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game recap

Penguins 5, Capitals 3

Tuesday, 06.19.2012 / 1:49 AM

Associated Press

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Penguins 5, Capitals 3
Washington Capitals 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 5
PITTSBURGH (AP) -Alex Ovechkin disappeared, at least as much as the game's most dominant scorer can, and so did all the magic Simeon Varlamov was working. Suddenly, the Washington Capitals are in a familiar position against rival Pittsburgh, losing their grip on a playoff series that seemed to be theirs.

The Penguins shook off an opening-minute Washington goal, scored three times in less than 12 minutes in the first period against a suddenly vulnerable Varlamov and beat the Capitals 5-3 Friday night to even the Eastern Conference semifinal at 2.

The Capitals won't get much time to try to regain any confidence they lost up by losing twice in Pittsburgh, not with Game 5 in Washington on Saturday night.

"We're right back in it and we have momentum on our side and we'll try to keep it going," said Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 19 saves.

Washington scored one-goal victories at home in each of the first two games as Ovechkin scored a combined four goals, but he was shut out on two shots while being constantly shadowed by defenseman Rob Scuderi. Penguins star Sidney Crosby had his playoffs-leading ninth goal and an assist.

"They were desperate down here," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Alex is only human, he can't be unbelievable every night. He's a great player, he just had one of those nights where he's not going to get three goals."

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis is unhappy at playing twice in two nights in two cities, all because of a Yanni concert in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. He may be even more concerned with the Capitals' first major letdown in the series, an opening period in which Washington's one-goal lead quickly became a two-goal deficit as Sergei Gonchar, Bill Guerin and Ruslan Fedotenko scored.

Now, the Penguins again could do what they did against the Capitals in 1992 and 1996 by rallying to win after being down 2-0 in a series.

"We said we've got to get two at home and now we've got to try to get one on the road," Scuderi said.

Pittsburgh has a major worry, though, as Gonchar was helped off the ice late in the first period after absorbing a knee-on-knee hit from Ovechkin. There was no immediate word about the injury, or how long it would sideline the Penguins' most experienced defenseman, who missed three-quarters of the regular season with a shoulder injury.

"I mean, you can run guys, guys are fair game, but the guy (Ovechkin) takes strides every time and leaves his feet a lot of times, too," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "To us, we got the feeling he's really trying to hurt guys at times."

Ovechkin denied during a postgame talk with Penguins star Evgeni Malkin's father that the hit on his former Russian Olympic teammate was dirty.

"Yeah, it probably was knee on knee - I tried to hit him with my shoulder and he just moved left (into) the same spot," Ovechkin said.

Asked if he is worried about a fine or suspension, Ovechkin said, "I don't know what's going to happen, but I didn't want to hit him. I wanted to hit him, but I don't want hurt him, especially knee on knee."

Varlamov came in with a 1.64 goals-against average despite having only six games of NHL experience, but could be seen shaking his head at his inability to stop not-difficult shots.

Varlamov, arguably the best player on the ice while making 39 saves during Pittsburgh's 3-2 overtime win in Game 3, probably couldn't be blamed for Guerin's go-ahead goal on a rebound of Crosby's in-close forehander midway through the period.

But the 21-year-old goalie had a good look on Gonchar's tying goal from close to the blue line, which came slightly more than 3 minutes after Washington's Nicklas Backstrom scored with 36 seconds gone.

Maybe that was a bad omen for the Capitals, since the team scoring first has lost all four games in the series. A much-worse omen came when Sergei Fedorov couldn't score on two excellent scoring chances not long after Gonchar's goal, and Varlamov began looking shaky. He was beaten on a seemingly harmless 50-foot wrist shot that Fedotenko was trying to throw on net at 15:25 of the first, making it 3-1.

"There were four soft goals out of the five," Boudreau said. "But he'll bounce back. He's a real competitive guy."

The Capitals twice came back from two-goal deficits on goals by Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina, with Jurcina scoring short-handed. But the Penguins answered as Crosby and Max Talbot each scored in the third period. Crosby has nine playoff goals, one more than Ovechkin.

Notes: Pittsburgh had lost its previous three Game 4s. ... Washington came in with an 11-6 scoring edge in the first period. ... Pittsburgh has 23 power plays in the series to Washington's 13.

scoring summary
1st Period
00:36
WSH
Nicklas Backstrom (2) Slapshot - ASST: Alexander Semin (7)
1 - 0 WSH
03:55
PIT
PPG - Sergei Gonchar (2) Slapshot - ASST: NONE
1 - 1 Tie
10:47
PIT
Bill Guerin (3) Wrist shot - ASST: Sidney Crosby (7), Chris Kunitz (5)
2 - 1 PIT
15:25
PIT
Ruslan Fedotenko (3) Wrist shot - ASST: Jordan Staal (2), Rob Scuderi (1)
3 - 1 PIT
2nd Period
15:08
WSH
Chris Clark (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Mike Green (7), Alex Ovechkin (6)
3 - 2 PIT
3rd Period
04:16
PIT
Sidney Crosby (9) Tip-in - ASST: Miroslav Satan (1), Bill Guerin (4)
4 - 2 PIT
06:23
WSH
SHG - Milan Jurcina (2) Slapshot - ASST: Boyd Gordon (3), Matt Bradley (3)
4 - 3 PIT
14:46
PIT
Maxime Talbot (2) Wrist shot - ASST: Ruslan Fedotenko (3), Rob Scuderi (2)
5 - 3 PIT
penalty summary
1st Period
01:58
WSH
Chris Clark  Cross checking against  Maxime Talbot
13:45
PIT
Brooks Orpik  Holding the stick against  Brooks Laich
14:55
WSH
Alex Ovechkin  Tripping against  Sergei Gonchar
19:37
PIT
Evgeni Malkin  Elbowing against  Milan Jurcina
2nd Period
01:53
WSH
Sergei Fedorov  Holding against  Evgeni Malkin
06:49
WSH
Nicklas Backstrom  Interference against  Sidney Crosby
09:48
PIT
Pascal Dupuis  Slashing against  Viktor Kozlov
11:51
WSH
Tomas Fleischmann  Cross checking against  Craig Adams
18:33
PIT
Rob Scuderi  Cross checking against  Alexander Semin
3rd Period
04:30
WSH
John Erskine  Tripping against  Chris Kunitz
goalie stats
Semyon Varlamov
Semyon Varlamov
6-4-0
SA: 28TOI: 58:04
Saves: 23EV: 16 - 20
PIM: 0PP: 6 - 7
SV%: .821SH: 1 - 1
Marc-Andre Fleury
SA: 22TOI: 59:53
Saves: 19EV: 16 - 18
PIM: 0PP: 1 - 1
SV%: .864SH: 2 - 3