The Washington Capitals came to Pittsburgh with a two-games-to-none lead in the Eastern Conference semi-finals and a chance to bury some demons that have haunted the franchise for the better part of two decades. Now, they are headed home searching for answers after suffering a second straight loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, a 5-3 defeat in Game Four at Mellon Arena on Friday night. The Capitals were not outplayed as badly as they were in Wednesday's 3-2 overtime decision - a game that was close only because of the rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov. But on Friday, Varlamov, 21, gave the Penguins one goal and did not produce the type of stops that put the Capitals in position in each of the series' first three games. He was not bad, but he was not spectacular either.
Sidney Crosby, who scored one and set up another to guide the Penguins to victory, said: "It felt good. We've had huge rivalries over the years." Although none of the current Capitals was a part of the teams who coughed up series leads to the Penguins in the past, the parallels are impossible to ignore. In 1992, the Capitals lost after leading 2-0 and 3-1. In 1995, they lost after leading 3-1. In 1996, they lost after leading 2-0.
Game Five was to be played late yesterday in Washington. In another game, Eric Staal scored twice as the Carolina Hurricanes secured a comfortable 4-1 win at home to Boston, to leave the Bruins on the cusp of elimination from the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Jussi Jokinen scored and provided an assist while Sergei Samsonov struck for the second straight game for the Hurricanes, who lead the series 3-1.