Kunitz goal pushes Penguins past Capitals

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Chris Kunitz scored a goal early in the third period to lead the Penguins to a 2-1 victory against Washington at the Verizon Center tonight.

The victory was the Penguins' first in regulation against the Capitals during the regular season since March 9, 2008 and raised their record to 15-7-4.

Penguins center Sidney Crosby failed to record a point in Washington for the first time in 12 career appearances, while Capitals winger Mike Knuble had a 13-game scoring streak against the Penguins snapped.

Kunitz scored the game-winner at 2:36 of the third, when he fought past Washington defenseman John Erskine and beat goalie Tomas Vokoun from above the right hash mark for his ninth of the season.

Rookie defenseman Simon Despres made his NHL debut for the Penguins, as they played without two of their top four defensemen, Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek, because of head injuries sustained late in a 4-3 overtime victory in Montreal Saturday.

The Penguins got the only goal of the opening period, as Craig Adams, set up at the left side of the crease, rapped in a feed from Arron Asham at 5:21 for his second of the season.

Six seconds later, Capitals defenseman John Erskine (6 feet 4, 220 pounds) earned the decision in a fight with Asham (5 feet 11, 205), presumably going after him to avenge teammate Jay Beagle, who Asham knocked out in a fight in mid-October.

Beagle was injured in the fight and has missed the 21 games since then.

Washington didn't get its first shot until the game was 9 ?? minutes old, but it was a pretty good one and Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was forced to reject an Alex Ovechkin backhand from close range.

The Capitals seemed intent on pounding the Penguins into submission and built a 19-7 edge in hits during the first period, but the Penguins responded by taking a 13-4 edge in shots.

Washington, though, pulled even on their first shot of the second period, as Jason Chimera walked out from the left side of the net and flipped a backhander past Fleury at 1:20.

That was the only goal for either team during the second, when the Penguins had a 12-11 advantage in shots.

The Penguins are off until Saturday, when they will visit Carolina on the final stop of a four-game road trip.



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