Crosby’s goal, assist lead Penguins past Caps, 4-0
WASHINGTON – Sidney Crosby delivered a goal and an assist to get the better of a quiet Alex Ovechkin in the past league MVPs’ first matchup as division rivals, and the Pittsburgh Penguins ended a three-game road losing streak by beating the Washington Capitals 4-0 on Wednesday night.
Marc-Andre Fleury needed to make only 18 saves for his second shutout this season and 25th in the NHL. Paul Martin and Beau Bennett scored less than 5 minutes apart to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead in a first period it dominated, outshooting Washington 17-6.
Crosby, who assisted on Martin’s goal, then netted his 11th on a power play with 29 seconds remaining in the second period.
James Neal made it 4-0 with a goal 7:16 into the third.
Pittsburgh wound up with 40 shots.
Crosby’s drive from a tough angle while leaning on his left knee in the left circle closed a quick, clean sequence of one-touch passes from Evgeni Malkin to Chris Kunitz to Neal to Crosby. When the puck flew past goalie Braden Holtby, Crosby raised his fists, threw his head back and let out a yell.
The Penguins beat the Capitals for the fifth time in a row.
Washington had been playing its best hockey of the season, going into Wednesday with three consecutive wins overall, and six straight at home.
There was a time when Crosby and Ovechkin dominated the NHL – with their slick play on the ice and by drawing plenty of attention off it – and their rivalry meant games between the Penguins and Capitals were must-see affairs. That included an exciting seven-game playoff series won by Pittsburgh in 2009, when each star scored eight goals.
Over the next few seasons, though, Crosby’s injuries and Ovechkin’s suddenly sporadic scoring diminished the attraction of the matchup.
Both appear to be back at the height of their powers: Ovechkin, who won his third Hart Trophy last season as NHL MVP, entered the day tied for the league lead with 17 goals, while 2007 MVP Crosby was tied for the points lead.
In the second period, Ovechkin broke in 1-on-1 against Fleury but sent a shot wide while winding up landing headfirst in the net.