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Penguins

Comebacks becoming commonplace for Penguins, Capitals

Jonathan Bombulie
| Thursday, April 26, 2018, 11:57 p.m.
Jake Guentzel celebrates his game-winning goal at 7:48 of the third period against the Washington Capitals in Game One of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Capital One Arena on April 26, 2018 in Washington, D.C.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Jake Guentzel celebrates his game-winning goal at 7:48 of the third period against the Washington Capitals in Game One of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Capital One Arena on April 26, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON — In decades past — specifically the decade or so that was dominated by the neutral-zone trap — a two-goal lead in a Stanley Cup playoff game meant it was time to change the channel.

These days, it means business is just about to pick up.

When the Penguins defeated the Washington Capitals, 3-2, on Thursday night after allowing the first two goals in the opener of the Metropolitan Division finals, it was their second consecutive comeback from a two-goal deficit.

For the Capitals, it was the third time they blew a two-goal lead in seven playoff games.

“I think there's no good lead in the NHL anymore,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “Two, three goals, teams are so fast. They have so much power up front. They can score goals. You just have to stay focused, play the right way and sometimes you get rewarded like this.”

The Penguins erased the deficit with three goals in a span of 4 minutes, 49 seconds in the third period.

Defenseman Brian Dumoulin said he thought the first of the three goals — a Patric Hornqvist tip of a Justin Schultz point shot — was critical.

It came 2:31 after Hornqvist and his linemates, Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel, were on the ice for an Alex Ovechkin goal that gave the Capitals a 2-0 edge.

“We always talk about that next shift,” Dumoulin said. “They went out there, and they didn't sulk. They didn't feel sorry for themselves. They went out there and scored. That was huge, getting that bounce-back goal so quickly.”

Crosby and Guentzel scored shortly thereafter to complete the comeback, which is a testament to the immense goal-scoring talent of two of the hottest players in the league. It also is learned behavior based on the experiences the Penguins have gained over the past two championship seasons.

“At that point, when you're down, I think everybody's just on their toes, trying to get ourselves back in it,” Crosby said.

For the Capitals, the blown lead was a violent kick to the gut, especially when facing an opponent that has tormented them over the last few seasons.

Coach Barry Trotz said he thought his team has surrendered leads this postseason in a variety of ways.

“They all have their own unique identity,” he said. “One game was penalties. This was Crosby's line got three goals in (three) shifts. I don't think there's a common thread through all of them.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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