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Aftermath: Penguins 4, Capitals 3 SO

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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Sidney Crosby and the Penguins outshined Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in Sunday’s showdown to complete a sweep of their five-game road trip. Crosby keyed Pittsburgh’s 4-3 shootout win with a goal and assist. He also scored the game-winning shootout goal with a beautiful move.

Crosby is meshing well with new linemates Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz, and the trio connected for two goals, four assists for six points. There were a few occasions where the three were a little off timing-wise, but the more they play together the better they’ll read each other’s tendencies and will be able to elevate their respective game.

Dan Bylsma has completely turned around this Penguin team. They’ve climbed from obscurity into a postseason position. They’re playing loose, they’re playing with passion and – most important – they’re playing with confidence. They believe in their head coach and they believe in each other. The Penguins are playing their best hockey of the season right now.
(AP) - A lot less talk, a lot more action.

Unlike their last meeting, Sidney Crosby avoided any face-to-face confrontations with fellow MVP Alex Ovechkin on Sunday, instead producing a goal and assist in regulation, then the shootout winner to help Pittsburgh edge Washington 4-3 - the Penguins' sixth consecutive victory and the Capitals' fourth consecutive loss.

After Crosby lifted his shot over goalie Jose Theodore's glove side for the only score of the shootout, Ovechkin's attempt to extend the game was thwarted by Marc-Andre Fleury's kick save. Fleury earlier stopped shots by Alexander Semin and Viktor Kozlov.
Pos. Team GP Record Pts
4. Philadelphia 64 35-19-10 80
5. Florida 66 34-24-8 76
6. NY Rangers 66 34-24-8 76
7. Pittsburgh 67 35-26-6 76
8. Montreal 65 34-24-7 75
9. Carolina 67 35-27-5 75
10. Buffalo 66 33-26-7 73

Team Notables:
Buffalo: Plays at Philadelphia Tuesday
Carolina: Hosts NY Rangers Monday
Florida: Plays at Pittsburgh Tuesday
Montreal: Plays at Dallas Sunday
NY Rangers: Defeated Boston, 4-3
Philadelphia: Host Buffalo Tuesday

Sidney Crosby is congratulated after scoring a shootout goal (photo by Getty)
What Worked Well: Passing
The Penguins’ counterattack took advantage of the long gaps in the Capitals’ positioning to create a few chances. Whenever Washington turned the puck over, Pittsburgh’s forwards blew up ice with speed and the Penguins’ defensemen pushed the puck to them. This maneuver led to Pittsburgh’s first and third goal and created a number of great chances, including a breakaway for Sidney Crosby.

What Could Have Gone Better: Holding the Lead
The Penguins entered the third period with a 3-1 lead. However, the Capitals struck for two goals in a span of 49 seconds to tie the game. Pittsburgh was a little flustered from the quick scores. But the Penguins regained their composure, steadied the ship and were victorious in the end. 
Sidney Crosby stepped up in a big way to help the Penguins secure their best extended road trip in team history with a perfect five-for-five mark. Crosby scored a goal, tallied an assist and netted the game-winning shootout goal. He had four shots, three hits, 24:15 minutes of ice time and a plus-1 rating.

HONORABLE MENTION: Bill Guerin showed the value he brings to the Penguins’ lineup. He figured in on all three Penguins’ goals, scoring one and setting up two others. Guerin also provided a key screen that helped Pittsburgh score a power-play goal.
Some beautiful bang-bang puck movement trapped the Capitals and led to the game’s opening goal. Rob Scuderi passed the puck from his zone to Chris Kunitz at the red line. Kunitz re-directed the pass forward to the stick of Bill Guerin. The quick passing trapped the Capitals behind the play. Sidney Crosby jumped up with Guerin for a two-on-one. Guerin faked a shot and then sent a cross-ice pass to Crosby, who settled the puck before depositing it behind Jose Theodore. Pittsburgh 1, Washington 0.

The Capitals used a fortunate bounce to tie the game. Kris Letang had the puck behind the Penguins net and was waiting to set up a controlled breakout. Niklas Backstrom was standing atop the crease waiting to follow the play. Backstrom pressured Letang when the blueliner tried to skate the puck out. Letang curled back and then tried to throw the puck up center ice. The puck hit Backstrom and the Capital threw a centering feed to Alexander Semin. The Russian went to his backhand and roofed a shot behind Marc-Andre Fleury. Pittsburgh 1, Washington 1.

Sergei Gonchar, who was blessed with the birth of baby Victoria on Thursday, scored a power-play goal that gave the Penguins the lead. Gonchar drilled a shot from the midpoint into the top-right corner. Guerin deserves credit for providing a screen in front of the net. Theodore’s view was obviously obstructed and I doubt he saw the puck sail behind him. Pittsburgh 2, Washington 1.

Guerin scored his first goal in a Penguins uniform to build on their lead. Crosby made a spinning, blind backhand pass to spring Guerin into the Washington zone. Guerin curled the puck away from Shaone Morrisonn and roofed a shot into the goal. Pittsburgh 3, Washington 1.

Alex Ovechkin cut into the Penguins’ lead with a power-play goal 29 seconds into the third period. Ovechkin had the puck above the near circle and wristed a shot over the left shoulder of Fleury and into the net. Pittsburgh 3, Washington 2.

The Capitals tied the game with a goal 49 seconds later. Washington took advantage of a Pittsburgh line change when David Steckel hit Brooks Laich up ice for a breakaway. Laich lost control of the puck but still managed to recollect and roof a shot into the net. Pittsburgh 3, Washington 3.

Crosby was the only player to score in the shootout. The Penguins captain deked and faked like he would move to his backhand. Once Theodore committed, Crosby pulled back and nailed a shot on the forehand. Ovechkin had a chance to score to force a third round. Ovechkin came in slow on goal and tried to sneak a shot between Fleury’s legs. However, the Penguins’ netminder stacked his pads to slam the door shut. Pittsburgh 4, Washington 3.
Pittsburgh played without Petr Sykora, who is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

One tactical strategy that Dan Bylsma has instilled since being named interim head coach that I love is his use of situational line combinations, particularly uniting Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. For example, whenever opponents are called for icing – thus forfeiting a line change and forcing a faceoff in the opposing zone – Bylsma puts Malkin and Crosby together to take advantage of the tired opposition. Bylsma also likes to put the Two-Headed Monster together at the end of periods when they’ll have an entire intermission to rest.
> Pittsburgh improved to 35-26-6 on the year, with an 18-14-4 mark on the road, and has won six straight games, tying a season high.

> Pittsburgh went a perfect 5-0-0 on its five-game, 11-day road trip, the most successful road stint in team history (3-1-1 twice previously in 78-79 and 02-03).

> Pittsburgh is 8-1-1 since Dan Bylsma was named interim head coach. That is the best start through 10 games for a Penguins head coach in franchise history (Herb Brooks, 7-2-1).

> Scoring Summary:
PIT, S.Crosby (25), 4:29 1st period: Penguins 1, Capitals 0
WAS, A.Semin (28), 12:46 1st period: Penguins 1, Capitals 1
PIT, S.Gonchar PP (3), 7:25 2nd period: Penguins 2, Capitals 1
PIT, B.Guerin (17), 10:54 2nd period: Penguins 3, Capitals 1
WAS, A.Ovechkin PP (47), 0:29 3rd period: Penguins 3, Capitals 2
WAS, B.Laich (16), 1:18 3rd period: Penguins 3, Capitals 3
SO: PIT, S.Crosby

> Evgeni Malkin was scoreless against Washington but still leads the NHL in points with 94 (29G-65A). Malkin’s 65 assists are a league-best and a new single-season career high. Malkin had a point in his previous 12 road games for 19 (8G-9A) in that stretch. 

> Malkin had his 10-game scoring streak snapped. He tallied 14 points (5G-9A) in that span but has still notched a point in 21 of his last 25 games.

> Sidney Crosby scored a goal, added an assist and converted the game-winning shootout score against Washington. He is third in the league in scoring with 82 points (25G-57A) and his 57 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 65.

> Crosby has a six-game scoring streak with four goals and six assists for 10 points over that span.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves to net his sixth consecutive victory, and eighth win in his past nine games while making his 15th straight start. The victory was the 103rd of his career. He is only the third goalie in Penguins’ history to hit the century mark and is one shy of Ken Wregget (104) for second place on the Penguins’ all-time wins list.

> Bill Guerin had a three-point game with a goal and two assists against Washington. He has four points (1G-3A) in his first two games with Pittsburgh. Guerin has a three-game scoring streak. He is one assist shy of 400 in his career.

> Kris Letang notched two assists against the Capitals. In his last four games, Letang has two goals and two assists for four points.
1. S.Crosby, PIT
2. B.Guerin, PIT
3. B.Laich, WAS

Author: Sam Kasan

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