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Aftermath: Capitals 5, Penguins 2

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

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(AP) - Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals put their biggest rival firmly in the rear view mirror Sunday, defeating Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 5-2 victory.
Pos. Team              GP   Record    Pts
4.     Philadelphia   57   31-17-9    71
5.     Montreal          60   31-22-7    69
6.     Florida             59   30-21-8    68
7.     Buffalo             60   31-23-6    68
8.     NY Rangers   60   31-23-6    68
9.     Carolina          60   30-25-5    65
10.   Pittsburgh      61   29-26-6    64

Team Notables:
Philadelphia: Plays at Washington Tuesday at 7 p.m.
NY Rangers: Hosts Toronto Sunday at 8 p.m.
Montreal: Hosts Vancouver Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
Florida: Plays at Boston Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Buffalo: Hosts Anaheim Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Carolina: Hosts Colorado Sunday at 3 p.m.

Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin exchanged words (photo by Getty)
What Worked Well: Physicality
The Penguins new aggressive approach isn’t just visible in terms of their offensive attack and defensive pursuit. Pittsburgh upped its intensity and played one of its most physical games of the season. The Capitals started the game playing physical. The Penguins not only matched Washington’s physicality but outhit them. The Penguins didn’t back down, recording 46 hits to Washington’s 34.

What Could Have Gone Better: Power Play
The Penguins had eight power-play chances in the game, including a five-on-three opportunity, but only converted one goal. Pittsburgh had three chances in the third period on the man-advantage to try and climb back into the game. Pittsburgh had good puck movement and managed 10 shots on the power play. The Penguins power play has been clicking at a better rate since Sergei Gonchars’s return. The Russian defenseman did net a man-advantage goal but it was just one of those days for Pittsburgh where the puck just wasn’t going in. 
Mathieu Garon replaced Marc-Andre Fleury in the second period. Garon, who hadn’t seen action since Jan. 31, was outstanding in a difficult situation. He turned aside all 14 shots he faced and looked sharp despite the 21-day layoff.
Alex Ovechkin rung up his league-leading 43rd goal of the season to open the game’s scoring. Niklas Backstrom had the puck to the left of the crease. The Penguins PK unit collapsed on him but he still managed to make a cross-ice pass to Ovechkin, who was in the near low circle. Ovechkin roofed a one-timer over the body of a sprawling Marc-Andre Fleury. Washington 1, Pittsburgh 0.

Maxime Talbot tied the game with his second goal in three games. Mark Eaton took a slap shot from above the near circle. Jose Theodore was challenging far above his crease when he kicked a rebound towards the hash marks. Talbot was there to bury his eighth of the season. Pittsburgh 1, Washington 1.

Alexander Semin tallied the second power-play score of the game for the Capitals. The Penguins vacated the far side of the ice. They had three penalty killers fighting along the near boards for the puck with Sidney Crosby playing above the near circle. Backstrom managed to squeeze the puck through to Semin, who was all alone on Fleury above the crease. Semin deked to get Fleury down to the ice and then lifted a shot into the net. Washington 2, Pittsburgh 1.

The Capitals struck just 56 seconds into the second period. Ryan Whitney had the puck at the near midwall and tried to flip it out of the zone. Jordan Staal was in an awkward position trying to corral the puck just outside the blue line. He couldn’t control the puck and Semin made a great play to grab the loose rubber and broke into the Penguins zone. He then made a feed to Sergei Fedorov, coming late and high on the play. Fedorov one-timed a shot into the net. Washington 3, Pittsburgh 1.

Sergei Gonchar buried his second goal with a wicked slap shot. The Penguins power play was on their heels as the Capitals had a few great opportunities shorthanded. But it only took one shot for Gonchar to cut into the Washington lead. Malkin flipped a pass to Crosby from the Pittsburgh zone and the Penguins had a three-on-two rush. Crosby sent the puck to Gonchar above the near circle and the Russian fired a shot into the net. Washington 3, Pittsburgh 2.

The Capitals upped their lead with a goal from Shaone Morrisonn. Ovechkin weaved through the Penguins zone before taking a hard shot on net from atop the near circle that Fleury pushed all the way towards the far wall. Morrisonn slapped the puck through traffic and into the net. Washington 4, Pittsburgh 2.

Washington struck again just 25 seconds later. Tom Poti took a slap shot from the midpoint. The puck sailed wide but Brooks Laich grabbed it behind the net and threw it back towards the goal. The puck squeezed under Fleury’s arm, off his body and barely across the goal line. Washington 5, Pittsburgh 2.
Rob Scuderi made one of the best defensive plays of the year halfway through the third period. Hal Gill’s shot from the point was blocked and Alex Ovechkin hit a streaking Michael Nylander for a breakaway. Scuderi was on the opposite side and made up a lot of ground with his hustle. Scuderi was still trailing when he dove and knocked the puck away from Nylander with a sweeping stick motion.
> Pittsburgh dropped to 29-26-6 on the year, with a 13-14-4 mark on the road. The Penguins are 2-1-1 since Dan Bylsma was named interim head coach.

> WAS, A.Ovechkin PP (43), 6:53 1st period: Capitals 1, Penguins 0.
 PIT, M.Talbot (8), 12:08 1st period: Penguins 1, Capitals 1.
WAS, A.Semin PP (22), 13:02 1st period: Capitals 2, Penguins 1.
WAS, S.Fedorov (6), 0:56 2nd period: Capitals 3, Penguins 1.
PIT, S.Gonchar PP (2), 4:46 2nd period: Capitals 3, Penguins 2.
WAS, S.Morrisonn (3), 12:56 2nd period: Capitals 4, Penguins 2.
WAS, B.Laich (14), 13:21 2nd period: Capitals 5, Penguins 2.

> Evgeni Malkin tallied an assist against the Capitals to extend his NHL lead in points to 87 (27G-60A). Malkin’s 60 assists are a league best and marks a new single-season career high. In his last 21 games, Malkin has collected 12 goals and 15 assists for 27 points. Malkin has notched a point in 16 of his last 19 games.

> Sidney Crosby notched an assist against Washington. He is second in the league in scoring with 79 points (23G-56A) and his 56 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 60. In Crosby’s last 20 games, he’s posted eight goals and 21 assists for 29 points in that span.

> Maxime Talbot recorded a goal against Washington. He has two goals in his last three games.

> The Penguins rode a train from Philadelphia to Washington for their matchup against the Capitals.

> Tyler Kennedy played in his 100th career game.
1.  S.Fedorov, WAS
2. A.Ovechkin, WAS
3. A.Semin, WAS



Author: Sam Kasan

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