Caps continue dominance of Penguins
One trend is clear in this season's edition of the Washington
Capitals-Pittsburgh Penguins rivalry: The Capitals are very good at
getting the last word.
Mike Knuble scored the decisive goal in the fourth round of the shootout Wednesday night, giving the Capitals a 4-3 victory over their biggest nemesis.
Alexander Semin and Eric Fehr scored about 2 minutes apart early in the third period to give Washington the lead before Jordan Staal's goal with 3:06 remaining in regulation sent the game into overtime.
The Capitals have won all three meetings against the Penguins this season, outscoring Pittsburgh 8-1 in the third period and overtime. They pulled this one off with only one point from Alex Ovechkin - an assist on Knuble's second-period goal - as they won for the eighth time in 11 games and increased their already mammoth lead atop the Eastern Conference standings.
Ovechkin did score one of the Washington's shootout goals, along with Semin. Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby scored for Pittsburgh in the first two rounds shootout, but Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz had their attempts stopped by Jose Theodore.
Theodore made 39 saves for the Capitals, increasing his club-record streak to 19 games (17-0-2) without a loss in regulation.
With the win, the Capitals tied the franchise record for points in a season (108), set last year.
Maxime Talbot and Guerin scored for the Penguins in the second period, and Crosby was held to one assist as he and Ovechkin - the game's top two players - were reduced to supporting roles after combining for five goals in the teams' last meeting. Pittsburgh has lost four of five and missed a chance to move back ahead of the New Jersey Devils in the Atlantic Division.
The Penguins led 2-1 after the second period, but Semin tied the game with one of the best individual short-handed efforts of the year. He picked off a pass from Crosby deep in the Capitals' end, skated the length of the ice meandering around and through the Penguins' power-play unit, then unleashed a wrister from the slot that found the upper right-hand corner of the net.
Fehr then gave the Capitals the lead after a sold effort by Eric Belanger, who worked behind the net and left the puck for Mike Green. Green's shot from the right circle was deflected in by Fehr, who was left unchecked next to the crease.
Staal tied it in the waning minute with a shot from the right circle high to the glove side of Theodore, who had made two big saves in the previous half-minute.
Every game between the Capitals and Penguins is a big one these days. This one was special because Ovechkin and Crosby entered tied for the NHL goal-scoring lead with 45 apiece. It also was the first time the teams have met since the Vancouver Olympics, when Crosby's Canadians routed Ovechkin's Russians on the way to the gold medal.
The teams' last meeting was an instant classic, with Ovechkin scoring a hat trick as Washington rallied from a three-goal deficit to win in overtime on Super Sunday. And the Capitals still haven't lived down last year's playoff series, when Washington fell apart in Game 7 and watched Pittsburgh go on and win the Stanley Cup.
The Capitals went ahead early in the second period when Nicklas Backstrom's shot was stopped by Marc-Andre Fleury and fluttered tantalizingly high above the goalie. Knuble skated in the crease behind Fleury, got his stick on the puck on the way down and stuffed it into the net.
Talbot tied it a little more than a minute later with his second goal of the season, a redirect of Brooks Orpik's drive. The Penguins then took the lead late in the second period when Crosby skated in unfettered on a power play. With the Capitals caught out of position, Crosby slid the puck to Guerin for the easy score.
The game was a welcome relief for Washington after two days of distractions stemming from the steroids-related arrest of a chiropractor who has treated several of the team's players. Matt Bradley, Shaone Morrisonn and Fehr were interviewed by investigators Tuesday and indicated they were unaware of the chiropractor's alleged drug connections. Authorities say they have no proof that steroids were supplied to any Capitals player.
``The sooner we can get that behind us, the sooner we can play hockey,'' Fehr said after the morning skate.
Notes: The Penguins were whistled for only one penalty. Ovechkin was tripped making a run in overtime, but no call was made. ... Penguins C Evgeni Malkin sat out for the fourth time in five games with a bruised right foot. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma says he doesn't have a target date for Malkin's return, but ``it's not a long-term situation at this point.'' ... Capitals C Brooks Laich missed a game for the first time since February 2007 after being struck near the eye by a puck during practice Tuesday, ending his consecutive games streak at 257. He will also miss Thursday's game at Carolina.