Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) skates with the puck against Washington Capitals' Matt Niskanen (2) and Brooks Orpik (44) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015, in Washington. The Penguins won 4-3. (AP Photo
Nick Wass
February 25, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) After losing their first three matchups with the Washington Capitals this season, the Pittsburgh Penguins regained some balance against their division rival.

Sidney Crosby scored his 20th goal of the season, Evgeni Malkin added three assists, and the Penguins held on to beat the Capitals 4-3 on Wednesday night, averting a sweep of the season series.

Patric Hornqvist, Brandon Sutter and Chris Kunitz also had goals for Pittsburgh, which has won three straight and leads Washington by three points for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

''Psychologically, heading into the playoffs, Washington would have had an edge, and then you have to battle that as you enter the playoffs,'' Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. ''Now you can almost say that maybe we have the edge.''

Crosby and Malkin both earned their first points of the season against Washington, which won the first three meetings by a combined score of 10-1.

''We lost the last three games to this team, and this was a chance to beat them,'' Malkin said. ''Of course we have more confidence right now.''

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 21 shots, including Joel Ward's breakaway attempt in the second period.

Alex Ovechkin's power play tally, his NHL-leading 39th goal of the season, made it 4-3 with 3:34 left in the game, but Fleury made several saves in the final minutes to preserve Pittsburgh's win.

John Carlson and Troy Brouwer both had a goal and an assist for the Capitals. Jason Chimera had two assists, and Braden Holtby made 22 saves.

He came in with a 1.63 goals against average in his last 11 starts (7-3-1).

Both teams converted one of six power plays, but Pittsburgh added a short-handed goal.

''(Pittsburgh) had a good focus coming in, never allowed us to get back on track,'' Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. ''It was an ugly game to watch in terms of the way we played, and then the number of penalties on both sides.''

Trailing 3-1 after two periods, the Capitals pulled to within one when Brouwer swatted in his own rebound at 4:09 of the third.

Pittsburgh regained its cushion just over three minutes later, however, after Malkin stripped the puck from Evgeny Kuznetsov and started a rush that ended with Kunitz scoring off a rebound.

Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead at 7:04 of the first period, before the Capitals registered a shot.

Malkin carried in and dropped the puck back to Hornqvist in the right circle. He fired a shot past Holtby to the far side for his 19th goal.

''Scoring the first goal I think helps, and we build some confidence from that,'' Crosby said. ''I just thought our start was much more desperate than it might have been in previous games.''

Shortly after the first goal, a four-man scrum spilled into the Penguins bench area and put two players from each team in the penalty box for roughing.

Sutter's short-handed goal made it 2-0 at 18:33. Washington's Matt Niskanen dropped the puck back, and it sailed all the way into the Capitals zone. Sutter got to it first and scored on a backhand.

Washington got within 2-1 when Carlson's one-timer beat Fleury with 8.6 seconds left in the first period.

The Penguins took a 3-1 lead in the second, cashing in on one of their six power plays in the period when Crosby, using a pair of Capitals as a screen, sent a wrist shot past Holtby from the right circle at 3:16.

''We were both frustrated at times during this game, both teams,'' Alzner said of the penalty-filled contest. ''They just capitalized on more chances.''

NOTES: Pittsburgh D Christian Ehrhoff (concussion) returned after missing 12 games. ... The Penguins acquired F Daniel Winnik from the Toronto Maple Leafs for F Zach Sill and two draft picks. ... NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, in Washington for an event at the Aspen Institute, attended the game.

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