WASHINGTON, D.C. (KDKA) – A hat trick by Chris Kunitz helped the Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the Washington Capitals 6-3 Sunday afternoon.
The win was the third in a row for the Penguins, which has seen them rise to the top of the Atlantic Division.
Pittsburgh wasted no time getting on the board and scored first for the eighth time in nine games this season.
Paul Martin gathered the puck at the blue line and fired a quick shot, which was deflected off of a Washington player in front and got behind Braden Holtby at 3:37. Sidney Crosby was credited his first of three assists in the game on the goal.
However, the Capitals would answer back 1:28 later. Kris Letang put a hit on Mike Green in the corner to the right of Tomas Vokoun. The puck rotated to the opposite corner and was controlled by the Capitals.
Green picked himself up off the ice and slid into a soft spot in coverage. Wojitek Wolski fed him and Green’s one-timer ticked off Vokoun’s glove and into the net.
Seconds before the goal, newly acquired Zach Boychuk had a mini-breakaway, but Holtby stood his ground and turned the chance aside.
About three minutes after the Capitals tied the game, the Penguins retook the lead.
Robert Bortuzzo fired a long pass along the blue line to Deryk Engelland, who ripped a one-timer on goal. Matt Cooke was providing a screen in front and got enough of the shot to deflect it past Holtby for his first goal of the season.
In the second period, the Capitals tied the game briefly thanks in large part to Lady Luck.
John Carlson dumped the puck into the Penguins zone high off the glass. Vokoun went behind the net to stop the puck, but it never reached him. The puck deflected off a glass partition and bounced into the empty net at the 4:03 mark of the period.
However, the Penguins did not let it phase them and went on a tear over the remainder of the period.
About three minutes after the Caps tied it, Boychuk was stoned point blank by Holtby. However, the Penguins retained possession and Sutter found Letang open in the slot. Letang waited for the defenseman to drop and slide out of the way before taking a low wrist shot that squeaked through Holtby and into the net.
Just 37 seconds later, the Penguins struck again.
Crosby led a rush up the ice and left a drop pass for Kunitz, who ripped a slap shot by Holtby to put Pittsburgh up 4-2.
Later in the period, the Penguins extended the lead to three goals while on an abbreviated power play.
Evgeni Malkin closed in on a Washington defender without a stick and fed a saucer pass through the box to Kunitz, who banked a shot off the post and into the net at the 14:00 mark of the second period.
The Capitals came out flying in the third period in a last-ditch effort to get back into the game.
With Simon Despres in the box, Alex Ovechkin hustled to keep a puck in the zone and threw it in the direction of the goal. The puck eventually found its way onto the stick of Mike Ribeiro, who tucked it behind Vokoun to cut the lead to 5-3.
However, that’s as close as they would come.
Any hope for the Capitals to come back went away when Crosby was hauled down in the offensive zone with 1:32 left. Ovechkin also took a roughing penalty, giving the Penguins a 5-on-3 advantage for the remainder of regulation.
Everyone on the ice was looking for Kunitz to help him complete the hat trick. With eight seconds left in the game, Crosby fed Kunitz in the slot and he buried the chance. Several Pens fans in attendance threw their hats on the ice to celebrate.
The Penguins will head to Long Island to take on the New York Islanders Tuesday night.
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