Caps bounced to edge

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Hero or villain, from sizzling to sublime, you can't take your eyes off Alex Ovechkin.

But even Great Eight wasn't enough to save the Capitals last night in a dramatic overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A bizarre and heartbreaking goal at 3:28 of the first overtime spoiled another sensational effort by the Russian superstar, whose two goals weren't enough to avoid a 4-3 defeat.

Evgeni Malkin will be credited with the powerplay winner, but it found its way into the Caps net after glancing off the stick of sliding Capitals defenceman Tom Poti, who was trying to block a pass across to Sidney Crosby.

With the loss, the Caps' third in a row in this NHL best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal, their season is now on the brink.

The Penguins can advance to the conference final for the second consecutive season with a win tomorrow night at home.

The Caps dodged a bullet early in the overtime when goaltender Simeon Varlamov stopped a Crosby burst to the net.

But after Milan Jurcina received a tripping penalty for dumping Malkin, the Pens kept up the pressure, leading to the winner.

It ruined a stellar effort from Ovechkin, who the Penguins were hoping would be suspended for his controversial knee-on-knee hit that likely ended defenceman Sergei Gonchar's season the night before.

Ovechkin's second goal of the game and 10th of the playoffs with just 4:08 remaining in the third period tied the game at 3-3 to force overtime to set up yet another thrilling chapter in this delicious series.

The Russian superstar buried a quick pass from linemate Nicklas Backstrom that threaded a tight spot between Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's skate and the post.

The goal erased a big third-period for the Pens who had scored twice to erase a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.

That advantage didn't hold up for long -- 51 seconds into the third, in fact -- as it was Malkin's turn to match some of Ovechkin's flash, feeding with a between the legs drop pass to Ruslan Fedotenko who finished it off to the suddenly weak glove side of Varlamov.

And Pittsburgh took the lead at 6:27 of the third from an unlikely would-be hero - plugging forward Matt Cooke, who had been one of the most vocal Penguins calling for Ovechkin to be suspended. It was Cooke's first goal of the post-season.

Ovechkin's first of the game came in the second period on a potent wrist shot that had allowed the Capitals to tie the score at 1-1. Before the period was over, Ovechkin helped set up the go-ahead goal that gave the Caps a 2-1 lead heading into the second intermission.

The Pens finally got production from centre Jordan Staal, who scored his first goal of the playoffs on his 27th shot at the 5:17 mark of the second period to open the scoring.

Ovechkin's goal was an important one in that it came just 59 seconds after Staal had sucked some of the life out of the rockin' red D.C. crowd.

It was a typical Ovechkin goal, too -- a quick release wrist shot to the top right corner that Pens goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had not hope of snagging.

Ovechkin missed a chance to give his steam the lead at the 12-minute mark when he got in all alone on Fleury but fired a shot low and wide.

Despite having played Game 4 just 24 hours earlier in Pittsburgh, both teams showed nice jump early on.

ROB LONGLEY IS A SUN MEDIA COLUMNIST


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