Washington possesses a lethal power play, with highly skilled personnel such as Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Alexander Semin, among others.
And the Capitals are more dangerous with the extra man when they're allowed to bend -- or, as the Penguins see it, flat-out break -- rules designed to prevent players from obstructing opponents.
The Penguins believe that happened in Game 1 of their second-round series against the Capitals, when Green picked Jordan Staal just before Ovechkin scored during a two-man advantage, and again late in Game 2, when Semin tripped Matt Cooke as he was scrambling to get in front of Ovechkin before he got off a shot that beat goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to break a 2-2 tie in Washington's 4-3 victory.
"Those are situations we always address with the referees," coach Dan Bylsma said. "They told us on the ice [during Game 2] that they were looking for that situation and didn't feel it merited a call."
The Penguins, not surprisingly, saw it differently.
"It's a blatant play," Cooke said. "I'm nowhere near the puck. He's not allowed to touch me. He's not allowed to trip me. The rules are the rules."
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, who appeared to injure his left shoulder or collarbone when he absorbed a hit from Green late in Game 2, apparently is not hurt as badly as he looked to be initially.
"He's much better than we initially thought," Bylsma said.
Letang is described as "questionable" for Game 3, although his condition still was being evaluated when the Penguins convened for a meeting and optional practice at Southpointe yesterday.
"It's a strength issue," Bylsma said. "It's not an issue further than that."
If Letang does not play, Philippe Boucher is the logical candidate to replace him. He took Letang's spot for Game 5 of the opening round against Philadelphia.
The Penguins' lack of secondary scoring has been a recurring theme in the playoffs this year, and that isn't likely to change until either they are eliminated or someone other than Sidney Crosby and Mark Eaton starts to contribute goals.
Most of the Penguins' forwards are mired in significant playoff droughts. A sampling: Chris Kunitz (one goal in his past 29 postseason games), Petr Sykora (one in 16), Jordan Staal (none in 14), Bill Guerin (two in 17), Ruslan Fedotenko (one in 17), Matt Cooke (none in 16), Pascal Dupuis (one in 23) and Craig Adams (none in 37).
"It's obviously frustrating at times," Staal said. "They don't need me to score goals to win games. But, at the same time, it would be nice to chip in every once in a while and get some offense going."
The Penguins signed forward Casey Pierro-Zabotel, who won the Western Hockey League scoring championship with 115 points this season, to a three-year entry level contract. He was a third-round draft choice in 2007. ... Although he has four goals in the first two games against Washington, Crosby does not have an assist in his past five games, the longest such drought of his playoff career. ... Boucher was one of seven players to go on the ice for the optional practice. The others were forwards Tyler Kennedy, Eric Godard, Miroslav Satan and Pascal Dupuis and goalies Mathieu Garon and Brad Thiessen.