Fleury, Penguins Shut Out Capitals
WASHINGTON – Sidney Crosby delivered a goal and an assist to get the better of a quiet Alex Ovechkin in the past league Most Valuable Playerss’ 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.
And their teams matter, too. Pittsburgh and Washington came in as the top two clubs in the new Metropolitan Division; the last time they played each other as members of the same division was 1993.
Martin’s second goal of the season came on a slap shot from near the blue line, taking a pass from Crosby and sending the puck over the left shoulder of Holtby after 6:38 of play. Bennett doubled the visitors’ lead with his first goal at 11:57, with an assist from Malkin. Bennett came down the right wing and, with defenseman John Carlson reaching his stick out, shot across the crease and around Holtby’s stick.
By that point, the Capitals had the same number of shots, two, as the Penguins had goals. Pittsburgh did a good job of hemming in Ovechkin, who was quiet in the opening period other than a power-play shot that clanged off a post, and Washington went nearly 9 minutes between shots.
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.
Notes: Washington’s power play entered the day ranked second in the NHL at 24 percent, but went 0 for 3. … The Capitals have been shut out twice in 16 games after going without a goal once last season. … The Penguins won all three games against the Capitals last season, Pittsburgh’s first sweep against Washington since 2006-07. … Pittsburgh hasn’t dropped four consecutive road games since a skid from Dec. 29, 2009, to Jan. 3, 2010. … Malkin began the game with a league-high 10 assists in November. … Six of the teams’ preceding eight games in Washington were decided by one goal.
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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.