Penguins Fight Back

After Backstrom Forces Overtime, Letang Buries the Game-Winner

Washington's Alex Ovechkin celebrates after scoring the first goal of Wednesday night's Game 3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nicklas Backstrom's first goal of the postseason tied the game to force overtime, but the Penguins won on Kris Letang's goal.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 7, 2009

PITTSBURGH, May 6 -- Nicklas Backstrom scored his first goal of the playoffs with 1 minute 50 seconds remaining in regulation Wednesday night at Mellon Arena. But, in the end, his clutch goal only delayed the inevitable for a Washington Capitals team that was outshot by 19, assessed seven penalties to the Pittsburgh Penguins' two and committed too many turnovers to count.

Kris Letang scored on a slap shot with 8:37 remaining in overtime to lift the Penguins to a 3-2 victory before a white-towel waving capacity crowd.

The Capitals' loss snapped their winning streak at five games, cut their series lead to 2-1 and represented a huge missed opportunity.

"They had the puck," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They were in our zone and we were backtracking. We were playing not to lose rather than to win."

Letang, who is playing with a suspected shoulder injury, scored the winning goal to spoil what had been another "outstanding" performance, Boudreau said, by rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov. Sidney Crosby beat David Steckel on the faceoff, winning the puck back to Mark Eaton. Eaton then got the puck to Letang, who rifled a shot that hit defenseman Shaone Morrisonn's stick before eluding Varlamov.

Varlamov faced 42 shots, while his Penguins counterpart, Marc-André Fleury, saw only 23.

"When you get a goaltending effort like that, you have to win because they don't come around every day," Boudreau said of Varlamov.

Yes, Varlamov was that good. The same could not be said for his 19 teammates.

The Capitals jumped out to an early lead and controlled the opening 10 minutes of the game. But they wilted in the second and third periods as a desperate Penguins team ratcheted up its intensity. The Penguins outshot the Capitals 15-4 in the second period and 11-6 in the third. Pittsburgh also enjoyed six consecutive power plays stretching from the middle of the first period through the late stages of the third.

"They played a perfect game against us in the second and third periods," defenseman Mike Green said. "They got in our faces and it was really tough to find room. We've been disciplined in the past, and that's why we were successful. It was unnecessary."

Alex Ovechkin, who scored the Capitals' other goal, was blunt when asked about the penalties during a testy session with reporters.

"They have only two penalties," he said. "It's kind of a joke, I think."

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