WASHINGTON — Sidney Crosby outdueled Alex Ovechkin in a vintage goal-for-goal showdown between the NHL’s top teams, and Nick Bonino and Marc-Andre Fleury put the finishing touches on a playoff classic.
Crosby scored two goals in 52 seconds, Bonino had the winner in the third period and Fleury made dazzling saves with and without his stick, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 Thursday night in Game 1 of their highly anticipated second-round series.
Almost eight years after their “dueling hat tricks” game, Ovechkin answered Crosby with his fourth goal of the playoffs, but his team couldn’t compensate for the Penguins captain’s greatness.
“They’re special athletes, both those guys, and they look for those big moments and they capitalize on those big moments,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “They’re special players.”
Crosby scored twice in the first 64 seconds of the second period to give him as many goals as he had points in the Penguins’ series against the Capitals a year ago.
“That’s how it goes sometimes,” Crosby said. “You don’t get some for a while and then they come in bunches.”
With linemates Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist playing a game of “Get Crosby the puck and watch him do his thing,” the 2016 playoff MVP capitalized on a couple of Washington mistakes and looked as if he had a third goal in him a few more times.
“He was a threat all night,” Penguins center Matt Cullen said. “He was dangerous. He was attacking.”
In a postseason full of blown multi-goal leads, the Capitals rallied on goals by Ovechkin late in the second and Evgeny Kuznetsov early in the third. Then another Capitals mistake allowed Scott Wilson to find Bonino in some open ice, and the third-line center beat Braden Holtby with 7:24 left for the Game 1 winner.
“Bones is a guy that’s a high-stakes player,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “He brings his best game when the games are most important, and we’ve got a lot of guys on our roster that we can say that about.”
Fleury qualifies, especially after he flailed around and almost actually stood on his head to preserve the victory. He made 15 of his 32 saves in the third period, including a flurry of four with 3 minutes left long after he had lost his stick.
“I couldn’t see the puck for a little while there, I had no stick, so I was trying to make some stops,” Fleury said. “It was fun. … Try to rise up to the challenge and try to keep the team in the game. Saving that lead, when you can do it, it’s a good feeling.”
The Capitals weren’t feeling so good about a game in which they didn’t have a single power play. Pittsburgh went 0 for 2 with the man advantage, but Trotz thought there were opportunities for his team to get at least one chance.
“No penalties against their side,” Ovechkin said. “You just have to fight through it.”
The Capitals outshot the Penguins 35-21 — Holtby made 18 saves and Fleury was the difference. With Game 2 in Washington on Saturday night, Bonino knows it will be difficult to take a 2-0 series lead with the same showing.
“I think we can play better,” Bonino said. “There’s no perfect games. I think we weathered their storm there. I think we’re happy to get the win, but they played a great game and we know they’re going to get better too, so we’ve got to match that.”
NOTES: LW Chris Kunitz returned to the Penguins’ lineup after missing the first round and final five games of the regular season with a lower-body injury. Kunitz appeared in his 107th playoff game, tying Hall of Famer/co-owner Mario Lemieux for fifth on the Penguins’ career list. … Pittsburgh LW Carl Hagelin remained out with a lower-body injury that has sidelined him since mid-March. … Capitals D Karl Alzner missed his fifth consecutive game with an upper-body injury. … Washington did not have a power play in a playoff game for the first time since Game 7 of the first round against the New York Islanders in 2015.
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