It's only fitting that the classic showdown between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins will see a seventh and deciding game.
Centre David Steckel made sure there would be a Game 7 by scoring at 6:22 of overtime to lift the Capitals to a 5-4 victory over the Penguins on Monday night at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh.
The teams will now settle their thrilling Eastern Conference semifinal series Wednesday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET) at Verizon Center in Washington.
"I think it's going to be great game," Capitals star Alex Ovechkin said. "I think the league wants us to play Game 7."
The overtime fireworks started early as Penguins defenceman Rob Scuderi ripped a slapshot off the crossbar. Moments later, Ovechkin was robbed by a great glove save from goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with Washington on the attack.
The Capitals continued to press. After Steckel won a draw in the Penguins' zone, he moved in front of Fleury before redirecting a Brooks Laich shot behind the Pittsburgh netminder.
"I told myself if I had a chance again, I wouldn't miss," Steckel said. "I was in the right place at the right time. I personally didn't know where it went or anything.… It was the biggest goal of my career, so I didn't know what to do. I just jumped around."
Washington has been one of the most resilient clubs in this year's post-season. The team rallied from a 3-1 series deficit against the New York Rangers in the opening round to advance. The Capitals were trailing Pittsburgh 3-2 prior to Game 6, but can complete the comeback with a victory Wednesday night.
Viktor Kozlov, who had never scored a post-season goal before the start of this year's Stanley Cup playoffs, netted a pair for Washington. Tomas Fleischmann and Alexander Semin provided the other Capitals goals, while Ovechkin registered three assists. Goaltender Simeon Varlamov stopped 38 of 42 Penguin shots.
Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby scored a goal and an assist, with Evgeni Malkin adding three helpers. Bill Guerin, Kris Letang and Mark Eaton also tallied, and Fleury made 19 saves on the night.
"There was a lot of talk before the series started, and it's everything it was made up to be. We would have loved to finish it off here, no doubt, but we did a lot of good things and it could have worked out. We were a couple of inches from finishing it off," Crosby explained.
"Let's just say it's not surprising it's going seven."
Not out of the woods yet
The Capitals appeared headed to victory in the third period but couldn't hold off a Pittsburgh onslaught.
Trailing 4-3, Crosby got the equalizer with 4:18 remaining in the third. Stationed to the right of Varlamov, Crosby swiped his third chance and 10th goal of the post-season into the open side of the net.
The Capitals weren't out of the woods yet. Washington needed to kill off a Laich slashing penalty in the final two minutes of regulation. Both goaltenders made great stops during the frantic seconds to send the game into overtime.
The superstar showdown between Crosby and Ovechkin is still giving fans reason to remain glued to their sets.
Ovechkin has scored seven goals and six assists in this series, while Crosby has countered with six tallies and four helpers.
"They're incredible, both of them, and Malkin is just as incredible," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They play at a level other people can't attain."
Letang gave the Penguins a 3-2 lead at 4:40 of the third with a power-play goal, controlling the puck off the boards and snapping a shot by Varlamov.
The Capitals, however, stormed back with two goals in 29 seconds.
After Semin netted his first goal of the series on the power play, Kozlov regained the one-goal advantage with his second marker of the game. The Russian corralled the loose puck behind the net and fired a bad-angle shot behind Fleury.
Guerin opened the scoring for Pittsburgh in the first, before Kozlov and Fleischmann gave Washington a 2-1 lead in the second. Eaton got the Penguins back on track with a power-play goal with 34 seconds remaining in the second.
The Capitals are finally getting offensive production from someone other than Ovechkin. The sniper had registered seven of the team's 15 goals before Game 6, but four different Capitals found the back of the net Monday night.
"It's always fun when Ovie scores, but it's hard because the other team pays a lot of attention and is very close to Ovie, so it's a good thing other people give us goals," Kozlov said.With files from The Associated Press