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Washington at Pittsburgh

Penguins crush Capitals

CBSSports.com wire reports
  •  

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby versus Alex Ovechkin used to be one of the most electric rivalries in hockey.

Those days, at least for the moment, appear to be over.

Crosby extended his points streak to six games with a goal and two assists and the Pittsburgh Penguins pounded the lifeless Washington Capitals 5-2 on Thursday night.

"I think right now we're confident in the way we're playing and believe in the way we're playing," Crosby said. "Hopefully at the end we have the result we want."

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Evgeni Malkin added a goal and two assists, while Pascal Dupuis, James Neal and Matt Cooke scored for the Penguins, who have won five straight. Pittsburgh's revamped power play produced three goals, while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 23 shots for the Penguins, who moved atop the Eastern Conference standings by beating Washington at home in regulation for the first time in more than five years.

Not bad for a team that barely a week ago appeared a step slow in dispiriting losses to Toronto and the New York Islanders. Coach Dan Bylsma tweaked the power play - moving Neal to a spot closer to the net and giving Crosby more freedom - and the Penguins have taken off.

"The (power play) was great tonight," Neal said. "As long as everybody is working and we're shooting the puck, good things will happen. We got some great goals off of it tonight."

Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro scored for Washington but couldn't stop the NHL's worst team from losing for the fifth time in its last six games. Michal Neuvirth made nine saves for the Capitals before getting pulled for Braden Holtby, who promptly let in three goals in his first seven minutes on the ice.

"We got a lead and we stop playing," Ovechkin said.

The Penguins played without All-Star defenseman Kris Letang, who was a late scratch due to a lower-body injury. Pittsburgh hardly needed him on a night the Penguins showcased just how quickly a rivalry featuring two of the NHL's biggest stars has turned into a mismatch.

The Capitals have owned the regular-season series with their biggest rival in recent years and came in 9-0-1 during their last 10 visits to Pittsburgh.

It seems like eons ago now.

Washington has failed to find any footing under new coach Adam Oates, though Oates insisted he has been encouraged by his team's play despite its rough start. Pittsburgh had its way with the Capitals in a 6-3 victory in Washington on Sunday as Chris Kunitz scored four times.

Four days later, the gap between the clubs appeared to turn into a chasm.

"We kind of leaked oil for five minutes and that's all you need in the NHL right now," Oates said.

Things started off well enough for the Capitals when Ribeiro pounced on a rebound and slammed it past a fallen Fleury just 4:12 into the game to give Washington an early 1-0 lead. The Capitals controlled play for long stretches during the first half of the game, keeping Crosby and Malkin in check.

And just like that, it disappeared.

Malkin tied it 6:59 into the second period with a power-play goal, taking a cross-ice pass from Crosby and wristing it over Neuvirth's glove. Pittsburgh moved ahead less than six minutes later when Dupuis slid a wrist shot between Neuvirth's legs.

Searching for a spark, Oates pulled Neuvirth for Holtby, who led Washington to the cusp of the Eastern Conference finals last spring. The spark never materialized.

"It seemed like that was turning point," Holtby said. "It got even worse after I got in."

Did it ever.

Shortly after Holtby hopped over the boards, Neal pushed it to 3-1 by taking a pass from Kunitz and sprinting his way across the crease and tucking the puck under the woefully out of place goaltender.

Barely 10 seconds later, it was 4-1 after Cooke's slap shot from the point went through a screen and into the net.

Crosby closed out Pittsburgh's highest-scoring period in more than two years by swatting a rebound out of midair to give Pittsburgh a four-goal lead. The five goals by the Penguins were the most they scored in a 20-minute stretch since scoring five in an 8-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Jan. 5, 2011.

That romp was Crosby's final game of the season. He sat out the next night with concussion-like symptoms that ended up sidelining him for the better part of two years.

The former league MVP is 100 percent now, and so is his team. His six-game point streak is his longest since he collected a point in 25 straight games from Nov. 5-Dec. 28, 2010. He leads the NHL with 12 assists and is second in points with 17.

Ovechkin and the Capitals, meanwhile, continue to search for any sliver of hope. The Russian scored his third goal of the season early in the third period but it proved little help on a night Washington was outclassed at both ends of the ice.

"We need a win and once we get that win, confidence will build up," Ribeiro said. "We just have a hard time playing 60 minutes."

Notes

  • Forwards Dustin Jeffrey and Eric Tangradi joined Letang as scratches for the Penguins
  • Defensemen Tom Poti and John Erskine and forward Mathieu Perreault were scratched by Washington
  • The Capitals last regulation loss in Pittsburgh came on Oct. 18, 2007
  • Both teams play again on Saturday. Pittsburgh travels to New Jersey while Washington hosts Florida.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby extends his points streak to six games with a goal and two assists against the Capitals. (US Presswire)
Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby extends his points streak to six games with a goal and two assists against the Capitals. (US Presswire)

Scoreboard
Washington (2-8-1)1012
Pittsburgh  (8-3-0) «0505
Three Stars
E. Malkin
PIT


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 2
S. Crosby
PIT


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 2
J. Neal
PIT


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 1
Scoring Summary
1ST PERIOD
04:12 - Mike Ribeiro (4), Snap Shot. Assist: Kundratek, Ovechkin
2ND PERIOD
06:59Power Play - Evgeni Malkin (3), Wrist Shot. Assist: Crosby, Martin
12:49 - Pascal Dupuis (4), Slap Shot. Assist: Crosby, Kunitz
16:33Power Play - James Neal (7), Backhand Shot. Assist: Kunitz, Malkin
16:44 - Matt Cooke (2), Slap Shot. Assist: Sutter
19:38Power Play - Sidney Crosby (5), Slap Shot. Assist: Malkin, Neal
3RD PERIOD
08:34Power Play - Alex Ovechkin (3), Snap Shot. Assist: Ribeiro, Green
Penalty Summary
1ST PERIOD
12:05Alzner, 2 min, Holding
2ND PERIOD
06:49Alzner, 2 min, Interference
15:42Ward, 2 min, Delaying Game
18:18Hamrlik, 2 min, Hooking
3RD PERIOD
03:59Ovechkin, 2 min, Cross Check
03:59Bortuzzo, 2 min, Roughing
06:48Orpik, 2 min, Roughing
18:00Bortuzzo, 2 min, Interference
Shots On Goal
 123T
WAS861125
PIT518528
 
Other Games
Fla 3 Final
Phi 2
Car 3 Final
OT
Ott 2
Tor 3 Final
Wpg 2
Van 4 Final
Min 1
Cal 4 Final
OT
Colu 3
NYI 1 Final
NYR 4
TB 2 Final
NJ 4
Mon 4 Final
Buf 5
LA 0 Final
Nash 3
Det 5 Final
StL 1
Chi 6 Final
Pho 2