PITTSBURGH — The Penguins got two (more) goals from Jake Guentzel and one from Evgeni Malkin to win a pivotal Game 4 Thursday at PPG Paints Arena, 3-1 against the visiting Washington Capitals.
The second-round Stanley Cup playoff series is tied 2-2. Game 5 is Saturday.It was Washington’s first road playoff loss after starting 4-0 away from Capital One Arena this spring.
“We all knew we had to get this one, especially on home ice,” Guentzel said.
Pittsburgh broke through at 9:21 of the second when Guentzel, their leading scorer, batted a flopping rebound past goaltender Braden Holtby and inside the far post to make it 1-0 with his ninth goal of the postseason.
That extended Guentzel’s point streak to eight games.
“I just kind of feel like shots are going in right now. … The puck’s finding me,” Guentzel said.
Guentzel was in the penalty box for tripping the Capitals’ Lars Eller when Washington tied it. T.J. Oshie’s one-timer from the slot sailed over Matt Murray’s glove for a power-play goal and a 1-1 tie at 12:55 of the second.
The Penguins scored their second power-play goal of the series at 17:34 of the second for a 2-1 lead, but this one had to withstand a review and a challenge.
There was no call initially, but a review showed that Malkin lunged toward the puck as it lay on the goal line and pushed it just over before Holtby pulled it back out with his glove. A review resulted in a goal call, and a challenge from the Capitals on goaltender interference was rejected.
Malkin was playing in his second game after returning from a lower-body injury. His goal was his fourth of the playoffs in seven games.
Guentzel added an empty-netter with 58 seconds remaining — at the same time that Kris Letang and Oshie got into a fight. Letang was upset about a jumping hit from Oshie as the puck headed up ice.
“Obviously they were desperate,” Letang said. “He was trying to forecheck on me. I thought it was … yeah, it was a high hit. But at the end of the day I don’t think he went with his elbow to knock me out, and it was just an emotional game. It was tight from the beginning to the end, so it was just good emotion.”
The Penguins went into defensive mode in the third period.
“The third period, we understood it’s a huge game for us,” Malkin said. “We can’t lose. (If) it’s 3-1, it’s so hard. The third period we played smart. We had a couple chances two-on-one, but it’s the way we focused in the (defensive) zone. We tried to block shots. It’s like we played Game 7 tonight. Unbelievable. Everyone.”
The Penguins got a scare during the first minute of the second period when, during delayed penalty call against Malkin, goaltender Matt Murray took a shot off his collarbone area. He crumbled forward and was checked by trainer Chris Stewart, but remained in the game.
“Just a stinger,” Murray said. “It just took a minute. Your arm kind of goes dead for a minute. I felt really good after that.”
Their defensive effort helped keep Alex Ovechkin without a shot in the game and only two attempts, both misses. (On the flip side, Sidney Crosby did not have a shot, either, but he had two assists.)
“If you play Pittsburgh you’re not going to win when you score one goal,” Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. “I feel both teams played a little tighter. We didn’t have as many grade-A chances like the other games, but I feel still we had chances enough that we should’ve at least tied it.”
Washington played without winger Tom Wilson, who served the first game of his three-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Penguins rookie winger Zach Aston-Reese in Game 3.
The Penguins got winger Carl Hagelin back for the first time this series. He wore full-face protection because of a facial injury that cost him a week.
The Capitals made it clear the loss was not demoralizing even though they missed a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
“I thought there was a lot that I liked in our game,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We were a puck away from being in the lead, puck away from getting it tied up. I think we did a lot of good things. I think the one thing that’s very common with our group is resilience. We’re confident.”
Added Oshie: “Oh yeah, we feel positive.”