WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s not easy for the Pittsburgh Penguins to find ideal linemates for Sidney Crosby or replace injured winger Jake Guentzel.
Kasperi Kapanen filled each role to perfection Friday night, scoring as part of a 4-2 victory over the Washington Capitals that extended Pittsburgh’s winning streak to three.
“The way I’ve been playing hasn’t been my best, so I think it was important to kind of get back on track,” said Kapanen, who ended a five-game goal drought. “Pretty easy to do that with Sid and (Evan Rodrigues).”
Crosby assisted on Kapanen’s goal and Jeff Carter’s empty-netter to make it 13 points during his seven-game point streak.
The Penguins controlled the play for the first two periods, tilting the ice toward opposing goaltender Ilya Samsonov and sending several odd-man rushes his way. They cashed in on one of them when Crosby set up Kapanen to make it 3-0 midway through the second.
Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller scored in the third to cut the margin to one goal, but Carter scored the empty-netter with less than two minutes remaining to seal it.
“I thought we handled their pressure pretty well,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We had our moments in the third period, but you knew Washington was going to make a push and they did. We weathered the storm but I thought the first 40 minutes in particular we were real good.”
Washington’s brief two-game streak came to an end in the 85th NHL meeting between Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.
“We just weren’t sharp in a lot of the plays we were making,” Capitals winger T.J. Oshie said. “I thought mentally we were just a step behind.”
It was a potentially costly night for the Capitals, who lost top right winger Tom Wilson to an upper-body injury and played half the game with five defensemen after Martin Fehervary took a high hit from Brock McGinn. Fehervary did not return after the hit, exiting with what the team also called an upper-body injury.
Coach Peter Laviolette said Wilson and Fehervary were being evaluated. McGinn was not penalized for his hit on Fehervary.
“He was kind of just trying to chip the puck and go by me,” McGinn said. “I stayed in my lane and we kind of just made contact. I don’t think I was dirty at all.”
It was unclear exactly when Wilson was hurt, though he got tangled up with the Penguins’ Marcus Pettersson and went sliding hard into Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry and the net during the second. Wilson skated three more shifts but did not come back for the third.
Jarry stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced. Samsonov allowed three goals on 32 shots.
The Penguins got offense from each of their top three lines. Danton Heinen scored on a tap-in off a pass from defenseman John Marino, McGinn’s pass attempt banked off Kuznetsov’s right skate and in, and the top line got it done with a textbook rush play from Rodrigues, Crosby and Kapanen — who consciously tried to be close to teammates to help them out.
“He was on pucks, he was strong on the puck — I thought he challenged Washington with his speed,” Sullivan said of Kapanen. “I thought he had a really strong game. You could tell he was excited to play and he certainly stepped up for us.”
The son of retired NHL forward Sami Kapanen hopes this stint playing alongside Crosby goes better than earlier in the season. It’s off to a good start.
“Whenever you have a good game it’s a always going to give you confidence, and scoring a goal never hurts, too,” Kapanen said. “Hopefully the future looks as good as it was tonight.”
NOTES: Ovechkin assisted on each Washington goal, extending his point streak to four games. … Heinen has four points in two games. … Pittsburgh played without Guentzel for the first time since the opening night of the season. Coach Mike Sullivan called Guentzel “week to week” with an upper-body injury. Guentzel was riding a 13-game point streak. Center Brian Boyle took Guentzel’s spot in the lineup after four games out as a healthy scratch. … The Capitals played without forwards Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, who are in NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.
Penguins: Host the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night.
Capitals: Visit the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
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