Missing Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins beat Washington Capitals in Game 4
PITTSBURGH — Patric Hornqvist said it best.
Standing in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ locker room after the 3-2 Game 4 win over the Washington Capitals, Hornqvist gave a little smile as he considered how his team pulled off the victory.
“It was all will,” he said, then chuckled. “There was not much skill out there.”
It’s true that the Penguins didn’t play their best in Wednesday’s Eastern Conference semifinal game. Just a glance at the stat sheet shows the Capitals outshot them 38-18. But Pittsburgh had the will, as Hornqvist put it. They also had Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 36 saves.
The victory answered a lot of questions about how the Penguins would respond after Monday’s Game 3 cost them Sidney Crosby, who is out with a concussion after taking a cross-check to the head.
There were questions about how they would bounce back from their first loss of the series.
There were questions about how much they would be focused on retaliation, especially since Matt Niskanen didn’t have a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety for the hit.
And, of course, there were questions about whether they could win with Crosby and Conor Sheary — who also sustained a concussion in Game 3 — joining the list of injured players.
The Penguins’ answer? A Hornqvist goal off assists from Olli Maata and Matt Cullen just 4:39 into the game.
“It fed right into the crowd,” Chris Kunitz said. “The building was electric.”
The Penguins didn’t keep that advantage for good, but Hornqivst said the first goal always sets the tone. By the 8:33 mark of the second period, Washington had tied the game 2-2.
But Pittsburgh’s resiliency was on full display on Wednesday and, less than three minutes later, Justin Schultz put them ahead for good with a power play goal at the 11:24 mark of the second period.
“It was a gutsy, gritty, scrappy game for our guys,” said head coach Mike Sullivan.
“Guys that are older, that have been here before, everyone steps up and kind of pulls the younger guys up with them,” Ian Cole said.
Even with hostility consuming the series, even after Bryan Rust briefly headed to the locker room in the third period after taking an Alex Ovechkin stick to the face, the Penguins remained calm. And it paid off: They’re headed back to Washington with a 3-1 series lead.
“The best way to make them pay is winning,” Fleury said, “and we did tonight.”