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Crosby lifts Penguins over Capitals in last game of road trip

AP - Capitals right wing Eric Fehr (16) battles for the puck against Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) during the first period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Capitals right wing Eric Fehr (16) battles for the puck against Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) during the first period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
AP - Penguins center Brandon Sutter (center) goes over the wall into the bench after he was hit by Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin (8) during the third period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Penguins center Brandon Sutter (center) goes over the wall into the bench after he was hit by Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin (8) during the third period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
NHLI via Getty Images - Capitals goalie makes a save in front of the Penguins' Chris Kunitz during the third period Monday, March 10, 2014, at Verizon Center in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>NHLI via Getty Images</em></div>Capitals goalie makes a save in front of the Penguins' Chris Kunitz during the third period Monday, March 10, 2014, at Verizon Center in Washington.
AP - Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz (14) celebrates his goal against the Capitals during the second period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz (14) celebrates his goal against the Capitals during the second period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
AP - Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) adjusts his skates while warming up before facing the Capitals on Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) adjusts his skates while warming up before facing the Capitals on Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
AP - Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov (81) goes for the puck against Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik (44) during the first period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov (81) goes for the puck against Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik (44) during the first period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
AP - Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) fights for position against Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta (right) and Lee Stempniak during the first period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) fights for position against Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta (right) and Lee Stempniak during the first period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
AP - Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) skates with the puck against Capitals center Marcus Johansson (90) during the second period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) skates with the puck against Capitals center Marcus Johansson (90) during the second period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
Getty Images - The Capitals' Alex Ovechkin takes a shot on goal against the Penguins during the first period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Capitals' Alex Ovechkin takes a shot on goal against the Penguins during the first period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
Getty Images - The Penguins' Simon Despres (47) and Capitals' Eric Fehr (16) go after the puck during the first period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Simon Despres (47) and Capitals' Eric Fehr (16) go after the puck during the first period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
Getty Images - The Penguins' Sidney Crosby celebrates with the bench after scoring a first-period goal against the Capitals on Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Sidney Crosby celebrates with the bench after scoring a first-period goal against the Capitals on Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
Getty Images - The Penguins' Olli Maatta (3) and Capitals' Brooks Laich (21) go after the puck during the first period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Olli Maatta (3) and Capitals' Brooks Laich (21) go after the puck during the first period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
AP - Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz (14) crashes into the boards against Capitals defenseman Mike Green (52) during the third period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz (14) crashes into the boards against Capitals defenseman Mike Green (52) during the third period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
AP - Penguins left wing James Neal (18) gets tangled up with Capitals defenseman John Carlson (74) as Capitals goalie Jaroslav Halak (41 looks on during the third period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Penguins left wing James Neal (18) gets tangled up with Capitals defenseman John Carlson (74) as Capitals goalie Jaroslav Halak (41 looks on during the third period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
AP - Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff (37) eyes the puck as Capitals left wing Dustin Penner (17) skates past during the third period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff (37) eyes the puck as Capitals left wing Dustin Penner (17) skates past during the third period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
AP - Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates with goalie Jeff Zatkoff (37) after they beat the Capitals on Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates with goalie Jeff Zatkoff (37) after they beat the Capitals on Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
AP - Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) looks for the puck against Capitals center Jay Beagle (83) during the third period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) looks for the puck against Capitals center Jay Beagle (83) during the third period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
Getty Images - The Penguins' Jussi Jokinen (36) and the Capitals' John Carlson (74) go after the puck during the third period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Jussi Jokinen (36) and the Capitals' John Carlson (74) go after the puck during the third period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
Getty Images - The Penguins' Matt Niskanen (2) moves the puck in front of the Capitals' Troy Brouwer (20) during the third period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Matt Niskanen (2) moves the puck in front of the Capitals' Troy Brouwer (20) during the third period Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington.
Getty Images - The Penguins' Sidney Crosby moves the puck in front of the Capitals' Dmitry Orlov during the second period Monday, March 10, 2014, at Verizon Center in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Sidney Crosby moves the puck in front of the Capitals' Dmitry Orlov during the second period Monday, March 10, 2014, at Verizon Center in Washington.

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Monday, March 10, 2014, 9:45 p.m.
 

WASHINGTON — Sidney Crosby knows the Penguins can play better.

Of course, they do not always need to because of performances like the one he provided Monday night.

In a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center, Crosby was the sure-shooting goal scorer and the sharp-passing playmaker and the forechecking penalty killer and the defender below his own goal line.

He also won 14 of 19 faceoffs.

Every example of his value was on display in front of the Capitals fans that loathe him and the captain of their team, Alex Ovechkin, Crosby's chief rival of nine NHL seasons and a three-time — and reigning — MVP.

“It was a very good game,” coach Dan Bylsma said, smiling as he searched in vain for a more fitting description of Crosby's work against Washington.

Good did not do justice to the one-time shot Crosby whipped past Capitals goalie Jaroslav Halak about three minutes after setting up left winger Chris Kunitz's opening goal in the first period. Crosby eyed the open side of the net while positioning himself to receive a “great pass” from center Evgeni Malkin.

He also is eying a second MVP and scoring title. After also assisting on Kunitz's 31st goal, scored in the second period, Crosby's league-best point total stands at 87.

He paces the NHL with 57 assists, and his 30 goals are more than the combined total of the players ranked Nos. 2-4 in assists.

The Penguins (43-17-4, 90 points) went 3-2-0 on a grueling five-game road trip that covered six cities and more than 7,000 miles and included three games against Western Conference powers Chicago, San Jose and Anaheim.

Crosby played a pivotal role in each victory.

A week ago, at Nashville, he assisted on each of the Penguins' goals in a 3-1 victory over the Predators.

Over the weekend at Anaheim, Crosby's behind-the-back pass started a tic-tac-toe sequence that ended with Malkin's tying goal in the third period of an eventual 3-2 shootout win.

The Penguins will play Washington on Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center, and veteran winger Craig Adams said he is hopeful their overall performance begins to improve.

“I still don't feel great about the way we're playing,” Adams said. “We did some good things, but we didn't put a complete game together. Again (Monday night) we spent too much time in our own end.

“We defended well, but we don't want to defend all the time. We want to play in their end.”

Too much energy spent defending contributed to a too-many-men minor penalty with 2 minutes, 17 seconds remaining in regulation.

The Penguins' top-ranked penalty kill held off the Capitals' No. 2-ranked power play, including 1:01 with an extra attacker because Halak was pulled.

Goalie Jeff Zatkoff (31 saves) credited his penalty killers with closing off lanes to Ovechkin, the NHL goal leader and possessor of a right-handed shot that has produced 145 career power-play goals.

Ovechkin finished with eight attempted shots, but three were blocked, and he misfired on another.

Statistically, the Penguins lost the road trip all but in the wins ledger. The Penguins were outshot 170-110 and outscored 15-12.

“We understand that's not going to be a winning formula down the stretch,” Crosby said.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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