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Penguins snap Capitals' five-game winning streak

by Katie Brown / NHL.com

WASHINGTON -- It's usually the offense that dazzles when the Pittsburgh Penguins play the Washington Capitals. But on Wednesday, it was the goaltending that stole the show.

Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves in a 3-1 win at Verizon Center that ended the Capitals' five-game winning streak.

Fleury has allowed two goals on 73 shots in his past two games.

"I think the more shots he sees the better he plays," Penguins forward Beau Bennett said of Fleury, who has played every minute of Pittsburgh's first nine games. "We can't do that every night, but he was definitely our best player tonight and kept us in it."

Pittsburgh (5-4-0) started the season with three consecutive losses but has won five of its past six games.

"It was definitely a rough start, you know, that's something we expected from [other] teams," Fleury said. "Maybe that step back was a little bit of a wakeup. I'm blessed to get better throughout the game and play better hockey lately."

Phil Kessel scored the go-ahead goal 3:49 into the third period when he tucked Evgeni Malkin's pass behind Washington goaltender Braden Holtby for his fourth goal of the season, breaking a 1-1 tie. Nick Bonino hit the empty net with 1:43 remaining and Bennett also scored.

Kessel has the winning goal in back-to-back games.

"I thought just the way the play developed down low in the corner, he found an opening," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "The last few games he's found an opening down low and he's missed some of those chances, so you know that they're going to come."

Forward Evgeny Kuznetsov scored for Washington (6-2-0), and Holtby made 22 saves.

"I thought both goaltenders were good tonight," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "We had some really good chances and we didn't capitalize. We were right in the crease a lot. I thought that would have given us a little momentum. We couldn't get one past Fleury. There were times we were in the blue paint and we couldn't whack it by him."

The Penguins outshot the Capitals 14-13 in a scoreless first period. Pittsburgh failed to score despite having three power-play opportunities, including a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:45.

"I thought we did a pretty good job killing [the 5-on-3], got a little fortunate in some spots with them missing the net," Holtby said. "We've played better, the toughest part I think is we wanted to come out physical then took a couple penalties that were us playing physical, it's tough to find where that boundary is when that happens early. I thought the guys still battled through it. "

"Their penalty kill was very good, and I know both teams look at the power play at the end of the night and neither power play scored. But I thought our penalty-killers with the way their power play has been were really solid."

Fleury came up with several big saves on the Capitals' two power plays in the scoreless second period, when Washington outshot Pittsburgh 14-4.

"Our defense, I thought all night, they were good in the corners, they didn't allow a lot of extra shots around the net and [Fleury] was big when he had to be" Johnston said. "He made some big-time saves on those rebounds."

Penguins defenseman Ian Cole and Capitals forward Tom Wilson took matching roughing penalties with 21 seconds remaining in the second period, and with the teams still playing 4-on-4, Kuznetsov beat Fleury with a wrist shot 1:28 into the third to put Washington ahead. Kuznetsov has four goals and 10 points in his past four games.

But Bennett, returning after missing five games with an undisclosed injury and playing in his 100th NHL game, got the Penguins even 24 seconds later with his second of the season when he picked up his own rebound and beat Holtby to the glove side.

Trotz thought Bennett's goal was the turning point of the game and thought the Capitals could have responded more effectively.

"That's when you've got to be resilient," he said. "There was really a controlled breakout situation. They executed with a little bit of speed and they were able to get the momentum back real quick, and maybe we even gave them some momentum."

Neither Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby nor Washington's Alex Ovechkin had a point in their 34th regular-season game against the other.

It was a disappointing return home for the Capitals, who hadn't played since completing a three-game sweep of a Western Canada trip with a 7-4 win at the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

"We knew coming in here that we wanted to improve our divisional record this year," Johnston said. "It was our first game against a divisional team; they're hot, they're coming off a pretty good streak, they're playing in their building in front of a big crowd tonight. I thought our guys responded well after they scored."

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