- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2009

PITTSBURGH | Brooks Laich hasn’t been collecting goals and points at the rate he did in the regular season, but Game 6 of this Eastern Conference semifinal series was a pretty good example of his abilities and value to the Washington Capitals.

Laich had a hand in two goals, including an assist on the game-winner in the team’s 5-4 overtime victory Monday night. He was also credited with the Caps’ third goal when Alexander Semin’s shot on the power play deflected off one of his knees.

It was Laich’s first goal of the series and second of this postseason.

Laich nearly had his first goal against the Penguins early in the first period, but he pushed a shot at an open net wide from only 13 feet away.

“I’m trying - it is not for a lack of effort,” Laich said before the game. “Sometimes you get breaks, and sometimes you don’t. I’m just trying to hang around the net, trying to be hungry and fight in there.”

One of the reasons Laich isn’t criticized for his lack of offense is the role he plays on this team - or all of the roles he plays. Laich is the team’s most versatile forward, able to fill in at any of the three positions and on any line where coach Bruce Boudreau needs to put him.

After a successful five-game stint on the team’s third line with David Steckel and Matt Bradley, he was bumped up to the second line for Game 3 of this series. The three were back together after a midgame shuffle Monday, and they produced the overtime tally.

“I guess you could call him a utility player - wherever he is needed,” Steckel said before the game. “He is always doing what he needs to do to be successful, both personally and for the team.”

Laich was a key contributor of secondary scoring during the regular season for the Caps, but he had just one goal in the first 12 playoff games and none since Game 3 of the previous series before Game 6. Laich scored 23 goals to rank fourth on the team this season, and he had 53 points. He has only eight shots on net in six games this series after posting 13 in the first round against the New York Rangers.

“Maybe I need to be wiser with the puck and make better decisions,” he said. “Sometimes I get where I try to beat too many guys one-on-one and hold on to the puck too long instead of making the simple play and getting the puck to the net.”

Back but sitting

For the first time since his hit on New York’s Blair Betts during the Capitals’ Game 6 win April 26, forward Donald Brashear was eligible to play Monday, but he was a healthy scratch after serving a six-game suspension.

Brashear didn’t make the trip to Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4 but participated in the morning skate here Monday.

“Maybe I can come around and push them and try to put some positive thoughts in their heads and keep the atmosphere a little more fun and more relaxed, stress that it’s another game - a big game, but another game,” he said.

Brashear was banned one game for shoving the Rangers’ Colton Orr during warmups before Game 6, then was assessed five games for his hit on Betts.

“It’s just the way it goes,” Brashear said. “I don’t live in the past.”

While Brashear was suspended, there was a report in Russian newspaper Sport-Express that he was about to sign with a Kontinental Hockey League team for next season. Brashear and Boudreau have refuted the report.

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