(The Sports Xchange) - Nick Bonino scored 6:32 into overtime as the Pittsburgh Penguins overcame Washington’s frantic three-goal comeback to win 4-3 and eliminate the Capitals from the Eastern Conference semi-finals on Tuesday.
Bonino pounced on a Carl Hagelin rebound to put the puck past Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby after the Penguins’ own string of terrible penalties had helped Washington overcome a 3-0 deficit to tie the game.
The Penguins, the NHL’s hottest team with 22 wins in 27 games, now move on to the Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning later this week.
Tampa Bay rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Penguins in a first-round series in 2011.
The Capitals were trying to stage their own comeback from a 3-1 series deficit, only to be denied by Bonino’s goal and rookie Matt Murray’s outstanding goaltending. Murray made 36 saves and is now 4-0 after a loss in these playoffs.
Phil Kessel had two goals and an assist for the Penguins, who have won their last 57 games when leading after two periods.
Washington still have not reached the Eastern Conference finals since 1998.
The Penguins led 3-0 after Kessel scored early in the first and Kessel and Hagelin scored 33 seconds apart on the same Brooks Orpik-caused power play in the second period.
A bad penalty by Penguins forward Chris Kunitz led to T.J. Oshie’s power-play goal with 1:30 left in the second, which started Washington’s comeback.
Justin Williams scored his second in as many games at 7:23 of the third, skating out from behind the net to beat Murray with a wrist shot.
A remarkable series of Penguins penalties — delay-of-game calls on Kunitz, Nick Bonino and Ian Cole in a span of 2:02 for shooting the puck over the glass — gave the Capitals the opportunity they needed to tie it.
Pittsburgh killed off a 5-on-3 Washington power play lasting 54 seconds, only to have Cole’s penalty create another one.
Defenseman John Carlson — who played nearly half the game after defenseman Karl Alzner left with an apparent foot injury — and Ovechkin flipped sides of the ice, briefly confusing the Penguins and leaving Carlson open in the left circle for a wide-open one-timer that tied it at 13:01.
Ovechkin picked up his second assist of the game.
The Capitals went on another power play, resulting from defenseman Kris Letang’s interference penalty with 2:46 left in regulation, but could not score and the teams went to overtime for the third time in six games.
The Penguins lost playoff series while holding 3-1 leads against the Lightning in 2011 and the New York Rangers in 2014, and they came out like a team desperate to avoid returning to Washington for Game 7.
Playing before a crowd that was loud and energized from the start — reminiscent of their days in Mellon Arena — the Penguins got on the board only 5:41 into the first.
Kessel skated down the left side and put a hard wrist shot past Alzner and goaltender Holtby for his first goal of the series.
Kessel’s second goal came 40 seconds after Orpik — back after serving a three-game suspension for a late, head-high hit on defenseman Olli Maatta in Game 2 — drew a double minor for high-sticking Patric Hornqvist in the face during the second period.
Kessel carried the puck from the edge of the left circle into the slot and, deciding not to pass to Sidney Crosby at the right post, deked Holtby with a move and slid the puck into a wide-open net at 7:05 for his fifth of the playoffs.
Alzner, normally part of the Capitals’ penalty-killing unit, was off the ice after being slashed in the right foot by Crosby midway through the first period. Alzner returned to play two shifts early in the second, but his skating clearly was compromised and he did not play again.
With the Penguins still on the power play because of Orpik’s four-minute penalty, Hagelin made it 3-0 by redirecting Maatta’s shot from the right point at 7:38. Pittsburgh was 1-for-16 on the power play in the series before scoring twice with the man advantage in a span of 33 seconds.
The Capitals finally went on the power play later in the period, and Oshie made it 3-1 by cutting across the slot and beating Murray with an off-balance shot from the right circle at 18:30 — his fifth of the series and sixth in the postseason.
Editing by Peter Rutherford