Penguins rock Capitals to even series
Alex Ovechkin disappeared, at least as much as the game's most dominant scorer can, and so did all the magic Simeon Varlamov was working. Suddenly, the Washington Capitals are in a familiar position against rival Pittsburgh, losing their grip on a playoff series that seemed to be theirs.
The Penguins shook off an opening-minute Washington goal, scored three times in less than 12 minutes in the first period against a suddenly vulnerable Varlamov and beat the Capitals 5-3 Friday night to even the Eastern Conference semifinal at 2.
The Capitals won't get much time to try to regain any confidence they lost up by losing twice in Pittsburgh, not with Game 5 in Washington on Saturday night.
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"We're right back in it and we have momentum on our side and we'll try to keep it going," said Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 19 saves.
Washington scored one-goal victories at home in each of the first two games as Ovechkin scored a combined four goals, but he was shut out on two shots while being constantly shadowed by defenseman Rob Scuderi. Penguins star Sidney Crosby had his playoffs-leading ninth goal and an assist.
"They were desperate down here," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Alex is only human, he can't be unbelievable every night. He's a great player, he just had one of those nights where he's not going to get three goals."
Capitals owner Ted Leonsis is unhappy at playing twice in two nights in two cities, all because of a Yanni concert in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. He may be even more concerned with the Capitals' first major letdown in the series, an opening period in which Washington's one-goal lead quickly became a two-goal deficit as Sergei Gonchar, Bill Guerin and Ruslan Fedotenko scored.
Now, the Penguins again could do what they did against the Capitals in 1992 and 1996 by rallying to win after being down 2-0 in a series.
"We said we've got to get two at home and now we've got to try to get one on the road," Scuderi said.
Pittsburgh has a major worry, though, as Gonchar was helped off the ice late in the first period after absorbing a knee-on-knee hit from Ovechkin. There was no immediate word about the injury, or how long it would sideline the Penguins' most experienced defenseman, who missed three-quarters of the regular season with a shoulder injury.
"I mean, you can run guys, guys are fair game, but the guy (Ovechkin) takes strides every time and leaves his feet a lot of times, too," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "To us, we got the feeling he's really trying to hurt guys at times."