- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2001


PITTSBURGH Normally in a situation like this, factoring in the Washington Capitals' playoff history, the club simply would have been happy to stay alive. Last night, however, it was a lot more than that.
Jeff Halpern scored 4:01 into overtime last night, powering the Caps to a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins and deadlocking the best-of-7 Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series at 2-2.
It was Washington's first win in overtime against the Penguins after four losses. Among the three losses was a 3-2 defeat on April 24, 1996, 45 seconds shy of four full overtime periods the longest game (it ended at 2:16 a.m.) in the history of both teams.
What this has done is reduce the series to a best-of-3, with the Caps regaining home ice advantage. Game 5 is Saturday afternoon at MCI Center, Game 6 is Monday night in Pittsburgh and Game 7, if needed, is Tuesday night at MCI.
Halpern's goal, a blast through goalie Johan Hedberg's legs, was the first even-strength goal the Caps have scored since 32 seconds into the third period of the final regular-season game, a span of 263:29.
Overtime became necessary when Washington blew a 3-1 lead in a span of 2:36 of the third period, Jaromir Jagr scoring once and setting up the tying goal by Janne Laukkanen.
Both teams had excellent chances in the extra period, but it was the workaholic Halpern line Steve Konowalchuk and Ulf Dahlen on wing that won the game, playing their game. They worked the puck down low, cycling, Dahlen keeping the puck alive until he could get it to Konowalchuk, who was watching to see when their center would get open.
When Halpern worked his way free in the right side of the slot, Konowalchuk whipped a pass out front and the Montgomery County native ripped it between the legs of the goalie who up to last night had held the Caps to just two goals in three games.
Konowalchuk had two goals for Washington and defenseman Brendan Witt the fourth. Five of Washington's six goals in the series have come on the power play.
"If you want to keep playing hockey you have to bear down," Halpern said. "This is a great feeling. Obviously we had them where we wanted with 10 minutes left and I'm not going to lie when I say that's a little frustrating when they come back like that. They played unbelievable in overtime, too; Olie [Kolzig] stood on his head for us and on a couple of those plays, you just think, 'Here we go again.' "
Halpern, a second-year player, said it was the veterans on the team who calmed things down by addressing the club before overtime started.
"The way we won tonight, the way we competed, I'm really proud of my team because we faced adversity," said coach Ron Wilson. "Going into overtime I didn't say anything but I knew in the back of my mind we'd never won a playoff game in overtime against the Penguins. And of all guys, Jeff Halpern once again scores a big goal in a big way."
Konowalchuk scored the only goal of the first period, deflecting a shot past Hedberg. Mario Lemieux tied it in the second by glancing a shot off Sergei Gonchar and then Kolzig before Witt, making a rare appearance on the power play, ripped a shot into the top left corner.
Konowalchuk gave the Caps a two-goal lead nine minutes into the third period before the Penguins rallied to gain the tie that sent the game into the 28th overtime game the Caps have played in postseason (14-14; Pittsburgh is 12-13).
"It was huge," said Kolzig, who played like a man possessed. "We didn't want to go home down 3-1, especially when we had a 3-2 lead in the third period. It probably would have killed us if we had lost this game but the boys, we stayed patient and capitalized on the chance we had in overtime. The result is a big momentum builder for us."
And why was Witt on the ice for a power play?
He went out for defensive purposes when only 10 seconds remained and because Wilson thought his partner, Calle Johansson, would take any shot. Witt's shot was where Wilson wanted everybody else to shoot high and in a corner.

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