PITTSBURGH — The goals kept coming. One after another. A dizzying three periods of shots followed by baffled goaltenders fishing pucks out of the net wondering how things got out of hand so quickly.
When Pittsburgh’s Conor Sheary ended it 34 seconds into overtime to give the Penguins a chaotic 8-7 victory over the Washington Capitals, Sheary’s teammates darted for the tunnel while Washington stood on the bench a little dumbstruck after their nine-game winning streak came to an abrupt — if highly entertaining — halt.
“I actually heard the crowd started yelling because I was just digging at it and I was kind of face down on the ice,” Sheary said after getting his 13th goal of the season . “Luckily it went in.”
At times, it seemed like most of them did.
Sheary had two goals and an assist for the Penguins, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Evgeni Malkin picked up his 11th career hat trick during a frenetic second period, and Sidney Crosby collected his NHL-leading 27th goal to go with three assists. Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray earned his seventh straight win at home win despite allowing seven goals on 28 shots.
The Penguins trailed 3-0 before scoring six goals in less than 11 minutes in the second period, more goals than the Capitals had allowed in a game all season. Pittsburgh led 6-5 after two periods, and its eight goals overall were the most Washington has given up since the Penguins rolled 8-1 on Jan. 25, 2006.
“That second period is one of the craziest periods I’ve ever been associated with,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I don’t even know how to assess it.”
Lars Eller scored twice for Washington, and T.J. Oshie, Brett Connolly, Nicklas Backstrom, Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky also found the net. Philipp Grubauer made eight saves after coming on in relief of Braden Holtby, who was pulled during Pittsburgh’s second-period explosion.
The Capitals came in with the NHL’s best defense, leading the league in goals against while rocketing to the top of the hyper-competitive Metropolitan Division. And for about 25 minutes, it seemed Washington was well on its way to a 10th straight win — which would be the second-longest streak in franchise history — as it raced to a three-goal lead.
Pittsburgh’s rally didn’t start with a goal but an elbow. Forward Patric Hornqvist hit Oshie in the corner, leading to a wrestling match with Daniel Winnik that sent both off for roughing.
Malkin’s 19th of the season, a one-timer from the right circle, put the Penguins on the board 6:28 into the second. And just like that, the floodgates opened.
“I was slow to react to the pass,” Holtby said. “After that, I mean, it was just weird.”
Really weird. The teams combined for eight goals over the next 11 minutes, like a video game set to “rookie.”
Some were pretty, like Sheary’s backhand deflection by Holtby that came after a perfect cross-ice feed from Crosby that split the legs of Washington’s Karl Alzner. Some were odd, like Rust’s innocent flip from behind the net that ricocheted off Alex Ovechkin’s skate and by a surprised Holtby.
Malkin ended the flurry by jamming the puck by a sprawled Grubauer. The fans, perhaps a bit stunned, waited a beat before tossing their hats onto the ice after the Russian star’s third goal. Referees spent several moments reviewing it to see if Hornqvist — sliding on his stomach — interfered with Grubauer. When the score stood, another handful of hats flew from the stands to celebrate Pittsburgh’s first six-goal period since March 21, 2000 against the New York Islanders.
And neither team was done. Crosby gave the Penguins a 7-5 lead 5:55 into the third, but Oshie and Eller beat Murray to tie it and assure each team of at least a point.
“So, we had a lot of things going for us lately, but when things went bad in the second, it went really bad,” Eller said.
NOTES: Justin Schultz finished with four assists for Pittsburgh. Trevor Daley added three. … Ovechkin had two assists for Washington. … Pittsburgh placed D Kris Letang on injured reserve on Monday with a lower-body injury. … Washington scratched D John Carlson, who was held out for precautionary reasons due to a lower-body injury. … Washington went 1 for 4 on the power-play and added a short-handed goal. The Penguins were 1 for 1 with the man advantage.
Capitals: Continue a three-game road trip at St. Louis on Thursday night. Washington beat the Blues 4-3 in the nation’s capital on Nov. 23.
Penguins: Visit Montreal on Wednesday night. The teams split their first two meetings this season, each winning on home ice.
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