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Penguins-Capitals Preview

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GAME: Pittsburgh Penguins (14-36-12) at Washington Capitals (21-33-6).

TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST.

Rookie Alex Ovechkin tries to extend his goal streak to seven games as the Washington Capitals host the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pittsburgh, the league's worst team with just 40 points this season, has won the last four meetings in the series - including all three in 2005-06 - and has outscored Washington 23-11 over that span.

The 20-year-old Ovechkin leads all first-year players in goals (41), points (76), power-play points (36) and shots (308). During his six-game goal streak, he has scored seven times and added three assists. Ovechkin also had a similar six-game run from Dec. 22-Jan. 1, when he totaled six goals and six assists.

Ovechkin, the odds-on favorite to win the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie, has overshadowed the play of Penguins phenom Sidney Crosby, who also is having a stellar season. The 18-year-old Crosby has 29 goals and a rookie-best 39 assists.

Crosby has had the upper hand in the head-to-head matchup, collecting three goals and five assists in three games, while Ovechkin has scored twice and added an assist.

In the Capitals' 5-2 victory Monday over the New York Islanders, Ovechkin scored his 40th and 41st goals, and Olaf Kolzig made 40 saves en route to his 250th career win.

Ovechkin's second tally gave him the most goals by a rookie since 1992-93, when Teemu Selanne scored an NHL-record 76 and Eric Lindros also had 41.

"I don't look at history," Ovechkin said. "I enjoy my hockey career here in Washington. I'm glad I score lots of goals, and I'm glad some goals are winning goals."

Capitals coach Glen Hanlon continues to be impressed by the rookie's performance.

"His consistency is amazing," Hanlon said. "All first-year players seem to have some peaks and valleys to their game, and Alex is able to continue to play well."

Kolzig, chosen by the Capitals as the 19th overall pick in the 1989 draft, improved to 250-243-6 with 63 ties and a 2.64 goals-against average in his career.

The 35-year-old has gone 11-16-0 with four ties and a 3.45 GAA lifetime versus the Penguins.

Pittsburgh dropped its third straight game Tuesday in a 5-4 shootout defeat to Tampa Bay.

Crosby had a goal and an assist during a three-goal third period for the Penguins, who rallied from a 4-1 deficit to knot the score at 4-4 on Ryan Whitney's second goal of the season at 19:04.

Whitney hadn't scored since his first NHL tally on Dec. 1 against the New York Rangers.

Mark Recchi notched an assist on Josef Melichar's goal midway through the third for his 21st point in his last 14 games. He has 11 goals and 10 assists over that span.

Recchi has 44 goals and 53 assists in 74 career games against the Capitals.

STANDINGS: Penguins - 40 points, 5th place, 40 PB, Atlantic Division. Capitals - 48 points, 5th place, 42 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Penguins - Crosby, 29 goals, 39 assists and 68 points; Brooks Orpik, 102 PIM. Capitals - Ovechkin, 41 goals, 35 assists and 76 points; Brendan Witt, 141 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Penguins - Power play: 18.5 percent (72 for 390), 9th in NHL. Penalty killing: 77.1 percent (317 for 411), 30th. Capitals - Power play: 14.4 percent (52 for 360), 29th. Penalty killing: 78.6 percent (327 for 416), 26th.

GOALTENDERS: Penguins - Fleury (7-21-5, 3.40 GAA); Sebastien Caron (6-5-4, 4.23). Capitals - Kolzig (16-23-6, 3.53); Brent Johnson (5-9-0, 4.02).

SEASON SERIES: Penguins, 3-0.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 11; Penguins, 6-3. At Washington, Crosby had a goal and an assist as Pittsburgh notched consecutive wins for the first time since Dec. 31.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Penguins - 7-18-5 on the road; Capitals - 14-14-4 at home.

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