PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins, playing with a lineup depleted by injury and suspension, have pushed the Washington Capitals to the brink of elimination with a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 4 of their second-round series thanks to a Patric Hornqvist goal 17 minutes, 26 seconds into overtime. The Penguins lead the series 3-1 with Game 5 set for Saturday in Washington.
How it happened: The Penguins were without arguably their best player in Game 4 as Kris Letang was sitting out a one-game suspension for a hit on Marcus Johansson in Game 3. The Pens were also missing defenseman Olli Maatta and forward Eric Fehr, who were injured. Yet the Capitals, who were so dominant in their Game 3 loss, could not take advantage and establish the territorial control that marked Game 3 when they fired 85 shot attempts at the Penguins' net. They did open the scoring on a Jay Beagle backhand but then had to fight back to tie the game at 2-2 late in the second period after the Pens took the lead on a Matt Cullen goal early in the second period. The winning goal came after a terrific job of forechecking by Sidney Crosby and his linemates.
What it means: The Capitals, the NHL’s best regular-season team, have now lost three straight and face the prospect of having their season come to yet an early closure on Saturday night in Washington. This was a game the Capitals absolutely had to win given their deficit in the series but also given that Letang, who logs an average of 29:14 a night in ice time in the playoffs, was out of the lineup. There were a few defensive miscues -- one on Derrick Pouliot that led to the tying goal by John Carlson -- but Trevor Daley stepped into the breach with his best game as a Penguin and once again Matt Murray made key stops when he had to. As for the Caps, their best players continue to struggle in this series as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov were all held off the scoresheet. They will need to make themselves known Saturday or it will be yet another long, uncomfortable summer for the Caps.
87 vs. 8: Crosby, without a point in the first three games of the series, got into the black drawing an assist on Daley’s deflected goal midway through the first period that tied the game at 1-1 and, of course, helped set up the winning goal in overtime even though he was not credited with an assist. He also left the game after taking a slash to the left hand courtesy of Ovechkin with just more than 13 minutes left in the third period. He could be seen smashing his stick as he went down the hallway to the dressing room but did return a few minutes later. Ovechkin didn't register a point, was minus-1 and had seven shots on net.