Prisuta: A well-deserved ending
It will end as it was seemingly destined to end, with a Game 7 that finally will settle an Eastern Conference semifinal that's been as competitive as it is compelling.
"I just wish it was for the Cup," Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau said.
That will be awarded two rounds after this one.
As for this round, the Caps extended it and followed the apparent will of the Hockey Gods on Monday night with a 5-4 triumph in overtime in Game 6 at Mellon Arena.
That ensured a Game 7 on Wednesday night at the Verizon Center.
That's a game the Penguins wanted to avoid, but by now they at least know the drill.
"Let's just say we're all not surprised that it's going (to a Game) 7," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "We'll leave it out there and see what happens."
Both teams, equally skilled and equally resilient, have been doing that all along.
Game 6 was more of the same until Washington's Dave Steckel added to the lore with the series' third overtime goal at 6:22 of the extra session.
The Penguins dominated the opening 20 minutes, yet were lucky to escape leading by the slimmest of margins, 1-0, after Alexander Ovechkin launched a rocket with three seconds left that almost tied it.
The Caps had the better of it in the second period and could have (and should have) gone to the locker room ahead, 2-1. But a late penalty turned into an even later power-play goal from Mark Eaton.
The third period featured another dagger from defenseman Kris Letang, which put the Capitals in the uncomfortable position of having to rally on the road while facing elimination.
Goals by Alexander Semin — welcome to the series, comrade — and Viktor Kozlov a mere 29 seconds apart stunned another Mellon Arena sellout but not the Penguins.
They kept coming until Crosby struck again.
That's been a running theme of this series, the Ovechkin vs. Crosby confrontation, and it was again last night.
Ovechkin didn't score a goal for a change, but he was ever-present, lurking and bursting and blasting away whenever possible. And it was Ovechkin who set up the Capitals' first goal by making a deft feed to Kozlov for postseason assist No. 8. Ovechkin would later add two more helpers, surpassing Crosby by two in that department.
Crosby wasn't officially on the ice at that point, but he was still in the process of dragging himself to the bench after getting the worst of a blocked shot.
He finished with an assist on the Penguins' first goal, a 2-on-1 converted by Bill Guerin 5:55 in, and by delivering overtime on a game-tying tally with 4:18 left in regulation – his 10th postseason goal, as many as Ovechkin.
Eaton's goal came off a goal-mouth scramble, and countered an almost as unlikely whack by Tomas Fleischmann off a goal-mouth scramble for a 2-1 Capitals lead at 14:42 of the second.
Now comes one final, furious assault on the series, the third round and one another.
The first goal doesn't matter.
One-goal leads don't matter.
And Games 1 through 6 no longer matter.
The last goal matters.
Game 7 demands as much and accepts nothing less.