PITTSBURGH (AP) — Kevin Shattenkirk scored 3:13 into overtime and the Washington Capitals overcame a late collapse in regulation to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 on Monday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Washington drew within 2-1 in the series when Shattenkirk’s shot from the point zipped by Marc-Andre Fleury’s blocker. Game 4 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins played most of the game without star Sidney Crosby, who left in the first period after taking a hit to the head from Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen.
Washington appeared to be in control thanks to goals by Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetzov. The lead vanished in the final two minutes of the third when Evgeni Malkin and Justin Schultz scored in a 48-second span to force overtime.
The Capitals controlled the extra period and avoided a 3-0 hole against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Braden Holtby stopped 28 shots for Washington after getting pulled in his previous start. Fleury finished with 30 saves for Pittsburgh.
The Capitals held a team meeting following an ugly 6-2 loss in Game 2, a setback that dropped the Presidents’ Trophy winners into a 2-0 hole against their frequent playoff tormentors and stirred echoes of a series of playoff meltdowns since the franchise broke into the league 43 years ago.
Faced with being pushed to the brink of elimination, Washington pushed back. With one illegal and ugly shove changing the tenor of the series and perhaps the rest of the postseason.
The game was scoreless just over 5 minutes into the first period when Crosby skated just outside the Capitals’ crease. Washington’s Alex Ovechkin slashed Crosby along the upper body and Crosby slid awkwardly trying to maintain his balance when he collided with Niskanen, who had his stick raised.
The stick caught Crosby flush across the mouth and the two-time Hart Trophy winner laid on the ice in pain for several moments before slowly skating off the ice under his own power as Pittsburgh trainers searched the area for Crosby’s teeth.
Niskanen, who played four seasons in Pittsburgh with Crosby before signing with Washington in 2014, earned a major penalty for cross-checking and was given a game misconduct.
This wasn’t the first time Crosby took an ugly shot to the head from a Capital. Crosby was in the middle of an MVP run on Jan., 1, 2011, when he took an elbow to the head from Washington’s David Steckel during the Winter Classic, leading to a concussion that cost Crosby the better part of two years in his prime as he struggled to recover.
Their captain gone for the rest of the game and perhaps longer, the Penguins appeared momentarily dazed as they tried to regroup.
In the interim, the Capitals took the lead, getting the fortunate bounce that eluded them on home ice when Backstrom’s centering pass during a 5-on-3 power play caromed off Pittsburgh defenseman Ian Cole and by Fleury 13:05 into the first.
Pittsburgh appeared to tie it 1:05 into the second when Chris Kunitz deflected a puck by Holtby just before the net came off its moorings. The play was upheld under review, only to be overturned due to goaltender interference following a challenge by Capitals coach Barry Trotz.
It was symbolic of a static and occasionally ugly three periods that lacked the pace of the opening two games in Washington.
Late hit. High hits. Slashes.
The teams that finished the regular season atop the league standings played at times as if they were more intent on settling scores than trying to score.
Holtby, yanked after a sloppy second period in Game 2, remained steady during Pittsburgh’s second-period surge and the Capitals appeared to be in control when the Penguins pulled Fleury with 3 minutes to go.
Then Malkin scored his fifth goal of the playoffs by Holtby with 1:53 to go. Schultz tied it 48 seconds later when his blast from the point deflected off Washington’s T.J. Oshie and by Holtby.
NOTES: The Capitals went 2 for 5 on the power play. The Penguins were 0 for 5. … Pittsburgh F Conor Sheary left in the second period after colliding with teammate Patric Hornqvist and did not return. … Penguins G Matt Murray is skating, but there is no timetable for his return to practice. Murray suffered a lower-body injury during warmups before Game 1 of Pittsburgh’s first-round series against Columbus. … Washington D Karl Alzner played 21:34 after returning from a six-game absence because of a groin injury.
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