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The Climb

Ovechkin starting to climb against Penguins

Capitals captain heating up heading into Game 4 against Pittsburgh

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor

The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins have taken the first step in the climb toward the Stanley Cup by advancing to the Eastern Conference Second Round. The Penguins can move to within one victory of the next step by defeating the Capitals in Game 4 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Capitals won 4-3 in overtime in the opening game of the best-of-7 series, but the Penguins won 2-1 in Game 2, then held on for a 3-2 victory in Game 3, giving them a 2-1 series lead.

Here are four players trying to help their team continue the climb toward the Cup:

Alex Ovechkin, LW, Capitals -- Washington's captain got his first goal of the series in the third period of Game 3 and had an assist on the last-minute goal that made it 3-2. Ovechkin had seven shots on goal (in 18 attempts) in Game 3, matching his combined total for Games 1 and 2. He also had nine hits, giving him 21 in the series, and has brought a physical presence as well as being a threat to score any time he's on the ice.

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm3: Ovi snipes one from above the circle

John Carlson, D, Capitals -- Injuries limited Carlson to 56 games during the regular season, but he's been a cornerstone of the Capitals' success during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Carlson had an assist in each of the first three games against the Penguins while averaging more than 28 minutes of ice time. The 26-year-old's nine points (three goals) in the postseason leads Washington, and he is tops on the Capitals in average ice time at 26:03 per game.

Video: WSH@PHI, Gm3: Carlson blasts slap shot home for PPG

Matt Murray, G, Penguins -- The rookie goaltender has played like a veteran since taking over in Game 3 of the first round against the New York Rangers. He's won five of his six starts, allowing 11 goals during that span. Murray's 47-save performance in Game 3 against Washington made him the second rookie goaltender to have 47 or more saves in a playoff game since 1967-68, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, as well as the first Pittsburgh goaltender to make 47 or more saves in a postseason victory.

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm3: Murray dazzles in win with 47 saves

Nick Bonino, C, Penguins -- The line of Bonino with Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel has given Pittsburgh the type of secondary scoring championship teams need. Bonino has nine points through eight playoff games, tying him with Evgeni Malkin for the Penguins lead. He has a goal and four points in the three games against Washington, including a spectacular assist on Hagelin's winning goal in Game 3, and he's tops among Pittsburgh's forwards with a plus-5 rating through eight games.

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm1: Bonino finishes Hagelin's feed for tie

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