Penguins lose 2 D-men, beat Caps to end 7-game losing streak

WASHINGTON (AP) — Already down two defensemen to injury, the Pittsburgh Penguins were in desperation mode when Jeff Petry skated off in pain and left them with just three healthy players at the position.

Veteran forward Jeff Carter to the rescue. Carter skated a shift on defense in his 1,313th NHL game Wednesday night to fill the void before Petry returned and the Penguins pieced enough together to beat the Washington Capitals 4-1 and snap their seven-game losing streak.

“Couldn’t have more confidence in Carts," said goaltender Casey DeSmith, who made 24 saves for his first win of the season. “Monkey off the back. Obviously the team win means everything. Safe to say we needed it, and we earned it.”

The Penguins earned it by going a perfect 4 of 4 on the penalty kill against an opponent that was 4 of 5 on the power play in its last game. They also took advantage of Darcy Kuemper's struggles in net, getting soft goals by Jason Zucker and Brock McGinn on shots that squeaked through.

“I don’t like letting in goals like that, and I’m not used to letting in goals like that,” said Kuemper, who allowed three goals on 27 shots. “I hate to lose, so tonight was a bad night.”

It could have been a bad night for Pittsburgh after losing Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Jan Rutta to injuries in the second period. Instead, No. 1 defenseman Kris Letang skated a game-high 28:28 and the Penguins won for the first time since Oct. 22, ending the organization's longest skid since losing 10 in a row in 2006, during Sidney Crosby’s rookie season.

“Everybody in here’s happy about that,” said McGinn, who scored short-handed. "We’ve been taking some good strides the last couple games to try and get this win, and I think everybody’s a little relieved and happy that we came out tonight and got one.”

The Penguins were relieved Petry, who beat Kuemper clean on a shot from just inside the blue line for the third goal of the game, returned after a brief absence because, as Marcus Pettersson said, being down to three defensemen is a lot different than four. Coach Mike Sullivan in the meantime was just looking for a forward who could skate backwards and chose 37-year-old Carter for the cameo appearance.

“We were running a little low back there," Carter said. "I was little bit out of my element there, but Sully says you’ve got to play your position.”

Sullivan said Rutta, who was leveled by Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, was being evaluated for an upper-body injury and Joseph for a lower-body injury.

“Good thing we have Carts back there to step up,” Pettersson said. "Hope the guys are all right, but you see a lot of ice time.”

Ovechkin's point streak ended at six games and his goal streak at three. Missing several key players because of injury, Washington lost for the sixth time in eight games.

“We had opportunities, and we couldn’t put them in,” Sullivan said. "They had some bounces that went their way.”

NOTES: Jake Guentzel scored an empty-net goal with 1:36 left. ... Capitals F Conor Sheary blocked a shot in the second and hobbled to the bench but remained in the game. Sheary was whistled for an illegal check to the head in the third that was a minor penalty because he did not extend his arm to make contact. ... Penguins F Filip Hallander and Capitals D Alexander Alexeyev each made his season debut and played his second career NHL game.

UP NEXT

Penguins: Visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night.

Capitals: Face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night to wrap up a four-game home stand.

___

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

___

AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press