Capitals Escape Pittsburgh With Win

Washington Capitals Alex Ovechkin, right, of Russia, controls the puck in front of Pittsburgh Penguins' Jarrko Ruutu, from Finland, in the second period of the hockey game in Pittsburgh, on Monday, Jan. 21, 2008. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Washington Capitals Alex Ovechkin, right, of Russia, controls the puck in front of Pittsburgh Penguins' Jarrko Ruutu, from Finland, in the second period of the hockey game in Pittsburgh, on Monday, Jan. 21, 2008. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) (Keith Srakocic - AP)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 22, 2008

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 21 -- The Washington Capitals forced overtime with a late score, killed off a rare two-man advantage in the extra session, then received goals from Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin in the shootout to defeat the Sidney Crosby-less Pittsburgh Penguins, 6-5, on Monday night.

The victory gave the Capitals their first victory in Pittsburgh since 2002 and halted a six-game losing streak against a bitter rival. It was also their fourth consecutive win and moved them one game over .500 and within three points of an Eastern Conference playoff spot.

"In all honesty we deserved to win that game in regulation," said goaltender Olie Kolzig, who yielded five goals on 15 shots. "It wasn't a great night for me, obviously. But the guys persevered."

Did they ever.

Viktor Kozlov tied the score at 5 with his second goal, and fourth in two contests, with a shot from the hash marks on the power play with 4 minutes 31 seconds remaining. Then, in the extra session, Quintin Laing blocked three shots to help the Capitals kill off a five-on-three advantage lasting 1:07.

"I didn't feel like I had a really good game, so when it came time for me to go out there, I really wanted to do whatever it took to get it done," said Laing, who often walks with a limp because of all the shots he blocks.

Ovechkin and Semin took it from there. Ovechkin beat Ty Conklin with a backhander from in tight, and Semin scored on a similar move to clinch it. Jarkko Ruutu scored the Penguins' only penalty shot.

"It was an important game in our season right now," said Ovechkin, who scored twice in regulation and now leads the league with 38 goals. "We are at .500, but we don't want to stop. We want to keep it going."

The win was the Capitals' first at Mellon Arena since a 4-1 victory on Dec. 3, 2002.

"We had to win," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It looked like for a while the gods were against us."

Boudreau was referring to a controversial third-period sequence. Ryan Malone put the Penguins ahead 5-4 at 5:04 of the final frame when the left wing redirected Sergei Gonchar's shot from point. It was Pittsburgh's third power-play goal of the game, and it came moments after the Capitals had an apparent go-ahead strike by Jeff Schultz disallowed because the referee had already raised his arm to call Matt Bradley for hooking.

But thanks to some clutch penalty killing and the Capitals' newfound success in the shootout, they will head to Toronto with more confidence.


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