PITTSBURGH – A shot from the point by Washington's Kevin Shattenkirk salvaged — or at the very least, extended — his team's season.
A far different kind of shot might end up determining the outcome of a playoff series growing more contentious by the shift.
Shattenkirk's goal 3 minutes, 13 seconds into overtime lifted the Capitals to a 3-2 victory over the Penguins to cut Pittsburgh's lead to 2-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinal, one that could go on without Penguins star Sidney Crosby.
The Pittsburgh captain left a little more than five minutes into the game after getting cross-checked to the head by Washington's Matt Niskanen. The NHL's leading scorer and one of the game's best players did not return; his status for Wednesday's Game 4 — and maybe the rest of the postseason — is uncertain.
"Certainly didn't mean to injure him," said Niskanen, the former Minnesota Duluth standout from Virginia, Minn., who spent four years with Crosby in Pittsburgh. "It's an unfortunate play that happened really quick."
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Crosby will be evaluated Tuesday. Even without Crosby, Pittsburgh pushed Washington to the limit. Evgeni Malkin and Justin Schultz scored in a 48-second span with less than 2 minutes left in regulation to force overtime.
"Tonight was a great test for all of us," said Shattenkirk, who played miserably during a blowout loss in Game 2. "There were a lot of different moments in the game where we had to see what we were made of."
One frightening moment, however, will resonate above all others.
The game was scoreless early in the first period when Crosby skated with the puck just outside the Capitals' crease. Washington's Alex Ovechkin slashed Crosby along the upper body and Crosby slid awkwardly trying to maintain his balance when he collided with Niskanen, who had his stick raised.
The stick caught Crosby flush across the mouth and the two-time Hart Trophy winner lay on the ice in pain for several moments before slowly skating off under his own power as Pittsburgh trainers searched the area for Crosby's teeth.
Niskanen earned a major penalty for cross-checking and was given a game misconduct. Washington coach Barry Trotz called it "a hockey play."
The Penguins disagreed.
"It's one of those things you look at it once, you see what actually happened and the next thing is watching how deliberate it was when the guy cross-checks him in the face," Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz said. "I thought all of that was kind of out of this league, but I guess not."