PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - Sidney Crosby outshone Alex Ovechkin in their latest duel to power the Pittsburgh Penguins to a series-tying 5-3 victory over the Washington Capitals Friday in the Eastern Conference semi-final playoffs.
Also in the East, top-seeded Boston Bruins are on the verge of elimination after crashing to a 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, and now trail 3-1 in the series.
The 21-year-old Crosby scored a goal and one assist as Pittsburgh leveled their series against the Capitals 2-2.
The win came at a cost, however, as key defenseman Sergei Gonchar was forced to leave the game in the first period after a controversial knee-to-knee hit from Ovechkin, the clash leaving the Russian in doubt for game five on Saturday in Washington.
“In terms of replacing him, you don’t replace No. 55,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma told reporters. “But we have depth at the defensive position for a reason and we’ll be confident going forward that we can do it.”
The Penguins attacked ferociously in the first period to take a 3-1 lead through goals from Gonchar, Bill Guerin and Ruslan Fedotenko.
The Capitals pulled to within 3-2 after a goal from Chris Clark at 15:08 in the second, but Crosby responded with a tip-in goal early in the third.
Maxime Talbot later put the finishing touches on the contest with a wrister at 14:46.
Capitals leading winger Ovechkin had one assist but was limited to just two shots on goal.
In other Eastern Conference action, Carolina scored three third-period goals to win their third consecutive game against the favored Bruins after an opening loss.
Eric Staal became Carolina’s all-time playoff top scorer with his two goals.
Center Staal, who has nine postseason goals, delivered the Hurricanes’ first on a power play and wrapped up the scoring on an even-strength goal with 4:19 remaining.
Jussi Jokinen chipped in with a goal at 2:52 in the third, breaking a 1-1 tie on a power play.
His sixth goal for the postseason also marked his fourth game-winning or score-tying goal in the playoffs this year.
“I probably not (ever had) that good a stretch,” said Jokinen, a Finnish winger who was acquired by the Hurricanes from Tampa Bay in February. “I hope I can keep going.”
Boston, outplayed in the first period, rallied in the second to level the score on Marc Savard’s power play shot.
Despite sweeping their opening series against Montreal and dominating Carolina in the opener, the wheels have suddenly fallen off the Boston machine.
“We picked the worst time of the year to play our worst hockey of the year,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “There isn’t anybody who’s played up to his potential.”
The teams head to Boston for game five on Sunday.
Writing by Jahmal Korner; Editing by Ian Ransom