WASHINGTON -- Nick Bonino began this season's Eastern Conference Second Round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals on Thursday the same way he ended the one between them last season.
The difference this time was Bonino didn't wait until overtime to score the winning goal.
Bonino scored on a partial breakaway with 7:24 remaining in the third period to give the Penguins a 3-2 victory in Game 1 at Verizon Center.
[RELATED: Complete Capitals vs. Penguins series coverage | MATCHUP: Crosby vs. Ovechkin]
Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is here on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).
Bonino scored the series-ending goal in overtime of Game 6 of the second round last season against the Capitals. He humbly downplayed his knack for scoring big goals against Washington, but his teammates appreciate his ability to be clutch.
"I think he just trusts his instincts," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "He's in some good places whether it's in and around the net or on the breakout supporting the puck. He's just a really smart, intelligent hockey player. With that, he generates chances and he's done a great job putting them in the back of the net."
Video: PIT@WSH, Gm1: Bonino pots go-ahead goal off rush
Crosby gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead by scoring twice in the first 1:04 of the second period. But the Capitals came back to tie it with Alex Ovechkin scoring with 1:43 remaining in the second and Evgeny Kuznetsov's goal 8:05 into the third.
The Capitals had the Penguins on their heels after that and were pressuring for the go-ahead goal until Bonino scored on Pittsburgh's third shot on goal of the third period. Defenseman Ian Cole started the Penguins breakout with a long stretch pass up the left wing to Scott Wilson at the Capitals blue line.
Wilson then passed to the middle for Bonino, who streaked in behind defenseman Brooks Orpik and shot past goaltender Braden Holtby's blocker.
"I was fortunate to get a great pass from, first, [Cole] up to Wilson and [Wilson] made a great touch," Bonino said. "We just caught them kind of flat-footed, and I was fortunate it went in."
As they did in last season's series, the Penguins used their speed to burn the Capitals in the transition game. That was a factor on all three of their goals.
Crosby's first goal came on a 2-on-1 with Jake Guentzel 12 seconds into the second period after Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen stepped up in the neutral zone and Penguins right wing Patric Hornqvist poked the puck past him.
Crosby started the play that led to his second goal with a long pass up to Guentzel on the left wing. Guentzel fed defenseman Olli Maatta for a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that Holtby stopped, but Hornqvist got to the rebound in front and nudged it to Crosby in the right circle for the goal.
"I think it's just making sure we make good plays," Crosby said. "If those opportunities present themselves, then great, but I don't think we need to chase them necessarily. If they're there, we make the plays and execute, but we don't have to cheat. I thought we did a good job of that. We made some good plays, some quick plays and got our chances."
Bonino's goal was another example of that.
"I think our speed's our biggest strength," Bonino said. "They're a fast team, but I think when we do get pucks behind their D and make them turn and go for it when a lot of our speed guys are coming at them full speed, it's tough. We were able to catch them there. I don't think it's something that we can regularly do, but we'll take it when we can get it."
Video: Crosby's pair leads Pens past Caps in Game 1, 3-2