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Capitals escape ugly game with victory

| Friday, Oct. 14, 2011

The Penguins and Washington Capitals began their game Thursday by honoring victims of the plane crash that wiped out a Russian hockey team. By evening's end, they were throwing haymakers on and off the ice.

Right wing Arron Asham's apparent knockout of Washington center Jay Beagle -- and subsequent celebratory gesture while Beagle remained on the ice -- ignited harsh words following the Capitals' 3-2 overtime victory at Consol Energy Center.

"It happens in fights," Washington defenseman Karl Alzner said. "It's crappy to see. Have a little class, you know?"

Asham apologized for the gesture after the game. Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said he thought Asham knocked out Beagle, who was temporarily motionless on the ice, with 14:06 remaining in the third period. Asham then made a "knockout" gesture with his arms while skating to the penalty box. Reaction to Asham's gesture became an Internet sensation, even registering with WWE fans, who believe the reference was aimed toward wrestler CM Punk.

"I didn't want to hurt the kid," Asham said.

Coach Dan Bylsma admitted that it was a regrettable situation.

"It was the heat of the moment," Bylsma said. "Emotions got the best of him. Wishes he could have it back. He stuck up for a teammate. I don't think anyone likes what ensued after that."

Asham was coming to defenseman Kris Letang's defense on the play. Beagle had punched Letang moments earlier, earning a penalty. Before play came to a stop, Asham had challenged Beagle to the fight.

Washington captain Alex Ovechkin, who scored his first goal of the season, didn't appreciate Asham's behavior.

"I don't know what other people think, but I think it's kind of not respectful," said Ovechkin, who yelled at Asham while they were in their respective penalty boxes. "Beagle, it's his first year in the NHL. Asham, I don't know if he knows it or not. He's not a fighter, it's not his job to fight. It's kind of disrespectful."

Left winger Mike Knuble, who scored Washington's first goal, played with Asham in Philadelphia and came to his old teammate's defense.

"You hate to see your teammate go down," Knuble said. "I played with Arron. He's an honest player."

Beagle was helped off the ice by teammates and Capitals trainers. Knuble said he was in good spirits after the game.

"Jay got popped a pretty good one," Boudreau said. "He's going against a tough customer, a guy who has been used to fighting. Jay's not used to fighting, and he got tagged a good one."

This was merely the latest heated installment in what many feel is hockey's best rivalry. Right winger James Neal scored both Penguins goals, and center Evgeni Malkin, playing for the first time after missing two games with a knee injury, received assists on both goals.

The Penguins (3-0-2, 8 points) have opened the season with points in each of their five games over eight nights.

Still, this game will be remembered for Asham's knockout punch and the reaction that followed.

"Always a close game when we play because they're good and we're good," Letang said. "It was intense, just like always."

How they scored

First period

» Penguins, 1-0 (2:27): Left wing Steve Sullivan passed from left dot to right dot, where Right wing James Neal one-timed low shot past slow-moving Washington goalie Tomas Vokoun.

Second period

» Capitals, 1-1 (1:20): Right wing Mike Knuble took pass from Right wing Alex Semin, barreled way to the net and scored when puck glanced off defenseman Deryk Engelland and through goalie Brent Johnson.

Third period

» Capitals, 2-1 (:40): Left wing Alex Ovechkin tipped defenseman Mike Green's shot past Johnson on a play that was originally ruled no goal.

» Penguins, 2-2: (16:15) Right wing Neal took a pass from center Evgeni Malkin and, streaking down the left wing, fired a shot between Vokoun's legs.


» Capitals, 3-2 (2:48): Defenseman Dennis Wideman wristed a shot past Johnson on a 4-on-3 power play with center Jordan Staal in the penalty box.

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