PITTSBURGH — The Penguins spent the better part of 30 minutes skating in slush. They surrendered a three-on-none break. Twice, they fell behind by two goals. They played the third period with just four defensemen after injuries to a pair of regulars.
And still, they found a way.
Having Sidney Crosby involved tends to help.
“Wins like this, I think they build, they help build the chemistry that is necessary to have success in this league as a team,” Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan said. “This might be one we look back on and say, ‘What a wild game that was, we didn’t play well but we found a way.’”
Crosby collected his third goal of the season when he skated in front of the Washington net and flipped the puck over the outstretched stick of rookie goaltender Vitek Vanecek. After appearing in early trouble after dropping a pair on the road to the Flyers to start the season, the Penguins responded by surging past Washington twice.
“When you look at the games in Philadelphia, the score probably wasn’t indicative of how we played, we made some mistakes,” said Crosby, who finished with a goal and two assists. “But to come back here and get two big wins was really important.”
Colton Sceviour, Evgeni Malkin, Teddy Blueger and Jake Guentzel also scored for Pittsburgh. Casey DeSmith finished with 22 saves - including one to stuff a 3-on-none breakaway early in the second period that kept the deficit at two - and added his first career assist when he set up Blueger for a rare shorthanded 3-on-5 goal in the second period.
“That wasn’t an easy game for a goaltender but I thought he battled really hard in the second half of the game,” Sullivan said. “He made some big saves for us.”
Tom Wilson scored twice for the Capitals. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller both picked up their first goals of the season but Washington let leads of 3-1 and 4-2 slip away. Vanecek, who sparkled in his NHL debut last week, stopped 25 shots but was helpless as Crosby slipped across the crease to net the winner.
“After things started to happen in the second, where it felt like we were shooting ourselves in the foot, we couldn’t get motion,” Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette said. “We couldn’t get going. They came back. Then in the third, I was looking for a better response than what we got.”
Pittsburgh forward Kasperi Kapanen assisted on Sceviour’s goal and played 10:02 in his long-awaited debut with the Penguins. Originally drafted by Pittsburgh in 2014 before being traded to Toronto, Kapanen returned to the Penguins in the offseason.
Yet his second stint with the organization - and first at the NHL level - got off to a bumpy start when visa issues back in his native Finland prevented him from arriving in time for training camp. Sullivan placed Kapanen on the fourth line in hopes of helping him ease into things, though that might not last long following a solid performance that showcased why the team is so high on the 24-year-old.
“It was a long time ago I was here,” Kapanen said. “Then kind of coming back here and missing training camp, finally getting with the guys and getting a game in was special.”
Blueger collected Pittsburgh‘s first 3-on-5 goal in nearly nine years when he collected a perfect clearing pass from DeSmith then slipped the puck between Vanecek’s legs to get the Penguins within 3-2 in the second period.
“I was just trying to get it down the ice and Teddy was in the right place at the right time,” DeSmith said. “It was lucky but I’ll take it.”
The Penguins played the third period without defensemen Marcus Pettersson and Juuso Riikola. Pettersson left late in the second after taking a blindside hit from Washington‘s T.J. Oshie at center ice. Officials assessed Oshie with a 5-minute major, then after a video review reduced the penalty to 2 minutes for interference.
Capitals: Begin a six-game homestand on Friday night against Buffalo. Washington swept a pair of games from the Sabres to start the season.
Penguins: Host the New York Islanders for a two-game set beginning on Friday.
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