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Steckel steps up in Game 1

by Dan Rosen
WASHINGTON -- David Steckel didn't want to give himself any credit, so he shot down the idea that Washington coach Bruce Boudreau was showing him an incredible amount of faith by having him on the ice in the final minute of Saturday's game.

"I'm going to speculate that it was an icing and he couldn't change, so he was stuck with me out there whether he liked it or not," Steckel said with a smile while wearing the Capitals' hard hat as the team's hardest-working player after Saturday's 3-2 victory.

Reminded that he indeed was on the ice before that icing with 31.8 seconds left, which was followed by a Pittsburgh timeout, Steckel finally admitted that yes, Boudreau does have a lot of faith in him.

Steckel made the coach look good by winning a defensive-zone faceoff against Sidney Crosby after the icing. He stayed on for the rest of the game and finished with a goal, four takeaways, two hits and an 11-6 record on faceoffs while playing a playoff-high 19:11 of ice time.

Not bad for someone who spent most of his afternoon chasing after Crosby and his linemates, Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin.

No wonder he was wearing that hard hat.

"He's been in this situation before as far as having to play against other teams' best players in playoff-type situations," Boudreau said. "I was telling him before the game that he rises to that occasion. He's a good player, an unsung player. I thought he was stellar."

Steckel was a key component in the Game 1 victory not only because he scored a goal and helped limit Crosby, but also because he also won six of seven faceoffs in the third period, including five while going head-to-head against the Penguins' No. 87.

Crosby won nearly 64 percent of his faceoffs against Philadelphia in the opening round and was 11-5 (69 percent) through the first 40 minutes Saturday, but he finished 12-12.

The Penguins, who won 28 of 42 in the first two periods, won just four of 18 in the third.

"I know in the second I took a lot on my right side and they were kind of getting to me a little bit, but in the third is when the game is most important so guys were bearing down a little more," Steckel said. "We don't really act as a five-man cohesive unit to try to win draws, and we've talked about that. We need everybody's help on that."

It's the same way in the goal-scoring department.

Steckel scored the Caps' first goal 13:10 into the first period, tying the game 1-1, and Tomas Fleischmann got the game-winner 1:46 into the third. That's good production from a third-line center and a second-line wing who combined for 27 goals in the regular season and just one in the opening round.

Alex Ovechkin, he of the back-to-back Rocket Richard trophies, scored the middle goal, but it's obvious now that secondary scoring is going to be essential if the Capitals want to advance far in these playoffs.

Capitals/Penguins Playoff Gear Penguins Gear Capitals Gear "Secondary scoring wins you playoff series," Steckel said. "Teams have really good defenses now, and they're not going to let the top players beat them all the time. They might get a point or two here, but for the most part it's going to be the rest of the guys in the locker room that are going to win you the series."

Ovechkin, who has eight points in eight playoff games, wouldn't have it any other way. He said Steckel's goal energized the Capitals after a listless start.

"I don't think we played well in the first 10 minutes, but only one line played well and that was Steckel, Matt Bradley and Brooks Laich," Ovechkin said of the trio that combined for the first goal. "They scored a goal, gave us life on the bench and we started moving our legs, forced some penalties and scored the second."

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