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An Overtime to Remember

Steckel's Goal Brings Caps Home for Game 7

Members of the Washington Capitals react to their 5-4 overtime victory in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Pittsburgh.
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 12, 2009

PITTSBURGH, May 11 -- Twice in the span of 48 hours, Washington Capitals checking line center David Steckel put himself in position to score in overtime.

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The second time, however, went much better than the first.

One game after misfiring on an open net, Steckel scored what he called the biggest goal of his career, redirecting a shot 6 minutes 22 seconds into extra time to lift the Capitals to a 5-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, force a Game 7 and add another chapter to one of the most memorable playoff series in recent memory.

"I was really down" after missing the net in Game 5, said Steckel, who has three goals in the playoffs after recording only eight in the regular season. "I was right there, and then to lose the game two minutes after that. I told myself if I had the chance to do it again, I wouldn't miss."

The winning play began with Steckel breaking Maxime Talbot's stick on a faceoff and then racing to the net, where he redirected a shot by Brooks Laich around Penguins goaltender Marc-André Fleury to stun the white towel-waving capacity crowd at Mellon Arena and improve the Capitals' record to 6-1 when facing elimination under Coach Bruce Boudreau.

"He's a big-game guy," Boudreau said of Steckel.

The Capitals now have the chance to advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a win on Wednesday at Verizon Center and, perhaps just as important, dispense with some demons that have haunted this franchise for nearly two decades. A win also would give Washington only its second series victory over Pittsburgh in eight all-time meetings.

Steckel scored the winner, but several Capitals deserved credit for their contributions. Viktor Kozlov picked up his first two goals of the series, Alexander Semin had two assists and rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov made 38 saves, including 17 in a first period in which the Penguins might have buried Washington without him.

"Like I said before the game, it's time for everyone to play their hardest," said Alex Ovechkin, who had three assists. "This is the best group of guys, they never give up. It doesn't matter who scores, me, Kozzie, Stecks in overtime, what matters is we win the game and we go back to our building and our fans."

Victory, though, was never a sure thing for either team in a game that featured two lead changes in the third period.

After getting goals from Kozlov and Laich 29 seconds apart early in the third period, the Capitals found themselves clinging to a 4-3 lead late in regulation.

But Varlamov and the Capitals' defense couldn't prevent Sidney Crosby from doing what he does best: scoring inches from the goal mouth. Crosby knocked down Brooks Orpik's point shot in front of Varlamov, then took two hacks at the puck before whacking it out of mid-air past the sprawled goaltender with 4:18 remaining.

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