LANDOVER -- Mario Lemieux was back last night, but the result was the same.
The Washington Capitals spotted Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead, then stormed back to thrash the Penguins, 6-2, before 17,453 at the Capital Centre.
The victory gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead in the Patrick Division semifinal series of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The series moves to Pittsburgh for games 3 and 4 tomorrow and Saturday.
Don Beaupre was again outstanding in the Washington goal, and Peter Bondra, Michal Pivonka, Dimitri Khristich and Dino Ciccarelli led the Capitals in scoring.
Lemieux, the top point producer in the NHL and one of the premier players in hockey, missed the first playoff game Sunday -- won by Washington, 3-1 -- with a bruised shoulder, but he was prominent early last night. He assisted on two power-play goals that gave Pittsburgh, the defending Stanley Cup champion, a 2-0 lead early in the first period.
"Mario's a great player," said Capitals coach Terry Murray. "He does alot of things for Pittsburgh, and he was the reason they were up 2-0."
The Capitals, however, dominated the rest of the way. Their heavy hitting had the Penguins looking around to see where the next check was coming from, and on offense, their slick passing and accurate shooting powered six consecutive goals past Pittsburgh goalie Tom Barrasso.
Beaupre, who won his second straight game, made 33 saves. He has 65 saves in the two games.
"This was a much higher tempo game than the first one," said Beaupre. "Mario helped pick up the tempo and Pittsburgh started fast. But we got a couple of power-play goals and got back in the game. My confidence level is high. After you make the first couple of saves, you feel more confident."
After Pittsburgh took its lead on goals by Larry Murphy and Kevin Stevens, the Capitals battled back with three goals in the first period -- by Khristich, Bondra and Pivonka. They added two in the second -- by Sylvain Cote and Ciccarelli, and a goal by Kelly Miller in the third.
"We got down 2-0 and could have folded," said Murray. "But we stuck to our game plan and bounced back. The win was the result of a lot of hard work. Khristich got us going with his power-play goal, and Pivonka's goal when we were 5-on-3 put us on top. You could feel the spirits lift on the bench with that goal. Scoring a lot of goals like that pumps up a team. Our guys got very excited."
Bondra had a goal and two assists for the Capitals. Pivonka, Ciccarelli and Khristich had a goal and an assist each. Kevin Hatcher and Mike Ridley had two assists each.
"We created some great scoring chances," said Pivonka. "We blew games this year when we had big leads so we knew we had to keep after Pittsburgh and score as many as we could. Beaupre played great again, and we came back with our power play and then we outhit and out-skated them the rest of the way. We have to keep playing the same way."
Bondra said: "I was nervous being in the playoffs for the first time. We just to keep going and playing the same way. Winning both games at home puts us in a good position."
Penguins coach Scotty Bowman snubbed the media after the game. He refused to come into the interview room, walked past reporters trying to ask him questions and got onto the team bus.
Murphy, a former Capital, gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead at 5:16 when he took a pass from behind the goal from Lemieux and beat Beaupre from just off the left goal post. Less than two minutes later, the Penguins had a 2-0 lead when Stevens, in the slot, took a pass from Lemieux on the left boards and beat Beaupre with a rising slap shot.
The Capitals came roaring back. At 10:04, Khristich, from his knees in the left circle, converted the rebound of a shot by Hatcher during a power play to cut the lead to 2-1. Bondra tied the score at 13:42 when he picked up a pass from Rod Langway just outside the blue line, deked Gord Roberts and went in free to beat Barrasso from close range. It was Bondra's third goal of the series.