2001 Stanley Cup Finals
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NHL Hockey Scoreboard: Recap
Recap | Box Score | Today's Scoreboard
Pittsburgh 4, Washington 3
Posted: Tuesday April 24, 2001 12:21 AM
Washington Capitals
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Pittsburgh Penguins
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PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- This is why Mario Lemieux came out of retirement.

Martin Straka's breakaway goal 13:04 into overtime gave the Pittsburgh Penguins a 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals and a berth in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Capitals defenseman Sergei Gonchar mishandled the puck just inside his own blue line and failed to deter Straka with a check. Straka motored in alone on Olaf Kolzig and ripped a wrist shot over the goaltender's right shoulder and under the crossbar for his first goal of the series and 17th career playoff tally.

"My thought was just try to get it over, let's go home," Straka said. "It was big for our team."

"The ice was very choppy out there, you could see it happening," Kolzig said. "Straka, if he gets a step on you, he goes. Throughout the series, I had him solved. That time, he beat me."

Ironically, Straka struggled on breakaways during the regular season, missing two of three penalty shots.

"Before this game, we just couldn't score. Tonight was our night," he said. "Earlier, I had some breakaways but hadn't scored any points."

Among those rushing off the bench to congratulate Straka was Lemieux, the Penguins owner who ended his 3 1/2-year retirement in December and helped Pittsburgh clinch a playoff series at home for the first time since 1996.

"It was a tough series," Lemieux said. "Washington's always a tough team for us to play against. For me, it was fun."

The Penguins won the conference quarterfinal series in six games, eliminating the Capitals for the second time in as many years and the sixth time in seven postseason meetings. Pittsburgh will face the Buffalo Sabres in the next round.

"Right now, I'm just glad I'm not getting in a plane," Lemieux said, referring to a potential seventh game that would have been played on Tuesday in Washington.

Washington forced the second overtime of the series on defenseman Calle Johansson's goal with 2:40 left in the third period. But this result was different than Game Four, when Jeff Halpern scored to give the Capitals a 4-3 triumph.

"It was a lousy way to lose the game where the puck bounces over the guy's stick. It leaves you with a very empty feeling," Washington coach Ron Wilson said. "It was a bounce that went their way at the end.

"I'm extremely proud of the way we played at the end," Wilson said. "If we could have somehow found a way to win the game, you don't know how much Pittsburgh would have had tomorrow night. They were huffing and puffing and really hanging on."

The team that scored first won all six games. Lemieux put the Penguins in front 7:21 into the opening period with a power-play goal, his fourth of the series.

Robert Lang made it 2-0 just 98 seconds later. After Game Five hero Brad Ference separated Glen Metropolit from the puck in the neutral zone, Lang came in on a 2-on-1 and put a wrist shot from the edge of the right faceoff circle in the top right corner of the net.

But Washington produced an inspired second period, tying it on goals by defenseman Brendan Witt and Halpern. Witt finally got the puck past rookie goaltender Johan Hedberg at 14:07, whipping a shot from the left point that deflected off defenseman Darius Kasparaitis' skate and by a helpless Hedberg.

Just 85 seconds later, Straka was penalized for high-sticking and Halpern got the equalizer with four seconds left on the ensuing power play. Lang's clearing attempt was picked off by on the right side by Steve Konowalchuk, who pushed the puck down low. Halpern flipped a short wrister under Hedberg's right arm at 17:28.

Andrei Nikolishin was penalized for hooking with 89 seconds to go in the period and Ken Klee followed him to the box at 19:52, giving the Penguins a two-man advantage. Alexei Kovalev cashed in seven-tenths of a second before the buzzer. After intercepting Johansson's clearing attempt at the blue line, he moved to the top of the left circle and slapped a shot by Kolzig, who was screened by Straka.

But Washington battled back, tying it again with 2:40 to go in regulation as Johansson's shot from the top of the left circle beat Hedberg before the rookie could recover from stopping Halpern's backhander.

"It says a lot about our character. We never say die," Kolzig said. "Pittsburgh for most of this series protected their leads very well. If you had told us after five or six minutes of the game it was going to go to overtime, we would have taken that."

"We tried to protect the lead, but Washington found a way to get a goal," Lemieux added.

Hedberg stopped 28 shots and is headed to the second round with just 15 games of regular-season and playoff experience.

"Personally, this is the biggest thing that has happened to me," he said. "It is a great feeling to see our guys like this."

 

   
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