WASHINGTON -- Matt Murray made 29 saves in his first start since Jan. 19 to help the Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the Washington Capitals 4-3 at Capital One Arena on Sunday.
"[Murray] was unbelievable," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "He was great in every area, looking through traffic to pick up pucks, some quick plays in and around the net. They've got some shooters, so he made some big saves for us."
Washington forward Alex Ovechkin's goal streak ended at five games. He scored 11 times in that span, including back-to-back hat tricks Jan. 16-18.
[WATCH: All Penguins vs. Capitals highlights]
The Penguins (33-14-5) have won four of five and trail the Capitals by four points for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
"That's not part of the conversation right now," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said of the standings. "We have so much hockey in front of us. We're just trying to get better every day. We're trying to win that one game that's right in front of us, and then we'll see where that takes us."
Video: PIT@WSH: Lafferty rifles a wrister home to tie game
Lars Eller scored twice for the Capitals (35-13-5), who have lost two of three. Rookie Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves, but his winning streak ended at 11.
"A couple breaks here and there don't go our way, and it just seemed a bit of a frustrating game," Washington forward Tom Wilson said. "We did our best to try and turn the tide, it was just a little bit late. I think guys were kind of hoping there was another period there, but I guess we will have a couple more [games against them]."
Evgeny Kuznetsov cut the Penguins lead to 3-2 at 6:00 of the third period when he skated across the slot and scored on a backhand.
Video: PIT@WSH: Kuznetsov banks puck in to trim deficit
After Brandon Tanev gave Pittsburgh a 4-2 lead at 17:27, Eller scored 15 seconds later on the rush to pull Washington within 4-3 at 17:42.
"They're where they are in the standings for a reason," Murray said. "They're a super good team, really dynamic. They come so hard on the forecheck. That's kind of what we saw in the third period. We were able to bend and not break. That's the biggest thing."
Crosby and Ovechkin went head-to-head in the regular season for the 50th time in the NHL.
Crosby had an assist and has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in seven games since returning from core muscle surgery. Ovechkin was held without a point and remains five goals from 700 in his NHL career.
The Capitals took a 1-0 lead at 10:38 of the first period when Richard Panik sent a cross-ice pass to Eller, who put a wrist shot over Murray's glove from the right face-off circle.
Video: PIT@WSH: Eller buries Panik's pass to open scoring
"I think it's so important to have that third line contributing like that, and obviously to get two goals is important," Reirden said. "Those are the games you should be able to win then. That's the disappointing part from that because you get contributions from [Eller] in that area and to end up on the losing end."
Sam Lafferty, recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on Saturday, tied the game 1-1 when he scored with a wrist shot from the left circle at 11:46.
Patric Hornqvist scored to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead at 12:40 when he redirected John Marino's shot in off Samsonov's stick.
Video: PIT@WSH: Hornqvist deflects Marino's shot home
"He played well," Wilson said of Samsonov. "He made some big saves when we needed them. It's a learning experience for him. There's going to be some funny bounces. There's going be some bad breaks. That's the way hockey works."
Murray made the save against Jakub Vrana on a breakaway at 6:41 of the second period, and the Penguins extended their lead to 3-1 at 11:59 when Dominik Simon backhanded a rebound of Crosby's shot between Samsonov's pads.
They said it
"Coming off a break, you want to be playing well. … It's been good. We've come away with two wins, and there's still a lot of hockey to be played. Coming off a big layoff like that, you want to be playing good hockey, and we've done a good job of that." -- Penguins captain Sidney Crosby on their play following the League-mandated five-day schedule break after the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game
"The third (period) was definitely closer to our identity, and sometimes until you get everybody as your group involved into a rivalry, you don't understand what it really means. It took us two periods to get to that, and then when we were in the third, we gave ourselves a chance. Unfortunately, come out a goal short." -- Capitals coach Todd Reirden
Need to know
Crosby and the Penguins are 31-17-2 against Ovechkin and the Capitals since each entered the NHL in 2005-06. ... Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin had an assist on Hornqvist's goal and has 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in the past 10 games. ... Vrana had an assist on Kuznetsov's goal and has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in the past 12 games.
Penguins: At the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; SNE, SNO, TVAS, SUN, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV)
Capitals: Host the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSWA, FS-W, NHL.TV)
Video: Hornqvist, Penguins push past Capitals, 4-3