Evgeni Malkin’s power play goal in overtime stunned the Verizon Center faithful and pushed the Caps to the brink of elimination on Saturday night as the Penguins won Game 5, 4-3, to lead the series, 3-games-to-2.
The decisive goal deflected off of Tom Poti and snuck past Simeon Valarmov after Sergei Federov was unable to contain Malkin at the blue line.
Washington had a terrific chance on the first shift of sudden death, but David Steckel was unable to convert on a nice give and go just in front of Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
The loss spoiled an outstanding night for Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom, who had his best game of the post-season with a goal and several high quality scoring chances. Alex Ovechkin had two goals for the Caps including the game-tying tally with about four minutes remaining in regulation. It was a better night for The Great 8, who wasn’t nearly as reckless with his body and seemed more dedicated to using his energy to produce offense instead of bruises.
As good as Backstrom was, Alexander Semin was that bad. Semin was basically a non-factor offensively, as he’s been throughout this series. In addition, he gave the puck away a handful of times and his miscue and lazy play along the boards at center ice was the table-setter for Matt Cooke’s goal that gave Pittsburgh a 3-2 third period lead. H
Milan Jurcina and Federov were burned in overtime by the speedy Malkin, who was brought down by Jurcina for the penalty that led to the game-winning extra-man tally.
Some will probably question why Bruce Boudreau would have 39-year old Federov on the ice killing a penalty in overtime and that discussion will be enhanced by the fact that Malkin powered past Federov before sliding the puck in front and off of Poti for the goal.
Once again, the Caps had the chance to put this game away in the early stages of sudden death but, just like in Game 3 when Ovechkin missed from 15-feet, Steckel was unable to cash in on a glorious chance. The shame of it was that the line of Steckel, Boyd Gordon and Matt Bradley contributed an excellent night at both ends of the ice and all that will be remembered from it will be Steckel’s miss.
Varlamov was not nearly the liability in net that he was on Friday in Pittsburgh, but he’s still showing signs of coming back to earth after a sensational first three games in the series.
Now, the teams head to Pittsburgh for Game 6 on Monday night, where Washington will look to win a do-or-die road game for the third straight post-season series. Last April, the Caps won in Philadelphia, 4-2, in Game 6 to knot that series at 3-3 and in this spring’s first playoff series with the Rangers, Washington won, 5-3, facing elimination at The Garden.
For Washington’s sake, they’re hoping the 3rd time is the charm.