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Rough and tumble

Caps take down Pens in OT to force seventh-game standoff

Caps take down Pens in OT to force seventh-game standoff

May 12, 2009|By ALAN ROBINSON

PITTSBURGH -- David Steckel scored on a deflection of Brooks Laich's shot and the Washington Capitals finally won an overtime playoff game, beating nemesis Pittsburgh 5-4 on Monday night to force a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Capitals, losers of their seven previous overtime games, couldn't hold a 4-3 lead late in regulation when Sidney Crosby scored, but made up for it when Steckel went to the net immediately after winning a faceoff. Laich wristed the puck on net from the right circle and Steckel put it past Marc-Andre Fleury 6:22 into the overtime.

The game before, Steckel couldn't score into an open net early in overtime and the Penguins won 3-2 in Washington on Evgeni Malkin's goal to take a 3-2 lead into the potential closeout game on Monday. Instead, Game 7 will be Wednesday night in Washington.

It was the third overtime game of the series, the most in any round of these NHL playoffs. Pittsburgh won the first two, both on deflections off Capitals defensemen.

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Pittsburgh had won eight of its previous nine overtime games and had been 7-1 against the Capitals in OT.

Alex Ovechkin, so dominating while scoring seven of Washington's first 15 goals in the series, didn't get a goal but had three assists and has 13 points. Crosby has 10, including six goals.

Viktor Kozlov scored twice for the Capitals to make certain an exhausting, competitive series will go the limit. There's been no rest for the weary, either, as Monday's game was the fourth in six nights -- all of them tight and tense. All but one game has been decided by one goal.

Now that they've forced a Game 7 that didn't look all that certain after they ceded home-ice advantage, the Capitals hope to finally close out a series against the Penguins. Four times since 1992 they've led the Penguins by two games in a series, including this one, but have yet to win one.

And, for the fifth time in six games, the team scoring first didn't win.

The Capitals won in Pittsburgh for the first time in three games despite trailing 1-0 and 3-2 and being outshot 42-24. They also did it without a goal from Ovechkin.

Washington came back from Kris Letang's second career playoff goal, both in this round, to take a 4-3 lead early in the third period on goals 29 seconds apart by Alexander Semin and Kozlov. Semin hadn't scored in the series.

But Crosby tied it with 4:18 left in regulation by batting down Brooks Orpik's shot and pushing it past Simeon Varlamov, who made 38 saves -- 17 in the first period alone.

The Penguins shook off the Capitals' promised desperation to dominate that period, outshooting them 18-5 and limiting them to two shots in the final 16:22. However, Pittsburgh managed a single goal while constantly controlling the puck, by Bill Guerin.

Washington, also outshot by nearly 2-to-1 during its 3-2 overtime loss in Pittsburgh last Wednesday, began controlling the play early in the second period and took a 2-1 lead on goals by Kozlov and Tomas Fleischmann. Pittsburgh tied it on defenseman Mark Eaton's power-play goal with 34 seconds left in the period, his fourth of the playoffs -- as many as he had in 68 regular-season games. Notes: Pittsburgh also lost a potential elimination game on home ice, 3-0 to Philadelphia in Game 5 of the first round, but won Game 6 on the road. ... Washington F Donald Brashear's six-game suspension ended, but he was scratched. ... Washington blew two-game leads against Pittsburgh in 1992, 1995 and 1996.

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