In a potential preview of the first round of the 2019 playoffs, the Capitals looked to extend their winning streak to a season-high eight games. But the Penguins came from behind to end the Caps’ win streak at seven with a 5-3 win Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.
In a hotly contested first period, the Capitals and Penguins traded heavy hits and scoring chances. Justin Schultz blocked John Carlson’s point-blank shot at an open net and Evgeni Malkin, seeking two points to join the 1,000 point club, couldn’t connect with Nick Bjugstad on the power play.
With 30 seconds remaining in the first period, Jakub Vrana tallied his 20th goal of the season with a top corner snipe, besting Matt Murray glove side and setting a new career-high in goals.
The Caps targeted Murray’s glove side again in the second period, and Carlson rang a wrist shot off the crossbar seven minutes into the frame. Murray’s glove failed again when Vrana struck for the second time halfway through the period after Murray bobbled a wrist shot over his head.
It’s the fourth multi-goal game of Vrana’s career and second this season.
The Penguins broke Braden Holtby’s shutout bid with seven minutes left in the second when Jared McCann stripped Evgeny Kuznetsov in the Capitals’ defensive zone and Jake Guentzel buried his 35th goal of the season. The Pens struck again 47 seconds later, when Schultz ally-ooped the puck to Sidney Crosby, who deked to his forehand to beat Holtby.
Crosby recorded his second goal of the night on the power play after Nicklas Backstrom tripped Evgeni Malkin.
In the third period, Phil Kessel buried his 23rd goal of the season on a power play rebound. With two secondary assists, Malkin became the 88th player to reach 1,000 career points.
The Capitals battled back on the power play when Carlson roofed a shot on the weak side. Ovechkin’s assist on Carlson’s goal brings him to 1,200 career points, the 49th NHL player to complete the feat.
The Capitals pulled Holtby for an extra attacker with a minute and a half remaining, but McCann iced the game with an empty-netter.
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