Ovechkin a great one
STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

TURIN -- Wayne Gretzky isn't quite ready to call Russian Alexander Ovechkin the best hockey player in the world -- but he's getting closer.

"Right now he's the most exciting player," Gretzky said in the solemn moments after Canada's 2-0 defeat and elimination from the Olympic hockey tournament. And when was the last time anyone could consider a rookie the best in any sport?

"I love the kid," Gretzky said. "He's the only one who has scored against me (in Phoenix) and blew me a kiss."

Yesterday, Ovechkin didn't blow anyone a kiss -- unless he was kissing Team Canada goodbye. His power-play goal in the third period, which came after he had at least five earlier scoring opportunities, proved to the be winning goal in the Russian win.

He didn't win the elimination game singlehandedly but he could have.

"He might be the best," said Darius Kasparaitis, the veteran defenceman. "He's getting there. He just doesn't score. He goes in the corners. He blocks shots. He skates hard. He does a little of everything."

BIG VICTORY

Ovechkin, for his part, wasn't about to address where he stands in the hockey community but instead talked about the big victory for Russia.

"It's one of the best feelings in my life," he said. "We know everybody at home is watching and everybody supports us. They're very happy in Russia. They'll be drinking lots of vodka."

Ovechkin did score five goals in the past six games -- that's more than Todd Bertuzzi, Vinny Lecavalier, Chris Draper, Ryan Smyth, Joe Thornton, Joe Sakic and Simon Gagne combined.

When asked when he will call him the best player in the world, Gretzky said, "When he wins four Stanley Cups."

Or maybe one Olympic gold medal.