PITTSBURGH - The Washington Capitals probably won't win many games when they're down three goals and Alexander Ovechkin doesn't score. They found a way to win this one, and what made it even better was they defeated the team they rarely beat.
Boyd Gordon scored a delayed goal in the third period to complete Washington's four-goal comeback and the Capitals shook off three Pittsburgh power-play goals and another big night against them by Evgeni Malkin to rally for a 4-3 victory on Thursday night.
Gordon won a faceoff with Sidney Crosby, then snapped off a wrist shot that hit the pipe in the back of the net and rebounded back onto the ice so quickly, the referees initially waved it off. The teams played for another two minutes before play was stopped, time that was restored after a video replay showed Gordon's shot going in at 15:43 for his first goal of the season.
"I had a feeling - it sounded dead coming off the back bar," Gordon said. "I had a pretty good hunch they were going to count it."
It was a major letdown for the Penguins, who got a goal and two assists from Malkin in his personal matchup with Russian rival Ovechkin, who was scoreless, but couldn't hold a 3-0 lead with Marc-Andre Fleury in net. The Penguins were 10-1-1 in their previous 12 against the Capitals and Fleury, who made 26 saves, had been 7-0 against them.
"Unacceptable. It's pretty simple," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "We played pretty well the first two periods. (In the third) it was immature and unacceptable."
Alexander Semin had a goal and an assist as Washington won its third in a row. The Penguins lost their third in four games as Crosby didn't get a goal for the fifth consecutive game and twice made mistakes that led to Washington goals.
"We tried to sit back," Crosby said. "Sometimes when you get a lead like that you think it's going to be easy. We didn't play the right way."
The Penguins lost a 2-0 lead at home Tuesday against Philadelphia, although they won 3-2 in overtime.
Pittsburgh led 3-0 less than two minutes into the second period against Washington on power-play goals by Malkin, Alex Goligoski and Miroslav Satan, with Satan scoring with a two-man advantage, only to be shut out the rest of the game. Jose Theodore made 23 saves to improve to 13-4-1-1 against the Penguins.
"We kept pushing and pushing," said Ovechkin, who didn't score a goal for the second successive game. "Maybe we were sleeping the first two periods, I don't know, but we weren't playing our hockey. The first period we were terrible, we were giving them lots of chances to score goals."
That all changed as Washington outshot Pittsburgh 21-6 in the third.
Michael Nylander won a faceoff to set up Semin's fourth goal in four games early in the third, then scored himself exactly 10 minutes into the period to make it 3-3 following a Crosby turnover. Crosby tried to make a no-look pass into the offensive zone, only to have the Capitals intercept it and start a rush the other way.
Tomas Fleischmann had scored off another Pittsburgh turnover, by defenceman Brooks Orpik, with 5:45 gone in the second after the Penguins had dominated play until them with the help of several poor Washington penalties.
Ovechkin, last year's scoring champion, and Malkin, the runner-up to Ovechkin, were Russian Olympic teammates and friends at Turin in 2006, but they've since become rivals who play with an unaccustomed physicality when they oppose each other, often going out of their way to try to deliver a big hit on the other.
"Ovechkin is a great player, but every time he hits me - I don't know why," Malkin said.
"It's just a hockey game. I hit hard with everybody," Ovechkin said, although he rarely gets involved in the defensive end in most games.
Notes: The Capitals have scored at least four goals in all four games. ... Malkin has three goals and six assists in his last three games against Washington and five goals and 10 assists in nine career games. ... Crosby had two assists, giving him seven goals and 14 assists in 12 games against the Capitals. .. Pittsburgh didn't score an even-strength goal for the fourth consecutive game. ... Capitals D Tom Poti played only 4:23 because of an undisclosed injury, but the Capitals provided no details.