Ovechkin’s late goal lifts Caps
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have spent their entire careers chasing the Pittsburgh Penguins and shouldering their own franchise’s onerous history of playoff failures.
One brilliant end-to-end rush gave the two Washington Capitals teammates and their resilient club something they’ve rarely enjoyed against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions: Momentum.
Ovechkin knocked his own rebound out of midair and by Matt Murray with 1:07 remaining to lift the Capitals to a 4-3 victory on Tuesday night in Game 3 of their increasingly testy Eastern Conference semifinal series with Pittsburgh.
Ovechkin’s initial shot smacked off the far post.
The Russian star, however, stayed with the play and with Murray out of position, he deftly flicked it into the open net to give the Capitals a 2-1 series lead.
“It’s a good thing I didn’t raise my arms up (after the first shot), you know to (celebrate) the play,” Ovechkin said after scoring his eighth goal of the playoffs. “Got lucky.”
Matt Niskanen, John Carlson and Chandler Stephenson also scored for Washington, which improved to 4-0 on the road in the postseason. Braden Holtby finished with 19 saves.
Backstrom had three assists, including the helper on Ovechkin’s winner.
“It’s huge, huge goal,” Ovechkin said. “Obviously for our team, you know we want to win tonight and we did. It doesn’t matter what, it doesn’t matter who scored. We sacrifice. We play hard. And we have to do the same moving forward.”
Game 4 is in Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
Jake Guentzel had a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist also scored, but the Penguins lost consecutive playoff games for only the fourth time since the start of their run to consecutive Stanley Cups began in 2016.
Pittsburgh also lost forward Zach Aston-Reese to a broken jaw and a concussion following a violent collision with Washington’s Tom Wilson at the game’s midway point.
Aston-Reese was stickhandling near the Washington bench when Wilson slammed into him, sending the 6-foot-4 Aston-Reese to the ice.
Wilson was not penalized on the play, the second time in as many games he was not disciplined for a borderline hit.
Pittsburgh defenseman Brian Dumoulin went into the league’s concussion protocol after Wilson blindsided him in Game 2 while Dumoulin was bracing for a collision with Ovechkin.