Work in Sports
PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are one move away from Czech mate.
Defenseman Jiri Slegr blasted home the game-winning goal with 4:32 left as Pittsburgh moved within a step of ousting the Washington Capitals from the playoffs with a wild 4-3 victory.
Slegr and fellow Czechs Jaromir Jagr, Jan Hrdina and Martin Straka combined for six points, helping the seventh-seeded Penguins to a three games to none lead over the second seed.
"You have to finish this series," said Jagr, who has seven points in three games. "Anything is possible. They can come back, go 4-0. They had the better team in the regular season."
Game Four of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series is Wednesday night in Washington. Only two teams have rallied from 3-0 deficits -- Toronto in 1942 and the New York Islanders in 1975.
"It's got to be one game at a time," said Caps defenseman Calle Johansson. "We have the next two games at home. We still have to win four."
Slegr put the Capitals on the brink of elimination when he took a feed at the top of the left faceoff circle and beat All-Star goaltender Olaf Kolzig with a slap shot for a 4-3 lead.
Straka set up the goal and was part of one of the game's crazy plays with 2:22 left. He could have scored an insurance goal but hit the left goalpost from the crease with Kolzig in the right corner, trying to get to the loose puck.
Each team also had a defenseman get behind its goaltender to stop a shot. Washington's Ken Klee did it with his stick with 10:52 left in the third period and Slegr used his left calf 3 1/2 minutes later.
Slegr made his save while falling blindly into goalie Ron Tugnutt, who never saw Chris Simon's snap shot from the low slot with the Caps trailing, 3-2.
Washington ended up tying it on the power play with 5:58 to go in the third, when Johansson slapped a shot from the point through traffic and between Tugnutt's pads.
"The Johansson shot was coming and I knew it was going to go through the players in front," Tugnutt said. "I had a tough time picking it up and it kind of squeaked through.
"We didn't fold our tents at all. The next shift after that goal, we came back and started to take control of the play."
The Caps, who complained after Game Two that referees were giving Pittsburgh preferential treatment, had only three power plays to the Penguins' five. Both teams scored once.
Capitals coach Ron Wilson did not speak to the media after the game.
Pittsburgh scored the game-winner off a turnover in the neutral zone. Straka ended up with the puck, skated into Washington's end to the outside edge of the right faceoff circle and waited for Slegr to jump over the boards before setting up the blast.
"Straka was extremely patient," Slegr said. "He saw me coming over the boards, gave me a clear path. I was just looking where to put it. I guess I hit it right. There was an opening on that right side. I just decided to shoot there."
"I came across on the pass," Kolzig said. "I don't remember who the defenseman was on the screen, but I kind of got stopped by my momentum. I wouldn't have played the shot any different. Obviously, their scouting report is to go high on me."
With 1:05 left, Kolzig skated to the net for an extra attacker, but the Caps were unable to get into the Penguins' zone until 18 seconds remained, then to hit the net with another shot.
Tugnutt, a former Capitals farmhand who is 11-2 against Washington over the last four seasons, finished with 24 saves. Kolzig stopped only 18 shots.
The Caps thouroughly outplayed Pittsburgh in the first period, holding a 13-2 advantage in shots and entering the locker room with a 1-0 lead.
Simon, Washington's leading goal-scorer who served a one-game suspension on Saturday, opened the scoring with 4:21 left in the first.
"Washington was great in the first period," Slegr said. "After that, we battled back."
The Penguins picked it up in the second. Hrdina scored his first of two goals on the power play at 8:04, taking a feed from Jagr in the low slot and redirecting the puck past a surprised Kolzig.
Just 1:40 later, Pat Falloon gave Pittsburgh its first lead when he banked a shot off Caps defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who slid in front of Kolzig in the crease.
The Penguins had the momentum, but just 11 seconds after Falloon's goal, rookie Jeff Halpern picked up a turnover by Czech Robert Lang and slid the puck around a floundering Tugnutt.
Later in the period, Simon was called for a double high-sticking minor after clipping rookie defenseman Michal Rozsival near the left eye. But Pittsburgh failed to record a shot on the extended power play.
Tugnutt made one of his best saves with 1:34 left in the second when he caught a tricky redirection by Ulf Dahlen.
Kolzig made a pair of big saves in the final 3:17 of the period, but Hrdina took a backhanded pass from Jagr, skated into the right circle and knuckled a snap shot through Kolzig for a 3-2 lead.
The Caps had a chance to tie with 12:12 left in the third, but Adam Oates had Steve Konowalchuk's 2-on-1 pass bounce over his stick.
Moments later, Klee backed up Kolzig with his stick save to cap a wild sequence.
With 7:25 left, Pens defenseman Darius Kasparaitis was called for interference. Three seconds into the power play, Simon hit Slegr's calf, but Johansson was able to tie it with 25 seconds remaining on the man advantage.