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Pens host Caps in finale of home-and-home set
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Penguins will try to complete a sweep of the Washington Capitals when the clubs cap a quick home-and-home series Tuesday night in the Steel City.
Pittsburgh visited the Capitals on Monday and Chris Kunitz potted a pair of goals, including the go-ahead marker in the second period, to help the Penguins continue their recent dominance of Washington with a 3-2 victory at Verizon Center.
Sidney Crosby assisted on both of Kunitz's scores and tallied one of his own in Pittsburgh's seventh consecutive win over the Capitals, while Jeff Zatkoff outperformed counterpart Jaroslav Halak with a 31-save performance between the pipes.
"At the end of it, the goalie has to make the big save and we had that all night," said Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi of Zatkoff.
Halak, making his second start for Washington since being acquired from Buffalo at last week's trade deadline, stopped just 17-of-20 shots.
Eric Fehr and Nicklas Backstrom accounted for Washington's goals in the loss, the Capitals' fourth in five games.
"I think we have to look at the positives," Fehr said after Monday's game. "We had some time where we outplayed them and we have to try to do that again tomorrow."
Pittsburgh pushed its lead atop the Metropolitan Division to 16 points over the New York Rangers.
The Capitals, meanwhile, enter Tuesday one point behind both Columbus and Detroit for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Blue Jackets and Red Wings are facing each other tonight in Columbus.
Washington twice rallied from one-goal deficits to knot the score at 2-2 midway through the second period on Monday, but Kunitz struck for the second time of the night with 7:20 left in the middle session to put the Penguins in front to stay.
The goal came on a rush up the ice led by Crosby, who dropped the puck back to Lee Stempniak for a shot that Halak kicked away. Kunitz raced in down the left side while uncovered, however, to deposit the rebound into an opening.
Zatkoff made the lead stand with a seven-save third period. Washington had an opportunity to tie after the Penguins were called for too many men on the ice with 2:17 left, but never got a shot on goal during the advantage.
"I thought we did a good job just sitting back and not giving them passing lanes and making them shoot themselves," said Scuderi. "It's way easier for the defense and goalie if you can just keep the puck on one half of the ice and not have to be going side-to-side. I guess I thought everyone did a good job with that."
The Pens own a stellar 23-4-2 record on home ice this season, but have lost two straight at CONSOL Energy Center.
Washington has lost two straight on the road and is just 12-15-5 as the away team in 2013-14.
03/11 11:06:14 ET
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