The Pittsburgh Penguins were rewarded for a dominant performance with a crucial overtime winner Wednesday night.
Kris Letang scored 11:23 into overtime as the Penguins prevailed 3-2 over the visiting Washington Capitals in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal at Mellon Arena.
"We were playing our way and we ended up winning our way," he said.
Letang received the puck off a faceoff in the offensive zone and blasted a one-timer that banked in off the skate of Capitals defenceman Shaone Morrisonn and the left post for his first career playoff goal.
"We knew we had Tanger set up for a one-timer if we won it clean," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "I just got it back to [Mark] Eaton and we got a good bounce there.
"We have been working on those plays. It is nice to see when it works."
Pittsburgh still trails the best-of-seven series 2-1, and hosts Game 4 on Friday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).
"Any time you go down 2-0 on the road, you know when you come home, you have got to respond," Crosby said.
"You obviously like to take the first one on the road, but it was a great game and now we need to refocus," said Capitals forward David Steckel, who lost the draw to Crosby that resulted in Letang's decisive goal.
Letang, reportedly nursing a sprained left shoulder sustained in Game 2, wasn't sure he would suit up Wednesday night.
"I felt pretty good out there," Letang said. "There was a treatment I had to do and I had to get some medicine for that … it was a game-time decision."
"You could see this was a group of guys who were determined," Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma stated. "We have been faced with adversity a couple times in the playoffs, but guys came to battle tonight and we have a good idea of what we need to do to get even in the series."
The Penguins carried to the play to the Capitals for the most part, generating numerous scoring chances largely on the strength on a relentless forecheck and Evgeni Malkin's creativity with the puck.
"They played great," Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They were going on all cylinders and we were watching them skate."
Malkin, the NHL's scoring champion with 113 points this season, performed brilliantly for the Penguins, controlling the puck at will in the offensive end and scoring their second goal.
"He was at another level," Bylsma said. "He was dominant with the puck and he had the goal, which was fantastic."
Ruslan Fedotenko also scored in regulation for the fourth-ranked Penguins, and Marc-Andre Fleury posted 21 saves.
Alexander Ovechkin led the second-seeded Capitals with one goal and one assist, but Crosby countered with two assists.
Both superstars notched hat tricks in Game 2, won 4-3 by Washington, and Ovechkin opened the scoring just 83 seconds into Wednesday's contest.
Capitals defenceman Mike Green shot the puck deep into the Pittsburgh zone, but it hit a rut in the end boards and caromed by Fleury into the slot, where the opportunistic Ovechkin whacked it into the open net.
That Fleury lost his stick on the play didn't help much, either.
"We didn't play our game," Ovechkin said.
Fedotenko was the recipient of an equally friendly bounce on the tying goal 9:29 into the second period.
Fedotenko tried to feather a pass to Maxime Talbot on an odd-man break, only to have the puck strike the skate of Capitals defenceman Milan Jurcina and slide right back to him for the easy tap-in.
It remained deadlocked 1-1 until Malkin eluded checking forward Brooks Laich and ripped a rising shot through traffic for a power-play goal with 4:59 left in the third period.
It marked Malkin's first goal of the series and first in 23 shots, but Nicklas Backstrom replied for Washington with 1:50 remaining in regulation.
With Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis in the penalty box for interference, Fleury foiled Ovechkin on the initial shot, but Backstrom chipped in the rebound for a timely power-play goal.
Varlamov faced 42 shots in defeat.
"When you get a goaltending effort like that, you have to win because they don't come around every day," Boudreau said. "I think we might have deserved the [seven] penalties, but they sure as hell deserved a few more than they got."
"I don't want to talk about Varlamov," Ovechkin muttered. "I don't want to talk about the referees, too.
"They only had two penalties. It is kind of a joke."