Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Capitals Find Late Life Lead Slips Away from Penguins in Third Period to Draw Series to 3-2 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 5: Capitals 4, Penguins 2

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Capitals Find Late Life Lead Slips Away from Penguins in Third Period to Draw Series to 3-2 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 5: Capitals 4, Penguins 2

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Protecting third-period leads has become a staple for coach Mike Sullivan's teams.

The Penguins entered Saturday's Game 5 against the Capitals winners of 94 of their past 98 games -- regular season and playoffs -- when leading after two periods, before things went awry on this night.

Or, as Nick Bonino said, "It kind of all went to pieces for us."

The Capitals scored three times in the third en route to a 4-2 win that extends the Eastern Conference semifinals to a sixth game back in Pittsburgh on Monday.

It wasn't the Penguins' best, but the general takeaway was that these were extremely correctable mistakes.

"It's tough," Bonino said. "It's a good team. They get a goal. On the bench, the whole team kind of maybe got a little bit worried. I'm not sure what it is. I can't explain it. For about five to 10 minutes there, we didn't play well. They capitalized. That's one of the best teams in the league. They'll do that to you."

Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin struck in the final 20 minutes for Washington, two of them in a 27-second span, as the Capitals staved off elimination against a team that has beaten them in eight of nine playoff series all-time.

The Backstrom goal was the real backbreaker, the goal that got the ball rolling.

Washington attacked with far too much ease, a theme for parts of this night. With Backstrom in the left circle, Marc-Andre Fleury had a clean look but couldn't stop it.

"They kept coming at us," Fleury said. "They put the puck on net. Some that I would like to have back. That's what happens."

Until that Backstrom goal, the Penguins actually attacked quite a bit, the mentality that had staked them to a 2-1 lead in the first place. Then, things changed.

"I thought that goal was avoidable," Sullivan said. "We gave them life. Give them credit. They have good players. They scored a couple of key goals to get them back in the game. I think a lot of the third period, we had some pushback. We had some opportunities. We had some real high-quality chances. We didn't convert."

The Penguins did convert early. Carl Hagelin picked up a goal in the first -- off a slick, no-look feed from Bonino -- while Phil Kessel completed a pretty sequence of power-play passing in the second period. …

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