PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby scored twice during a furious second-period rally and Evgeni Malkin picked up two assists to reach 1,000 career points as the Pittsburgh Penguins edged the Washington Capitals 5-3 on Tuesday night.
Crosby picked up his 32nd and 33rd goals during a three-goal outburst over a span of 1:48 as Pittsburgh erased a two-goal deficit to take the lead on its way to snapping Washington’s seven-game winning streak. Jake Guentzel started Pittsburgh’s comeback with his team-leading 35th of the season. Phil Kessel and Jared McCann both added a goal and an assist for the Penguins, who have won six of eight.
Matt Murray stopped 38 shots as Pittsburgh topped the rival Capitals for the third time in four meetings this season.
Jakub Vrana scored twice for Washington. John Carlson collected his 11th and Alexander Ovechkin picked up an assist to become the 48th player in NHL history with 1,200 career points. Braden Holtby made 25 saves but briefly came undone during Pittsburgh’s flurry that turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead.
The reigning Stanley Cup champions came in riding a winning streak that vaulted them to the top spot in the Metropolitan Division and gave them some cushion in the claustrophobic jockeying for playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
Ten months removed from a dramatic Game 6 overtime victory in the conference semifinals last spring that served as the springboard to their first championship, the Capitals spent the first 30 minutes looking like a serious threat to make another deep run. They smothered Pittsburgh offensively and rode Vrana’s marksmanship and a bit of luck to a 2-0 lead.
Vrana’s wrist shot from the left circle whizzed over Murray’s glove with 32 seconds left in the first period. He scored again 9:36 into the second when his shot from low in the left circle smacked off Murray’s blocker, flipped up in the air, bounced off Murray’s back and then his right skate before trickling into the net.
All of Washington’s momentum vanished in a flash.
McCann started Pittsburgh’s rally by stripping Evgeny Kuznetzov high in the Washington zone before setting up Guentzel, who fired the puck into the empty net 12:37 into the second.
Crosby then got on the board 47 seconds later. Justin Schultz lobbed a flip pass out of the Pittsburgh zone and over the entirety of the neutral zone before it landed at the end of Crosby’s stick. Pittsburgh’s captain held off two defenders while slipping the puck between Holtby’s legs to tie it at 2.
Nicklas Backstrom was called for tripping Malkin shortly after Crosby evened it up, and Crosby capped Pittsburgh’s outburst by finishing off a perfectly executed tic-tac-toe that started with Malkin feeding it to Kessel, who then sent a cross-ice pass to Crosby for a one-timer.
Kessel’s second goal since Jan. 30 11:16 into the third period put Pittsburgh up 4-2. Malkin earned the secondary assist to join Crosby, Ovechkin and San Jose’s Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau as the only active members of the NHL’s 1,000-point club.
Carlson pulled Washington within 4-3 with just over six minutes to play but McCann’s empty-netter with 56 seconds left sealed Pittsburgh’s victory.
NOTES: Oshie’s two assists boosted his career total to 300. … Carl Hagelin, who helped the Penguins to consecutive Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017, played 13:13 in his return to Pittsburgh. Hagelin was traded to Los Angeles in November before being sent to Washington at the trade deadline. … Penguins D Kris Letang missed his eighth straight game with an upper-body injury. … Pittsburgh F Zach Aston-Reese sat out with a lower-body injury. … The Penguins went 2 for 4 on the power play. Washington was 1 for 2 with the man advantage.
Capitals: Continue a four-game road trip on Thursday in Philadelphia.
Penguins: Travel to Buffalo on Thursday to face the Sabres. Pittsburgh lost each of its first two meetings with Buffalo in overtime.
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Will Graves, The Associated Press