PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bonino went from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in less than an hour on Tuesday.
The low came midway through the third period in Game 6 of Pittsburgh's Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Washington Capitals, when he shot the puck into the crowd and was assessed a delay of game penalty that led to defenseman John Carlson's game-tying goal.
The high followed when Bonino scored 6:32 into overtime to give the Penguins a 4-3 victory and move them into the Eastern Conference Final meeting against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After forwards Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel cycled the puck behind the net, Kessel fed Hagelin in front, where he shot off Capitals goalie Braden Holtby's right pad. With his back turned, Bonino found the puck at his skates and backhanded it into the net.
"I can't put it into words right now. I still have chills a little bit," Bonino said. "Just coming off of the ice, pounding everyone, and that's a lot of fun."
Some of what he felt was relief.
Video: Bonino, Murray, Crosby on emotional Game 6 series win
Midway through the third period, Bonino was called for the second of three delay of game penalties within a span of 2:02. The Penguins, who had seed their 3-0 lead shrink to 3-2, gave Washington two 5-on-3s, one for 54 seconds and the second for 1:04. Carlson scored during the second one, and Bonino felt responsible.
"It was the worst feeling I think I've ever had in hockey, when I wacked the puck out of play," he said. "Then [defenseman Ian Cole] did it after [Chris Kunitz] did it. That's something you'll never see. … That was unfortunate. A little bit unlucky, but I thought we responded well.
"We thought we carried the play 5-on-5 and we were confident that if we could stay out of the box and do the right things, we'd get that goal."
Bonino was the one who got that goal.
"I can't even tell you that moment, what I'm thinking," he said. "It's just go to the net and whack at it. It went in. I know what I felt after. I was pretty happy about it and it was pretty exciting."
Though Penguins received little offensive production from star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin during the series, they scored at least three goals four times. The line of Bonino between Hagelin and Kessel helped carry the load, especially in Game 6. Kessel scored the game's first two goals and Hagelin got the third to help Pittsburgh take a 3-0 lead 7:05 into the second period.
Malkin, who finished the series with two points and one goal, said he hopes to improve his production, but Pittsburgh's depth has helped alleviate some pressure.
"Tonight, we played against [Alex Ovechkin] all game. It's a little tougher to score against a big line," Malkin said. "It's good we have four good lines … Bonino scores. We share time too, so we stay fresh all game."
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan has expressed little concern over Crosby and Malkin's lack of production. Part of that stems from his trust in the supporting cast, and Bonino's line in particular.
"[Bonino] is a really good player," Sullivan said. "I've said on a number of occasions that he's a cerebral guy. He really sees the game very well on both sides of the puck … That line, I think, has been really good for us for a long time now. When you look at that makeup of our group right now, and I've said this all through the series, when we have the balance the way we do, I think it presents matchup challenges for our opponents."