PITTSBURGH -- Bryan Rust had two goals and an assist to help the Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the Washington Capitals 6-3 at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday.
Jake Guentzel had a goal and two assists, Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist and Tristan Jarry made 28 saves for the Penguins (7-5-1), who could sweep the Capitals for a second time this season when they play here again Tuesday. They won the first two meetings, 4-3 in a shootout Jan. 17 and 5-4 in overtime Jan. 19.
"I thought it was a solid effort," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. "I thought we competed hard. It certainly wasn't perfect by any stretch."
Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana scored in their return from NHL COVID-19 protocol, and Vitek Vanecek made 32 saves for Washington (6-4-3), which had three games postponed since last playing Feb. 7. The Capitals have lost four straight.
"There's always a level of concern when you drop four in a row," Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. "We're here to win hockey games, so we've got to get it back on track. There's always a level of concern. You drop one, there's a level of concern. They're here to win hockey games."
Each of Pittsburgh's previous six wins was decided by one goal, with five of the six ending in overtime or a shootout.
"It was definitely nice to have a little bit of a cushion," Rust said. "Obviously, you don't want to let them claw back into the game. But it was good to see our effort get rewarded."
Video: WSH@PIT: Rust fires in his second goal on power play
Kuznetsov, who played for the first time since Jan. 19, put the Capitals ahead 1-0 after his shot deflected off Penguins defenseman John Marino on a power play at 5:18 of the first period.
The Penguins answered with two goals in 32 seconds.
Rust tied it 1-1 at 10:29. After taking a backhand pass from Crosby, Mike Matheson moved it to Rust to tip it inside the right post.
Brandon Tanev gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead by scoring on a rebound off a shot from Cody Ceci at 11:01 before Vrana tied it 2-2 on a backhand at 3:26 of the second period.
"It's really frustrating. It's a short season and every point matters here," Vrana said. "It feels like we can't let these games slip away here. Good thing we have a practice tomorrow, get to work on some things and clear out some things. Make sure we're going to be more prepared and ready for the next game here."
Rust put the Penguins ahead 3-2 with a wrist shot at 6:44, ending a stretch of 21 straight unsuccessful power plays.
Guentzel made it 4-2, Pittsburgh's first two-goal lead of the season, when he had a shot blocked before following with a wrist shot from the slot at 10:44.
Nicklas Backstrom scored his 250th NHL goal by stealing the puck from Evgeni Malkin for a backhand, cutting it to 4-3 at 17:49.
"I think overall we're trying to play hard and trying to do the right things, but it seems like we're doing the same mistakes over and over again," Backstrom said. "These easy goals against us. It's just an area we have to get better on. Defensive zone, that's where the game is decided."
Video: WSH@PIT: Backstrom nets backhander past Jarry
Zach Aston-Reese scored an empty-net goal to make it 5-3 with 1:03 remaining in the third period, and Crosby scored into an empty net for the 6-3 final with 49 seconds left.
Pittsburgh's line of Crosby centering Guentzel and Rust accounted for eight points (four goals, four assists).
"I just think we're playing complementary hockey," Guentzel said. "It's pretty fun to play with these two guys. We've been having success so far these past couple games, and we just have to keep it going."
NOTES: The Penguins are the fourth team in NHL history to trail in each of their first seven wins of a season. They joined the 2013-14 Buffalo Sabres (first 10 wins), the 1988-89 Detroit Red Wings and 1980-81 Vancouver Canucks, who each had seven. … The Capitals played with a full lineup for the first time since Jan. 19. In addition to Kuznetsov and Vrana returning, forward T.J. Oshie (upper body) and defenseman Justin Schultz (upper body) came back from injury. Oshie had a team-high five shots in 19:27 and Schultz had an assist in 16:48. … Rust's assist was his 100th in the NHL. … Matheson, acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers on Sept. 24, had an assist, his first point in five games with the Penguins. … Backstrom has 945 points (250 goals, 695 assists) in 969 games in 14 seasons with the Capitals.
Video: Rust, Guentzel lift Penguins over Capitals