The Pittsburgh Penguins were inches away from eliminating the Washington Capitals and earning their second consecutive Eastern Conference Final appearance.
Rob Scuderi’s slap shot in the opening minutes of overtime glanced off the crossbar and later the Capitals buried the game-winning score to force a Game 7 showdown in Washington on Wednesday night. Those are the unfortunate breaks that occur in postseason hockey.
“It was kind of end-over-end so it was kind of like a knuckle puck,” Scuderi said. “But I thought I got pretty good wood on it. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
“We got a shot on net and a rebound, and (Scuderi is) taking a shot at the point with a lot of traffic in front and it went off of the cross bar,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “Rob’s done an outstanding job with his assignment, and he’s going to get one more chance in Game 7.”
The Penguins were not discouraged following the 5-4 setback to the Capitals at Mellon Arena Monday night. If anything, Pittsburgh played well enough to win the game and will try to build off of its strong performance.
Pittsburgh had a decisive edge in play during the first period. The Penguins outshot the Capitals, 18-5, and came away with a 1-0 lead on Bill Guerin’s fourth tally of the postseason. However, the Penguins couldn’t build a two-goal cushion despite numerous quality scoring chances.
“I would have liked the first period to keep going, skip the intermission,” Bylsma said. “We played a good period. We took 18 shots but they were playing hard. We were missing opportunities. We were getting pucks there and getting second chances and they were battling hard in front. To (Washington’s) credit they kept it at one, partially due to their defensemen and partially due to their goaltending.”
“It would have been nice (to get a two-goal lead) but it wasn’t a lack of effort or a lack of focus,” captain Sidney Crosby
said. “The puck just didn’t go in. We might have made it easier on ourselves if we did get that second one, but we put the effort out there, the puck just didn’t go in.
“That’s been the way this series has worked out. It’s been tight hockey. I think both teams have realized the importance of staying within striking distance and the team that is up realizes it’s important to get that two-goal lead. Everyone’s desperate and everyone realizes the situation. It wasn’t like we tried to sit on (the lead). We tried to get the next one.”
I thought we dominated the play and what can you say? I think Varlamov is unbelievable right now. Maybe a couple of the mistakes that we made they capitalized on but I’m not sure that we can play much better than that. - Rob Scuderi
The Penguins also outshot Washington in the second, 7-6, and third, 14-9, periods, finishing the game with a lopsided 42-24 advantage. But Capitals goalie Simeon Varlamov was spectacular in net for Washington, as he’s been all series.
“I thought we played well again. I thought we dominated the play and what can you say? I think Varlamov is unbelievable right now,” Scuderi said. “Maybe a couple of the mistakes that we made they capitalized on but I’m not sure that we can play much better than that.”
The Penguins are confident that if they play the same way as they did in Game 6, they’ll be successful in the series finale on Wednesday night.
“You play a certain way over 60 minutes and you get 42 shots, you give yourselves a chance to win,” Bylsma said. “We can be better in certain areas and there things we need to improve. But we’re going to try to do that same thing and we’re going to try to get 45 (shots) at this goaltender and take the 50-50 out of the game and get it in our favor, and they’re going to try to do much of the same … We’ll see if that dictates Game 7.”