WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- Andrew Ference scored his first career playoff goal and Mario Lemieux added his 73rd just 31 seconds later as the Pittsburgh Penguins again pushed the Washington Capitals to the brink of elimination with a 2-1 victory.
Ference, a 23-year-old defenseman appearing in his fifth postseason game, opened the scoring 6:35 into the first period. After Jaromir Jagr broke down the right side on a 2-on-1, Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig kicked away his shot. But the rebound came to the high slot to Ference, who put a wrister over Kolzig's left shoulder.
"It was a good shift," Ference said. "I raced in for the rebound and it came out to me flat. We tried that 100 times and that was the one that worked.
"This is what I've worked my whole life for. ... The last thing on my mind was scoring a goal. That's a feeling you can't experience anywhere else."
On the next shift, Kolzig stopped Ference's shot, but Jan Hrdina banged the rebound through the slot to Lemieux, a Hall of Famer who scored his third goal of the series.
"The second was a rebound that Jagr missed and it went right to Lemieux, from the second-best player to the best player in the world," Kolzig said.
"It was just a tight, tight game. One bad shift in the game and they scored two goals off it," added Capitals coach Ron Wilson. "Other than that, I can't find any flaws in (our) game except that we couldn't find a way to score."
Pittsburgh rode its big first period to a three games to two lead in the best-of-seven series and can wrap it up at home on Monday night.
"For us, this was Game Seven. We had to close the door or we would be in big trouble," Jagr said. "They played in our zone all night. We were lucky to get the win."
"Nothing is over," added Penguins coach Ivan Hlinka. "We still have one game back home. We have to repeat a game like this."
Rookie Johan Hedberg stopped 21 shots for the Penguins, who have allowed just one even-strength goal in the first five games.
"The more you get to play, the more confident you are," Hedberg said. "But you're so much into the game you don't really think about it."
"I'm not surprised," Jagr said of the goalie who was acquired from San Jose before the trade deadline. "He didn't have a chance in San Jose and those kind of guys, even when they play in the minors, are just ready for their chance to come."
Coming off Wednesday's 4-3 overtime victory, Washington got only a power-play tally from defenseman Sergei Gonchar midway through the second period. The Capitals have lost five of the six postseason series with Pittsburgh, including each of the last three.
"We've got to find a way to score even-strength goals. Our skill people have to score goals," Wilson said. "When you have opportunities, you've got to find the net and bury your chances. Until we do, we're not going to win."
Washington got its sixth power-play goal of the series at 10:01 of the second period. Just 20 seconds after Pittsburgh's Ian Moran was penalized for holding the stick, Gonchar fired a blast from the top of the slot past Hedberg, who was being screened by Capitals left wing Steve Konowalchuk.
Despite holding the Penguins to one shot in the third period, Washington could not tie it. Defenseman Ken Klee may have had the best chance at the equalizer, but Hedberg kicked out his shot with eight minutes to play.
"They had one shot I could only see at the last second, but other than that, our 'D' was unbelievable," Hedberg said.
In three home games in this series, the Caps have had the lead for a total of 39 minutes, 25 seconds.
"The series is not over by any means," insisted Kolzig, who made 16 saves. "It was just frustrating that we lost at home. We had a great chance to go into Pittsburgh with the lead."