In a series featuring several of the NHL’s most notable stars, a couple of role players and a rookie goaltender made the difference for the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of their showdown against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Tomas Fleischmann scored the tiebreaking goal with 18:14 remaining, Simeon Varlamov stopped 34 shots, and the Capitals got the jump on their Eastern Conference rivals with a 3-2 victory Saturday in Washington.
Yes, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby both scored, Alexander Semin had two assists and Evgeni Malkin set up a goal.
Just as significant, unheralded David Steckel scored his first goal of the playoffs to help Washington earn its first four-game winning streak in the playoffs since 1991.
“You need secondary scoring in the playoffs and it was our time to step up and help the guys out and get some points,” Steckel said. “You’re not going to win games with only your first and second line because obviously the defense is going to be keying on them.”
Washington opened the playoffs by losing twice to the New York Rangers and had to rally from a 3-1 deficit to advance. The Capitals had no desire to have to do the same thing against Pittsburgh.
“This team is better,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said of the Penguins. “No disrespect to New York, but we’d have no chance being down 2-0 to be able to duplicate it.”
Game 2 is Monday night in Washington.
Mark Eaton also scored for the defending Eastern Conference champion Penguins, who went 0 for 5 on the power play after going 1 for 18 in the final four games of their first-round series against Philadelphia.
“We need to do a better job on the power play,” Crosby said. “We’ll go over it and make sure we fix those things.”
The Penguins and Capitals have met seven times previously in the playoffs; Pittsburgh has won six of those series. Seventeen of the 43 playoff games between the teams have been decided by one goal, including this thriller.
•Blackhawks even series: Patrick Sharp scored twice to tie it and David Bolland put Chicago ahead with a shorthanded breakaway to help the Blackhawks tie their second-round playoff series at a game apiece with a 6-3 victory over the Canucks at Vancouver, British Columbia.
Down 2-0 after power-play goals by Sami Salo and Alexander Edler in the first seven minutes, Chicago took over Game 2 of the best-of-7 series with a strong second period.
Sharp put the Blackhawks on the board midway through, sliding a rebound between the legs of Roberto Luongo, then wiring a one-timer over the goalie’s glove during a 5-on-3 power play three minutes later.
•Brown avoids suspension: Mike Brown will be back for the Anaheim Ducks in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal.
The Detroit Red Wings were told that Brown would not be suspended for his hit that bloodied Jiri Hudler.
Brown landed a blow to Hudler’s head in the first period of Game 1 on Friday night. He was given a major penalty for interference, leading to Detroit scoring a tying goal, and a game misconduct that ended his night.
Hudler returned to the game in the second period, helping the defending Stanley Cup champions win 3-2 to stay undefeated in the playoffs.
•Rafalski out for Detroit: Red Wings coach Mike Babcock says Brian Rafalski will not play in Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.
Babcock ruled Rafalski out with an upper-body injury a day after he missed Detroit’s 3-2 win. The Red Wings plan to replace Rafalski with 47-year-old Chris Chelios as they did in the opener of the Western Conference semifinal.
Woods gives up lead
Tiger Woods dropped out of the lead with late bogeys for the second straight day, leaving former Masters champion Zach Johnson with a two-shot advantage heading into the final round of the Quail Hollow Championship in Charlotte, N.C.
Johnson was among the few who survived the “Green Mile,” the three-hole stretch of closing holes at Quail Hollow. He made a 12-foot birdie on the 17th that carried him to a 4-under-par 68 and a chance to win for the second time this year.
Johnson, at 11-under 205, was two shots ahead of Woods, Lucas Glover and George McNeill, all of whom bogeyed at least the last hole.
Djokovic downs Federer
Defending champion Novak Djokovic rallied after a rain delay to beat Roger Federer 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals of the Rome Masters, extending Federer’s title drought to seven months.
Djokovic will face Rafael Nadal in today’s final, after the top-ranked Spaniard cruised past Fernando Gonzalez 6-3, 6-3.
Nadal extended his clay-court winning streak to 29 matches, stretching back to an opening-round loss here last year.
Federer wasted breaks in the second and third sets. He hasn’t won a tournament since taking the title in October at home in Basel, Switzerland.
•Safina into final: Top-ranked Dinara Safina rallied to defeat Flavia Pennetta 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 to set up a showdown with Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final of the Porsche Grand Prix at Stuttgart, Germany.
Kuznetsova defeated second-seeded Elena Dementieva 6-4, 6-2.
Kelowna wins again
Mikael Backlund scored twice, while Evan Bloodoff had a goal and two assists to lead the Kelowna Rockets to a 5-2 win over the Calgary Hitmen in Game 2 of the Western Hockey League final in Calgary, Alberta.
The Rockets also won 3-1 on Friday night and hold a 2-0 lead over the Hitmen.
•Russia bests U.S.: Russia scored three power-play goals to beat the United States 4-1 in the second round of the ice hockey world championship at Bern, Switzerland.