Gonchar Redeems Himself as Pens Rally to Beat Caps in OT

The Pittsburgh Penguins managed to pick up a win in overtime at home on Thursday night against the Washington Capitals, after battling from behind and scoring a late 3rd period goal to tie the game and force the extra play.  Sergei Gonchar scored the game winner in overtime, after a unsavory performance in which two of his misplays resulted in goals for the Capitals.

The first period started with an early bout between Georges Laraque and Donald Brashear at 3:18.  Despite a lot of tussling and dancing, there were no real significant punches thrown and the fight ended in a non-decision and matching fighting majors.  At 12:01, the Penguins got on the board on an awesome play by newcomer Jeff Taffe to beat Brent Johnson.  From within the Penguins own defensive zone, Taffe chipped the puck past a defenseman at the point and took it from his own blueline all the way to the Capitals’ net where he slapped the puck past Johnson high on the stick side.  Assists went to Jarkko Ruutu and Darryl Sydor.  Then at 15:24, the Capitals tied it up when Sergei Gonchar tried to pass the puck behind the net, but mis-judged the angle and ended up putting the puck back out in front of the net.  Donald Brashear found the puck and buried it past Conklin.  At 17:53, the Penguins got a lucky bounce when Colby Armstrong threw the puck on the backhand from behind the goal line and caught Johnson’s feet which redirected the puck into net.  Ryan Whitney and Sidney Crosby were credited with the assists.  Johnson was injured on the play when he fell awkwardly back on his leg and sprained his knee.  He left the game and was replaced by Olie “the Goalie” Kolzig.  The Penguins outshot the Capitals 9-5 in the first. 

In the 2nd period, Pittsburgh stopped skating and it was all Washington as they outshot the Penguins 12-6 and netted 2-goals for the 3-2 lead.  The first came at 5:23 as Brian Pothier was left uncovered in the high slot area by Petr Sykora.  Pothier buried the puck behind Ty Conklin with authority.  Nicklas Backstrom and Viktor Kozlov were credited with the assists.  Then at 18:26, Sergei Gonchar gave up the puck to Nicklas Backstrom on an easy play behind his own net who then skated from behind the net and put the puck on the stick of Alex Ovechkin who beat Ty Conklin with a quick wrist shot to give the Capitals a 3-2 lead.  There were no penalties called in the 2nd. 

In the 3rd period, the Capitals were unable to convert on their only power play chance at 4:23 as Colby Armstrong sat 2 for intereference.  The Penguins got a break late in the period as the Capitals were called for roughing at 15:48.  Trailing by a goal, the Penguins power play converted on a goal by Darryl Sydor with just 4 seconds left in the man-advantage to tie the game at 3.  The goal was Sydor’s first as a Penguin and his 2nd point of the night, doubling his season point total and earning him the game’s 3rd star.  “They were trying to shut things down, but we got a big goal there from Syd (Sydor) to keep us in it,” Crosby said. “Every game isn’t going to have three solid periods and a perfect ending. This is what you have to do sometimes, find ways to win when you’re not playing your best.”

The Penguins outshot the Capitals 11-8 in the 3rd and forced the overtime frame.  Alex Ovechkin only played about a minute of the 3rd period before leaving the game for stitches to repair a cut on his leg.

In overtime, Sergei Gonchar redeemed himself for giving up 2-goals by blasting a shot past Kolzig from the circle on a nice feed from in front of the net by Crosby.  “I had a couple of mistakes, and I didn’t feel great about this one, but I scored a goal and I feel a lot better now,” Gonchar said. “Sid made a great pass. When he started skating toward the net, both defensemen are paying attention to him and not even looking at me. I had a wide-open net.”  It was Crosby’s 2nd assist of the night and it earned him the game’s first star.  Colby Armstrong picked up the other assist, his second point of the night.  Ty Conklin captured his 3rd straight win with 22 saves.  He is now 3-0, despite a 0.892 save percentage and 3.5 GAA.

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With the win, the Penguins advance to 19-6-2 and are 2nd in the Atlantic Division and 6th overall in the Eastern Conference.  Just 10-points separate 2nd and 15th place in the Eastern Conference.  The Penguins now head into a back-to-back series with Buffalo, with the Sabres coming to Pittsburgh on Saturday night before hosting the Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium on New Year’s Day for the Winter Classic. 

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