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Capitals score two in third period to steal Game 3 from Pens

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Matt Niskanen tied the game and Alex Ovechkin scored the game-winner with just 1:07 left in regulation, lifting Washington over the Penguins 4-3 in Game 3 at PPG Paints Arena Tuesday night.

The first period of Tuesday's game served as somewhat monotonous. 

Scoreless with no team really gaining an edge over one-another could never supersede what the next 40 explosive minutes of hockey would provide. 

Scoring three goals in the second period, Pittsburgh's offensive rush drifted stagnant to the third period, where the Capitals would gain control of the game and the series. 

The loss marks the Pens' third-consecutive at home this postseason, which hasn't happened to Pittsburgh since 2011.  

"It's hard to win in the playoffs," said Mike Sullivan, "and no one knows it better than this team.  We had played a hard-fought game tonight.  That game could have went either way, and we just have to make sure we put it behind us and we look to the next game and try to put our best game forward." 

Ovechkin channeled his inner-Sidney Crosby, taking a doorstep pass from Nicklas Backstrom - who collected a turnover in the Capitals zone and burned past Kris Letang on the way to the net - lifting a puck over Matt Murray, which hit off the post, then went back to the patient sharpshooter's stick, swatting the puck from mid-air in the net. 


"It was an important goal at an important time for us," said Ovechkin, who now has eight postseason goals and two in the series.  

"We have extended zone time with that shift," explained Sullivan of his team's breakdown on the game-winning goal.  "We just have to be smarter with the puck in that time of the game and that area of the rink, and make sure that we give our forwards another opportunity to make a play at the net.  It was unfortunate because we had pretty good momentum at that point of the game."  

"It comes down to the last minute of the game, and we turn the puck over and they get a 2-on-1 and then they score on that play, it's a tough one," described Patric Hornqvist of the tough luck play that cost the Pens home ice advantage going into Game 4.   

"It was a 2-on-1 and [Ovechkin], I don't know what happened, but I thought he had a pretty good play to stay with it and bat it in," said Murray, who stopped 18 shots, surrendering all four goals.   

Niskanen tied the game just 13 minutes prior, punching a slapper from near the blue line that connected with Murray's pad, then drifted under the netminder's glove and into the net. 

Evgeni Malkin and Brian Dumoulin, who both made their return to the starting lineup Tuesday, helped rally the Penguins to two straight goals in the second period - answering a John Carlson power play goal to open the scoring - with Malkin earning an assist with a shot at the pads of goalie Braden Holtby, which was punched in the net by a rebounding Patric Hornqvist on the Penguins' first man-advantage goal of the series (previously 0-for-5), giving Pittsburgh a 2-1 advantage. 

"You can tell when he gets the puck, he separates himself from their defensemen," said Hornqvist of Malkin's impact in the game, "and he seems to always get that little extra time, and he made a nice play on my goal there.  He was big for us." 

Jake Guentzel scored before the Hornqvist goal, leaving him tied with Crosby for a team-best eight goals in the postseason, as well as a league-best 19 points. 

"You never want to lose in the last minute like we did, but we'll take a lot of positives from this," said Guentzel, who used nifty stick-handling with a dip-and-dunk move between two defenders, setting up a kneeling Crosby for the top shelf finish over Holtby at the 16:27 mark of the second period, giving the Pens a 3-2 lead.


Gathering two points on the night, Crosby surpassed Ray Bourque for 13th all-time in postseason points with 181. 

"We did some really good things, generated some really good chances," said Crosby, who doubled down on Guentzel's positive outlook of the game.  "We did a lot of good things, but when you lose when we did in that fashion, it's a little upsetting.  We have to make sure we come with the same effort next game, and we'll get rewarded." 

The Penguins managed just three shots on goal in the third period, with Holtby stopping 19 shots on the night in his winning campaign for the Capitals.  


Washington's Tom Wilson, who laid a controversial hit to the head of Brian Dumoulin in Game 2 of the series, made another tumultuous move on the ice Tuesday, when midway through the second period, the first line forward dove full speed into Zach Aston-Reese, leveling the rookie forward to the ice near both benches.  With blood around the area, Aston-Reese, who would later get up and chuck a glove at Washington's bench, where several players - including Wilson - could be seen laughing, prior to leaving the ice.  

"At some point, you know, the league might do something," said an enervated Sullivan on the subject of Wilson's second questionable hit of the series. 

"It was more about the laughing part," said Kris Letang, who could be seen yelling at Washington's bench during the fracas.  "I get the physical game, I get the physical play, I've been on the wrong side of it.  I respect what kind of game he plays, but it's just, you don't laugh at somebody getting hurt." 

"Tom's obviously a big body and he's tremendously strong and he hits hard," said Washington coach Barry Trotz of Wilson.   

"My first look at the hit, I mean both guys are bracing for it, and they go shoulder-to-shoulder, and (Wilson) just blew through him," said Trotz of his view on the hit.  "We have a very passionate fanbase and (Pittsburgh) does, and you can't be neutral, that's why there is a neutral party that looks at it.  We've just said all along that whatever the league decides, we're good with.  To me, it was a hard hockey hit, that's what I saw." 

Wilson was not penalized for both hits in Game 2 and Tuesday night.  All-in-all, 11 players were penalized in the game, including Jamie Oleskiak (cross-checking), who, minutes later, tried to start a skirmish with Wilson to no avail.  


"I don't really have anything to say," said Crosby of the hit.  "What's there to say anymore?" 


Mike Sullivan announced during his post-game press conference that forward Zach Aston-Reese had suffered a broken jaw and a concussion due to the Wilson hit.   

"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," said Sullivan. 

When asked about the injury to the rookie forward, Trotz retorted, "I don't really care what Sully said."  He went to say, "I'm not on their medical team.  All I saw was the hit, both guys braced for it." 

Carl Hagelin (upper-body injury) was seen in a suit during Tuesday's game.  His status for Game 4 is still undetermined.   


Closing line: 

Pittsburgh -173 

Washington +155 

The O/U, which was set at six goals, sailed over with seven combined goals, marking the first time this series the total has gone over.


Both teams will meet again in Game 4 at PPG Paints Arena Thursday night.  Puck drops at 7 PM. 

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