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Capitals send rival Penguins to sixth consecutive loss

| Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012

The Capitals can't beat the Penguins in the playoffs, but for a night, they have knocked them from the playoff picture.

Goalie Tomas Vokoun stopped 30 shots, and the Capitals held off the Penguins, 1-0, at Verizon Center on Wednesday. The Penguins find themselves ninth in the Eastern Conference after losing their sixth straight game — the team's longest losing streak under coach Dan Bylsma.

Funny thing is, the Penguins were pretty pleased with their effort.

"That's how we've got to keep playing," Dan Bylsma said. "Let's play another 40 like that."

Bylsma used the term "hard-fought" four times during his postgame address, and indeed, the Penguins did play hard. They controlled play for most of the night, outshot Washington, 30-21, and did so without the benefit of a power-play opportunity.

"The effort was there from everybody tonight," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "The effort was probably maxed out by all 20 guys. It just seems like if you make one mistake, it's in your net right now. When you're on a winning streak, it goes the other way."

The Penguins are most certainly not on a winning streak, and are trying to win games with grit more than skill.

Unfortunately, the guy with the most skill on the ice made the mistake that lost the game.

Center Evgeni Malkin, at times guilty of attempting to beat the opposition on his own, committed a turnover at the blue line in the first period. This has been a trend of late, and this time, it badly burned the Penguins.

Joel Ward took advantage of the turnover, directing a puck toward Penguins' territory. Defenseman Zbynek Michalek bolted for the puck but by doing so, abandoned goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Center Jeff Halpern beat Michalek to the puck and found left wing Jason Chimera, who cleanly beat Fleury on a breakaway.

It was the only goal required to beat the Penguins' lifeless offense. They have scored six goals during the six-game skid that has removed them from playoff contention.

"Things aren't going to come easily for us right now," Penguins right wing Craig Adams said. "It's the way it is. No one's going to feel sorry for us."

The Capitals were given two power plays, the Penguins none. And they weren't real thrilled about it.

"Especially when you have that much zone time," Orpik said. "It's amazing. It's something we talk about. It's gone back to the old rules. For a few years, it was no tolerance. Now our forwards get a step on them — they get pressed up against the glass and a stick on them — and it's never called. It's so frustrating. But we've just got to battle through it."

The Penguins were pleased with the job they did against Washington star Alex Ovechkin, who was held to four shots and no points.

They were pleased with everything but the final score, something that wasn't the case 24 hours ago following a 5-1 loss against Ottawa.

"We need to keep playing the way we did tonight," Adams said.

The Penguins return to action Friday in Florida.

Note: Forward Pascal Dupuis' ankle is OK following a nasty crash into the boards during the second period. ... Defenseman Paul Martin said he remains ill but was well enough to play against Washington.

Scoring summary

First period

Capitals, 1-0 (15:25): C Evgeni Malkin's turnover at the Washington blue forced D Zbynek Michalek, the last line of defense, to pursue a loose puck by the boards. C Jeff Halpern got there first and found LW Jason Chimera for a breakaway. He beat G Marc-Andre Fleury cleanly with a high shot to the stick side.

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