PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - The Pittsburgh Penguins scored a crucial 3-2 overtime win over the visiting Washington Capitals on Wednesday, narrowing the deficit in their Eastern Conference semi-final series to 2-1.
The other NHL Eastern Conference semi-final also went to overtime with Jussi Jokinen scoring to give the Carolina Hurricanes a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins and a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang picked the perfect time to score his first playoff goal, blasting a screamer from near the blue line that ricocheted off Washington goaltender Simeon Varlamov and into the net at 11:23 of the extra period.
Letang had been a doubt to even start the game after suffering a left shoulder sprain in Game Two.
“I’m glad I played, it was a great face-off (won by Sidney Crosby) and I just tried to put it on the net and it ended up the winning goal,” Letang told reporters.
The Penguins were on the verge of sealing the victory in regulation time before the Caps’ Nicklas Backstrom scored a power-play goal to tie the game at 2-2 with just under two minutes remaining.
Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring at 1:23 of the first period before Ruslan Fedotenko equalized at 9:29 in the second.
Evgeni Malkin, scoreless through the first two games of the series and overshadowed by the duel between Ovechkin and Crosby, put the Pens back in front with a snap shot at 15:01 in the third before Backstrom sent the game into overtime.
Capitals’ netminder Varlamov finished with 39 saves.
In Raleigh, Jokinen again made the difference for the Hurricanes, beating Bruins netminder Tim Thomas with a rebound from Sergei Samsonov’s shot in overtime.
It was the third time in the postseason the Finnish winger had scored a crucial goal for Carolina, which hosts Game Four on Friday.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Jokinen, whose goal with two-tenths of a second beat the New Jersey Devils in Game Four of their first-round series. He also had the tying-goal in the Hurricanes’ Game Seven winner over the Devils.
The Bruins’ Milan Lucic scored the opening goal in the first period but Carolina took a 2-1 lead with a pair of goals from Eric Staal and Samsonov late in the second period.
Mark Recchi tied the score at 2-2 midway through the third to send the game into overtime.
The Bruins have now lost two in a row after opening the series with a 4-1 win in Boston. They lost 3-0 in Game Two, also in Boston.
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; additional reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh; Editing by Peter Rutherford