Penguins lose to Capitals, 4-3
Sidney Crosby looks on as workers collect hats thrown onto the ice after the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin's third goal of the night in the third period of Game 2 of the NHL second-round playoff series in Washington.
Sidney Crosby celebrates his first-period goal against Capitals goalie Simeon Varlamov.
Capitals left winger Alex Ovechkin celebrates his second-period goal against Marc-Andre Fleury and Rob Scuderi last night in Washington.
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WASHINGTON -- There are a few things the Penguins can do to get back into their second-round playoff series against Washington.
One is to figure out how to prevent Capitals left winger Alex Ovechkin from scoring so many goals.
Another would be to find a way to get some of their own from someone other than Sidney Crosby.
In the wake of their 4-3 loss to Washington in Game 2 at the Verizon Center last night, it's hard to say which seems less likely.
Crosby and Ovechkin each scored three times in Game 2, prompting Capitals defenseman Mike Green to offer that, "This is everything the media made it out to be. It's a battle of the two best players in hockey, and tonight, they both carried their teams."
True enough, but, unfortunately for the Penguins, David Steckel, a checking-line forward for Washington, was the only other player on either team to get a goal.
Not that there's anything unusual lately about any Penguins forward except Crosby struggling to find the net.
Evgeni Malkin doesn't have a goal in the past five games. Jordan Staal has none in eight during these playoffs. Chris Kunitz is 0 for 8, too. Bill Guerin has gone six without one. So has Petr Sykora.
"A lot of us look at each other and know that we can be better," Kunitz said.
And, more to the point, they have to be. Diversifying the offense isn't supposed to mean having Crosby score in different periods.
"We have some guys who are a little frustrated, maybe, but you can't worry about scoring goals at this time of year," Guerin said. "You just go out and play your game, play as hard as you can, and the goals will come."
Perhaps, but it won't matter if that doesn't happen soon, because the Capitals have a 2-0 lead in the series, which resumes with Game 3 at 7:08 p.m. tomorrow at Mellon Arena.
This is the first time the Penguins have lost consecutive games in regulation since Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien as coach in mid-February and the 10th time in franchise history they have lost the first two games of a playoff series.
They have gone on to win three of the previous nine, rallying from 2-0 deficits to defeat Boston in 1991 and the Capitals in 1992 and '96.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang appeared to hurt his left shoulder on a hit by Green with 6:19 left in the game. The precise nature and severity of his injury were not immediately known.
Malkin had more of a presence in Game 2 than he did in the opener, but the biggest difference he made was a negative one.
With the score tied, 2-2, at 12:49 of the third period, he tripped Steckel in the offensive zone. Four seconds later, Ovechkin scored the power-play goal that put Washington in front to stay.
"You feel bad for [Malkin], but it's happened to everybody," Guerin said.
THIRD PERIOD/12:53: After a weak effort by the Penguins' power play in which they struggled to maintain possession, the Capitals get their own power play. Washington's Nicklas Backstrom beats Jordan Staal on the faceoff in the Penguins' zone and gets the puck to defenseman Mike Green at the right point. Penguins left winger Matt Cooke is tripped as Green slides the puck to open left winger Alex Ovechkin who cranks a one-timer that sneaks by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on the stick side.
"It's a tough time for a player when that happens, but you have to respond. And [Malkin] is the type of kid who's going to respond for us in the next game. And we need that from him."
The Penguins, who failed to record a power-play goal in the previous four games, were 2 for 5 with the extra man. They did, however, sputter badly when they had a man-advantage two minutes before Malkin took his game-altering minor.
"Special teams were the difference again," Guerin said.
"We're going to have to get better, especially later in the game, when the game's on the line."
Crosby's goals all came from in and around the crease. The first two gave the Penguins leads of 1-0 and 2-1, the third pulled them to within one with 30.4 seconds left in regulation.
The Capitals accused Kunitz of cross-checking goalie Simeon Varlamov just before Crosby completed his hat trick. Coach Bruce Boudreau called it "pretty vicious" and suggested the league should take a serious look at it.
Ovechkin's winner was the only goal Washington got on five power plays.
It, like his other two, came on a vapor-trail blast from the left side.
"He's doing a good job of being himself," Bylsma said.
Crosby's teammates have to do the same -- immediately -- unless they are prepared to write off the season.
"We can't panic," Fleury said. "It's a tough start, but we're going back home and can get back in this."
First Published May 5, 2009 12:00 am