-- The Pittsburgh Penguins
nearly played the perfect period in the opening 20 minutes of Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Washington Capitals
scored the game's first goal when he finished a two-on-one with Sidney Crosby
. The Pens out-shot the Caps 18-5, out-chanced them and badly outplayed them. They even had a 56-second two-man advantage midway through the period when Nicklas Backstrom
was sent off for hooking Craig Adams
at 10:16, and 60 seconds later when Brooks Laich
was whistled for cross-checking Crosby.
They had four cracks at getting a second goal and potentially putting the game away. Evgeni Malkin
and Philippe Boucher
each had a pair of chances, but Capitals goalie Simeon Varlamov stood tall, and their best chance ended when Crosby was sent off for interference at 12:12.
"I would have liked that period to keep going and skip the intermission," said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma
"It would have been nice (to get a second score)," said Crosby. "Wasn't lack of effort or lack of focus or anything like that. The puck just didn't go in. We might have made it easier on ourselves if we did get that second one. We put the effort out there; the puck just didn't go in."
Missed opportunities have been the story of this series for the Penguins. Crosby scored the first goal in Games 1 and 2, but the Penguins never were able to build on it. And in Game 6, they let another opportunity to build on a lead slip away.
"That's been really the way the series has worked out," said Crosby. "It's been tight hockey. Both teams realize the importance of staying within striking distance. Teams that are up realize the importance of getting that two-goal lead. Everyone is desperate, everyone realizes the weight of the situation. It wasn't like we tried to sit on (the lead). We tried to get the next one. The second period wasn't our greatest period, but for the first and third we poured it on."
They did just that in third, throwing 14 shots at the Washington net, and seemed to swing the momentum again when Kris Letang
scored on the power-play at 4:40 of the third period to give the Pens a 3-2 lead. Again, though, they couldn't capitalize. And after Brooks Orpik
was called for hooking at 5:23, Alexander Semin
scored to tie the game just 15 seconds later.
After Crosby tied the game with 4:28 left in the third, they had three shots on a late penalty on Brooks Laich
It wasn't enough, however, which is why the series is going back to Washington for a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.
Adversity is nothing new to this group of Penguins, and they steadfastly believe they have what it takes to put what happened in Game 6 behind them and move forward to the deciding contest.
"If there's a group of guys capable, we know it's the ones in that locker room," said Crosby. "We believe the way we're playing is going to give us good results. We're two inches away from finishing it off tonight. We had a good effort and it didn't happen. We believe if we have that same effort, things are going to go our way."
Contact Adam Kimelman at: firstname.lastname@example.org.