caps players, none challenged him and, even worse, no one covered John Tavares. It was an easy pass for Bailey and an easy goal for Tavares.

No sustained offensive pressure

The Islanders entered the game ranked 29th in goals against per game, yet the Caps could not take advantage. Washington fired 32 shots on goal, but could not create much sustained offensive pressure. There were not many cycles, not many won puck battles in the corners, not many second-chance opportunities, not many opportunities at all. Even the Caps' lone goal came from an end-to-end drive that Dmitry Orlov fired into the net.

Jaroslav Halak

While the Caps did not have many high-quality opportunities, the few they did have Jaroslav Halak was able to turn aside and he made it look easy. Halak has not had a great season, but you would not have known it given the way he played on Monday. He looked very comfortable in net, even when the Caps did manage to pressure him and recorded 31 saves on the night.

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3 stars of the game: Caps' home magic doesn't follow them to Brooklyn

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3 stars of the game: Caps' home magic doesn't follow them to Brooklyn

The Caps saw their four-game win streak come to an end on Monday in a 3-1 loss at the hands of the New York Islanders.

Washington found themselves trailing 1-0 less than three minutes into the game. New York jumped out at the start of the second period as well with two goals in 94 seconds to take a 3-0 lead and end Braden Holtby's night.

Dmitry Orlov got Washingtoni on the board in the third period, but it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Andrew Ladd

The Caps did not have a great first period, but still find themselves trailing by only one. Ladd's goal just 36 seconds into the second period was a crucial one as the Islanders really cemented their control. He was a dominant force offensively all game even if it only translated into one point for him on the scoresheet. Ladd recorded a team-high six shots on goal.

2. Jaroslav Halak

What is about the Caps for this guy? Halak has not had a great season by any means, but he looked like vintage Halak in this one. You wouldn't know it from the score or the flow of the game, but the Caps actually had more shots on goal. Halak turned aside 31 of those shots to stifle any comeback hopes for Washington.

3. Philipp Grubauer

When the score was 3-0, Barry Trotz elected to make a goalie change and in stepped Grubauer. It's always a tough task to come into a game cold, but it was an even tougher situation considering that the Caps weren't doing much defensively to help their netminder. Grubauer, however, played exceptionally well. Even under a frequent barrage from the Islanders, Grubauer stopped all 17 shots he faced keeping it close on the scoreboard even if it did not feel all that close at all.