"They came back with a lot of energy after their big win in Washington," said coach Terry Murray. "But we got it going, defused them and the crowd and had things under control."
But the Caps' two-goal advantage as the middle of the second period approached dissolved quickly, and the Penguins cruised to a 6-4 win, setting up a seventh and deciding game at the Capital Centre tomorrow night.
"It's certainly not the situation we wanted to be in after being up 3-1," said Murray. "All you can do is try to get back to your best level and hope that some guys step up with a big performance."
Those big performances were lacking big-time last night,
especially in the defensive aspect of the game, where four penalties -- two each by Dino Ciccarelli and Kevin Hatcher -- led to four power-play goals by Pittsburgh in five tries.
None of them was in a situation dictating a "good" penalty was in order, meaning a Penguins goal was imminent and drastic measures were necessary.
Pittsburgh's Kevin Stevens, who scored the first two goals and later added two assists, had predicted that the series would go to seven games, but he couldn't say last night who would win that final game.
"All I can tell you is the team with the most guts is going to win. Theyusually don't call too many penalties in a seventh game, so it won't be determined there," he said.
Stevens, the star of Pittsburgh's five-game elimination of the Capitals last year, was peppering the goal with a dozen shots, and Mario Lemieux kept feeding him the puck all night and also found time to score two goals to add to his three assists.
After the Penguins bolted to a 2-0 lead, the play was taken away from them badly by the Capitals, who scored the next four goals over the next 19 minutes.
The momentum shifted back, however, when Joey Mullen picked off a weak pass by Mike Ridley in the neutral zone and moved in to beat goalie Don Beaupre.
It wasn't just the goal that changed the tempo of the game. Pittsburgh once again was charged up, and it remained that way in scoring the next three goals during the last 11 minutes of the second period.
The Penguins then played solid defense through much of the third period before Lemieux was able to draw a penalty from Hatcher, then cashed it in to put it out of reach.
The Penguins sent 39 shots Beaupre's way, and if he hadn't been at his best through much of the evening, it's possible the winners might have hit double figures in scoring.
Asked repeatedly about the pressures inherent in a sudden-death seventh game, Murray said, "We've responded to the challenge of big games all year, and there's no reason to think we won't this time."
Caps game switches
With Washington's Channel 20 (WDCA) still off the air, last night's Washington Capitals-Pittsburgh Penguins Playoff game was telecast on Channel32 (WHMM), a public broadcasting station.
Home Team Sports had said it would carry the game if Channel 20 couldn't, but WDCA chose Channel 32, an over-the-air station. HTS is a regional cable channel.
WDCA apparently has been knocked off the air by a faulty transmission line from the station to its tower, according to The Washington Post, Channel 20 stopped broadcasting at 11:30 Monday right.
Caps vs. Penguins
# Series is tied, 3-3
Game 1: Washington 3, Pittsburgh 1
Game 2: Washington 6, Pittsburgh 2
Game 3: Pittsburgh 6, Washington 4
Game 4: Washington 7, Pittsburgh 2
Game 5: Pittsburgh 5, Washington 2
Last night: Pittsburgh 6, Washington 4
Tomorrow: At Washington, 7:35