Dejection off a Deflection
Malkin's Pass Finds The Net, Beats Caps
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Three times since 1992, the Washington Capitals have been eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins after taking a two-game lead in a playoff series.
After a bad-break goal in overtime in Game 5 last night, they're on the verge of suffering another heartbreaking collapse.
Washington was seconds away from killing off a penalty when defenseman Tom Poti stretched out in a desperate attempt to break up a crossing pass by Evgeni Malkin. But instead of steering the puck out of trouble, he inadvertently poked it into his own net to send the Capitals to a 4-3 loss at Verizon Center, their third straight defeat in these Eastern Conference semifinals.
Less than a week ago, Alex Ovechkin and his teammates owned a 2-0 lead in the series. Now they're headed back to Pittsburgh down 3-2 and facing elimination. Game 6 is tomorrow night at Mellon Arena.
"You just have to think of it as one game," Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Both of their overtime goals have been scored by our guys."
Ovechkin scored two goals, including one in the final minutes of regulation, and added an assist in the Capitals' best team performance of the postseason. But the reigning MVP never had much of a chance to supply any heroics in overtime, taking only one shift before Malkin's power-play goal.
The Capitals have lost their past seven playoff games that have gone to overtime; the Penguins have won eight of their past nine playoff games that were decided in extra time.
Milan Jurcina was whistled for tripping at 1 minute 29 seconds of the extra session, and with one second remaining on the penalty, Poti made the split-second decision to go down in an attempt to break up a two-on-one. Malkin was looking to dish the puck to Sidney Crosby when Poti stretched out prone, sliding back toward the Washington net. The puck hit his stick and slipped past Simeon Varlamov at 3:28. Poti lay face-first on the ice as the Penguins celebrated behind the goal.
"I tried to go down to take away the pass and his angle coming to the net," Poti said. "He tried to make the pass, and I think it hit my glove or my stick. It was just a lucky bounce, an unfortunate bounce."
Malkin's goal gave the Penguins their second win in overtime in this series and probably has longtime fans of the Capitals wondering if their team is in fact cursed when it comes to Pittsburgh and the playoffs. In Game 3, a shot by Penguins defenseman Kris Letang deflected off of Shaone Morrisonn before eluding Varlamov.
As deflating as the defeat was, several Capitals said they're confident they can extend the series to a seventh game, pointing to their first-round victory over the New York Rangers, a series in which they rallied from 2-0 and 3-1 holes.
"We certainly have experience in this situation," David Steckel said. "All hope is not lost. Nobody on this team wants it to end."