Crosby, Ovechkin meeting hype

| Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Early in what has become an epic, seven-game series, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was asked — for roughly the millionth time — about his rivalry with Washington Capitals' star Alex Ovechkin.

"There has been a buildup, and I'm sure this is entertaining," Crosby said. "But as a player, I still want to win."

So does Ovechkin, of course, and the series winner won't be decided until Wednesday night, thanks to Washington's 5-4 overtime victory Monday night at Mellon Arena.

Next up: Game 7, where legends are made.

Ovechkin sounds mighty confident.

"Right now, we feel more energy and (are) more excited than Pittsburgh," Ovechkin said, after teammate David Steckel scored the deciding goal on a deflection at 6:22 of overtime. "They knew it was going to be hard if they lost, to come back in our building, because the fans are going to be crazy over there. You know, we're going to be flying out there, too."

Crosby's typically more-reserved take: "This is a challenge, but if there's a group of guys who are capable, it's the guys in that locker room."

These two have been trading on-ice salvos since the opening minutes of Game 1. Somehow, the showdown within the showdown has lived up to its colossal hype.

Crosby and Ovechkin have combined for 13 goals and 23 points in a series sure to be remembered for its overflowing supply of intensity and skill.

And for whatever happens in Game 7, of course.

"They're incredible," said Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, when asked about Crosby and Ovechkin. "But I think (Penguins center Evgeni) Malkin is just as incredible. They play at a level that, boy, other people can't attain, because they're that much superior, I think.

"If I wasn't behind the bench, I'd sure enjoy watching 'em, and I think a lot of people will want to see Game 7."

Crosby set up the game's first goal, delivering a perfect feed to Bill Guerin on a 2-on-1 at 5:55 of the first period. Ovechkin made a similarly sweet pass to set up a Viktor Kozlov goal that tied it 6:27 into the second.

The show was just beginning.

Ovechkin added two more assists in the third, and Crosby batted his own rebound attempt out of midair to tie the score, 4-4, with 4:18 left in regulation, sending the sellout crowd of 17,132 into a tizzy.

Ovechkin nearly won it at 4:13 of overtime with a blast from the left circle, but goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury snagged a shot labeled for the far corner.

Crosby has six goals and four assists in the series. He also won a faceoff that led directly to the winning overtime goal in Game 3.

Ovechkin has seven goals and six assists. He also has doled out several crunching hits, including a controversial one that knocked Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar out of the past two-plus games.

In Game 2, Crosby and Ovechkin became the first opposing players to score hat tricks in a playoff game since 1996.

Penguins backup goaltender Mathieu Garon has a front-row seat for the duel. A veteran of 204 NHL games, Garon isn't easily impressed.

He is by these two.

"I don't think you can say one player's better than the other," Garon said. "They're way different. They're both unreal."

Game 7 should be, too.

May the best man, er, team, win.


Series stats for Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin:

PLAYER: G-A-PTS — +/- — Shots — Hits — PIM — W-L

Crosby: 6-4-10 — +3 — 29 — 7 — 2 — 3-3

Ovechkin: 7-6-13 — +6 — 38 — 23 — 6 — 3-3

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