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Penguins shut down Caps in 2-1 win

by Corey Masisak / NHL.com
WASHINGTON -- The Pittsburgh Penguins haven't beaten the Washington Capitals very often of late, but their rivals aren't doing much winning of their own against anybody right now.

Chris Kunitz and Craig Adams scored for the Penguins, who stifled the Caps' struggling offense in a 2-1 victory Thursday night at Verizon Center. Washington had been 11-0-2 against Pittsburgh in the past 13 regular-season meetings, including 8-0-1 since the Penguins claimed an epic seven-game series in the second round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I read that, it was like 11-0-2 or something. It feels good to come in here and win," Kunitz said. "We've been stumbling lately and haven't been playing that great, so to have a great effort other than about six, seven, eight minutes in the second [period] -- it was a great team game."

This is the first regulation victory for Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma against Washington -- the Penguins were 2-6-3 since he replaced Michel Therrien but both wins came in shootouts.

Meanwhile, the Capitals have lost four straight and eight of 10. The past two have been with new coach Dale Hunter in charge, and the 2-1 scorelines represent two things -- improved work at the defensive end, but also a team filled with elite offensive players not producing at the other end.

"I think we're playing good defensively, but we have to turn that defense into offense," center Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's what we have to get better on and make sure we get the puck stuck in our offensive zone."

Added Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby: "We were pretty committed to making sure we didn't turn pucks over. Our [defense] did a great job. We've got some guys who are new and they did a great job of going in there and taking some hits to make plays and that's what you have to do."

Pittsburgh outshout Washington 35-17, including 10-2 in the final 20 minutes. Twice in this game the Capitals did not record a shot in the first seven minutes of a period, and Washington didn't test Marc-Andre Fleury in the final 5:32. The puck stayed in the Washington end for much of the final two minutes, forcing goaltender Tomas Vokoun to stay in net until only was 33 seconds remained -- and the Penguins still controlled play for much of the time they were 5-on-6.

"We played too much in our own end," Hunter said. "We have to get the puck out quicker, move it out quicker from our own end. I think it's very tiresome to the guys and by the time they get it out they have to change it up."

Alex Ovechkin had a game-high 10 hits, but only one shot on net and one attempt in more than 19 minutes of ice time. Crosby, who had three shots, did not register a point for the second time in his six games since returning from a concussion.

Ovechkin and the Capitals have now been outshot 65-36 in two games with Hunter behind the bench.

Kunitz put the Penguins back in front 2:36 into the final period. John Erskine and Marcus Johansson converged at the puck near the Washington blue line, but Kunitz lifted Johansson's stick, knocked Erskine down and then snapped a shot that squeezed in under the arm of Vokoun, who has now yielded a soft goal to make it 2-1 in each of the past two losses.

It was the ninth goal of the season for Kunitz, who also made several key defensive plays in the third period to help suppress any Washington comeback hopes.

"He's like a hedgehog," Pittsburgh forward Matt Cooke said of Kunitz. "He's out there working all the time and battling, and doing the right things. It is nice to see him get rewarded with a game-winner."

Adams had the lone goal of the first period to put Pittsburgh in front. Arron Asham tried to stuff the puck past Vokoun at the right post, but it went right to Adams at the other side of the crease for an easy tap-in at 5:21. It was Adams' second tally of the season. This was the first time these two sides have met since Asham knocked out Washington's Jay Beagle and then made a couple of taunting motions as he skated to the penalty box. Asham stayed on the ice after the goal and Erskine challenged him to a fight when the puck was dropped -- knocking the smaller forward to the ice.

Jason Chimera evened the score for Washington 80 seconds in the second period. He had the puck to the left of the net and no one picked him up before he drifted toward Fleury and flicked a backhander above the goaltender's shoulder and under the crossbar.

Chimera now has 10 goals this season. Not only does he lead the Capitals in that department, it matches his total for last season. He's now on pace for 34 -- which would double his career high set in 2005-06 with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"It can't be down the line -- it's got to be now," Chimera said. "We got get people stepping up and scoring some goals, doing the little things. It was a good game overall. They had a lot of shots but a lot of them were outside. It is a tough way to lose, but we got that kind of effort. It'll be better. ... The wins will come."
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