Even without Mario Lemieux, no playoff lead is safe against the Pittsburgh Penguins - especially when the Washington Capitals hold it.
Goaltender Ken Wregget again made the difference in a Game 7, stopping 33 shots as the Penguins completed their second comeback from a three games-to-one deficit in four years against Washington with a 3-0 victory Thursday.
Washington, one win away from eliminating Pittsburgh after consecutive 6-2 victories in Games 3 and 4, became the 13th NHL team - and the third in Capitals history - to blow a 3-1 series lead.
“I don’t look at it as they choked, but that we won,” said Kevin Stevens, who set up Pittsburgh’s second goal. “We just kind of hung around long enough … and we found a way to win it.”
The Capitals also couldn’t hold such leads against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Penguins in 1992, and the New York Islanders in a 1987 collapse finished by a fourovertime Game 7.
“There was no quit in my players,” said Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld, who had predicted there wouldn’t even be a Game 7. “We played determined hockey right until the end… . After the first period we carried a lot of the play, but give the credit to Wregget. He made some great saves.”
Norm Maciver and Ron Francis scored first-period goals and the Penguins, who twice rallied from two-goal deficits at home earlier in the series, made just such a lead stand up behind Wregget.
“Once they had us 3-1, I think they were planning to put us away a lot earlier than a Game 7,” Wregget said. “Maybe it got us focused. We didn’t panic and there was no dissension.”
Wregget, yanked during Pittsburgh’s two blowout losses on the road, stopped 63 of the Caps’ 64 shots in the final two games.
Penguins 3, Capitals 0
Pittsburgh Washington 0 0 0 - 0 Pittsburgh 2 0 1 - 3
First period-1, Pittsburgh, Maciver 1 (Murphy, Jagr), 1:37. 2, Pittsburgh, Francis 3 (Stevens, Jagr), 15:40 (pp).
Third period-3, Pittsburgh, Murray 2 (Francis), 19:56 (en).
Shots on goal-Washington 9-13-11-33. Pittsburgh 7-5-6-18.Power-play opp.-Washington 0 of 3; Pittsburgh 1 of 4.Goalies-Washington, Carey 2-4 (17 shots-15 saves). Pittsburgh, Wregget 4-2 (33-33).A-17,181 (17,181).
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