The games in this series keep delivering, and now it is going to get interesting.
Pittsburgh dominated this contest for long, long stretches but still struggled to score. In the end, it was a defenceman whose availability for the game was uncertain who turned out to be the hero.
Malkin a monster
Evgeni Malkin took plenty of criticism for his play in the first two games of this series, but he was the best player on the ice in Pittsburgh's 3-2 win in Game 3. Malkin played nearly 30 minutes and generated nine shots on net and about 15 potential chances to score.
And score he did — for the first time in six games. Malkin’s power-play goal in the third period gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead. The Russian even celebrated the goal with a leap into the glass very reminiscent of the ones his countryman on the other side has made so popular.
“In terms of Geno’s play tonight, I’m pretty sure it speaks for itself,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “He was at a different level, another level. He was dominant with the puck.”
Varlamov keeps rolling
This game had no business going to overtime. The Penguins dominated the second and third periods (and most of the overtime), but 21-year-old rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov kept the Caps from getting run out of the building with save after save.
Varlamov’s 1.64 goals-against average continues to lead the league this post-season, and his .942 save percentage stands behind only Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller.
“He was outstanding,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “When you get a goaltending effort like that, you have to win because they don’t come around all that often.”
Ovechkin vs. Crosby update
The megastars in this series once again didn’t disappoint. Alex Ovechkin had the game’s first goal, thanks in part to a fluky bounce off the end boards behind Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. He finished with two points, five shots on net and seven hits.
Sidney Crosby did not score a goal for the first time in this series. But he did leave a drop pass for Malkin that led to the latter's goal, and won the faceoff on the goal in overtime. Crosby logged 28:32 of ice time and only won 42 per cent of his faceoffs but he did win the big one.
Ovechkin and Crosby are now tied for the lead with eight goals in these NHL playoffs. Crosby is tied with Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf for the scoring lead with 14 points.
Caps not happy with refs
There was plenty of complaining about the officiating by Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau during his post-game press conference. Pittsburgh was awarded seven power plays in this game and Washington only two, which Ovechkin — after first saying he didn’t want to talk about it — called “a joke.”
“As far as the penalties go, I hope I never hear them complaining about penalties again. I think we might have deserved the [seven] penalties, but they sure as hell deserved more than the [three] that they got.”
One of Pittsburgh’s two penalties was an illegal pick by Pascal Dupuis and led to Nicklas Backstrom’s goal to force overtime. Michael Nylander was also called for an illegal screen earlier in the game — both teams spent the time between Games 2 and 3 complaining about the picks being set by both sides.
Sergei Fedorov left the game in the second period with an apparent rib injury. He returned in the third period, but did not take any faceoffs.
“He probably was [bothered by it], but he seems fine,” Boudreau said. “We’ll see how he is and re-evaluate him tomorrow.”
Eric Fehr did not play and was replaced by Michael Nylander. Fehr left Game 2 in the first period after a big hit from Fedotenko. Nylander hadn’t played since Game 2 of the first-round series.
“It is hard, but the longer you play injuries happen or other things happen during the series where you have to be ready and when you are put into a spot you can’t make any mistakes,” said Capitals captain Chris Clark, who missed the first six games of this playoff run as a healthy scratch.
Defenceman John Erskine also did not play, missing his second straight game since taking a shot off the leg.
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