WASHINGTON — Patric Hornqvist went right back to the net, where he feels most comfortable, and was in his element once again.
Hornqvist scored a power-play goal and assisted on another in his season debut to help the Penguins beat the Capitals 3-2 on Wednesday night in the teams' first meeting since the playoffs. The forward, who scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal despite a broken finger and needed surgery to repair it, was on the ice for all three Pittsburgh power-play goals, naturally crashing the crease on each occasion, as he's accustomed to doing.
"That's usually where I end up being and where I get my points and like to be," Hornqvist said. "You have to play games to get better, and it was good to get the win, and it was fun to be back out there."
Hornqvist assisted on a goal by Kris Letang, the defenseman's first since Feb. 4 after missing the end of last season and playoffs because of neck surgery. He was also right there for Conor Sheary's goal as Pittsburgh went 3-for-6 on the power play.
The Penguins are back in action Thursday night against the Lightning.
Alex Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading eighth goal of the season in the Capitals' fourth game. His goal with 7:09 left in the third period made things interesting, but Washington's season-high six minor penalties dug too deep a hole as a third of the game was played on special teams.
"It really didn't allow our top players to get going," coach Barry Trotz said. "Every time we started getting any rhythm, we'd get a penalty."
Christian Djoos assisted on Ovechkin's goal and scored in his NHL debut to become the third defenseman in Capitals franchise history to score in his debut, after Steve Poapst and Hall of Famer Scott Stevens.
"First game in the NHL and you get a goal and an assist," Djoos said. "That wasn't my plan, really, when I showed up at the rink. I was going to play good and play a structured game and detailed game, but happy with the goal and the assist."
Pittsburgh outshot Washington 36-22 as Matt Murray made 20 saves for the victory. Braden Holtby had 33 in the Capitals' first regulation loss of the season; they lost to the Lightning in overtime Monday. The Penguins also went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
"We had a good game plan going in," Letang said of the penalty-killing success. "I think we did a good job of denying their biggest threat with 'Ovi' on the weak side."
Ovechkin was in danger of going without a point for a second game in a row after scoring seven goals in the Capitals' first two. Trotz was happy that Djoos made the play to set up Ovechkin's seventh even-strength goal of the season, and Murray was happy the Penguins didn't allow him to do any more damage.
"He can score from anywhere," Murray said. "He's got a really tough shot to read as a goalie, and you've got to be aggressive on him. But you don't want to be overplaying him, either, because then other guys can hurt you just as bad."
The Capitals kept Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel from scoring; Crosby had just a secondary assist on Hornqvist's goal. But the Penguins' depth allowed them to mix and match when the power play wasn't clicking, and getting Hornqvist back makes a big difference for the defending champions.
"He brings so much to this team," coach Mike Sullivan said. "He plays with so much swagger. He's just a great competitor."