Published: Thu, May 18, 2017
Sports | By Nelson Rowe

Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with Game 4 win

Pittsburgh became the first home team to win a game in this series and leads 3-1 against its Metropolitan Division rival.

The Capitals were in their own way for the entire contest.

Matt Niskanen's shot to Crosby's jaw early in Game 3 left Crosby with a concussion and his immediate future uncertain.

The Capitals received goals from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nate Schmidt in the second period after falling behind 2-0 but couldn't consistently beat the brilliant Marc-Andre Fleury.

Pittsburgh will have a chance to eliminate the Capitals in Game 5 on Saturday in Washington.

But that's the problem - there are only seven games in this series. It played out similar to Pittsburgh's victories in Washington to open the series.

That is not good news for Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who suffered what is believed to be the fourth concussion of his National Hockey League career on Monday night.

Remind me which team lost its best offensive player?

Justin Schultz scored in a second straight game and Patric Hornqvist picked up his third of the postseason as Pittsburgh took a 3-1 lead in the series. Washington again went with seven defensemen in the lineup for a second straight game. The Capitals' offense was lethargic to that point, and then it was very much awake.

Both goals were made possible by Penguins turnovers, an especially large problem for them during about a six-minute stretch in the second period. The Penguins put just nine shots on goal in the final two periods, while the Capitals fired 26 pucks Fleury's way in that time.

The Capitals, nearly certainly, were the better team on Wednesday. Without him, the Penguins gritted their way to three goals on 18 shots Wednesday.

Schultz said Wednesday morning that the Penguins needed to be sharper in their power-play entries.

"I mean obviously he's the best player in the world and helps our power play a lot", Schultz said. "So if we can get out there and try to win for Sid, that's how we did it tonight". "I thought the guys showed character together as a team playing well offensively and defensively and getting that win".

That power play goal, that opportunism, proved to be the difference. "Marc did that all night long, not just on our penalty kill but five-on-five, as well". Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan shuffled his lines with Crosby out, elevating Malkin to the top line with Kunitz and Phil Kessel and pairing Guentzel with Nick Bonino and Bryan Rust.

The Penguins' advantage doubled 3:51 into the second when Guentzel's cross to Matt Cullen instead ended up in the Washington net. The Pittsburgh goaltender saved all but two of Washington's 38 shots, while Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby couldn't match his effort. Six of those penalties came in the offensive zone.

It's a good bet the Capitals won't be pleased with the officiating at the end of the game, after T.J. One of the things in playoff hockey is you have to earn the right to play.

Outside of that, the Penguins generated few high-grade chances. But here wasn't much more than that. Pittsburgh fans booed Capitals D Matt Niskanen every time he touched the puck.

"You know what, I don't think [it] would necessarily be smart on their part", Tom Wilson said earlier of whether the Penguins would retaliate in Game 4. Fleury was a big player. The Caps need more from him, but they also need more from center Nicklas Backstrom, whom some were touting as an MVP candidate this season.

Capitals Coach Barry Trotz chose to use a seventh defensemen in favor of a 12th forward in Game 3 on Monday, subbing Karl Alzner into the lineup for Paul Carey. They didn't and they have no one to blame, but themselves.

PITTSBURGH | There was the own-goal by Dmitry Orlov.

Washington accumulated 10 of the first 11 shots on goal during the middle period.

If this is an approach Trotz plans to use for the rest of the series, he runs the risk of the Penguins' speedy forwards matching up with not-so-speedy defensive pairs.

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