EditorsNote: Editors: Adds quotes
Alex Ovechkin scored with 1:07 left in the third period Tuesday, giving the visiting Washington Capitals a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series.
The Capitals grabbed a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven set. Game 4 will be played Thursday night in Pittsburgh before the series shifts back to Washington for Game 5 on Saturday.
Ovechkin came down on a two-on-one rush with Nicklas Backstrom and one-timed a pass off the right post — then batted it out of the air into the goal to break a 3-3 tie.
Ovechkin finished with a goal and an assist while Backstrom had three assists. The Capitals scored twice in the third period to rally for the victory.
Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel led the Penguins with a goal and an assist apiece.
“I mean, if you want to be successful in the playoffs you have got to win on the road, and especially because they won the first game, too,” Backstrom said, per The Washington Post. “It’s nicer to be up 2-1 than being down 2-1. We’re just excited for the next game.”
Much of the talk after the game was about a hit that Capitals forward Tom Wilson put on Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese’s head, leaving him bloody and prone on the ice.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said after the game that Aston-Reese will need surgery for a broken jaw, and that he is being checked for a concussion.
Much of the Pens’ anger stems from Wilson’s hit to the head on defenseman Brian Dumoulin in Game 2, driving him from the game. As was the case with the hit on Dumoulin, no penalty was called Tuesday.
“We lose a guy to a broken jaw that’s going to require surgery and a concussion because of another high hit to the head,” Sullivan told reporters. “At some point, we would hope that the league might do something.”
Ovechkin called Wilson’s play “a great hit. A great, hard hit.”
Some Penguins players were all the more infuriated that as Aston-Reese was lying on the ice, Wilson was seen laughing on the Capitals’ bench.
“I get the physical game. I get the physical play. I’ve been on the wrong side of it,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. “At the end of the day, I respect what kind of game he plays. But you don’t laugh at somebody getting hurt. You don’t do that.”
The teams both had scoring chances in the first period but neither side broke through until early in the second period. That was when Washington’s John Carlson ripped a long slap shot past goalie Matt Murray at the 48-second mark.
Guentzel tipped one past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby at 4:33 of the middle period to tie the game. Guentzel extended his postseason scoring streak to seven games.
Pittsburgh then took a 2-1 lead when Patric Hornqvist scored a power-play goal at 6:49 of the second period. He scored from in front after an Evgeni Malkin shot bounced over to him.
Washington tied it at 11:04 of the second when Chandler Stephenson scored after a quick centering pass from T.J. Oshie.
The Penguins then took the lead back when Guentzel made a spectacular move to avoid Dmitry Orlov by the left circle and sent a cross-ice pass that Crosby buried with 3:33 left in that wild second period.
Matt Niskanen tied it for Washington at 5:06 of the third period with a slap shot that hit Murray, popped up and went into the net. The Capitals held the Penguins to three third-period shots, which paved the way for their comeback.
Malkin returned to the Pittsburgh lineup after missing the first two games of the series with a lower-body injury. He had the one assist but finished with a minus-2 rating.
Holtby stopped 19 shots for the win. Murray made 18 saves.
“It was a game we had to work right to the end for,” Holtby said. “That was our goal coming in. I thought we played really well in a lot of areas. They were forcing us to be real patient and wait for our chances, and it was a real tough game for both teams. We accomplished what we wanted to and now we enjoy it for a couple minutes and refocus and focus on Game 4.”
—Field Level Media