WASHINGTON -- Jaromir Jagr's cross-ice pass from the left wing hit Calle Johansson in the left leg and ricocheted into the net, putting the Pittsburgh Penguins into the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
While Johansson let out a cry and stood dejected with his hands and stick on his knees, Jagr raised his arms and celebrated as he would after any goal. The Penguins might not have been the better team in Friday night's 2-1 Game 5 victory, but they were definitely the luckier one.
"What do you want me to say -- that I was so lucky? You have to be lucky to win," said Jagr, who had been contained all game by the Capitals defense. "If they would have scored a goal and we would lose you guys would have said that we got outplayed and we didn't have a good team. It happens. It's hockey. Of course, we were lucky. We're going to take it. I'm going to take it."
The game-winner came with 12:04 to play and gave Pittsburgh a 4-1 series victory. The Penguins will face the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"It's going to be WWF," Jagr said. "We're going to sign some wrestling guys."
The result repeated a familiar scenario from the Capitals' past: great regular season, lousy playoffs.
"It's even tougher when you score for them," Johansson said. "You'd rather see them score in our net. Good teams always find a way to win, but obviously we weren't good enough. Close is not enough."
Johansson said he saw Jagr's pass coming.
"I tried to stop it because there's a guy behind me," he said. "It just hit me in a bad spot and went in the net. I can't really blame anything but myself."
The Penguins have been the biggest culprit in Washington's postseason woes, winning five of six series against the Caps over the past decade. This series had four consecutive one-goal games in which little separated the teams, but Washington never really recovered from a 7-0 Game 1 blowout in which it essentially abandoned its game plan.
"I guess you have to go right away to that first game," Pittsburgh coach Herb Brooks said. "It gave us a lot of confidence going in."
The Capitals were the No. 2 seed. Pittsburgh was No. 7, but that was considered an aberration because Jagr, the NHL's regular-season scoring leader, missed 19 games.
Jagr had 10 points in the series, including three goals, but he was held to only one shot the first two periods Friday as the Capitals forced the usually fluid Penguins into a tight-checking, dump-and-chase game. Pittsburgh also missed forward Jan Hrdina, who had four goals in the first three games, for the second consecutive game with a muscle strain, forcing Brooks to shuffle his lines.
Tyler Wright netted his second goal of the series in the first period for the Penguins. Sergei Gonchar scored for the Capitals, who lost at home for only the ninth time all season.
The Capitals once again dominated the faceoffs, winning 55 percent, attributable in part to Hrdina's absence, but the Pittsburgh defense did another superb job of protecting goaltender Ron Tugnutt, blocking 22 shots to Washington's eight.
Each team scored in the first period, resulting from rare times when a shooter was given too much space.
Wright drove one past goaltender Olaf Kolzig from the left faceoff circle at 5:52. Kolzig guessed stick side; Wright shot glove side. It was the type of play the Capitals have been relying on Kolzig to stop all season, but Kolzig found it harder to do against the Penguins' skilled Europeans.
Gonchar, given space down the middle of the ice, crossed the blue line and beat Tugnutt high to the stick side at 10:02. It was the first point of the series for Gonchar, a streaky player who was key to Washington's Stanley Cup finals run two years ago.
Washington forward Chris Simon got a pair in the first period -- a pair of television cameras. Sent off the ice for slashing, Simon flung a spare puck over the glass and then booted the two TV cameras that sit at foot of the penalty box. He was given a 10-minute misconduct penalty.
Washington outshot Pittsburgh 26-17, but when the Capitals finally put the puck in the net a second time, it was the wrong net.
"Ha, I saw it pretty good," Kolzig said. "That's the way the series went. That's it in a nutshell right there. We didn't get one bounce, and that's the way it goes."
The series was played under an unusual 1-2-2-1-1 format because Pittsburgh's arena was unavailable for certain dates and because of the demands of ABC television. The Capitals, who had to play two of the first three on the road despite being the higher seed, didn't make it a big issue in public -- but owner Ted Leonsis did vent some frustration in a phone call to commissioner Gary Bettman.
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