When the Washington Capitals extended their season with a victory in Game 6, Alex Ovechkin was right there to hug David Steckel at the start of the wild celebration.
But it was Steckel who lit the lamp in overtime, not Ovechkin. The left wing who leapt off the bench after Steckel’s goal didn’t score Monday night, instead recording three assists. That left a void, and the Caps’ secondary scoring emerged to fill it.
Washington got much-needed goals from Viktor Kozlov, Tomas Fleischmann, Brooks Laich and Steckel to force a Game 7.
“We watch Ovie score time and time again this series, and we haven’t been very successful, obviously, so far,” Steckel said. “It’s something that’s said about [how important] secondary scoring [is] in the playoffs.”
Ovechkin is tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby with 10 goals in the playoffs, but he was only able to get five shots off in Game 6. With Pittsburgh’s defense clamping down on him, the Caps’ other offensive options know they have to come up big yet again Wednesday back at Verizon Center.
But Kozlov, who doubled his playoff scoring output with two goals Monday, said he and his teammates shouldn’t feel relaxed after breaking out of their respective funks.
“Game 6 is history right now,” Kozlov said. “It doesn’t matter if we scored in the sixth. It matters who will score in Game 7.”
Laich, who notched his first goal of the series when a shot by Alexander Semin deflected in off one of his knees, has said it isn’t for lack of effort. One of the Caps’ most versatile players - he plays on the power play and the penalty kill, blocks shots and contributes offensively - it seemed like a matter of time until he got the puck into the net.
“My game is playing around the net and being hungry around there,” Laich said. “The goal I scored goes off my leg and in; it’s not a pretty one, but sometimes you need a break like that.”
It appeared Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar’s playoffs were over when he left Game 4 with a knee injury after a collision with Ovechkin. Gonchar’s situation took a turn Tuesday when he skated with his teammates at practice.
“I don’t wanna say anything. It’s too early,” Gonchar told reporters. “[Wednesday] is the day when I’m making the decision.”
Gonchar said he had an opinion about Ovechkin’s knee-on-knee hit but said he wouldn’t comment on it.
Green sticking around
With defenseman Mike Green getting criticized for being off his game of late, one reason could be that he hasn’t been playing with the stick he used this season to rack up 31 goals.
Easton discontinued Green’s Stealth S17 stick, which has a Joe Sakic pattern with some tweaks for the Norris Trophy finalist. But Caps media relations director Nate Ewell has had one of Green’s old sticks in his office, and the defenseman may go back to it for Game 7.
“I don’t know. I might,” Green said. “I’ll use it in the morning and then see how it feels.”
That stick had been earmarked for the Hall of Fame to commemorate Green’s eight-game scoring streak. As for the future of that stick, it depends on a few factors - including the outcome of Game 7.
“If I get a bunch more, then I’ll probably send that one back,” he said. “But if I don’t get enough for the rest of the playoffs, then I’ll probably stick with the S17.”
Eyes on Hershey
With so many players and coach Bruce Boudreau having ties to the Hershey Bears, the Caps’ American Hockey League affiliate, there was plenty of interest about Tuesday night’s Game 7 against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
But Boudreau had more than a sentimental reason to root for the team he used to coach. And He made that clear in a conversation with Hershey coach Bob Woods.
“Every time Hershey’s won, we’ve won. Every time Wilkes-Barre’s won, Pittsburgh’s won,” Boudreau said. “I told Bob he’d better win.”
Woods’ Bears did just that, beating the Penguins 3-0 at Giant Center. Keith Aucoin, Chris Bourque and Steve Pinizzotto - all of whom played for the Caps this season - scored for Hershey.
• Stephen Whyno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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