Capitals down Penguins in classic contest
Play the first two periods like they did Thursday night, and the Penguins probably could count on taking two points from most NHL teams.
Unfortunately, the Washington Capitals might just be the best NHL team - and they fired a salvo at the defending Stanley Cup champions with a 6-3 victory at Mellon Arena, a win fueled by four consecutive goals from Washington to close the contest.
"They're not first in the league for nothing," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "They're playing good hockey."
A fifth straight win was also marked the eighth in nine games for the Capitals (32-12-6, 70 points). Conversely, the Penguins (31-20-1, 63 points) are on a 6-10-0 slide dating to Dec. 21.
"Since Christmas, this was our best game," Penguins forward Mike Rupp said. "We weren't losing the battle for pucks."
Actually, the Penguins weren't losing anything through two periods. The score was tied, and Washington held only a 25-24 shots advantage. However, a couple of quick-strike goals by the Capitals early in the final period turned the tide. Left wing Tomas Fleischmann snapped a 3-3 tie at 2:32, and center Nicklas Backstrom extended that lead only 53 seconds later.
Backstrom's goal was one of two scored by Washington on the power play. The Capitals sparked a rally on their only other advantage chance with a goal from left wing Alex Ovechkin late in the second period.
Ovechkin also added an empty-net goal late in the game, giving him 32 on the season and 251 for a career in only its fifth season.
Recently named team captain, Ovechkin was most impressed by his reputably free-wheeling club's defensive effort over the final 16 minutes while holding a two-goal lead.
"Sometimes when we get the lead, we just stop playing, but (last night) it wasn't a team you can stop playing against, say, after 10 minutes in the third period," he said. "You say, 'OK, we won this game, and now let's go back home and enjoy our time at home.' It's not that type of team. They're an unbelievable team, and they can score goals easily."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and defenseman Brooks Orpik suggested the Capitals did not alter their approach with a multiple-goal third period lead, but Crosby noticed an improved commitment by Washington to chance-prevention.
"They really tried to shut things down," he said. "They had four guys back."
Added center Jordan Staal: "Our best asset last year was turning it around when they scored a big goal, and we couldn't do that."
Crosby, his 33rd, defenseman Kris Letang, his second, and rookie forward Nick Johnson, his first in his NHL debut, scored for the Penguins, who also received three assists from center Evgeni Malkin.
In his past three games, Malkin has scored four goals and recorded seven points after posting five goals and 18 points in 22 prior contests.
"I'm a young kid, and I learn every day," Malkin said, stressing that he is not listening to criticism from beyond the Penguins' dressing room.
Inside that room the team that overcame a 0-2 deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series from Washington last spring was in no mood to discuss moral victories. There is a Stanley Cup standard with these Penguins.
Still, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau described this first regular-season meeting between fierce rivals as "a measuring-stick (win)" for his club, which will face the Penguins three more times.
Staal seemed to agree based off this promise: "We'll be ready for the next one."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins GM insists coach Johnston was no afterthought
- Penguins goalie Fleury likely to enter season without new contract
- Penguins alumni rally to help Mitch Wilson, who is fighting ALS
- Rossi: Time with Penguins taught Bylsma importance of stability
- Pens’ Johnston hopes to `lessen the load’ for Crosby
- Penguins coach says team needs to ‘lessen the load’ on Crosby