PITTSBURGH — 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 in Pittsburgh, stopping 33 shots as the Penguins completed their second comeback from a 3-1 deficit in four years against Washington with a 3-0 victory Thursday night.
Washington, only one victory away from eliminating Pittsburgh after consecutive 6-2 victories in Games 3 and 4, became only 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 3-1 leads against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Penguins in 1992, and the New York Islanders in a 1987 collapse finished off by a four-overtime Game 7.
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.
The Penguins play the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference semifinals beginning Saturday at Pittsburgh.