WASHINGTON - Alex Ovechkin contributed a power-play goal, yet it was a few of his unheralded teammates on the Washington Capitals who made the difference in Game 1 of their showdown against Pittsburgh Penguins.
Tomas Fleischmann scored the tiebreaking goal with 18:14 remaining, rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov stopped 34 shots, and the Capitals got the jump on their Eastern Conference rivals with a 3-2 victory Saturday.
David Steckel contributed his first goal of the playoffs to help Washington to its first four-game winning streak in the playoffs since 1991. The Capitals advanced to the second-round series by winning the last three games against the New York Rangers.
Game 2 is Monday night in Washington.
Sidney Crosby and Mark Eaton scored for the defending Eastern Conference champion Penguins, who went 0-for-5 on the power play after going 1-for-18 in the final four games of their first-round series against Philadelphia.
The Penguins and Capitals have met seven times previously in the playoffs; Pittsburgh has won six of those series. Seventeen of the 43 playoff games between the teams have been decided by one goal, including this thriller.
Late in the second period, Varlamov twisted his body and stretched his stick across the goal line to deny Crosby, who had taken a shot from the left of the crease after receiving a cross-ice pass from Chris Kunitz. Crosby lifted his arms momentarily to celebrate before realizing the goaltender managed to keep the puck out of the net.
Fleischmann got the only goal of the third period. Alexander Semin brought the puck into the zone and sent a diagonal pass to Nicklas Backstrom, who passed the puck across the ice to Fleischmann. That left the left side of the net open, and Fleischmann easily beat Marc-Andre Fleury for his second goal of the playoffs.
Crosby put the Penguins up 1-0 with a wrist shot from between the circles at 4:09 of the first period. Pittsburgh dominated the first 10 minutes and built an 11-2 advantage in shots on goal before Steckel slammed in the rebound of a shot by Matt Bradley at 13:50.
It was the Capitals' first goal in May since Joe Juneau scored against Buffalo in the 1998 Eastern Conference finals.
At 17:03, Ovechkin easily beat Fleury from the left side after taking a pass from Semin with Washington working a 5-on-3.
Pittsburgh tied it at 12:54 of the second period when Eaton took a slap shot from just inside the blue line that slithered under Varlamov's glove and into the net. Varlamov redeemed himself later in the period with his outstanding stick-save against Crosby.
Notes: Varlamov has played in more playoff games (seven) than regular-season games (six). ... Pittsburgh scratches included Miroslav Satan, who played in two games during the opening round. Washington scratches included suspended winger Donald Brashear.