Caps-Pens Heads for Seventh Heaven

Did the Washington Capitals deserve to stave off elimination for the fourth time ↵this playoff year and force a seventh game in their second round playoff series ↵against the Pittsburgh Penguins? After being thoroughly dominated for three periods in every aspect of ↵the game except on the scoreboard, maybe not.  But as William Muny, the ↵murderous cowboy played by Clint Eastwood in the classic Western Unforgiven, might say, deserves got nothing to do with ↵it. And it's exactly what the Caps did with a 5-4 overtime win in Game 6 on Monday ↵night.
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↵Over the course of an improbable evening, there were four lead ↵changes and eight different players managed to score a goal.  Depending on when ↵you managed to tune in, the identity of the night's heroes and goats kept ↵changing.
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↵Arrive early in the first, Milan Jurcina was your goat for ↵pinching in on a play that lead to Pittsburgh's first goal, while your hero was ↵Washington goalie Simeon Varlamov, who withstood an 18-shot barrage while only ↵giving up Pittsburgh's initial goal to Bill Guerin.
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↵If you showed up in ↵the second, your hero was Pittsburgh defenseman Mark Eaton, who scored a ↵game-tying goal with less than 34 seconds left in the period. Your goat, once ↵again, was Jurcina, who after blocking a shot, inexplicably hiked the puck ↵between his legs and directly onto Eaton's stick.
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↵ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵ ↵
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↵Fast-forward to the ↵third period, you had your choice of heroes: early on it was Washington's Viktor ↵Kozlov, who scored his second goal of the game on a bad angle wrister from along ↵the left-wing goal line as Pittsburgh defenseman Hal Gill got in the way of ↵goalie Marc-Andre Fleury while the latter was backing into the crease.  Or maybe ↵you saw the last goal in regulation, as Sidney Crosby watched the puck squirt ↵out along the boards to the right wing point, then snuck behind Washington ↵defenseman John Erskine just in time to tap in a pass from Brooks Orpik.
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↵But in the end, the biggest hero ↵of the night, and the one that earned the coveted hard hat from his teammates ↵was center David Steckel, the man who had a chance to win Game 5 in Washington ↵on Saturday night in overtime, and couldn't put the puck into an open ↵net.
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↵This time, Steckel was battling with veteran defenseman Phillipe ↵Boucher in front of the Pittsburgh net when Brooks Laich launched an innocent ↵enough wrist shot from above the right wing faceoff circle.  Steckel got loose ↵just enough, that he was able to tip the puck past Fleury for the game winner. It was the third goal of the series for a checking center who only scored eight ↵times over the course of the regular season.
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↵And so we go to Wednesday ↵night in Washington for the most anticipated seventh game in the NHL since ↵Carolina hosted Edmonton in Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals.  What's in ↵store for us?  Very likely, some history, and you'll be ashamed if you don't ↵find a way to watch.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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