- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2009

PITTSBURGH | David Steckel was the unsung hero earlier in this Eastern Conference semifinal series, and he kept alive the Washington Capitals’ quest for a Stanley Cup at least another two days.

Steckel won an offensive zone faceoff and then deflected a shot from Brooks Laich 6:22 into overtime, and the Caps defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4 in Game 6 at sold-out Mellon Arena.

Washington had lost seven straight overtime games dating back to 2001, including two in this series. The Caps are now 6-1 in elimination games with Bruce Boudreau as coach. Game 7 will be Wednesday night at Verizon Center.

Sidney Crosby leveled the score at 4-4 with 4:18 remaining in regulation to cap a wild final period. Crosby knocked down Brooks Orpik’s shot from the left point in front of rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov and then pushed a backhanded attempt across the goal line for his 10th of the postseason, tying him with Alex Ovechkin for the most in the league.

For the fourth straight game, the Penguins struck first in the third period. Nine seconds after Steckel went to the penalty box for slashing, Kris Letang scored a power-play goal after Alex Goligoski’s shot from the right point went high and kicked out to the left circle.

But Washington came right back with a pair of markers 29 seconds apart to retake the lead. Alexander Semin scored his first goal of the series at 5:38 — 15 seconds after Orpik, his series-long nemesis, went to the box for tripping him.

Viktor Kozlov added his second of the game at 6:07 as the Caps also took advantage of the lively boards. Nicklas Backstrom’s shot missed the net, but the puck came out to Kozlov on the other side and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was unable to get back into position in time.

The Caps did not look like a desperate team in the opening period. Pittsburgh outshot Washington 18-5 in the opening 20 minutes, and the Penguins collected the lone goal of the period.

Bill Guerin took a pass from Crosby and snapped a shot past Varlamov at 5:55. Crosby and Guerin broke in on a two-on-one after Chris Kunitz was able to chip the puck past a pinching Milan Jurcina.

Laich had a sublime chance to the put the Caps in front early, but he put a one-timer off the side of the net from 13 feet away. The Caps were able to kill off a one-minute two-minute advantage, but their own power-play unit in the first period registered only one shot in more than 90 seconds of extra-man time.

Washington regrouped after the first intermission and forged a lead before a late Pittsburgh goal knotted the score at 2-2. Kozlov got the Caps on the board when he snapped a shot into the top right corner at 6:27. Crosby had taken a shot off his foot and was trying to get to the bench on the play, which helped the Caps end up with a three-on-two.

Kozlov scored twice after notching two goals in the previous 12 games. He had zero playoff goals in 21 career contests before this year.

Tomas Fleischmann put the Caps in front at 14:42 of the second. During a delayed penalty, Sergei Fedorov’s shot from the left circle never made it to the net, but it came right to Fleischmann near the right post and he backhanded past an outstretched Fleury.

But this game would go the second intermission tied at 2-2 after Mark Eaton’s power-play goal with 33.4 seconds left. Evgeni Malkin tried to send a cross-ice pass to Kunitz, but Jurcina got in the way. The puck came to Eaton at the top of the circles and he slipped a shot through Varlamov’s legs.

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