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Crosby, Penguins get best of Ovechkin, Capitals
WASHINGTON -- The bitter rivalry between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals has become pretty one-sided lately.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby outplayed Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, scoring one goal and assisting on another as the Penguins rolled to a 4-0 win over the Capitals on Wednesday to remain in first place atop the Metropolitan Division standings.
"Our start was great," said Crosby, who set up a goal by defenseman Paul Martin in the first period and scored on the power play late in the second to give the Pens a 3-0 lead. "We came out hard, really set the tone and got that first goals, which was important to us."
Right winger Beau Bennett and left winger James Neal also scored for Pittsburgh and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 18 shots for the 25th shutout of his career as the Penguins extended their lead over the Capitals to three points.
Dating back to the 2011-12 season, the Penguins have beaten the Capitals five straight times by a combined score of 21-9. On Wednesday night, they outshot the Capitals 40-18.
"It was a great game by them and a bad game by us," said Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner. "We didn't possess the puck at all. We didn't get our cycle game going. They were making us turn and chase pucks all night. It was tough, real tough."
In 26 career meetings between them, Crosby has outscored Ovechkin 44-32. The Penguins are 17-7-2 in the games the two captains have gone head-to-head.
"They're an experienced team," said Ovechkin, who was held to a season-low two shots. "They have really good players out there. It's tough to play when they're not making mistakes and we can't create opportunities. Blame on us."
The Penguins made it a light night for Fleury, who improved his career record against the Capitals to 14-7-2 with two shutouts. The Penguins held the NHL's second-ranked power play scoreless on three opportunities.
"I thought most of their chances were on the power play," Fleury said. "Other than that, everybody helped out. The defense was blocking shots and kicking the rebounds away, so it was a big help."
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby fell to 0-4-0 in his career against the Penguins. He entered the game with a 4.52 goals-against-average against Pittsburgh.
"Even though there was a high shot total (40), I thought I could have done better in the game today," Holtby said.
Pittsburgh outshot Washington 17-6 and built a 2-0 lead on goals by Martin and Bennett in the first period.
Capitals coach Adam Oates used his second line of center Brooks Laich, left winger Martin Erat and right winger Troy Brouwer against the Penguins top line of Crosby, left winger Chris Kunitz and Bennett.
Those two lines were on the ice for Pittsburgh's first goal, which came after Crosby beat Laich on a faceoff and dropped a pass for Martin. The 32-year-old defenseman floated a shot toward Holtby, who was screened by Kunitz and Capitals defenseman Steve Oleksy and didn't react until the puck sailed past his catching glove.
The Penguins made it 2-0 on a brilliant pass from center Evgeni Malkin to Bennett, who worked up a head of steam as he crossed the blue line and fired a bullet inside the far post for his first goal of the season.
The pace of the game picked up in the second period when both teams traded chances.
The Capitals were called for having too many men on the ice and the Penguins capitalized with 29 seconds remaining in the period on a beautiful passing play that resulted in Crosby's 11th goal of the season.
In a matter of seconds, Malkin passed to Kunitz in the slot, who passed to Neal on the goal line, who found Crosby for a one-timer in the left circle. Crosby's shot made it over Holtby's right shoulder, just under the crossbar.
The Penguins made it 4-0 on Neal's second goal of the season with 7:16 gone in the final period, giving Malkin his second assist of the night and team-high 19th of the season.
NOTES: Washington D Mike Green sat out his third straight game with a lower-body bruise. D Tyson Strachan took his place in the lineup. Green is expected to return to the lineup Friday night when the Capitals conclude their three-game homestand against the Montreal Canadiens. ... Penguins C Evgeni Malkin is on the longest goal drought of his career -- 14 games. ... The Penguins return home to face the New York Islanders Friday, then visit the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.