|Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin went toe-to-to on Monday night and buth put on quite a show. But in the end, it was Ovechkin's Washington Capitals who came out on top in an exciting 6-5 shootout win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and their respective clubs made sure the fans at Mellon Arena got some fireworks of their own Monday -- even if Sidney Crosby wasn’t on the ice.
In a free-wheeling, back-and-forth game, countrymen Ovechkin and Malkin went toe-to-toe and each scored twice before Alexander Semin netted the decisive goal in a shootout ( 700K ) and led the Capitals past the Penguins 6-5 for their fourth consecutive victory.
“I thought it was a great show of two young superstars trying to be king of the hill,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Viktor Kozlov also tallied a pair and Nicklas Backstrom set a National Hockey League rookie record with his second straight four-assist game as the surging Capitals – at 22-21-5 – moved over .500 for the first time since beginning the season with three straight wins.
“Tonight the whole team played well,” Ovechkin said after taking over the League lead in goal scoring with 38. “Backy had four assists, Olie (goalie Olaf Kolzig) made some big saves … everybody (was) working hard.”
That included the Washington penalty killers, who blocked several shots in killing off 1:07 of a Pittsburgh 5-on-3 in overtime.
Kolzig then denied Erik Christensen and Kris Letang to begin the shootout. After Ovechkin scored on the Caps’ second attempt and Jarkko Ruutu got the Penguins even on their third try, Semin ended it by slipping a backhander past the stick side of Ty Conklin, who relieved Dany Sabourin midway through the second for Pittsburgh and stopped 16 of 17 shots.
The Penguins still grabbed sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division, as the point moved them one ahead of the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers.
Conklin entered with the score knotted at four and had a chance at the win after Ryan Malone scored Pittsburgh’s third power-play goal of the night 5:04 into the third ( 700K ). A video review confirmed Malone, who already had two assists, kept his stick just below the crossbar when he deflected a Sergei Gonchar drive past Kolzig.
But Kozlov forced overtime with just 4:31 remaining ( 700K ) when, with the Caps on a man advantage, converted a Matt Pettinger feed for his second of the night and eighth of the season. Kozlov has four goals in two games after netting just four in his first 46.
Backstrom, who also set up both of Ovechkin’s goals, registered his fourth assist on Kozlov’s equalizer. Since Nov. 22, when Boudreau replaced Glen Hanlon as Capitals coach, Backstrom has 31 points to lead all NHL rookies.
“I think he’s the best rookie in the League now – that’s my opinion,” Ovechkin said. “He just sees everything, has great moves and great control of the puck. For me, it’s very good to have Nicklas as a center.”
Ovechkin will be heading to Atlanta to play in Sunday’s All-Star Game and there is speculation Malkin could be picked to replace Crosby, who was placed on injured reserve Monday and is expected to miss at least a month with a high ankle sprain suffered Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Yeah, we lost our best player and you can't really replace him,” Malkin said through an interpreter. “It’s not (only) me, everybody has to keep up with every game.”
The Russian superstars, chosen 1-2 in the 2004 draft, put on a show starting with Malkin’s backhander from the left circle that tied the score at 2 with 3:11 left in the first period ( 700K ).
“It really seems to be a battle between the two,” Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said.
Ovechkin answered 1:48 into the second ( 700K ), giving the Caps the lead when he scored off Tomas Fleischmann’s cross-ice pass on the power play.
Malkin evened things again 1:46 later with his 26th of the year ( 700K ) and 15th in the last 15 games. Skating in over the blue line with Pittsburgh a man up, Malkin snapped a shot past Kolzig that hit the top right corner of the net. Petr Sykora then put the Penguins up 4-3 ( 700K ) at 6:13 with another power-play goal.
That lead lasted all of 1:45 before Ovechkin accepted a Backstrom feed and knocked out both Sabourin and his water bottle with a shot just under the crossbar ( 700K ). Sabourin, coming off a 2-0 shutout over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, was replaced by Conklin at the 7:58 mark.
Maxime Talbot opened the scoring for the Penguins ( 700K ) before Fleischmann ( 700K ) and Kozlov ( 700K ) struck later in the first to put the Caps in front and set the tone for the rest of the night.
Material from wire services was used in this report.