The Pittsburgh Penguins scored 2-goals in the last 30-seconds of the game to break a 2-2 tie and beat the Washington Capitals 4-2 on Sunday. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury kept the Penguins in the hunt as they were outshot 33-13 through the first 2-periods. In the final period, however, the Penguins found their offense and outshot the Capitals 13-5. The tie-breaking goal was a heartbreaker for the Capitals as Nicklas Backstrom threw a rebound off from a Crosby shot into his own net past Cristobal Huet. The Penguins finished the scoring by taking advantage of an open net to seal the win at 4-2.
In the 1st, the Capitals outshot the Penguins 11-4 but could get the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury. Both teams had 2-chances on the power play, but neither could convert on the man-advantage. The period wasmarked by heavy physical play, including a crushing hit on Evgeni Malkin by Alexander Ovechkin. Jarkko Ruutu struck back with a couple of huge hits on the Capitals, one along the boards and one mid-ice. At the end of 1, the score was 0-0.
In the 2nd, the Capitals took advantage of 4-power play chances, including two 5-on-3 opportunities, to outshoot the Penguins 22-9. They also made the Penguins pay by picking up goals on 2 of the chances. The first came off the stick of Brooks Laich at 7:23 while Brooks Orpik sat for slashing. Alexander Semin and Alexander Ovechkin were credited with the assists. The Penguins struck back quickly, however, as Petr Sykora put home his 22nd of the season off from a beautiful passing play from Evgeni Malkin and Jeff Taffe. The Penguins then went ahead 2-1 on Sidney Crosby’s 21st goal of the season at 18:08, from Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar. But then with Hal Gill (cross checking) and Brooks Orpik (roughing) in the penalty box, the Capitals evened it back up on a goal by Alexander Semin. Alexander Ovechkin and Sergei Federov picked up the assists. Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 20 of 22 shots in the period.
In the 3rd, the Penguins finally got their offensive game going as they outshot the Capitals 13-5. It looked as if the game would head to overtime when Sidney Crosby one-handed the puck with his stick to the front of the net at 19:32. Standing to the left side of Cristobal Huet, Nicklas Backstrom attempted to throw the puck to the wall behind the net as he was pressured by Pascal Dupuis, but instead inadvertently threw it right into his own net to give the Penguins the game winner. Sidney Crosby, who was the last Penguin to touch the puck, was credited with his 22nd goal (unassisted). With just 13-seconds left to play and Huet on the bench, Evgeni Malkin found the puck along the side boards and made an unselfish cross-ice pass to Jordan Staal, who buried it into the empty net.
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Evgeni Malkin picked up the game’s 1st star with 3-assists and Sidney Crosby got the 3rd star with 2-goals. Malkin narrowed the scoring gap by a point, and now trails Alexander Ovechkin by 3-points for the NHL scoring lead. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 36-of-38 shots on goal for a 0.947 save percentage. Despite earlier anticipation that he might play, Marian Hossa missed his 6th straight game as he continues to recover from a sprained right knee.
The Penguins get a bit of a rest as they only have 2 games in the next week, both at home. First, the Penguins will host the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night. Then they will then host the Philadelphia Flyers next Sunday in an NBC televised game of the week. The Penguins have just 12-games remaining in the season and are 1-point behind the Atlantic Division leading New Jersey Devils and are tied with the Montreal Canadiens, both of whom have a game in hand against the Penguins.