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Penguins 4, Capitals 3, SO @NHLdotcom

WASHINGTON (AP) -Mull over the NHL standings for a few seconds, and it's easy to conjure up a first-round matchup that most every hockey fan would like to see: Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin.

If it happens, Sid the Kid can claim the momentum over Alex the Great.

After languishing for much of the season, Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins have made a big move in the playoff race. A coaching change, a healthier team and a new face or two on the ice helped put together the first 5-0 trip in franchise history, culminating Sunday with a 4-3 shootout win over Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.

"It wasn't a perfect game, but it was a perfect road trip," said coach Dan Bylsma, 8-1-1 since replacing fired Michel Terrien on Feb. 15.

Pittsburgh avoided a season sweep after the Capitals won the first three meetings. The Penguins have won six straight overall, while Washington has dropped four in a row - all at home - in its longest skid under coach Bruce Boudreau.

The Capitals seem to be slumping toward the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Penguins - the sixth seed now based on one more victory than Florida and the New York Rangers - easily could wind up finishing in the spot.

Rematch, anyone?

"If that was the case, I'm sure it would be pretty intense, pretty emotional," said Crosby, who was the target of mean-spirited signs and constant ribbing from fans.

Two weeks ago, it was the Capitals who gave the Penguins a 5-2 thumping most remembered for the trash talk and pushing-and-shoving between the league's last two MVPs. Sunday was much tamer, with Crosby notching his 25th goal, his 57th assist and getting the last word with the only successful attempt in the shootout.

Ovechkin scored his 47th goal but failed in the shootout. Taking the ice immediately after Crosby, the Russian had his shot kicked away by Marc-Andre Fleury, who also stopped attempts by Alexander Semin and Viktor Kozlov.

"Great ones seem to have the game on the line when it's their turn," Boudreau said. "Tonight it was Sidney's time to have the game on the line, and he's a great one. And he made no mistake when it was his turn."

Bill Guerin, in his second game with the Penguins since being traded by the New York Islanders, had his first goal with his new team and added two assists. Sergei Gonchar also scored for Pittsburgh. Semin and Brooks Laich added goals for Washington.

"We played a team that was playing as good as any team in the National Hockey League right now," Boudreau said, "and I thought we outplayed them. Didn't get the result we wanted."

At New York, Sean Avery was warmly welcomed by fans in his first home game at Madison Square Garden in nearly a year, and newcomer Nik Antropov had a goal and assist to help the Rangers win their third straight.

Avery, who rejoined the Rangers this week after being banished by Dallas following crude comments he made in December, assisted on Ryan Callahan's second-period goal. Nikolai Zherdev scored the go-ahead goal with 6:22 left, and Scott Gomez also scored for New York, 3-1-1 since John Tortorella replaced fired coach Tom Renney.

Chuck Kobasew, Zdeno Chara and Michael Ryder scored for Eastern-leading Boston, 1-3-1 in its last five games.

At Dallas, Carey Price made 31 saves, Andrei Kostitsyn, Alex Kovalev and Chris Higgins scored, and Montreal killed nine of 10 power plays.

With the victory, the Canadiens jumped to fifth in the East and improved to 4-12-1 in their last 17 road games.

Loui Eriksson had a power-play goal for the Stars, who lost their sixth straight at home to match a franchise record set in 1970 in Minnesota.

At Chicago, Peter Budaj made 24 saves, and Marek Svatos and Ryan Smyth each had a goal and an assist to help Colorado end a six-game losing streak.

Ben Guite, Chris Stewart and Milan Hejduk also scored, and Tyler Arnason had three assists. The six-game skid was the franchise's longest since the Quebec Nordiques lost eight in a row in January 1992.

Jonathan Toews scored for Chicago.

At Atlanta, Bryan Little scored twice, Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal and an assist and the Thrashers won consecutive games in regulation for the first time since Jan. 20.

Chris Thorburn and Tobias Enstrom also scored for Atlanta, and Kari Lehtonen made 27 saves.

Jarome Iginla and Craig Conroy scored for Calgary.

At Anaheim, Calif., Stephane Veilleux scored twice, and Niklas Backstrom made 36 saves for Minnesota, 10th in the Western playoff race.

Andrew Brunette also scored for the Wild.

Scott Niedermayer and Todd Marchant scored for Anaheim, a point behind Minnesota in 11th place.

At Uniondale, N.Y., Yann Danis made 30 saves, and Jeff Tambellini, Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo scored for New York, 9-2-2 in its last 13 games.

Scottie Upshall and Shane Doan scored for Phoenix, and Josh Tordjman made 23 saves in his NHL debut. The Coyotes have lost five of six.

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