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Crosby helps Penguins top Capitals, 2-1

by Brian Compton
Sidney Crosby’s team got the better of Alexander Ovechkin’s.


In front of a capacity crowd of 18,277 at the Verizon Center, Crosby picked up an assist on what proved to be a game-winning goal by Ryan Whitney at 17:59 of the second period as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Washington Capitals 2-1 on Saturday night.

It marked the ninth time that Crosby and Ovechkin – the NHL’s top two young stars – have faced off against each other, and the first time Ovechkin was held off the scoresheet this season. With the victory, the Penguins improved to 8-1 in those contests. Washington (3-4-0) has dropped four straight since starting the season with three consecutive victories.

Most of the full house booed Crosby every time he touched the puck. A small contingent of Penguins’ fans returned the favor whenever Ovechkin gained control. Clearly, Pittsburgh-Washington has become an entertaining rivalry for NHL fans everywhere.

Afterwards, No. 87 admitted the juices flow a little bit faster when he and No. 8 are skating on the same sheet of ice. As years go by, it’s a distinct possibility that fans will view these games the same way as they did when Mario Lemieux’s Penguins faced off against Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers or Los Angeles Kings. Crosby and Ovechkin reached the 200-point plateau faster than any other active players in the League.

''Maybe from each guy's side, there's a little more motivation,'' Crosby said, ''because there's more attention, more eyes on the game.''

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The Short Shift:

Alexander Ovechkin has been held without a point in three of his last four games against Pittsburgh.

Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig got the night off. He is 2-6-1 with a 4.21 GAA in his last nine games against the Penguins.

Sidney Crosby picked up an assist on the game-winning goal, giving him nine points in seven games this season.

"Maybe from each guy's side, there's a little more motivation, because there's more attention, more eyes on the game."

-- Sidney Crosby.

Washington got on the board first when defenseman Brian Pothier scored 13:45 into the game. But the Caps – who are averaging only two goals per game so far this season – failed to get another shot past Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who finished with 30 saves.

''The guys helped me out,'' said Fleury, who has struggled in the early going. ''They didn't let (Ovechkin) get in front of me.''

The Penguins tied the game at 1-1 on Jordan Staal’s first goal of the season at 3:58 of the second period. Staal took a pass from Mark Recchi and fired a wrist shot past Capitals goalie Brent Johnson, who started in place of Olaf Kolzig. Johnson said he wasn’t informed by Washington coach Glen Hanlon that he would be playing until after Saturday morning’s pre-game skate.

“I played a hunch,” Hanlon said.

Whitney put the Pens in front with 2:01 remaining in the middle period. After Washington’s Mike Green got his stick up on high on Crosby – resulting in a power play – the youngest captain in NHL history sent a cross-ice feed to Whitney, who beat Johnson with a slap shot for the 100th point of his career.

''He made a great pass,” Hanlon said. “And that ended up being one of the plays that cost us.”

What also cost the Caps was Ovechkin’s inability to generate much offense against a Penguins’ team that improved to 4-3-0 with its second win in as many nights. Pittsburgh beat Carolina 4-3 in a shootout at Mellon Arena on Friday evening.

''I have a couple great shots today,'' Ovechkin said, ''but just missed the net.''

Whitney was asked what the Penguins’ secret was when it comes to shutting down a star like Ovechkin.

''I don't know if there is one,” Whitney said. “Playing him hard. Playing him tight. Not giving him enough room to wheel.''

The two stars even got a bit chippy with each other in the third period, when Ovechkin checked Crosby into the boards. But Crosby had no problem with the play whatsoever.

''That was a good hit,'' Crosby said. ''He's a strong guy. He plays a complete game. I don't expect him to take it easy against anybody – especially me.''

Despite the fact that the Penguins have recorded back-to-back wins after winning just twice in their first six games, Crosby – talking like a true leader – isn’t prepared to get too excited. After all, the Penguins still have 75 games remaining on their schedule.

''I don't think we can afford to look too far ahead,” Crosby said. “We've made some pretty good steps here the past couple of games. We have to build off it.”

Pittsburgh hosts the New York Rangers on Tuesday night. The struggling Caps take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday at the Verizon Center.

“We limited their chances and we weren’t fortunate to get a win tonight,” Capitals forward Boyd Gordon said. “You’ve got to try to take away their time and space. You give them an opportunity, they’re going to bury it.”

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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