Final score: Washington Capitals 2, Pittsburgh Penguins 3
How it happened: In a game without Sidney Crosby that the Caps desperately needed to win, it was Pittsburgh who struck first as Patric Hornqvist thread the needle between Brooks Orpik and Karl Alzner for the breakaway goal. In the second period, a centering feed from Jake Guentzel hit off the skate of Dmitry Orlov into the net. The Caps would respond, however, with goals from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nate Schmidt, but Justin Schultz would put the Penguins back in the lead about three minutes later with a power play goal. Washington had a chance to tie it up as Matt Cullen took a double minor for high-sticking late in the second period. The Caps were unable to cash in on the power play or in the third period, however, ultimately falling to Pittsburgh 3-2.
What it means: Even without Sidney Crosby, the Penguins pushed the Caps to the brink of elimination and now lead the series 3-1. Washington must win the next three games straight in order to advance.
Penguins goal: Patric Hornqvist from Matt Cullen and Olli Maatta at 4:39 in the 1st period. With Karl Alzner and Brooks Orpik on the ice together, Hornqvist took advantage. He played in between the two and Maatta thread the needle with the pass to launch the breakaway which Hornqvist was able to finish. Caps 0, Penguins 1
Penguins goal: Jake Guentzel at 3:51 in the 2nd period. Guentzel chased down the puck in the offensive zone to Braden Holtby’s right and tried a centering pass to Carter Rowney. The puck instead hit off the boot of Dmitry Orlov and into the net. Caps 0, Penguins 2
Caps goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson at 7:21 in the 2nd period. Johansson and Williams did good work along the boards in the offensive zone allowing Williams to pass to a streaking Kuznetsov with room to work. Kuznetsov finished the play with a short-side shot to beat Fleury. Caps 1, Penguins 2
Caps goal: Nate Schmidt from T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk at 8:33 in the 2nd period. A Penguins turnover led to an attack by the Capitals. A shot by Kevin Shattenkirk was blocked, bounced off the wall and out to Schmidt who fired the quick one-timer for the goal. Caps 2, Penguins 2
Penguins goal: Justin Schultz (power play) from Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin at 11:24 in the 2nd period. The Penguins dominated possession off the faceoff in the Caps' defensive zone, A shot from Malkin was blocked, but kicked back out by Guentzel to Malkin. He fed Schultz for the one-timer and he buried it. Caps 2, Penguins 3
3 Caps stars
1. Evgeny Kuznetsov: There were a few frustrating moments that made you want to scream "SHOOT THE PUCK!" but when he did finally shoot the puck, he scored the Caps' first goal of the night. He had a game-high six shots on goal for the game.
2. Jay Beagle: The Caps did not look ready to play this game and took two penalties in the first period. Luckily, Beagle was ready to play. He looked like a one-man penalty kill out there and kept Pittsburgh from turning a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 lead.
3. Nate Schmidt: Schmidt has played a strong series and finally was rewarded with a goal in the second period which, at the time, tied the game at 2.
Look ahead: The series comes back to Washington on Saturday for Game 5 and then, if necessary, returns to Pittsburgh for Game 6 on Monday.
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