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Capitals continue chase of Penguins' win streak mark

by Brian Hunter
PENGUINS (35-22-1) at CAPITALS (40-12-6)

Last 10: Pittsburgh 6-4-0; Washington 10-0-0

Season Series:
Second of four meetings this season. Round 1 went to Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, who won 6-3 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh on Jan. 21. Tomas Fleischmann sparked a three-goal third for Washington and Ovechkin finished with a pair of goals, one on the power play and an empty-netter. Sidney Crosby scored one of the Penguins' goals.

Big Story: It's hard to push the Ovechkin-Crosby storyline to the side when these teams get together, but the big news Sunday will be the Capitals trying to extend their franchise-record winning streak to 14 games in front of a rocking Verizon Center crowd and a national television audience tuning in for NBC's Game of the Week.

Team Scope:

Following a rare four-day break, Pittsburgh took the ice Saturday afternoon in Montreal and never led in a 5-3 loss to the Canadiens. The Penguins had won the five previous games between the clubs. Marc-Andre Fleury allowed four goals on 28 shots before getting pulled in the third period for Brent Johnson. He'll be back between the pipes Sunday.

"As you look at the game as a whole, consistently out execution just wasn't there," Crosby said. "We didn't create enough. We spent a lot of time in our zone and we took some penalties. We didn't give ourselves a real good chance to win today."

Assuming all of Washington's players were able to dig themselves out of the massive amounts of snow the D.C. area got over the weekend, the Capitals should be set to go Sunday. Rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth starred Friday with 43 saves in a 5-2 victory over Atlanta. If the Capitals can beat the Penguins, they'll have the NHL's longest winning streak since Pittsburgh set the League record with 17 straight from March 9-April 10, 1993.

"We want to win, but the most important thing is to win in the future," Ovechkin said. "Right now we keep winning, but we're thinking about the playoffs and what we have to do to be better in the playoffs."

Who's Hot:
Evgeni Malkin scored a shorthanded goal and added an assist for Pittsburgh on Saturday, giving him seven goals and nine assists during a nine-game points streak. Crosby picked up his 300th NHL assist on a Bill Guerin goal and now has 13 goals and 10 assists in his last 14 games.

Washington could probably melt a great deal of that snow with the collection of red-hot players on its roster. Ovechkin has six goals and six assists during a six-game points streak. Nicklas Backstrom has four goals and 11 assists during a seven-game points streak. Alexander Semin has 12 goals and 14 assists over his last 17 games. Mike Knuble has 13 goals and five assists in his last 16 games. Jose Theodore has won nine straight games and Neuvirth has won six straight decisions.

Injury Report: The Penguins could get forward Chris Kunitz back from an abdominal injury Sunday. Forward Maxime Talbot has been day-to-day with a groin injury and forward Eric Godard is out 4-6 weeks with a groin injury. … Capitals rookie goaltender Semyon Varlamov is still working his way back from groin and knee injuries.

Stat Pack:
Pittsburgh is 6-4-0 this season in the second half of back-to-back situations. … Washington, which leads the League with a 3.88 goals-per-game average, has scored at least three goals in 17 consecutive games dating back to a 2-1 loss in Los Angeles on Jan. 2.
Puck Drop: "It's difficult to stay at a pace when every team you're playing is coming at you in waves because they're the ones who want to end it," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said after Friday's game. "The reason winning streaks are tough is because you have to be at the top of your game all the time."

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