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Wednesday Night Rivalry

5 reasons to watch Penguins-Capitals

Crosby-Ovechkin matchup, Hornqvist's potential return highlights Wednesday Night Rivalry game

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor

Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins will face Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals for the first time this season when they play at Capital One Arena in the Wednesday Night Rivalry game (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV).

The Penguins and Capitals will be playing for the 49th time in the regular season since Ovechkin and Crosby entered the NHL at the start of the 2005-06 season. The Penguins have won 27 of the 48 games in the Crosby-Ovechkin era; each team won twice at home last season, though one of the Penguins' wins came in overtime and the other in a shootout.

Each team did some major retooling since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round, when the Penguins eliminated the Capitals on the way to winning the Stanley Cup for the second consecutive season, but the intensity of the rivalry still burns.

Here are 5 reasons to tune in:

 

Rivalry renewed

Crosby and Ovechkin entered the NHL on the same night (Oct. 5, 2005) and have been two of the League's marquee players ever since. Ovechkin has won the Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal scorer six times and the Hart Trophy three times to Crosby's two and two. But Crosby has a huge edge in team accomplishments, winning the Stanley Cup three times (and the Conn Smythe Trophy twice) as well as two Olympic gold medals (2010, 2014) and the World Cup of Hockey 2016 with Canada.

 

 

Ovechkin's hot start

When Ovechkin dropped to 33 goals in 2016-17 after three straight 50-goal seasons, there were questions about whether he had lost some of his scoring touch after more than a decade in the League. He's wasted no time answering any doubters, scoring three goals in the third period of a season-opening 5-4 shootout win at the Ottawa Senators last Thursday and four goals (three in the first) during a 6-1 victory against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. He's the first player in 100 years to score three or more goals in each of his team's first two games.

Video: Player Performance of the Week: Alex Ovechkin

 

Looking for revenge

The Capitals won the Presidents' Trophy in 2015-16 and again last season. But the Penguins have won when it mattered most, defeating the Capitals in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each season on the way to winning the Stanley Cup. The Penguins have won the Cup three times in the past decade (2009, 2016, 2017) and eliminated the Capitals in the second round every time.

 

Penguins on the rebound

The Penguins' quest for the first three-peat since the New York Islanders won four consecutive championships from 1980-83 didn't get off to a great start. They lost their opener 5-4 in overtime to the St. Louis Blues last Wednesday and were routed 10-1 at the Chicago Blackhawks one night later. They got their first win with a 4-0 home victory against the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Video: NSH@PIT: Guentzel jams in the rebound for 2-0 lead

 

Hornqvist's return possible

Forward Patric Hornqvist could play for the first time since scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Penguins in Game 6 of the Final against the Predators on June 11. He missed all of the preseason and the first three regular-season games while recovering from offseason surgery on his right hand. Hornqvist participated in a full-contact practice Monday and coach Mike Sullivan said he'll be a game-time decision. Hornqvist has scored 21 or more goals in each of the past four seasons, can play up and down the lineup and is a valuable depth scorer.

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