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POSTGAME NOTEBOOK: Pens 5, Caps 3

Caps lose lead, momentum and game in less than two minutes in second period, Vrana nets 20th, Ovechkin reaches 1,200 points, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com

Give It Up Now - Sitting on a seven-game winning streak and holding a 2-0 lead over the Penguins in Pittsburgh, the Caps appeared to be in good shape late in the second period on Tuesday night. Aside from a short flurry of chances early in the first period, the Pens were unable to create or generate anything in the way of scoring chance.

From the 11:31 mark of the first period to 12:37 of the second, the Pens managed all of three shots on the Washington net in five-on-five play. For the equivalent of more than a period, Pittsburgh's offensive thrusts consisted of shots on net from forwards Teddy Blueger and Joseph Blandisi - both of whom have played more AHL than NHL games this season - and defenseman Brian Dumoulin. None of them represented a legitimate threat.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, the Caps were generating good looks and opportunities consistently. Jakub Vrana scored late in the first and midway through the second to account for Washington's two-goal lead, and the Caps missed the net on a handful of other excellent scoring chances.

Video: WSH@PIT: Vrana rips wrister over Murray's glove

If the Caps have learned anything from their ongoing rivalry with the Penguins over the years, it's that Pittsburgh is capable of striking quickly and for multiple goals, and that a two-goal lead in their building is a flimsy one, particularly with more than 27 minutes remaining to play.

Nevertheless, the Caps left the door ever so slightly ajar, and the Pens kicked it in.

A turnover. A misread. A bad penalty. The Caps made three mistakes in less than two minutes, and Pittsburgh cashed in on all three to take a 3-2 lead it would not relinquish. Another bad penalty in the third led to a Pens insurance goal, and Pittsburgh won 5-3 to stop the Caps' winning streak.

"It's the responsibility of the players that are going on the ice in different situations," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "It's knowing who you're on the ice against. They have some dangerous players and you have to be aware of where they're at, and who you're on the ice against. At that time, puck management becomes more critical. They have players that can convert quickly.

"[Pittsburgh is] very similar to us in terms of their second period goals for - exactly the same going into [Tuesday night's] game. I talked about it between the first and the second, that they are a quick-strike, high transition team, so we can't feed their offense. We should learn a good lesson from that one."

Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | March 12

The Caps' first seven-game winning streak this season also died in similarly excruciating fashion when Washington frittered away a 5-1 lead on home ice in a 6-5 regulation loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Dec. 2.

Double Sawbuck - Vrana's goals were his 20th and 21st of the season, tying him with linemate T.J. Oshie for second on the team behind Alex Ovechkin (46) and giving the Caps three 20-goal scorers for the second straight season.

The 23-year-old Vrana entered the season with 16 goals in 94 career games in the NHL. He has played in all 70 of Washington's games this season, playing consistently in the top six and producing consistently as well, with career highs in every offensive category. Only one of Vrana's 21 goals has been scored on the power play.

"It feels nice," says Vrana of his first 20-goal season and the resulting $212,500 bonus he earned by reaching the 20-goal plateau. "Thanks to my teammates, they've been helping me a lot, especially my [linemates], Osh and [Nicklas Backstrom]. It's an honor to play with those two guys. They've been helping me a lot. I'm just trying to keep working hard, and hopefully many more."

Vrana has come a long way from last season, when he skated less than 12 minutes a night and was a healthy scratch at one point in the playoffs.

"Last year?" says Vrana. "Last year, that's a long way ago, man. I don't really know what to tell you. I feel more confident, I get more opportunities, more ice time, and I just try to give it back to the team. Like I said, just keep working hard and try to get the results every game."

Video: Postgame Locker Room | March 12

Milestone Men - In the third period of Tuesday's game, two of the league's biggest Russian stars reached milestones minutes apart. First, Pittsburgh's Evgani Malkin recorded the 1,000th point of his NHL career when he helped set up Phil Kessel's power-play goal at 11:56.

Just over two minutes later, Caps defenseman John Carlson collected the rebound of an Ovechkin shot and buried it for his 11th goal of the season, and the 1,200th point of Ovechkin's NHL career. Ovechkin is the 49th player to amass as many as 1,200 points in his career.

Malkin is the 88th player to reach 1,000 points, and he is the fifth active player to do so, joining Joe Thornton, Sidney Crosby, Ovechkin and Patrick Marleau on that short list.

Ovechkin and Malkin were the first two players chosen in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. They are the fourth set of players taken 1-2 overall in their draft year to both reach the 1,000-point plateau, joining Guy Lafleur and Marcel Dionne (1971), Pierre Turgeon and Brendan Shanahan (1987) and Thornton and Marleau (1997) on that esteemed list.

Seven And Seven - This season marked the second time in franchise history that Washington authored two seven-game winning streaks in the same season.

In 1992-93, the Caps had two such streaks. They won seven straight from Nov. 30-Dec. 12, 1992, outscoring the opposition by a total of 42-23. Don Beaupre was in net for five of those seven wins, while Jim Hrivnak backstopped the Caps to the other two victories.

From Feb. 9-23, 1993, the Caps won seven in a row again. This time around, they outscored the opposition by a total of 43-21 with Beaupre in net for every minute of all seven games.

During that second seven-game winning streak in '92-93, the Caps gave up a total of 11 power-play goals, surrendering at least one in every game. Washington gave up three power-play goals in two consecutive games during that streak, but overcame that problem by scoring 10 goals in each game. The Caps won 10-6 at St. Louis on Feb. 11 and 10-3 over Wayne Gretzky and the Kings at Los Angeles on Feb. 13.

By The Numbers - John Carlson led the Caps with 25:32 in ice time … Ovechkin led the Caps with five shots on net and 13 shot attempts … Tom Wilson led Washington with nine hits … Six different Caps blocked one shot to tie for the team lead.

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