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game recap

Penguins defeat Capitals for sixth straight win

Rookie Kuhnhackl has goal, two assists; Pittsburgh scores four straight to pull away

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

Kunitz's one-timer finds a way in

WSH@PIT: Crosby feeds Kunitz for a one-timer

3/20/16: Chris Kunitz blasts a pass from Sidney Crosby that trickles through Braden Holtby and in, extending the Penguins' lead to three

  • 00:50 •

PITTSBURGH -- Six Pittsburgh Penguins scored in a heated 6-2 win against the Washington Capitals at Consol Energy Center on Sunday.

The Penguins (40-24-8) prevented the Capitals (51-15-5) from clinching the Metropolitan Division title and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Pittsburgh, which has won six games in a row and is tied with the New York Rangers for second place in the Metropolitan, scored four straight goals after Washington rallied to tie it 2-2 in the second period.

"You can define toughness a lot of different ways," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I strongly believe we have a tough team."

With Pittsburgh leading 2-1, Penguins forward Bryan Rust and Capitals defenseman Mike Weber each was penalized for roughing at 13:04 of the second. Pittsburgh went on the power play with Washington forward Andre Burakovsky serving an additional roughing penalty against Weber.

Video: WSH@PIT: Kuhnhackl feeds Rust for game's opening goal

Sidney Crosby seemed to give the Penguins a two-goal lead on the ensuing man-advantage, but play was whistled down just before Crosby's shot crossed the goal line.

Crosby whacked his stick on the end boards, an action that caused some tension on the ice.

That tension rose shortly after play resumed, with Crosby engaging Washington forward T.J. Oshie before losing his helmet and falling to the ice while continuing to give and receive punches. Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner and Oshie each was called for roughing, and Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist was called for roughing and slashing with 5:38 remaining in the second.

Jay Beagle sent Burakovsky on a breakaway as he stepped out of the penalty box after serving the second Weber roughing minor, and Burakovsky tied it 2-2 by shooting past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's glove with 4:48 left in the period.

The tie was short-lived.

Video: WSH@PIT: Fleury pokes puck off Chimera's head and in

Rookie forward Tom Kuhnhackl put the Penguins back ahead by a goal when he one-timed a feed from Matt Cullen past goalie Braden Holtby from the center of the right faceoff circle 42 seconds later.

Cullen, forward Chris Kunitz and defenseman Justin Schultz each scored in the third period to increase the Pittsburgh lead to 6-2 with 6:55 remaining in the third period. Goalie Phillip Grubauer replaced Holtby after Kunitz's goal; Holtby made 21 saves on 26 shots.

Weber was called for boarding against Rust and given a 10-minute misconduct penalty at 10:39 of the third. Kuhnhackl, who had the first three-point game of his NHL career, was called for roughing against Weber and given a 10-minute misconduct.

Capitals forward Daniel Winnik was called for elbowing Penguins forward Carl Hagelin and given a 10-minute misconduct with 35 seconds remaining.

Washington coach Barry Trotz said he didn't think the game "was that nasty at all," but he was highly critical of the Capitals' performance.

Video: WSH@PIT: Daley flips a backhand under the crossbar

"We're not going to file it. I'm not going to file it," Trotz said. "I'm not going to let guys off the hook. There's no excuse for the sloppy play, the lack of execution when the heat was on. We had some guys that I felt were not strong tonight, and you can't do that against a team that's trending well, because they're in playoff mode right now. They've beaten a lot of teams. They're probably the hottest team right now. … They're in playoff-mode, and we weren't. You can see the difference between playoff mode and not in playoff mode."

The Penguins are 7-1-0 to begin a stretch of nine straight games against Metropolitan Division opponents that ends Thursday against the New Jersey Devils. They won two over the weekend, including 4-1 at the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.

"Back-to-back games haven't been good to us and we knew this was a big one," Crosby said. "I thought we just maintained that same desperation [from Saturday] for the most part. The start was a little slow, the first five minutes, but after that, I thought we really settled in and built off of that game yesterday and had a lot of jump, a lot of desperation."  

Rust opened the scoring 8:33 into the first period after he received a spinning backhand pass from Kuhnhackl. Rust went backhand to forehand and curled the puck around Holtby's left skate.

Trevor Daley scored his second goal in as many days 1:26 later when Crosby slid a pass by Washington defenseman Brooks Orpik that Daley kicked to his backhand before shooting past Holtby's left shoulder.

Video: WSH@PIT: Cullen feeds Kuhnhackl for a one-timer

Crosby has six goals and 14 assists on a 12-game point streak. His 57 points (25 goals, 32 assists) since Dec. 12 lead the NHL.

Capitals forward Jason Chimera made it 2-1 when Fleury poke-checked the puck off of his helmet and into the Pittsburgh net 1:18 into the second period.

Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin left the game 7:27 into the third period after being hit into the boards by Alex Ovechkin. Sullivan had no update on Dumoulin following the game.

The Capitals were outshot 31-18, and Holtby thinks they can use the game as an example of what to avoid moving forward.

"You can't get too low on a game like this, but at the same time, I think when we tied it up, we weren't playing very well," Holtby said. "We got lucky in tying it up. Maybe we got a little complacent, thinking that if we keep doing this, it'll go our way without pushing and doing the right things. It bit us, and they're a hungry team over there. We have to be more prepared and more realistic in what we're doing."

Video: Kuhnhackl shines as Penguins rout Capitals

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