PITTSBURGH – Veteran defenseman Mike Weber was inserted into the Capitals lineup Wednesday night for his defensive prowess and physicality. But with the game on the line and the puck in his skates, Weber inadvertently shoved the puck to Patric Hornqvist at the most inopportune time.
Hornqvist fired the puck past Caps goaltender Braden Holtby just 2:34 into overtime, giving the Penguins a dramatic 3-2 win and a commanding 3-1 series lead on the Capitals.
Game 5 will be played Saturday night at Verizon Cernter.
How it happened: The Capitals got on the board first just 2:58 into the game when Tom Wilson dumped the puck into the offensive zone and Jay Beagle grabbed it and roofed a backhander over Matt Murray for his third goal of the playoffs. The Caps entered the game with an all-time record of 27-2-5 when Beagle scores (2-0 in the playoffs) and were 18-0-1 when Wilson recorded a point in the regular season. But that didn’t stop the Penguins from taking a 2-1 lead on goals by Trevor Daley and Matt Cullen. Daley scored his first goal of the playoffs 9:16 into the opening period when his shot bounced off Karl Alzner and under Braden Holtby. Penguins center Matt Cullen opened the second period by stripping Nicklas Backstrom on a faceoff and beating him down the ice, sliding the puck between the pads of Holtby for a go-ahead breakaway goal at the 3:07 mark. The Penguins failed on three power-play opportunities and the Caps whiffed on two of their own in the opening 40 minutes before John Carlson scored his fourth goal of the playoffs on a hard-working play by Justin Williams, who stripped defenseman Derrick Pouliot and fed Carlson for a roof shot over Murray with 3:41 to play in the second period.
Change in strategy: After seeing Alex Ovechkin rip off 18 shot attempts and deliver nine hits against the Sidney Crosby line in Game 3, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan went a different route, using the Penguins’ bottom two lines against the line of Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Ovechkin. Matt Cullen’s line with wingers Tom Kuhnhackl and Oskar Sundqvist drew most of the assignments on the Ovechkin line and the 39-year-old Cullen did a masterful job, scoring his third goal of the playoffs to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead early in the second period.
Slash on Crosby: Seven years to the day since their dueling hat tricks in the 2009 playoffs, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin went at it again, only with a more physical edge this time. Crosby left the game in a fit of frustration early in the third period after taking a slash to the hand from Ovechkin, slamming his stick on a wall down the tunnel, but returned a few minutes later.
Lineup changes: Caps defenseman Mike Weber returned to the lineup and played on a third pairing with Taylor Chorney. That meant a promotion for Dmitry Orlov, who played on a second unit with John Carlson.
For the Pens, defenseman Justin Schultz went into the lineup for the suspended Kris Letang and played on a third defense pairing with Ian Cole. Brian Domoulin took Letang’s spot on a top pairing with Trevor Daley, while Ben Lovejoy moved from the third D pairing to the second alongside Derrick Pouliot. Up front, Eric Fehr (undisclosed injury) missed his first game of the playoffs and was replaced by Oskar Sundqvist, who played on a fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnhackl. Bryan Rust played in Game 4 for the Penguins despite walking with a severe limp at the morning skate, lining up alongside Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz. That meant enforcer Tom Sestito remained a healthy scratch.
Look ahead: With two day off before they play again on Saturday night at 7:15, the Capitals and Penguins are scheduled to take Thursday off as a recovery day, then resume practice on Friday. Brooks Orpik has one more game remaining on his three-game suspension.
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