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Penguins pay back Caps, 5-3

PITTSBURG — PITTSBURGH -- Down by two goals going into the third period last night and in danger of going down by two games in their Eastern Conference playoff series against the Washington Capitals, the Pittsburgh Penguins struck like a pack of hungry vultures and ripped Washington for a 5-3 victory.

The Penguins scored three times within the first 4:09 of the final period to take a 4-3 lead that would stand up, tying the series at a game apiece.

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The two teams now go to USAir Arena in Landover for Games 3 and 4.

It was Kevin Stevens' power-play goal with 15:40 to play that clinched the win and ended a four-game Penguins' losing streak -- three at the end of the regular season and then again in Game 1.

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It was Luc Robitaille, who had not scored in seven games, putting away the third rebound at 18:54 on Capitals rookie goalie Jim Carey, and it was the NHL's leading point man Jaromir Jagr who finished a three-on-one breakaway 19 seconds later, tying the game 3-3 within the first 1:35.

Four minutes later, the puck was loose in front of the Capitals goal for what seemed like a decade, tantalizingly out of the reach of Carey. Caps center Michal Pivonka held on to the Penguin nearest him, to protect the puck, and the move worked, but only for a moment.

Pivonka was given two minutes for holding, and Stevens scored on the power play 11 seconds later. Robitaille scored again into an empty net with 40.3 seconds to play for the final margin.

It was the second disappointing Stanley Cup playoff game for Carey, who had been pulled 1:38 into the second period of Game 1, and it was the first time this season that he lost in the game following being pulled.

While losing a two-goal lead and losing, as Pittsburgh had in Game 1, the Capitals leave here at least knowing they have taken the home-ice advantage away from the Penguins.

Washington attempted a comeback at 12:05, when given a 4-on-3 advantage for 1:04. The Caps planted Dale Hunter in the crease for the duration. Hunter, who had two goals and two assists in Washington's comeback victory Saturday, got his stick on the puck at 11:03, but could not wrist it past Pittsburgh goalie Ken Wregget, who recovered from a bad opening period in which he gave up goals to Sylvain Cote, Peter Bondra and Keith Jones, to make 19 saves for the victory.

Carey finished the evening with 28 saves, but no glory.

The Penguins didn't make a big deal out of coming into the playoffs off a three-game losing streak. And they weren't overly concerned yesterday about being down a game in this best-of-seven series.

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Pittsburgh believed if it played its game for 60 minutes, it wouldn't have to worry about the Capitals.

And so, for the second straight game, the Penguins came out in the first period with determination. And when the Capitals were called for two penalties within 55 seconds of each other, Pittsburgh took advantage of a 5-on-3 opportunity to forge the early lead.

With 3:35 gone in the game, defenseman Larry Murphy unloaded a slap shot from the point. Carey was trying to look around Pittsburgh's Stevens, who had taken up residence in front of the crease, but never saw the puck that caromed past his right ear for a 1-0 lead.

Earlier this season, it might have taken the Caps a while to get that goal back. But this Washington team is resilient. Thirty-seven seconds later, while both teams were four-on-four, Caps center Mike Eagles won a faceoff in the Penguins zone, and defenseman Cote one-timed it into the net behind Wregget for a 1-1 tie.

It was the first of three goals Wregget would allow on eight first-period shots by Washington. The Pittsburgh goalie has not fared well over the years against the Caps. Coming into this game, he was 5-for 27 lifetime.

And then, as if following Saturday's script in reverse, Washington took advantage of a four-minute spearing call on Joe Mullen to take a 2-1 lead. Caps center Joe Juneau took an outlet pass from Pivonka and sent it cross-ice to charging Bondra, and the NHL's leading goal-scorer whisked it into the net 15 seconds into the penalty at 9:50.

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About three minutes later, it was Juneau getting enough on the puck to get the outlet going to Steve Konowalchuk, and the left wing made a terrific pass to Jones crossing in front of the crease. Jones put it away for the 3-1 lead with 7:17 to go.

Saturday, of course, it was Pittsburgh taking advantage of a spearing penalty to take the 3-1 lead and then blowing it. The roles would be reversed, but those in attendance didn't know that.

Thus, when the Penguins left the ice after the first period it was to a loud chorus of boos by the 15,079 at the Civic Arena and they heard the same sounds deep into the second period. Washington continued to use the line of Hunter, Eagles and Dimitri Khristich on Jagr, Robitaille and Ron Francis, but even when the lines were shuffled and Juneau, Konowalchuk and Jones found themselves against the Penguins' big line, the results were the same.

Washington seemed to go into a defensive shell early in the second period, content to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone. But when Richard Park hit the post behind Carey at 8:07, it seemed to bring the Caps back to life and they again went on the attack. But this time the Penguins and Wregget refused to give ground.

NOTES: Washington's top line had a different look last night, with Kelly Miller playing left wing on the Pivonka-centered line with right wing Bondra, while Khristich started the night with Hunter and Eagles. Center Dave Poulin (separated right shoulder) did not see a doctor yesterday, but did spend the day in Baltimore in the Hyperbolic Chamber at University Hospital, and is expected to have X-rays today.


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