PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins keep finding ways to win games at home. The Washington Capitalskeep finding ways to lose them in general.
No wonder the Metropolitan Division race is practically over before the Olympic break.
Olli Maatta’s shot from the top of the left circle beat Michal Neuvirth with less than 2 minutes remaining and the Penguins rallied by the Capitals 4-3 Wednesday night. Maatta’s fourth goal of the season gave Pittsburgh its only lead as the Penguins won their 13th straight home game, a club record.
“We kept going,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “We stuck with it there. It’s tough to scratch out and come from behind, but this group is continuing to show we can win different ways.”
Even on a night when Sidney Crosby was limited to a single assist, Pittsburgh expanded its lead over Washington and Philadelphia to a whopping 18 points in the newly created Metropolitan.
Alexander Ovechkin’s 34th goal of the season gave Washington a 3-2 lead midway through the third period, but the Capitals collapsed over the final 10 minutes. Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera also scored for Washington, which lost for the seventh time in nine games. Neuvirth made 33 stops, but didn’t see Maatta’s blast from the point with 1:54 left.
“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.”
Maybe, but it tends to happen to opponents who step onto the ice at Consol Energy Center.
Pittsburgh’s current 13-game run is one better than the 12-game run the franchise put together from Feb. 22-March 30, 2013. The Penguins are 31-3 in their last 34 regular-season games on home ice.
“It’s a tough place to play, our building, and even though it didn’t go our way at times … we fought back and it’s a great way to get the 13th win,” Bylsma said.
Three times the Capitals took a one-goal lead. Three times the Penguins answered.
Ovechkin put Washington up 3-2 with 8:35 left with a remarkable goal. The Russian star had his stick smacked out of his hands during a Washington rush then scrambled to pick it up just in time to receive a pass from teammate Marcus Johansson. Fleury was no match for Ovechkin’s wrist shot as the weary Capitals appeared ready to end a busy stretch with a needed win.
The momentum didn’t last.
Brandon Sutter threaded a beautiful backhand pass through the crease to Jokinen for the Finnish Olympian’s 13th goal of the year 11:35 into the third before Maatta, a 19-year-old rookie who also will play for Finland in Sochi, provided the most electric moment of his breakout season.