Washington's comfort level grows with 8th win in row here

Capitals 3, Penguins 2, Overtime

It's not like the rivalry needed this.

There wasn't much danger of the Penguins and Washington Capitals getting together anytime soon to just hang out, sip a few brews and watch some football.

Good luck finding a mongoose who has as much disdain for his neighborhood cobra as these clubs have for each other.

But memories of a sequence between Arron Asham of the Penguins and Washington's Jay Beagle early in the third period of the Capitals' 3-2 overtime victory against the Penguins Thursday night at Consol Energy Center might endure longer than anything else to come out of this game.

That includes Dennis Wideman's winning goal.

James Neal's first two-goal game as a Penguins player.

A two-assist effort by Evgeni Malkin in a game no one was sure he would dress for because of a sore knee.

The Capitals were up, 2-1, when Beagle went at Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, drawing a roughing minor at 5:54 of the third.

Beagle promptly was confronted by Asham and, after Beagle landed the first two punches in the ensuing fight, Asham got in two of his own.

The second dropped Beagle and bloodied him. In fact, Asham pulled up on a third one he was preparing to deliver as Beagle went to the ice.

Asham immediately turned and skated toward the penalty box, but along the way, made two quick gestures -- the "washout" signal a boxing referee gives at the end of a count-out and a head-on-the-hands sleeping pose -- that drew a bitter reaction from Washington.

And a mea culpa from Asham.

"I was excited," he said. "That was uncalled for, but you try to get the crowd into it. It was kind of classless on my part. I wish I could take that back, but it's just to get fired up. I was trying to get our team into it.

"I should have toned it down a bit, but it's no different than [Washington's Alex Ovechkin] throwing his stick down and warming his hands over it [after scoring a goal]."

At least some of the Capitals, not surprisingly, professed outrage over Asham's actions.

Defenseman Karl Alzner labeled them "classless" and Ovechkin said Asham's actions were "not respectful."

It's worth noting, though, that Washington winger Mike Knuble, who played with Asham in Philadelphia, characterized him as "an honest player" who is "just doing what he has to do."

Whether there will be any meaningful fallout from the incident, especially in future games between these teams, remains to be seen.

The immediate significance is that the Capitals have won eight consecutive games in Pittsburgh, joining the New Jersey Devils as the only clubs ever to do so.

Wideman made the victory possible when, at 2:48 of overtime -- just 44 seconds into Washington's lone man-advantage of the game -- he beat goalie Brent Johnson from inside the right circle.

"They made a skilled play, and the guy buried it," penalty-killer Craig Adams said.

Wideman's winner is the only goal the Penguins have allowed in 17 short-handed situations this season.

"Two minutes of four-on-three [play] is tough in overtime," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

Neal had given the Penguins a 1-0 lead at 2:27 of the opening period, when he took a feed from Steve Sullivan and beat Capitals goalie Tomas Vokoun from outside the right dot.

That lead held up until 1:20 of the second, when Knuble pulled Washington even.

Knuble had the puck to the left of the Penguins net and tried to take it there, but lost control as he approached the left post. Nonetheless, the puck slid into the crease and off the left skate of Johnson, who got the start because Marc-Andre Fleury was ill, before skidding across the goal line.

Knuble has at least one point in each of his past 13 games against the Penguins.

Ovechkin put Washington in front, 2-1, with a sensational deflection 40 seconds into the period, but Neal put the game into overtime with his fourth of the season, as he put a shot between Vokoun's legs from inside the left dot on a power play at 16:15.

That was one of 41 shots by the Penguins, who held Washington to 19.

"I think it was our best game of the year so far," Letang said.

Probably. And it certainly is the most memorable.

Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published October 14, 2011 4:00 AM


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