Certainly there have been overtime NHL games with more on the line, but perhaps none was more enthralling than the one the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins engaged in Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
It was a game between supposedly mismatched talent. Yet neither team could end it until, finally, with 45 seconds left in the fourth overtime -- the third-longest game in NHL history -- the Penguins won, 3-2, on Petr Nedved's screened shot. The puck passed Caps goalie Olie Kolzig sight unseen.
The sellout crowd at USAir Arena had chanted Kolzig's name all night. "Olie! Olie!" With every impossible stop, the noise level grew. The only problem for Washington was that Pittsburgh goalie Ken Wregget was doing his own version of "Miracle on Ice."
"They were beyond sensational," said Washington coach Jim Schoenfeld. "There is absolutely no way to overstate their brilliance."
The result tied the seven-game series at 2. The teams will meet in Game 5 tonight in Pittsburgh.
No one knows what effect playing 139 minutes and 15 seconds will have, but it was what went on over those seven periods that made the game memorable for more than its length.
Mario Lemieux, the NHL's leading scorer and Hart Trophy candidate, forced his team to kill a five-minute major penalty and survive without him when he was ejected for slashing and beating up Todd Krygier.
Who ever had seen anything like that from Lemieux?
How often is a penalty shot awarded in overtime? The Caps were given one in the fifth period. But as Joe Juneau streaked toward the Penguins' goal, the puck hit a bump and rolled.
"It bounced over and I was stuck," said Juneau. "I had to take whatever was there. I had a whole side to do something and the puck just wasn't there."
All five goals were scored by special teams. The Caps' 2-0 lead came on power-play goals by Peter Bondra and Michal Pivonka, and the Penguins rallied on a short-handed goal by Jaromir Jagr, who ended an 0-for-3-game run, and power-play goals by Nedved.
"It was exciting and fun to play in that game," said Bondra. "It was a game with a bad end for us, but we are winners. We all did all we could to win, and then just one shot. . . . Both teams should get a win for that game."
Said Caps captain Dale Hunter: "It was great hockey. There were so many times when you'd see the puck trickling toward the goal line, and you just wanted to lean toward it and nudge it and then all you could do was go, 'Ahh. . . . ' "
Kolzig made 62 saves. Pittsburgh's Wregget, who came into the game at the start of the second period, made 53. The Penguins' Tom Barrasso stopped eight of nine shots before leaving because of muscle spasms.
"I'd be looking up ice and I'd see our guys just dominating," said Kolzig. "Then I'd see Wregget make a great save and I'd start to think, 'Oh, no, this is going to be one of those games, where we dominate and they come back in a rush, take one shot and win.' Then they'd come and I'd make a great save and I'd think, 'Well, maybe not.' "
NOTES: Schoenfeld said it's possible Jim Carey will play goal tonight. . . . The Caps' Krygier (bruised calf), D Jim Johnson (undisclosed) and D Eric Charron (hip flexor) are day-to-day.
One for the books
Wednesday night's game between the Caps and Penguins was the third-longest overtime game in NHL history, as the teams needed 79: 15 of extra play.
It was the longest game in NHL history in terms of total elapsed time at 6 hours, 37 minutes, eclipsing the 1987 Caps-Islanders game by 21 minutes.
The Pittsburgh victory made the series the 13th in NHL history in which the visiting team has won the first four games.
Pub Date: 4/26/96