Malkin lifts Penguins to OT win, series lead
The Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin scored off a defenceman's skate at 3:28 in the first overtime Saturday to beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 in Game 5 of their NHL playoff series.
Pittsburgh has now won three straight after falling into a 2-0 series hole against the Capitals.
It wasn't a pretty way to win the game, but Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said the goal came about after some determined play from Malkin.
"He was at the end of a two-minute shift, and he still had enough juice to drive to the net," Bylsma said. "He certainly got a favourable bounce, but it doesn't happen if he's not moving his feet and driving to the net. That's what he does — he's a beast when he does that, and we got a good result."
Washington dominated the beginning of the first, forcing Pittsburgh goalie Marc-André Fleury to keep his team in the game, despite being outshot 8-0 in the early stages of the first period.
Fleury made two key glove saves, one while he was screened on a Mike Green point shot, that kept the game scoreless and helped the his teammates find their feet at the raucous, and very red, Verizon Center.
With Alexander Semin sent off for tripping five minutes in, it was Simeon Varlamov's turn to keep his team from falling behind. The Capitals goalkeeper stopped a Chris Kunitz breakaway chance during the kill to preserve to scoreless tie.
Varlamov, not showing any signs of the lacklustre performance in Game 4, stymied a pair of Penguins sharpshooters midway through the first, turning away a Bill Guerin slap shot and rebound chance from Sidney Crosby. He turned away all 11 shots that he faced in the opening frame.
Washington got their first power play chance with four minutes left in the first when Guerin was whistled for hooking.
Penguins defenceman Rob Scuderi blocked an Alexander Ovechkin one-time attempt, and Fleury followed that up by stopping a Green slapshot to ward off the Capitals' best chance with the extra-man.
The first period ended in a flurry of face-washes as a crowd gathered around Maxime Talbot and Ovechkin, who exchanged words as the buzzer sounded. Malkin and Brooks Orpik of the Pens and Ovechkin and John Erskine of the Capitals served offsetting minor roughing penalties to start the second.
Scoring drought ends
The end of the period also marked the first in the series that ended without either team scoring.
The Penguins broke the stalemate just over five minutes into the middle frame off a give-and-go between Miroslav Satan and Jordan Staal.
Staal solved Varlamov after taking a pass about five feet outside of the crease and fired a wrister low on the blocker side.
The Pittsburgh lead lasted less than a minute, with Ovechkin scoring the reply marker just as the Washington announcer finished informing the crowd of the details of Staal's goal.
Taking a pass from his teammate Tom Poti, Ovechkin skated into the Penguins zone and shot the puck from just inside the blue line, between the feet of Orpik and beating Fleury top-corner.
That snapped the Capitals superstar's goal-less streak at one game, and it wouldn't be the last puck to find its way into the back of the net from Ovechkin's stick on the night.
After the Penguins were caught with too many men on the ice, the Capitals were given two minutes on the man advantage but only needed 16 seconds. Ovechkin and Backstrom manufactured a similar give-and-go of their own.
Taking the pass from behind the net, Backstrom fired a bullet from the bottom of the face-off circle that beat Fleury upstairs for the 2-1 lead.
The third period again saw the Penguins catch the Capitals sleeping in the early going, when Ruslan Fedotenko scored from the top of the face-off circle off a Malkin drop pass.
Varlamov couldn't track the quick wrister that just squeaked under the crossbar on his glove side to tie the game at two just 51 seconds into the period.
The Penguins retook the lead when Matt Cooke jumped on a rebound in front of a sprawled Varlamov and backhanded the loose puck to put his team up 3-2.
That lead was kept for a little longer this time, until with four minutes to go in the third, Ovechkin once again bailed out his team by sliding a shot behind a sprawling Fleury to knot the game once again.
Malkin the overtime hero
Tied at three, the game headed into overtime and it looked like both teams wanted a quick exit. The Capitals' David Steckel almost had the winner 20 seconds in before misfiring just steps from the open cage.
Just 10 seconds later, Crosby had his chance as he steamrolled to the front of the net, only to be denied by a blocker stop by Varlamov.
The winning goal came after Malkin drew a tripping penalty on Washington defender Milan Jurcina just 1:30 into the overtime period.
With one second left on the power play a streaking Malkin slid a pass through the slot toward Crosby but had the puck take a fortunate deflection off Washington defender Poti and past Varlamov to seal the win.
"We worked hard, and it was nice to get a good bounce," Crosby said.
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau believed his team did their best and will put the loss behind them in Game 6.
"I thought it was our best game of the series," Boudreau said. "We had as many chances as they did. I thought we had the energy they did. We played a really good game that was decided in overtime — you can't get closer than that."
"We'll regroup," he said. "We've been in this situation before."
With the win, the Penguins lead the Stanley Cup series 3-2 and are now one win away from the Eastern Conference final.
The two teams will meet for Game 6 in Pittsburgh on Monday.
With files from The Associated Press