Work in Sports
WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- As the Pittsburgh Penguins proved, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
Jaromir Jagr scored a fluke goal with 12:04 to play as the Penguins eliminated the second-seeded Washington Capitals with a 2-1 victory in Game Five of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Pittsburgh, which upset one of the top two seeds in the first round for the second straight season, will play Philadelphia in the conference semifinals. The top-seeded Flyers took the season series, 4-0-1, winning twice in overtime.
"I'm glad we won in five games so that we can rest and get healthy and get ready for Philly," Jagr said. "It's going to be WWF with those guys. We should sign some wrestling guys."
The Penguins captured the first three games of this series, thanks in part to a scheduling quirk that allowed them to return home for Games Two and Three, and ended it with a lucky goal.
"Bottom line, we won," Jagr said. "Outplayed or not, it doesn't matter. Of course, you've got to be lucky if you're going to win."
The last four games in the series were decided by one goal, with the Penguins winning three. They claimed the opener, 7-0.
"The first game against these guys, we threw it away," Capitals left wing Steve Konowalchuk said. "You can't do that. We gave up that one game and it was hard climbing right from there."
Jagr's pass from the outside edge of the right faceoff circle to defenseman Janne Laukkanen on the far side ricocheted off Capitals defenseman Calle Johansson in the slot and past shocked goaltender Olaf Kolzig to snap a 1-1 tie.
"I saw it pretty good, but that's the way the series went," Kolzig said. "That's it in a nutshell. We didn't get one bounce."
"It's hard to swallow," Konowalchuk said. "I think that we'd rather have a total breakdown and let them go on a 2-on-0 and score the game-winner than play like that. But it means the same."
The Capitals, who had the third-best point total in the East, managed little offense in the final period, totaling only six shots, and lost for the eighth time in nine playoff games.
"They're the brilliant student who doesn't try all year and then aces the final exam," Caps coach Ron Wilson said. "We're the student that stays up all night, burning the midnight oil. We end up with an A-minus and they get an 'A.'" Washington was unlucky from the start of the series and that continued tonight as Richard Zednik ripped a shot off the right goalpost in the opening minute on a rare scoring chance for the Capitals.
"We were worried about that first period," Penguins coach Herb Brooks said. "They've outplayed us almost every time in the first period. But we got out of there basically even."
The Caps, who had the conference's best home record during the season at 26-7-8, were forced to play Games Two and Three at Mellon Arena because a dance troupe was to perform in the building, only to cancel their stop in Pittsburgh.
"This round, a little bit of luck was involved," Penguins right wing Alexei Kovalev admitted.
Washington tried fighting back, posting a 3-2 home victory in Game Four on Wednesday, but played most of tonight's game in the neutral zone, unable to pressure goaltender Ron Tugnutt.
Chris Simon, the Caps leading goal-scorer, picked up two of his 14 first-period penalty minutes at 3:25, and shortly after the power play expired, Tyler Wright beat Kolzig with a quick slap shot from the left faceoff dot to put Pittsburgh ahead.
Simon, a 29-goal scorer who was suspended for Game Two for a cross-checking penalty, later was called for slashing, then had a misconduct tacked on after kicking a camera in the penalty box.
Before Simon's tirade, the Caps tied it on defenseman Sergei Gonchar's only goal of the series, a booming slap shot from the high slot that beat Tugnutt to the top left corner of the net.
Washington held a 12-8 advantage in shots in the second period and had a chance to take the lead with three minutes left when Peter Bondra's snap shot off a breakaway was kicked away by Tugnutt.
"They weren't the better team in the series, I'll tell you that," Kolzig said. "Tugnutt was the difference in the series."
Tugnutt made 25 saves and stopped 127 of 134 shots in the series.
"We had 27-28 minutes in their zone a night," Wilson said.
"That's territorial domination. It's a good night if you get 22 or 23. But their goaltender, Ron Tugnutt, just did not make any mistakes in the series."
Kolzig, an All-Star who led the Caps to the Stanley Cup Finals two years ago, allowed 16 goals on 102 shots in the series.
"It's really tough on a goalie like Olie when you don't see too many shots," Wilson said. "We never gave ourselves the cushion or the wiggle room to take the pressure off."
A two-time 50-goal scorer who managed only 21 in 62 games during the season, Bondra finished the series with a goal and an assist.
Jagr, the reigning Hart Trophy winner and the league's leading scorer during the season, led all players in this series with 10 points.
In an otherwise uneventful third period, Jagr snuck into the right corner, where he intercepted a clearing attempt, and skated back to the circle before scoring the game-winner. The puck went off Johansson's left leg for Jagr's third goal.
"Great players get breaks," Wilson said. "We didn't seem to get very many breaks throughout the whole series."
The Caps almost had a power play 3 1/2 minutes later after Konowalchuk drew a holding penalty from Jiri Slegr in Pittsburgh's zone. But Konowalchuk reacted with a cross-checking penalty.
Washington had only two power plays and one came in the final eight seconds after Jagr was called for holding.
"I think that might have been our best game out of the (five)," Tugnutt said. "They didn't get nearly as many chances as in the previous (four), especially when we got the second goal."