The Pittsburgh center scored one goal and assisted on two goals
by left winger Chris Kunitz, and the Penguins earned a 3-2 win over
the Capitals on Monday night at the Verizon Center.
"Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and (right winger Lee) Stempniak not
only found some plays and found some chances, they were
exceptional," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said after the Penguins
(43-17-4) moved past the Boston Bruins and into first place in the
Eastern Conference standings with 90 points.
Washington (30-26-10) lost for the fourth time in five games and is
in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
The Capitals are one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets and the
Detroit Red Wings for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
"Every time we don't win a game, it puts us back in the standings,"
said right winger Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals' captain. "Right now
we're in a desperate position, and we're going to fight through it."
Ovechkin recorded four shots and a team-high seven hits, but was
held without a goal for the second time in three meetings against
the Penguins this season.
Crosby, meanwhile, has two goals and four assists in three games
against the Capitals in 2013-14, all victories.
In fact, the Penguins have won seven in a row over the Capitals,
leaving coach Adam Oates still looking for his first win over
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. Prior to Oates' hiring, the Capitals were
on an 11-0-2 run against the Penguins.
"The special teams battle has been so big against this team, and it
was again tonight," Bylsma said. "In past struggles against the
Capitals, we've allowed them to get that power-play goal. We've been
able to minimize what they're really good at, which is their power
Crosby's three-point performance was his 92nd since entering the NHL
in 2005-06. The player closest to him in that department is
Ovechkin, who has done it 76 times and leads the NHL with 44 goals.
Crosby came into the game with 46 points in 27 career games against
the Capitals, and he padded those totals with another dominating
performance, sending the Penguins into the third period with a 3-2
Crosby set up the first of Kunitz's two goals just 46 seconds into
the game when he hit him with a pass inside the blue line. Kunitz
did the rest, streaking past Washington defenseman Mike Green and
beating Capitals goaltender Jaroslav Halak with a backhander for his
career-high 30th goal of the season.
The Capitals struck back less than three minutes later when center
Eric Fehr redirected a pass from left winger Jason Chimera past
Penguins rookie netminder Jeff Zatkoff for his 11th goal of the
[to top of second column]
Less than a minute later, Crosby drew a slashing minor on Capitals
center Nicklas Backstrom, and he converted on the power play,
drilling a pass from center Evgeni Malkin past Halak for his 30th
goal of the season. It marked the sixth time in Crosby's nine-year
career that he hit the 30-goal mark.
"I don't take too many of those," Crosby said. "Usually I'm a little
closer when they go in, so it's nice to get one."
The score stayed that way until the 8:57 mark of the second period
when the Caps' power play awakened. With Penguins center Joe Vitale
in the box for tripping, Backstrom's centering pass intended for
center Brooks Laich caromed off the skate of Penguins defenseman Rob
Scuderi and behind Zatkoff to tie the score at 2-2.
It was the first power-play goal allowed by the Penguins in five
Kunitz restored Pittsburgh's lead with 7:20 remaining in the second
period when he beat Backstrom to a rebound of Stempniak's shot and
netted his second goal of the night. Crosby picked up a secondary
"They've always been pretty tight games," Crosby said of the rivalry
with the Capitals. "I think they had some really good chances
throughout the game, but we need to find a way to stay out of our
end a little bit more."
NOTES: Washington RW Alex Ovechkin, Penguins C Sidney Crosby and
Penguins C Evgeni Malkin played in the same game for the 21st time,
and Pittsburgh is 15-5-1. ... Monday marked the NHL debut of highly
touted Capitals rookie LW Evgeny Kuznetsov, who played the previous
five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League. Kuznetsov and Crosby
both wear their birth years on their jerseys — Crosby 87, Kuznetsov
92. ... Capitals coach Adam Oates has lost all six games against
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. The two were teammates for the Anaheim
Mighty Ducks in 2002-03. ... The Penguins improved to 18-5-1 against
Metropolitan Division teams. ... The Capitals and Penguins go right
back at it Tuesday night in Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center. The
projected starting goalies are Marc-Andre Fleury for Pittsburgh and
Braden Holtby for Washington.
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