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Penguins clip Capitals in spirited contest

Feb 26, 2015 - 5:13 AM Washington, DC ( - Chris Kunitz scored the winner in the third period and Evgeni Malkin added three assists, as Pittsburgh avoided a season-series sweep thanks to a spirited 4-3 victory over Washington at Verizon Center.

Brandon Sutter, Patric Hornqvist and Sidney Crosby also lit the lamp for the Penguins, who have won three in a row and were aided in their latest triumph by a glut of power-play chances in the middle frame.

"When you're entering the stretch run, getting that extra one or two power plays a game is very important. We hung in there. We stuck with it and you know eventually over time you're going to get a power play chance," said Pens head coach Mike Johnston.

Marc-Andre Fleury picked up the win thanks to a 21-save effort.

John Carlson, Troy Brouwer and Alex Ovechkin tallied for the Capitals, who had outscored their rivals by a 10-1 count in winning the first three games between the clubs.

Jason Chimera picked up a pair of assists, while Braden Holtby came up with 22 saves in his team's second straight loss after winning four in a row.

"I thought we took all bad penalties, unnecessary penalties. I mean you can get momentum off the penalty kill, but we'd get momentum off a penalty kill and then we'd take another penalty," said Caps head coach Barry Trotz. "Those are just unacceptable for me."

Brouwer went to the net armed with a Chimera lead pass and popped home his own bouncing rebound and the Capitals were within 3-2 at 4:09 of the third.

Kunitz restored the visitors' two-goal edge a short time later. He was standing atop the crease expecting Malkin's rebound to be picked up by Blake Comeau -- which it was -- and he shoveled home the latter's rebound at 7:12.

Fleury was booked for roughing with 3:38 left in regulation and Ovechkin was finally able to put his trademark slapshot from the left wing to good use on the power play only four seconds later.

Holtby was summoned to the bench during a stoppage of play with 2:25 on the clock, and despite heavy pressure in the offensive zone and several quality chances, the hosts came up empty.

"We know how good Washington is. One of the potential teams [that could win] the league I think," Malkin offered. "We lost the last three games to this team. We know we had a good chance to win tonight."

Holtby kicked off the game with a dramatic sweeping glove stop on a Kunitz backhander 48 seconds in.

Pittsburgh scored the first goal of the game on a transition rush, with Malkin dropping the puck on the right wing for Hornqvist, who beat Holtby inside the far post at 7:04.

Washington was awarded three straight power plays in the latter half of the first and failed to convert. On the final advantage, Sutter broke in up the right wing and scored on a backhand for a short-handed score with 1:27 remaining.

The Caps did get on the board with 8.6 showing, as Carlson's rip from inside the blue line beat Fleury to the far post from the bottom of the right circle.

The visitors were given four straight power plays to begin the second period and cashed in immediately. It was 3-1 for the Pens at 3:16 mark when Crosby ripped a shot from the right circle through a maze of players with Brooks Laich off for tripping.

Pittsburgh received two more chances with the extra man and didn't increase its lead, but Fleury made sure the two-goal edge stood after robbing Joel Ward on an open short-handed chance in front.

"We knew they were going to get a couple of calls back after taking three at the end of the first period, but taking 14 minutes in penalties in the second, there's no way you are going to win a hockey game against a team with a good power play," Brouwer noted.

Game Notes

The last time Washington swept Pittsburgh was 2009-10 (4-0-0) ... Pittsburgh had swept Washington last year in four straight and over all three meetings in the lockout-shortened 2013 season ... Coming into the contest, Holtby stopped 90-of-91 Penguin shots this year ... Prior to the contest, the Pens acquired depth forward Daniel Winnik from the Maple Leafs in exchange for forward Zach Sill, a fourth-round pick in 2015 and a second-round pick in 2016 ... According to Elias, the six power-play chances in the second period awarded to the Pens was the most in one stanza since Oct. 6, 2009 ... Carlson added an assist to post his 11th multi-point game of this season ... Holtby appeared in his single-season career-high 53rd game in 2014-15.