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They were playing without Sergei Gonchar. They blew two leads. They had plenty of excuses available in the event of a loss. But the fact of the matter was that with two minutes remaining in regulation, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals were tied at four. The Penguins were then awarded a somewhat controversial power play as the result of a Brooks Laich slash, and the stars looked like they were going to align. The team had every opportunity to close the door on Washington and end the series in front of their adoring home fans.

The Penguins subsequently threw the kitchen sink at Simeon Varlamov over the course of the next two minutes, but he was not to be denied at this stage of the game. As a result, the teams would enter overtime for the third time in the sixth game of this epic series. But unlike the previous two, this was not the result Penguin fans had become accustomed to, especially with the unflappable Marc-Andre Fleury in goal.

Fleury was 5-0 lifetime in playoff overtime games, but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Monday night was the end to Fleury's perfect postseason overtime record, as he gave up the game winner to the pesky Dave Steckel at the 6:22 mark of the extra frame. Capitals 5, Penguins 4. Game Seven awaits. Steckel gets some level of redemption for not hitting the open net in the Game Five overtime, and continues his roller coaster 2009 postseason where he seemingly alternates between hero and goat on a regular basis.

After one period, the Penguins dominated play and had an 18-5 edge in shots but only one goal to show for it, the fourth of the playoffs for Bill Guerin. You could probably make the case that Varlamov had won the game with his first period, keeping the Caps afloat when they had no such business doing so.

The back-and-forth second period was won by Washington on the scoreboard, but Mark Eaton's fourth goal of the playoffs in the final minute was enough to pull the Penguins even at two entering the third period. The surprising Eaton has now matched his 68-game 2008-09 regular season total of four goals in the postseason.

The final stanza would live up to the excitement level that one would anticipate for a game of this magnatude. Kris Letang ripped a goal just nine seconds into a Penguins power play (caused by Steckel), Letang's second huge goal of the postseason. But the Capitals would counter, beating Fleury twice in the span of 1:27 on goals by Alexander Semin and Kozlov.

With a stunned Mellon Arena crowd watching, Sidney Crosby continued his huge postseason with a tying goal at the 15:42 mark of the third, set up by Brooks Orpik and Evgeni Malkin, yet another example of spectacular hand-eye coordination by the young superstar.

Following the previously mentioned unsuccessful power play in the game's final minutes, the teams took to the ice to decide whether or not Gary Bettman would get his dream of a Game Seven. It looked like that dream might not happen, but Rob Scuderi's shot hit the crossbar behind Varlamov, sparing the Capitals. Steckel then continued in his role as Fleury's foil with his third goal of the series, forcing one more game to decide who will move on to the NHL's Final Four.

It was a crushing loss for the Penguins, who now have to travel to Washington and play before an extremely hostile environment. But a fan of either team would have to agree that this series has lived up to and probably exceeded the lofty expectations placed upon it, as the multiple OT games and small margins of victory would confirm. I'm by no means an NHL historian, but I'd have to imagine this to be one of the most competitive series in league history.

Game Seven takes place at Washington's Verizon Center on Wednesday at 7 PM. Expect history to be made once again. And hopefully, this time it will be an outcome that we can live with.

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okel dokel said...

Not much too say except I wish we would have put it away when we had the chance.

Did you read Ovechkin's post game quote? This guy is a true douchebag. I don't know when it is going to happen but somebody in the NHL is going to shut this asshole up and all of the players will be quite happy about it.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

I wonder if there is an opening on the Russian Diving team for 2012?

Semin would be a perfect fit, i saw a few 10's from him last night.

Sam said...

"but I'd have to imagine this to be one of the most competitive series in league history"

On the scoreboard and the back of the nets... yes.

Everywhere else on the ice... not at all.

We've out shot them 226-159 through six games - that's a margin of 11 shots per game!

True, shots don't always tell the whole story. But when it's an average of 38-27 per game, one team is CLEARLY outplaying the other (except when it comes to goaltending).

getfreshdesigns said...

Bears vs Pens tonight. The winner of that game = winner of Caps vs Pens???

Steve said...

I've posted elsewhere that the key to last nites game was MAF finally having a big game, keeping Kozlov the Penguin killer off the score sheet and Kunitz finally getting on the board. All those things went wrong and the result speaks for itself.

I'll say for the next game the key again will be Fleury besting the rookie, Kunitz finding the back of the net and keeping Ovechkin the Terrible in check, as he's going to be full of piss and vodka.

This is the absolute worst scenario for the Pens to be in and I would be more surprised if they do win than if they don't.

Unknown said...

I missed Ovechkin's post game quote, what did he say?

Jeff_King_Fan said...

Just like i mentioned when the Pens were down 2-0, this series would go to a seventh game. i know the benefit of playing the last game of a series at home, but believe me the pens will win this game. the better team always wins in a best of seven series, and the penguins are clearly the better team. prediction: caps score 2 early, pens come back and win this game 4-3 and move on to host Carolina.

Steve said...

Great Jeff, except you forgot one thing. The next series will start in Boston.

Someone Somewhere said...

"the better team always wins in a best of seven series"

Tell that to the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins...

If you can't get into this series, then you probably can't get into sports. This is the best playoff series in any sport I've seen in a LONG time. The best team is going to win this series, and it's going to take (at least) 60 more minutes to find out who that is.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

I can't agree more about that. As far as I am concerned, the Pens have been the best team in each game but have been outplayed my one man, Varlamov.

I can't give that kid enough credit for how much we have had to do to get one by him. Sid had to take three hacks before sneaking the game tying goal behind him.

We have to make more of our opportunities and not let them right back in the game with sloppy D, stupid turnovers, and I know I will get hammered for this statement; but mediocre goaltending.

Jeff_King_Fan said...

the pens have outplayed the caps for the majority of the series, but whoever wins wed. night, no matter how stylish, will prove to be the better team. as i said before, the better team always wins in a best of 7. i have a feeling the pens will prove to be superior to the caps, and avoid one of the worst loses in pittsburgh sports history.

okel dokel said...

Ovechkin's comment, "Right now we feel more energy and more excitement than Pittsburgh. They knew it was going to be hard to come back if they lost."

Maybe I am being a little picky, but he rarely makes a decent comment about the other team.

@ Burress - I agree with you about the goaltending. He was great in the Philly series; not so much in this one.