TURIN -- As the Russians hugged and smiled, Team Canada's players stood silently, their heads bowed -- feeling their own disappointment and the anguish of a nation that doesn't want to give up its hockey supremacy.
The Olympics came to a stunning end for Team Canada last night with a 2-0 quarter-final loss to Russia -- the third time in the past four games the Canadians had been shut out.
"For me personally, this could be the worst," Canadian captain Joe Sakic said. "You don't ever want to lose. You want to get out there and win."
The defending gold-medal champs were supposed to have plenty of firepower, but the fact is this team couldn't score.
"I guess the problem is we never really got together as a team," coach Pat Quinn said. "I know that people are going to blame individuals, but there's not one person to blame.
"We had certain people who didn't put the puck in the net for us and we just couldn't seem to solve our lack of scoring. The bottom line is, as hard as our guys tried, we just weren't good enough to advance."
Now, the second-guessing will begin. Quinn said speed (or lack of it) was a factor and the loss of injured defencemen Scott Niedermayer and Ed Jovanovski was another factor.
After two scoreless periods, Russian rookie Alexander Ovechkin found the net at 1:30 of the third period, on the power play, after some horrible defensive errors in the Canadian zone. Alexei Kovalev scored an insurance goal at 19:37 as Canada imploded.
"Anytime you don't win there are going to be questions," Team Canada defenceman Rob Blake said. "I would think what will happen is Canada will learn from this and we'll be better in four years.
"This is tough right now. Whenever you lose it's tough to take. We came here to win the gold medal and we didn't complete our goal.
"I just don't think we ever played the way we were capable of playing and that's disappointing."
Team members were spending a lot of time wondering what went wrong, why it went so badly and why this team never got into any kind of groove at this tourney.
"I know we're going to get second-guessed and people are going to wonder if we should have had some other people here, but I'm proud of this group and I am not embarrassed one bit," Quinn said. "We played our hearts out. We had a lot of young players on this team who are going to be there for this country in 2010 (in Vancouver) and they're going to learn from this experience."
The Russians had an easy explanation for the win: They deserved it. They had a better, more talented, younger team and Canada got what it deserved.
"We played as a team and it's with great pride that we beat a team like Canada," Russian centre Alexei Yashin said.
The improbable nightmare came true for Canada. And four years seems like such a long time to try for gold again.