WASHINGTON (AP) – Sidney Crosby scored in overtime and the streaking Pittsburgh Penguins rebounded after blowing a three-goal lead to beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 on Thursday night to clinch home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Penguins have won eight games in a row and 14 of their past 15 to vault into second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals have lost three consecutive games for the first time all season and have dropped four of their past five.
Matt Cullen scored twice and Matt Murray stopped 27 shots for the Penguins, who have thrived since losing star center Evgeni Malkin to an upper-body injury. Conor Sheary also scored for Pittsburgh.
Marcus Johansson had two goals and Andre Burakovsky one for Washington. Braden Holtby made 31 saves but fell short in his second attempt to tie Martin Brodeur’s single-season record of 48 wins.
Cullen’s goal 44 seconds in was the fastest scored against the Capitals this season, a product of a faceoff miscommunication and a shot that beat Holtby clean. After an evenly played first period, Cullen struck again 28 seconds into the second.
With Washington on the power play, Cullen sparked a 2-on-1 rush with former Capitals forward Eric Fehr and scored when he banked the puck off former Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen’s skate to make it 2-0. The Capitals killed off a five-minute major penalty to Tom Wilson for boarding Nick Bonino but failed to create any momentum.
A few shifts after Wilson came out of the box, the Penguins’ fourth line of Tom Sestito, Oskar Sundqvist and Sheary combined to take the energy out of Verizon Center. Johansson restored it a little with his goal 17:19 into the second, his first in 18 games dating to Feb. 28.