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Penguins, Capitals renew rivalry in Washington
(SportsNetwork.com) - The top two teams in the Metropolitan Division will clash Wednesday evening in D.C. as the Washington Capitals welcome the Pittsburgh Penguins for a battle at the Verizon Center.
With 26 points on a 13-8-0 record, Pittsburgh is just one point ahead of the streaking Capitals for first place in the Metro, the newly-named division that makes up half of the realigned Eastern Conference.
This is the first of four scheduled meetings between the Pens and Caps during the 2013-14 regular season. Pittsburgh enters Wednesday on a four-game winning streak in this series and also has taken three of the past five meetings in the nation's capital.
Washington, however, is coming off its third straight victory and can match a season-best winning streak with another triumph in tonight's divisional matchup.
The Capitals opened November with four consecutive wins, but then dropped two in a row before getting back on track with their current hot streak. Washington has scored four goals in each of its wins during the three-game stretch and the club last played on Sunday when it downed the visiting St. Louis Blues by a 4-1 count.
Alex Ovechkin continued his terrific start to the season with a two-goal performance against the Blues. The Russian superstar has 17 goals on the season, tying him with Alexander Steen of St. Louis for the NHL lead. Ovechkin, of course, led the league with 32 goals in 48 games last season and won his third Hart Trophy at the end of the lockout-shortened campaign.
Ovechkin enters Wednesday on a three-game goal-scoring streak and has four markers during that stretch. The 28-year-old winger has registered 22 goals and 40 points in 31 career games against the Penguins.
John Carlson and Mikhail Grabovski each scored a goal while Nicklas Backstrom posted three assists for the Capitals on Sunday. Braden Holtby made 46 stops to earn the win.
"I think we've been playing decent hockey and hopefully we'll continue to grow," said Washington head coach Adam Oates.
The Capitals have won six straight home games and haven't been defeated in D.C. since dropping a 2-0 decision against the New York Rangers on Oct. 16.
Pittsburgh enters Wednesday's showdown having won two of its past three games, but the club is just 2-4-0 since winning four in a row from Oct. 28-Nov. 2.
The Pens last played on Monday when they recorded a 3-1 home victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Brian Gibbons, Brandon Sutter and Sidney Crosby each scored third-period goals to back 27 saves from Marc-Andre Fleury in the triumph at CONSOL Energy Center.
Gibbons, making his NHL debut after being recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL on Monday, added an assist on Sutter's marker that came just 62 seconds after the rookie snapped a scoreless tie. Evgeni Malkin delivered a pair of helpers for the Penguins, who had registered only eight goals in dropping four of their previous five coming into Monday's tilt.
"I think I am just taking it all in right now," Gibbons said. "I don't usually show a lot of emotion, but on the inside I am really happy."
Crosby is tied with Steen for the NHL lead in points with 26. Like Ovechkin, Crosby has fared well in tonight's matchup during his career, posting 14 goals and 43 points in 25 career games against the Capitals.
Fleury is 13-7-2 with a 2.60 goals against average in 23 career games against Washington. Holtby is 0-3-0 with a 4.53 GAA in three outings versus the Pens.
Capitals defenseman Mike Green has missed the past two games with a lower-body issue, but was able to practice on Tuesday. However, he may need a little more time to get into game shape before returning.
11/20 10:45:10 ET
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