PITTSBURGH -- In a game involving three of the NHL's marquee players, rookie defenseman Olli Maatta was the difference.
Maatta scored the game-winning goal with 1:54 left in the third period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-3 win against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday at Consol Energy Center.
Evgeni Malkin carried the puck throughout Washington's zone before slipping a pass pack to Maatta at the point. Maatta unloaded a wrist shot that got past Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth.
"[Jussi Jokinen] told me before the game that it was about time for me to score a goal," Maatta said. "I did listen."
Maatta's goal was the second the Penguins scored in the game's final 8:25 to overcome a one-goal deficit late in the third.
Alex Ovechkin scored his League-leading 34th goal of the season to give Washington a 3-2 lead with 11:25 remaining in regulation. Marcus Johansson fed Ovechkin to the left of Pittsburgh's net and the latter one-timed a shot into the upper-right corner of the goal.
Jokinen tied the game three minutes later. Brandon Sutter sent a pass through the Capitals' crease to Jokinen in front of the net. Jokinen tapped the puck behind Neuvirth for his 13th goal of the season.
"I was on the ice when they scored the 3-2 [goal] on the 4-on-4, so I was happy to get back out there," Jokinen said. "[Matt] Niskanen made a good play to get the puck in. [Sutter] was able to get the puck to me on the backdoor.
"It was a big goal for us."
After losing 2-1 in a shootout to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, Ovechkin said it was frustrating to lose another winnable game.
"I think we played today great," Ovechkin said. "We made a couple mistakes, but every period we got the lead. Unfortunately, we lost the game, we lost the point. I don't think we deserved to lose tonight."
The Penguins have won a franchise record 13 straight home games dating back to their 4-1 win against the Nashville Predators on Nov. 15. Pittsburgh extended its Metropolitan Division lead over the Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers to 18 points.
Washington played its fifth game in seven days, while the Penguins had not played since Saturday.
"You have to know how much juice you have left in the tank," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "We blew two leads. On both goals, I thought we should change, but we didn't. We got caught a little tired and we made mistakes and they have great players."
Pittsburgh erased a one-goal Washington lead with two goals on eight second-period shots.
Kris Letang tied the game 1-1 with 9:53 into the second. Chris Kunitz whipped the puck up ice from Pittsburgh's goal line to send Tanner Glass into Washington's zone. Glass sent the puck down low to Sidney Crosby, who tapped it back to Letang for his ninth goal of the season.
Crosby has scored 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) during his current 17-game home scoring streak.
Jason Chimera reestablished the Washington lead 4:38 later. Dimtry Orlov sent a pass from the left point to Johansson in the right corner. Johansson passed the puck across the crease to Chimera, who finished the play for his ninth goal of the season and a 2-1 Capitals lead with 5:29 remaining in the period.
Pittsburgh didn't take long to respond. Maatta received a pass from Jokinen and maneuvered around a diving Tom Wilson before finding Taylor Pyatt to the left on the net. Pyatt tied the game 2-2 when he snapped a shot past Neuvirth with 3:52 left in the second for his first goal in six games with the Penguins.
Neuvirth stopped 33 of 37 shots in the loss.
The Penguins and Capitals entered the game with the League's top two power play units, but Washington used a shorthanded goal to establish a one-goal lead after the first period.
With Joel Ward in the penalty box for tripping, Letang turned the puck over to Karl Alzner, who found Brooks Laich. Laich mishandled the puck near Pittsburgh's left faceoff circle, recovered it and evaded a sliding Letang before wristing a shot by Marc-Andre Fleury (25 saves) to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead with 6:51 left in the first.
Laich's goal was the first of three one-goal leads Washington surrendered.
"They're our rival. There is a lot of distaste with our group and theirs," Laich said. "We knew that coming in that it was going to be an intense, emotional game. For the most part it was. It was a tough one."
The Penguins led in shots 17-10 entering the first intermission.
Pittsburgh seemed to have a chance at a goal 4:12 earlier when Brooks Orpik's slap shot snuck through Neuvirth's pads before stopping on the goal line while standing on its edge. But a whistle was blown before Malkin could tap the puck into the net.
By responding to each of their three deficits, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Pittsburgh has proved over its past two home games that it can win despite trailing early.
"It's a bit of a different story than it was at the start of these home wins, where we got up a goal in the first minute of the game and rode that first period and rode that first goal," Bylsma said. "Again today, the shorthanded goal we give up, we get down in the game. You saw it there in the third where we get down late in the game.
"But there wasn’t quit in our game. We kept playing a kept going."
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