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Holtby, Capitals shut out struggling Penguins

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- In a game full of star forwards, Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby stole the show.

Holtby made 31 saves, and forward Eric Fehr scored twice to give the Capitals a 3-0 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Saturday.

Fehr scored what proved to be the game-winning goal with 2:13 remaining in an evenly played first period.

Washington forward Jay Beagle centered the puck from behind the Pittsburgh net after receiving a pass from forward Brooks Laich. Beagle's pass deflected off the stick of Pittsburgh defenseman Scott Harrington and toward goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, whose pad kept the puck from trickling across the goal line.

Fehr crashed the net and got to the rebound before Harrington or defenseman Kris Letang could clear it. Fehr placed a wrist shot over Fleury's right pad.

"That [goal] was big for us," Fehr said. "Obviously, it started off a little bit slow after the [holiday] break, but the intensity really ramped up in the second and third period, I thought. … You could tell they were pressing a little bit. I think that's when we're playing our best.

"When we get a lead, we try to get a team playing outside of their comfort zone."

There weren't many scoring chances between two of the NHL's more potent offenses during the first period. But what it lacked in scoring, it made up for in physicality, with 33 hits.

Three of the Capitals' 14 first-period hits came from defenseman Brooks Orpik, who faced the Penguins for the first time after playing 11 seasons for Pittsburgh. Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen and assistant coach Todd Reirden, who each were with the Penguins last season, shared the experience with Orpik.

"I think everybody wanted to get the game for Brooks and Matt, but also Todd," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "I know they were nervous. They didn't know what their reaction would be. … I think Brooks demands respect, and without saying a word he gets it. And he's one of the favorites in the room."

Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist did not return following the first period after being hit by a slap shot from Harrington midway through. He limped to the bench but returned to the ice shortly after and finished the period.

Forwards Jayson Megna and Bobby Farnham each played alongside Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter in Hornqvist's absence. Penguins coach Mike Johnston did not provide an update on Hornqvist's status after the game.

Beagle caught Pittsburgh on a line change to earn a breakaway at 2:43 into the second period. Beagle went forehand to backhand, but Fleury denied him with a right-pad save.

Penguins forward Sidney Crosby had a similar chance almost three minutes later after receiving a pass from Marcel Goc that sent him toward the Capitals net. Crosby also attempted to go forehand to backhand, but Holtby matched Fleury's timely save with one of his own, robbing Crosby 6:13 into the period.

"It's frustrating," Crosby said. "We were close. Especially in the second, I thought we generated a lot of momentum and carried it into the third. That next goal's so important and they grabbed momentum with that second goal."

Center Marcus Johansson scored his 10th goal, tied for third on the Capitals, to give Washington that two-goal lead 6:36 into the third period.

A turnover by Crosby sent Johansson skating 2-on-1 with Troy Brouwer facing Harrington. Johansson kept the puck and placed a wrist shot stick-side on Fleury.

Fehr's second goal made it 3-0 with 9:44 remaining. Forward Joel Ward deflected a shot from defenseman John Carlson through the crease in front of Fleury. Fehr dove at the rebound and backhanded it for his ninth goal.

Holtby made 12 saves in the third period for his 16th win and third shutout. The Capitals (18-11-6) have won seven of their past 10 games, earning a point in nine.

"I thought we did a great job of everything in the D-zone," Holtby said. "A team like that, they're obviously going to get some chances, but the way we controlled them in our end was very good and we know we're capable of doing that every night.

"And I think that's a good eye-opener for a lot of guys, to know we can do that to a team like the Penguins who are that offensively gifted."

Pittsburgh (22-8-5) has lost three in a row. The Penguins lost two consecutive games in regulation for the first time this season, including a 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.

"It was a 1-0 game with 10 minutes left or 11 minutes left in the game," Johnston said. "So, we were still right there in the game. The shots were even at that time, and I thought in the third period, we had a couple chances in the third. We had a really good shift and we just couldn't bury one."

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