Dan Rosen | NHL.com Staff Writer
WASHINGTON -- In typical fashion, Sidney Crosby drove to the net. As he usually does, Evgeni Malkin made a power move with the puck on his stick.
Good things usually do happen when superstars put on their hard hats and go to work.
Malkin and Crosby made it happen early in overtime Saturday night to put the Pittsburgh Penguins on the doorstep of reaching the Eastern Conference Final for the second straight season with a 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals.
With Crosby racing toward the left post, Malkin came down the right side and attempted a backhand pass through the middle. The puck hit Capitals defenseman Tom Poti's stick and slipped through the pads of goalie Simeon Varlamov for the winner at 3:28 of OT.
"Their guy coming in down the wall and I think he beat our guy wide," Poti said. "You know it's Malkin so you can't give him too much time and space and it became a 2-on-1. I tried to go down and take the pass away and I tried to take away his angle coming into the net. He tried to make a pass and it went off my glove or my stick or something. Just a bad bounce, an unfortunate bounce.
"He's a guy who can make that play and score a goal so I don't think there's anything I'd do different. It's just an unlucky bounce and there's nothing you can really do about it."Milan Jurcina was standing at the penalty box door waiting to come out when the puck slid into the net. He was in the box because Malkin made another power move in the middle of the ice 89 seconds into overtime and forced Jurcina to haul him down from behind.
Malkin and Crosby spent the entire two minutes on the ice during the power play -- and made it worthwhile.
"You have to work hard to get the bounces," Crosby said. "We've created a lot of good opportunities and sometimes they haven't gone in, but they've found a way to even out. You work hard for those breaks. That's just the way hockey goes."
For the Penguins, everything is going pretty good right now. They've won three in a row after losing the first two games of this series, and they have a chance to close out the Capitals back in their own barn, Mellon Arena, on Monday night.
Even better, they're heading back to Pittsburgh with their third line of Jordan Staal, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke finally clicking. The trio combined for two goals and four points Saturday after registering only one point (a Staal assist Friday night) through the first four games of the series.
"Very seldom have we had a chance to carry the momentum," said Cooke, who scored his first goal of the playoffs 6:27 into the third period to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead.
Miroslav Satan, who was on the ice with Staal and Kennedy in the first period when Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was juggling his lines after dressing only 11 forwards, helped set up Staal's first goal of the playoffs 5:17 into the second period on a pretty give-and-go.
Cooke's first of the playoffs was set up by a hard shift by Staal and Tyler Kennedy.
Varlamov left a rebound from Kennedy's shot from the top of the right circle and Staal played in his skates before firing the puck on net again. The goalie made another save, but the puck was loose in front of him. Cooke came all the way in from the boards in front of the home bench to swipe it in with his backhand.
"Tyler Kennedy had his best game of the series, putting pucks behind the D, forcing them to deal with his speed in the offensive zone," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Jordan down low, big bodies, spins off and gets that goal. Then, Matt Cooke gets us a big one.
"When you have a third line in your lineup that can play like that it adds another dimension to your team and it certainly was there tonight."
The Capitals' new third line of David Steckel, Boyd Gordon and Matt Bradley was almost as good, but it couldn't produce the goal Washington needed.
Steckel had a bouncing puck at his feet and an empty net to shoot at just 20 seconds into overtime, but when he finally took a whack at it, he hit it with the top of his blade and it went wide of the net.
"Gordon, Steckel and Bradley played very good," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I thought they were very similar to Staal, Cooke and Kennedy. Hopefully it's our turn next game."
Although his team lost, even Boudreau had to admit Game 5 had some great entertainment value.
"It was an up-and-down game," he said. "It was a heck of a game."
With goaltending, star power and solid contributions from the role players.
Alex Ovechkin came back from a controversial hit on Sergei Gonchar in Game 4 to score two game-tying goals, including one with 4:08 left in regulation that forced overtime. Varlamov faced 42 shots and made 38 saves, including some sparklers. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 28 of 31 shots.
It wasn't enough, and now the Caps are staring down history that doesn't look at all pleasant.
Not only did the Penguins move to 8-0 against Washington all time in Game 5s, but if they win one of the next two games, it will mark the fourth time they've rallied from a two-game deficit against Washington to win a playoff series.
"It's going to take a big effort, but we have that opportunity," Crosby said of closing the series out at home. "These games come down to mistakes and bounces and we've been able to make a few less ones here and got a good bounce on the last goal."
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Evgeni Malkin made a power move around Sergei Fedorov on the right side and shot the puck with his backhand to score the overtime winner at 3:38. Malkin was powerful in getting around Fedorov, but he got a fortunate bounce as the puck went into the net off of Tom Poti's stick as the Capitals defenseman was diving on the ice. David Steckel misfired on the opposite end and Chris Kunitz got the puck and got it up the ice to Malkin for the winning goal.
Nicklas Backstrom won't get any headlines for his effort in Game 5, but he was brilliant -- a major reason Washington even forced overtime. Backstrom scored a power-play goal off give-and-go with Sergei Fedorov to give the Caps a 2-1 lead with 5:25 to play in the second. He also played Mike Green's crossing pass in his skates before getting his stick blade on it to send the puck over to Alex Ovechkin for the one-timer that tied the game at 3-3 with just 4:08 to play in regulation. Backstrom, who has 14 points in the playoffs, played 25:25, the most of any forward in the game. He finished with seven shots on goal and even contributed in the physical game with a pair of hits.
Pittsburgh is now 8-0 all time in Game 5s against the Capitals and is on the verge of winning a series from Washington after trailing by two games for the fourth time in history. The Penguins were down 2-0 and 3-1 in the 1992 Patrick Division Semifinals, but came back to beat Washington in seven. They trailed 3-1 in the 1995 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, but won three straight to win the series. They were down 2-0 in the 1996 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, but won four straight to win the series in six games. Is history repeating itself? Possibly.
Sometimes, Alex Ovechkin says, he has to lay the body in a game to get the blood flowing, his game going. He did that often Saturday and wound up with a three-point game after two sub-par performances in Pittsburgh. Ovechkin scored a pair of tying goals and also had an assist on Backstrom's power-play goal. His one-timer goal off the rush with 4:08 left forced overtime. He also scored 6:16 into the second period with a powerful snap shot from the top of the left circle to make it 1-1 just 59 seconds after the Penguins scored.
As expected, Sergei Gonchar did not play Saturday night after leaving Game 4 Friday night with an apparent knee injury 14:55 into the first period after a controversial knee-on-knee collision with Alex Ovechkin. The Penguins called up Alex Goligoski from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League earlier in the day and he played. So did veteran Philippe Boucher, as Penguins coach Dan Bylsma decided to go with seven defensemen in Game 5. Pascal Dupuis was the odd forward out.