NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, March 24th (All times eastern)
Pittsburgh Penguins (42-25-6) at Washington Capitals (48-14-10), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Tonight's matchup between the Capitals and Penguins will feature two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference as well as the top two goal scorers in the NHL. The Caps will also try to keep it one-sided.
Washington shoots for a third straight win over Pittsburgh this evening in a matchup at the Verizon Center.
While both the Capitals and defending champion Penguins have to be considered favorites to lift the Stanley Cup this season, it is Washington who has had the edge in the season series.
After Pittsburgh eliminated Washington in a hard-fought seven-game series in last season's Eastern Conference semifinals, the Capitals secured a 6-3 decision at Pittsburgh on Jan. 21 in the first meeting between the teams this year. Washington then made it two in a row on Feb. 7 with a 5-4 overtime home win, giving it five wins in its last six regular-season meetings with the Penguins.
The Capitals' Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby of the Pens are tied for the league lead in goals with 45 and neither have been shy in lighting the lamp against each other this season. Ovechkin, who also leads the NHL with 97 points, had a goal and an assist in the win at Pittsburgh in January, while Crosby scored in the setback as well.
Crosby then scored twice at Washington in February, but Ovechkin countered with a hat trick in the overtime win to give him five goals and two assists in the two meetings.
The 22-year-old Crosby has 11 goals and 29 points in 17 career games versus Washington, but he hasn't scored a goal in any of his last five contests overall. Ovechkin, meanwhile, has 15 goals and 28 points in 18 games versus the Penguins. The 24-year-old has just three goals over the last 11 games he has played, but that does include a tally in his return to the lineup on Saturday.
The top pick of the 2004 draft, Ovechkin was suspended for two games for a hit on Chicago's Brian Campbell last Sunday but he quickly found his offense in a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay. Tomas Fleischmann and Alexander Semin each had a goal while Jose Theodore made 33 stops for the Capitals, who went 3-0-1 on a four-game road trip and improved to 7-1-2 this month.
Theodore won his sixth straight start as he improved his case to be Washington's No. 1 netminder in the playoffs.
"I thought he was outstanding," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said of Theodore. "I felt so comfortable with him in the net tonight. It was a really good feeling."
Washington, 26-4-4 as the host this year, is seven points ahead of Chicago in the race for the Presidents' Trophy with 10 games to play and is also closing in on securing the East's top seed. The Capitals lead the Penguins andNew Jersey by 16 points for the No. 1 seed in the conference.
Pittsburgh didn't help its cause on Monday, losing a 3-1 test to the Red Wings in its first trip to Detroit since its Game 7 victory last spring that secured the franchise's third championship.
Pascal Dupuis scored the lone goal and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 30 shots for the Penguins, who have dropped three of their last four and are just 2-3-2 over their last seven games since beginning the month with four straight wins.
"It seems like they played harder than we did from start to finish," said Fleury. "They wanted it more than we did tonight and that showed in the final score."
Pittsburgh was without Evgeni Malkin for the third time in four games due to a right foot injury and he is questionable for tonight. Malkin has six goals and 22 points in 14 games versus Washington. He hasn't scored in the two meetings this year but does have five assists.
The Penguins are tied with the Devils for first place in the Atlantic Division but have played one fewer game than New Jersey.
Pittsburgh has lost four of its last six on the road but has won five of its last seven regular-season trips to Verizon Center.
03/24 10:46:23 ET