Capitals, Ovechkin edge Penguins
The Capitals' Jeff Schultz dribbles the puck on his stick in the second period against the Penguins. Ovechkin had three points on two goals and one assist.
Evgeni Malkin celebrates after scoring in the first period against the Capitals last night at Mellon Arena.
The Capitals' Alexander Semin shoots the puck past Penguins goalie Ty Conklin in the shootout to give the Capitals a 6-5 win last night.
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Remember that blueprint the Penguins followed so effectively in Montreal Saturday?
The one that allowed them to survive a seriously diluted lineup and earn a victory against a quality opponent?
Well, even though that formula had no obvious flaws, the Penguins abandoned it -- frequently and radically -- in a 6-5 shootout loss to Washington at Mellon Arena last night.
"It was the type of game coaches don't like," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said.
True enough, although the Penguins still had an opportunity to salvage two points when they were awarded a two-man advantage for 67 seconds in overtime. But even though they had been 3 for 6 with the extra man to that point, they seriously never threatened to manufacture the game-winner.
"They blocked a lot of shots," defenseman Kris Letang said. "But usually on those chances, you have to score."
Washington secured the victory when Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin beat Penguins goalie Ty Conklin in the shootout; Jarkko Ruutu was the only Penguins player to get a puck past Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig.
One of the things injured Penguins center Sidney Crosby saw while watching from owner Mario Lemieux's luxury box was teammate Evgeni Malkin in a riveting head-to-head battle with Ovechkin.
The Crosby-Ovechkin rivalry has gotten a lot of attention during the past two-plus seasons, but Malkin-Ovechkin proved to be a pretty fair fill-in when Crosby was unable to play.
Both had two goals and an assist, and seemed to feed off the other's energy.
"It was a great show of two young superstars trying to be king of the hill," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said.
The Penguins are 27-17-4 and moved back into sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division.
Maxime Talbot gave them a 1-0 lead on their first shot of the game, as he curled away from Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom behind the goal line, then went hard to the net and stuffed a shot past Kolzig.
The Capitals, though, countered with two unanswered goals, as Tomas Fleischmann tossed a backhander between the legs of Penguins goalie Dany Sabourin at 10:43, and Viktor Kozlov threw in an Ovechkin rebound at 16:04.
Malkin restored the Penguins' equilibrium with an outstanding individual effort 45 seconds later. He had the puck behind the Washington goal line, carried it around the left side of the net and moved into the left circle before beating Kolzig with a backhander.
The standing-room crowd of 17,050 obviously appreciated Malkin's goal, but seemed to get an even bigger kick out of a hit he threw with about 20 seconds left in the period.
Ovechkin lined up Malkin behind the Capitals' goal line and tried to lay him out, but Malkin absorbed a somewhat glancing hit and sent Ovechkin hurtling into the boards.
"I saw him at the last second," Malkin said. "I just [moved] and he went straight into the boards."
Ovechkin got a measure of revenge early in the second period, scoring a power-play goal that put the Capitals back on top. Although he did not get good wood on a shot from near the bottom of the left circle, the puck still snuck under the crossbar at 1:48 to make it 3-2.
The lead melted away almost instantly, however, as Malkin struck again during a power play at 3:34. He beat Kolzig with a wrist shot from above the right hash for his 26th of the season.
The Penguins recaptured the lead with another man-advantage goal at 6:13. Petr Sykora got free at the right side of the crease, took a cross-ice feed from Ryan Whitney and tossed the puck into a mostly open net for his 14th.
Sykora's goal gave the Penguins four on their first eight shots.
Washington's conversion rate was only slightly worse, and improved when Ovechkin beat Sabourin from above the left dot at 7:58. That was the Capitals' fourth goal on 13 shots, and prompted Therrien to replace Sabourin with Conklin.
Ryan Malone got the Penguins' third power-play goal by deflecting a Sergei Gonchar shot out of the air and past Kolzig at 5:04 of the third; but the Penguins then took three consecutive penalties and Kozlov scored from the inner edge of the right circle at 15:29 on the final one to force overtime.
Despite the disappointing finish, though, the Penguins are 1-0-1 in their first two games without Crosby.
"We've picked up three points out of four without Sid," Therrien said. "That's a positive."
First Published January 22, 2008 12:00 am