Penguins Begin Title Defense With 3-2 SO Win Over Capitals

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Phil Kessel beat Braden Holtby in the fourth round of a shootout and the Pittsburgh Penguins began the defense of their Stanley Cup with a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.

Kessel’s wrist shot over Holtby’s glove was initially ruled no goal but was overturned on replay. Marc-Andre Fleury then stuffed Alex Ovechkin from in close to help the Penguins improve to 5-0 all-time against Washington in season openers.

Fleury finished with 39 saves for Pittsburgh. Patric Hornqvist and Evgeni Malkin scored as the Penguins capped a celebratory night in which they lifted their latest Stanley Cup banner to the rafters by tripping up a familiar rival.

Andre Burakovsky scored twice for Washington and Holtby made 28 stops but allowed three goals in the shootout.

The Penguins began their 50th season with one final nod to their 49th, as Sidney Crosby capped an electric pregame ceremony by carrying the Stanley Cup onto the ice one last time and placing it on a table at center ice before joining his teammates to watch the banner join others the organization earned in 1991, 1992 and 2009.

No team has repeated since the Detroit Red Wings did it nearly 20 years ago, and Pittsburgh will begin its second defense of the Crosby-era without their captain, who is out indefinitely while dealing with a concussion. It’s a spot they became familiar with during Crosby’s lengthy road to recovery following a blindside hit in January 2011. Considering the slog the six-month, 82-game regular season provides, there’s no sense of urgency for Crosby to return, though he is skating with his teammates.

Malkin, as he tends to do when Crosby is out, lifted his game.

The Capitals began the season where they ended their last following a six-game loss to Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference semifinals. It was another bitter setback that took some of the shine off winning the President’s Trophy for having the best record in the league.

Washington stayed in its dressing room while Pittsburgh threw one last bash with the Cup and Burakovsky wasted little time providing a buzzkill to the yellow glow-stick waving crowd. He finished an end-to-end rush by taking a feed from Nicklas Backstrom and beating Fleury between the legs just 59 seconds into the game.

Hornqvist’s power-play tip-in 8:47 into the second tied it and Malkin put the Penguins in front when a Washington giveaway and a set-up pass from Conor Sheary allowed Malkin to deke his way by Holtby, the puck smacking off the post then off Holtby’s left pad and into the net.

Burakovsky’s second 6:13 into the third tied it and set up another taut finish, fitting considering five of their six playoff meetings were decided by a goal.

NOTES: Pittsburgh improved to 95-49-18 in 162 regular-season games without Crosby in the lineup, including 53-19-9 at home. … Pittsburgh went 1 for 2 on the power play. The Capitals were 0 for 3. … The Penguins scratched Crosby, D Derrick Pouliot and G Matt Murray. … Washington scratched D Taylor Chorney and F Brett Connolly.


Washington: hosts New York Islanders in home opener on Saturday.

Pittsburgh: welcomes Anaheim on Saturday night.

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