Ovechkin beats Penguins with power play goal
Over the past two months, the Penguins and Capitals have talked trash on HBO, played in a football stadium and exchanged barbs over alleged dirty play.
In the end, though, it is a rivalry based on star power. With the Penguins' two brightest stars out of the lineup for a second straight game against the Capitals, Alex Ovechkin stole the show in Washington's 1-0 victory Monday at Consol Energy Center.
The victory pulls Washington (32-19-10, 74 points) within three points of the Penguins (36-20-5, 77 points) for the Eastern Conference's No. 4 seed.
Although the Penguins are no fan of moral victories, they did acknowledge that they carried the play throughout the evening. They outshot Washington, 39-24.
"We have a standard that we live by," Penguins left wing Matt Cooke said. "And we played to that standard tonight."
Stuck in a funk almost all season, the Ovechkin of old showed up for his first game in the Penguins' new building. He leveled Brooks Orpik on the game's first shift, mustered countless opportunities, fired eight shots on goal and buried a slapshot past Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for the game's only goal.
"Ovi is Ovi," Cooke said. "He's a threat any time he is on the ice."
Ovechkin was involved in the first period's two signature moments. On the game's first shift, he flattened Orpik with a clean body check that earned a chorus of boos from the Consol Energy Center crowd.
The Penguins got their revenge later in the period when goalie Fleury stopped Ovechkin on a breakaway, recalling memories of his epic save in the 2009 playoffs.
The rest of the period saw the Penguins outwork Washington and enjoy a territorial advantage. However, most of the Penguins' 18 first-period shots were low percentage blasts from the perimeter.
"We had a lot of good chances," left wing Brett Sterling said. "I thought we played well. We just didn't score."
With the Penguins short-handed late in the second period and the game still scoreless, Jordan Staal enjoyed a golden opportunity to score the game's first goal. However, his breakaway attempt was snuffed by Capitals' goalie Michal Neuvirth.
Moments later, Washington finally made the Penguins pay for being short-handed. With all four Penguins flat-footed, the puck trickled to Ovechkin at the right point. He blistered a slapshot past Fleury's stick side for his 24th goal of the season.
"We lost the special teams battle," defenseman Kris Letang said. "It's too bad, because Flower played great."
An inspired shift from Sterling nearly evened the game early in the third period. Sterling beat the Capitals to a number of loose pucks and finally produced a quality chance, only to fire a wrist shot off the post to Neuvirth's right.
"We had so many chances late in the game," Sterling said.
Max Talbot broke behind the defense later in the third period but had his stick lifted by Washington's John Carlson.
The Penguins continued to dictate play in the period's latter stages but were unable to beat Neuvirth. Going back to the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, the Penguins have gone more than seven periods without scoring a goal against the Capitals.
The Penguins were playing without Paul Martin and Alex Goligoski -- the latter was traded earlier in the day to Dallas -- controlled play even with a depleted blue line that included Brian Strait, who was making his NHL debut.
They did everything but win.
"We really did a lot of good things tonight," Letang said.