- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2009

PITTSBURGH

It will end as it was seemingly destined to end, with a Game 7 that finally will settle an Eastern Conference semifinal that has been as competitive as it has been compelling.

“I just wish it was for the Cup,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said Monday night.

That will be awarded two rounds after this.

As for this series, the Caps extended it and followed the apparent will of the hockey gods Monday night with a 5-4 overtime triumph against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 at Mellon Arena.



That ensured Game 7 on Wednesday night at Verizon Center. That’s a game the Penguins would have preferred to avoid, but by now at least they know the drill: Play your heart out against a team that’s equally skilled and equally resilient and let the best team win.

Game 6 was more of the same until Washington’s David Steckel added to the lore with the series’ third overtime goal at 6:22.

The Penguins dominated the opening 20 minutes yet were lucky to escape leading 1-0. Alex Ovechkin launched a rocket with three seconds left that almost tied it.

The Caps had the better of it in the second period and could have/should have gone to the locker room ahead 2-1. But a late penalty turned into an even later power-play goal - from Mark Eaton of all people.

The third period featured another dagger from defenseman Kris Letang, which put the Caps in the uncomfortable position of having to rally on the road while facing elimination.

No problem.

Goals by Brooks Laich and Viktor Kozlov a mere 29 seconds apart stunned the Mellon Arena crowd but not the Penguins.

They kept coming until Sidney Crosby tied it one more time. That has been a running theme of this series, the Ovechkin vs. Crosby confrontation, and it was again Monday night.

Ovechkin didn’t score a goal for a change, but he was ever-present again, lurking and bursting and blasting away whenever possible. Ovechkin set up the Caps’ first goal by making a deft feed to Kozlov for postseason assist No. 8. He added two more helpers, surpassing Crosby by two in that department.

Crosby wasn’t officially listed as being on the ice at that point, but he was in the process of dragging himself to the bench after getting the worst of a blocked shot.

He finished with an assist on the Penguins’ first goal, a two-on-one converted by Bill Guerin 5:55 in, and by delivering overtime on a game-tying tally with 4:18 left in regulation. It was Crosby’s 10th postseason goal, as many as Ovechkin.

Eaton’s goal came off a goal-mouth scramble and countered an almost as unlikely whack by Tomas Fleischmann off a similar play for a 2-1 Washington lead at 14:42 of the second.

Now comes one final, furious assault on the series and one another.

The first goal doesn’t matter.

One-goal leads don’t matter.

And Games 1 through 6 no longer matter.

The last goal matters.

Game 7 demands as much and accepts nothing less.

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