EditorsNote: Adds dropped word “it” in paragraph 4
Penguins power past Capitals
WASHINGTON — After missing the first three games of the season, winger Patric Hornqvist made an immediate impact for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Hornqvist notched a goal and an assist, Matt Murray stopped 20 shots, and the Penguins defeated the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Wednesday night.
Kris Letang and Conor Sheary also scored for Pittsburgh, which converted 3 of 6 power play chances.
Hornqvist assisted on Letang’s goal early in the first, and then made it 2-0 later in the period.
“He brings so much to this team. He plays with so much swagger. He’s just a great competitor,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Hornqvist. “When he’s on the bench, he brings juice to our bench. You hear him chirping all the time. He’s just awesome to have around. And it’s contagious.”
Hornqvist missed the first three games of the season following a procedure on his right hand in the offseason. His last goal was the game-winner in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals. He also tallied in Pittsburgh’s 2-0 Game 7 win in the Eastern Conference semifinals against Washington.
Asked if he felt rusty, Hornqvist said, “Some plays around the walls and timing a little bit, but obviously what can you do? You have to play games to get better, and it was good to get the win and it was fun to be back out there.”
Washington was penalized three times in the first period and three more times in the second.
“From our standpoint, it really didn’t allow our top players to get going,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “Every time we started getting any rhythm, we took a penalty. ... I said to the guys, ‘Let’s be real. We’ve got to get our penalties down.’”
Washington has been whistled for 20 penalties in four games.
The Capitals (2-1-1) were 0-for-4 with a man advantage. The Penguins (2-1-1) have killed off 17 consecutive power plays.
Washington defenseman Christian Djoos, making his NHL debut, scored a goal and assisted on Alex Ovechkin’s eighth of the season.
“You can see the instincts are really good,” Trotz said of Djoos, Washington’s seventh-round pick in the 2012 draft. “He’s got a real good sense for the game. His IQ is really good. But it’s a process. It’s one game, and we’ll be patient. His first game was real good.”
With Washington trailing 3-1 in the third, Djoos avoided a Pittsburgh player and slid a pass into the slot that Ovechkin redirected past Murray with 7:09 left to play.
Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the Capitals.
Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead at 5:22 of the first. With Matt Niskanen off for slashing, the Capitals came within five seconds of killing off the power play. However, during a scramble in front, Bryan Rust pushed the puck across the top of the crease to Letang, who lifted a backhander past Holtby.
“Obviously we have a really talented group out there, and when our power play’s going well, we move the puck around and find seams,” Hornqvist said. “But today we didn’t have our best game, but we still find a way to score three power-play goals. We’ll take that.”
The Penguins doubled their lead on a similar scenario at 8:20 of the second. This time, with six seconds left on a penalty to Djoos, Hornqvist poked a loose puck home from just beyond the crease.
“That’s usually where I end up being and where I get my points and like to be,” Hornqvist said of his work in front of the net. “I just tried to play my game, and it worked for me.”
Djoos got Washington within 2-1 with 53 seconds left in the middle period when he beat Murray with a one-timer from the right circle.
Pittsburgh regained the two-goal margin just 38 seconds into the third period when Sheary, parked to the left of Holtby, redirected a cross-ice pass from Justin Schultz.
NOTES: Penguins RW Patric Hornqvist has eight points (five goals, three assists) in his past 11 regular-season contests against the Capitals. ... Pittsburgh D Ian Cole, who was hit in the face by a slap shot Saturday night, was out of the lineup for the first time since joining the Penguins in March 2015. ... Capitals G Braden Holtby, who won his first two starts of the season, missed winning each of his first three for the first time in his NHL career. ... Last season, LW Alex Ovechkin didn’t score his eighth goal until Washington’s 16th game.