Penguins Edge Capitals
ALAN ROBINSON | 5/7/2009, 6:22 a.m.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- For two memorable games, the Capitals-Penguins playoff matchup of the stars was controlled by one team and two players. Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby played a personal contest of one-upmanship unrivaled in the NHL playoffs in years and, while tying with four goals each, it was Ovechkin's Capitals who controlled the Eastern Conference semifinals following a pair of tight victories at home.Not any longer. Just in time for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Evgeni Malkin regained his game, making certain there's another player for the Washington Capitals to worry about besides Crosby.And he'll be a big worry if he keeps playing like this.
The Penguins' 3-2 overtime victory in a virtual win-or-else game for Pittsburgh on Wednesday night made it a series again, as the Capitals failed to take the three-game lead that no NHL team since 1975 has overcome.
With Malkin scoring his first goal - set up by Crosby - in six games late in the third period, and Kris Letang's game-winner at 11:23 of overtime, the Penguins made certain there will be a Game 5 in Washington on Saturday. Game 4 will be Friday in Pittsburgh.
"I felt like I was ready and I played good," said Malkin, who was upstaged by Ovechkin and Crosby in Washington. "I know I (did) not play that good the last two games."
Capitals rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov must be wondering what it takes to win after making one improbable save after another, 39 in all, only to end up losing as Washington was outshot 42-23 and had only two power plays to Pittsburgh's seven.
Welcome back to the series, Penguins. Planning to stay long?
"It was desperation for us, obviously, and we're still in a similar situation now, but we knew this was a big game," Crosby said. "It would have been easy to get frustrated with the chances we got and them not going in, but we stuck with it and we knew we were eventually going to get that break."
The Penguins probably were questioning early on if they could keep up with the Capitals, who had beaten them in five of six games counting the regular season. Less than two minutes in, Ovechkin scored his fifth goal of the series and eighth of the playoffs after a dump-in by Mike Green caromed to him in the slot.
Right about then, one more goal might have done it for the Capitals, who controlled the play for the opening 10 minutes. But they didn't score again until Nicklas Backstrom's power-play goal with 1:50 remaining in regulation forced overtime.
The Capitals clearly weren't happy with the disparity in penalties - especially coach Bruce Boudreau, who was aware the Penguins complained after Game 2 that Washington creates scoring chances by running illegal pick plays.
"When you get a goaltending effort like that, you have to win because they don't come around every day," Boudreau said. "I think we might have deserved the penalties, but they sure as hell deserved a few more than they got."