WASHINGTON -- The Penguins' long journey from Montreal deposited them at their District of Columbia hotel a little after 2 a.m. Sunday.
The flight to Newark and subsequent long bus ride might have been a novelty, but nothing more, they insisted. Certainly, it did not account for Sunday's blown three-goal lead in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Capitals.
"I don't think it had anything to do with it," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "I thought our team had plenty of jump. Our guys felt good."
After a 5-3 loss to the Canadiens Saturday afternoon, the Penguins had to improvise to get to Washington because air and train travel were nonexistent in the capital after a monster snowstorm.
There were few empty seats, and Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau waved off the idea that safety might have been compromised by holding the game.
"The safety issue was [whether] Pittsburgh could get in," he said. "If Pittsburgh could get in, I think it was important that you play it."
Boudreau spent Saturday night in a Washington hotel because his suburban home lost power.
He said several Capitals players also lost power, but none missed the game or were late arriving because of road conditions or other weather-related problems.
Washington beat Atlanta at home Friday night and was off while the Penguins were piecing together their odyssey, but that didn't give the Capitals an advantage in Boudreau's mind.
"I was worried about our players, too, having to shovel out," he said. "I didn't want them to have to do too much shoveling because, maybe I'm old, but I'm sore as hell."
Penguins center Jordan Staal figured NBC, which televised the marquee matchup, would have been out of sorts if the game had to be postponed.
"They really wanted to play this game, obviously, with what we went through [Saturday]," he said.
Penguins left winger Chris Kunitz returned after missing 15 games because of surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle.
He had no shots or points, a plus-minus rating of minus-1 and played 13:03.
He played with center Sidney Crosby and right winger Bill Guerin, and his return allowed the Penguins to revert to combinations that had become familiar on the top three lines.
On the second line, Evgeni Malkin centered Ruslan Fedotenko and Pascal Dupuis, and the third line had Staal centering Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy.
Washington winger Alex Ovechkin didn't exactly gush over his hat trick and four-point game, which drove his team's comeback win.
"It's always nice to get goals, especially in this type of big game," the reigning two-time defending NHL MVP said. "They are going to play hard against us. They played great."
It was his first hat trick of the season, ninth of his career.
With 14 consecutive victories, the Capitals have tied third-longest winning streak in NHL history.
The record is held by the 1992-93 Penguins, who won 17 in a row late in the regular season and were a huge favorite to win their third Stanley Cup in a row.
Instead, the Penguins lost to the New York Islanders in the second round of the playoffs and didn't win the title again until June.
The Penguins held a 4-2 lead when they got a 59-second five-on-three power play for the final 23 seconds of the second period and first 37 seconds of the third period, but they couldn't score. "We've got to find a way to help our team with that," Crosby said. ... Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik led the game with six blocked shots. ... With Kunitz's return, the Penguins reassigned Tim Wallace to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. They scratched defenseman Martin Skoula and forwards Max Talbot (believed to be groin injury) and Eric Godard (groin). ... Washington defenseman Mike Green on the teams' rivalry: "We wanted to keep this streak going, and I think Pittsburgh is probably the team that wanted to end it the most." ... The Penguins are scheduled to have today off.
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org First Published February 8, 2010 5:00 AM