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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final

Steckel doesn't whiff on second chance

Tuesday, 05.12.2009 / 12:27 AM / Conference Semifinals: Washington vs. Pittsburgh

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- After whiffing on an open net barely 20 seconds into overtime in Game 5, David Steckel started telling himself, "If I get the chance again…"

It's rare that those opportunities come up, but he got one Monday night that made him forget that missed chance just two nights earlier -- one that gave Evgeni Malkin a chance to capitalize with the winning goal.

Steckel stuck out his stick and deflected Brooks Laich's point shot down and past Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for the overtime winner 6:22 into the extra session Monday night, giving the Caps a 5-4 win and new life in the epic series.

Game 7 is set for Wednesday night at Verizon Center.

"It felt pretty good," Steckel said. "I was really down after that (missed chance in Game 5). I mean, it was right there and then two minutes later you lose a game like that. I told myself if I had a chance to do it again, I wouldn't miss. Obviously it's a different situation, but it feels good."

You can't overlook the obvious for the Capitals in this series against Pittsburgh.

When Steckel scores, Washington wins.

The Wisconsin native scored a goal in each of the first two games of this series, and the Caps won both. He went goalless in the next three and the Caps were winless. He got on the board again in Game 6, and, well, you already know what happened.

"He's a big-game guy," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said of Steckel, who had just eight goals in 76 regular-season games this year.

Steckel was kicking himself again Monday night for slashing Mark Eaton 4:31 into the third period. Sixty-seven seconds later, Kris Letang scored on the power play to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead.

"When he took the penalty and they scored the goal, he kept saying on the bench, 'Just get one back for me, get one back for me,'" Boudreau said. "He's so into the team and he thought at that point that he had let them down. He ended up getting the winning goal so it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy."

Steckel won the in-zone faceoff to the right of Fleury against Maxime Talbot, who broke his stick in the process. He drew the puck back to Brooks Laich, who, while on his knees, shoveled it up the boards to Matt Bradley.

Steckel, meanwhile, went straight to the front of the net as Bradley gave it back to Laich, setting the left wing up for a point shot. Laich shot it and Steckel, battling in the slot with Philippe Boucher, got his stick out to deflect home the goal he called the biggest of his career.

Capitals/Penguins Playoff Gear Penguins Gear Capitals Gear Steckel was immediately crushed by defenseman Tom Poti before the rest of the team spilled over the boards.

"He wins it back and I played it to Brads, who protects it, gives it back to me and Stecks goes to the net," Laich said. "He's 6-foot-5, a tough guy to handle. He goes to the net and parks there. He doesn't swing by and go to the corner. He goes to the net and it's the little things like that over course of a hockey game that makes a difference."

The faceoff win was obviously huge in the play, but that's to be expected from Steckel. He is 63.5-percent (54-31) in this series and 58.2-percent (99-71) in the playoffs. This kind of success comes after he was 57.9-percent (513-373) during the regular season.

"Faceoff winning is possession and if you get possession you think it would be in their zone more often," Boudreau said. "Dave is one of the best."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com

For me, it's a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it's big.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards on their win vs. the Penguins in Game 2, the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory