PITTSBURGH -- Back when the Washington Capitals led the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-0 and 3-1 in games, both sides insisted this would be a long and exciting series. Bingo!
The Penguins forced a seventh game at the Capital Centre tomorrow night when they recovered from a mid-game snooze and two-goal deficit to score a 6-4 victory over the Capitals before a frenzied Civic Arena sellout crowd of 16,164.
Mario Lemieux, nearly matching his third-game production of three goals and three assists, went two and three as the Penguins remained in the running to win their second straight Stanley Cup.
The game had a score of momentum shifts and certainly remained in doubt until the 14-minute, 41-second mark of the third period when Lemieux backhanded the puck past Caps goalie Don Beaupre as he was headed away from the net.
With two goals in the first five minutes, it appeared as if the Penguins would have an easy evening of it. But, over the next 19 minutes, Washington scored four straight goals. But then things shifted back to the Penguins and they scored the last four goals and played solid defense over the last 20 minutes.
The Capitals started out with some truly uninspired play -- as if they wanted the series to go back to Washington for a seventh and deciding game.
Within the first 10 seconds, they gave the puck up to the lone Penguin lingering in their defensive zone and Joe Mullen got a free shot from point-blank range. He was unsuccessful, but less than three minutes later, Kevin Stevens was unattended in front of the net and Lemieux found him there. Stevens scored on a rebound of his own shot.
The Capitals, still playing like sloppily two minutes later, put the Pens on a power play and Stevens scored again, Lemieux once again providing the set-up pass.
Suddenly, the teams exchanged roles and now Pittsburgh could do nothing right and Washington was off and flying.
Dale Hunter closed the Capitals deficit to a goal shortly after the mid-point of the period. But Peter Bondra followed with his fifth and sixth goals of the series to put the visitors up 3-2 after the first period.
The last goal was on a power play and the Caps started the second period in another man-advantage situation. Washington seemed to be in clover when Al Iafrate whipped in a 30-footer for a 4-2 lead after about four minutes of the middle period. Not likely.
The contest of extended fits and starts continued, the Pens scoring the next three goals to move ahead 5-4. Mike Ridley gave up the puck and Mullen soloed in for an easy tally before the Caps put the Penguins on the power play twice -- first Phil Bourque, then Lemieux scored to grab the lead.
Washington thought it should have had a 5-5 tie heading for the dressing room, but an apparent goal in the last minute of the period was disallowed when referee Andy vanHellemond ruled Paul McDermid had whacked the puck in out of the air with his stick up at shoulder height.
Caps game switches
With Washington's Channel 20 (WDCA) still off the air, last night's Washington Capitals-Pittsburgh Penguins Playoff game was telecast on Channel32 (WHMM), a public broadcasting station.
Home Team Sports had said it would carry the game if Channel 20 couldn't, but WDCA chose Channel 32, an over-the-air station. HTS is a regional cable channel.
WDCA apparently has been knocked off the air by a faulty transmission line from the station to its tower, according to The Washington Post, Channel 20 stopped broadcasting at 11:30 Monday right.
Caps vs. Penguins
# Series is tied, 3-3
Game 1: Washington 3, Pittsburgh 1
Game 2: Washington 6, Pittsburgh 2
Game 3: Pittsburgh 6, Washington 4
Game 4: Washington 7, Pittsburgh 2
Game 5: Pittsburgh 5, Washington 2
Last night: Pittsburgh 6, Washington 4
Tomorrow: At Washington, 7:35