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Pens, Caps reignite rivalry

by Bryanna McDermott / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins take on the Washington Capitals Wednesday night at the Verizon Center, but this matchup may not have the typical headlines.

While the story of Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin going head-to-head remains prevalent, the goaltending matchup will be just as entertaining.

Washington's Braden Holtby is 7-3-1 in his 11 starts, posting a .922 save percentage and allowing an average 2.16 goals against. 

The Penguins goalies are doing just as well.

Veteran Marc-Andre Fleury is 6-3-2 with a 3.06 GAA and .910 save percentage, while rookie Matt Murray is 4-0 with an outstanding .961 save percentage and only allowing just five total goals.

"There's the very prominent 'Sid' and 'Ovi' matchup, but also you get to see two great goaltenders go at it no matter who we play," Ian Cole said. "Holtby has been one of the best goaltenders in the league now for a couple years, but we have two of the best in the league as well. Outside of that common theme that everyone talks about of 'Sid' and 'Ovi', the goalie matchup is always one to watch."

Heading to Washington also gives the Pens a chance to prove they can be just as good on the road as they are at home.

"It's huge," Brian Dumoulin said of asserting the team's reputation as a team that can dominate both at home and away. "We play half of our games on the road, so it's important to go into other buildings and be able to play really well. We aren't going to have it every night, but we can control our energy and our emotions. We're looking forward to getting on the road again and putting our best foot forward."

The Pens traveled to Philadelphia earlier this season before taking on the west coast, going 3-0-1 during the four-game road trip. Overall, Pittsburgh is 4-1-1 on the road, compared to 7-1-1 when playing at PPG Paints Arena.

The Verizon Center is no easy building to play either.

"Washington is a tough building to play in," Dumoulin said. "Their fans are really good there. It's going to be a really important test for us."

"It comes to mind when you think about loud buildings and high emotion games," Crosby said. "I think that's fun. As a player, those are the games you want to be a part of, so we should expect that tomorrow."

Pittsburgh and Washington have a deep rivalry that has given fans many physical, intense and hard fought games throughout the last decade. These two teams always bring their best when they play each other and it's a treat to watch.

The Pens' home-opener this season was no exception. After raising the Stanley Cup banner, the Pens, without Crosby, and Caps took the competition into overtime and then a shootout, where Phil Kessel's wrist shot past Holtby gave the Pens the 3-2 victory.

This matchup should be no different, and the Pens players are ready to take on the challenge.

"They're one of the best teams in the east again," Nick Bonino said of Washington. "They're right there with us in our division. Last season was last season, I know we had some success against them and we took them into a shootout that first game, but none of that will matter (Wednesday)."

"We played them once already this year and we had a heated series with them last year," Dumoulin said. "You can look in both locker rooms and it's a lot of familiar faces that played last years. They're always intense games. It's going to be a very fun, emotional game and I look forward to playing in it."

 

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