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Penguins 3, Capitals 2

The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON -- Considered one of the NHL's greatest rivalries, the showdowns between Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals are becoming Sidney Crosby's personal showcase.

Crosby scored one goal and assisted on a pair of goals by left winger Chris Kunitz to lead the Penguins to a 3-2 win over the Capitals on Monday night at the Verizon Center.

The two teams will face each other again Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

The win moved the Penguins one point ahead of the Boston Bruins atop the Eastern Conference with 90 points.

Washington lost for the fourth time in five games and is in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in seven years.

The Penguins have now won seventh in a row over the Capitals, leaving coach Adam Oates still looking for his first win over Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.

Crosby's three-point performance was his 92nd since entering the NHL in 2005-06. The player closest to him in that department is Capitals right winger Alex Ovechkin, who has done it 76 times.

Ovechkin, the NHL's leading goal scorer with 44, was held without a point for the second time in three games against the Penguins this season.

Crosby came into the game with 46 points in 27 career games against the Capitals and he padded those totals with another dominating performance, sending the Penguins into the third period with a 3-2 lead.

Crosby set up the first of Kunitz's two goals just 46 seconds into the game when he hit him with a pass inside the blue line. Kunitz did the rest, streaking past Washington defenseman Mike Green and beating Capitals goaltender Jaroslav Halak with a backhander for his 30th goal of the season.

It marked the first time in Kunitz's 10-year career that he has reached 30 goals.

The Capitals struck back less than 3 minutes later when center Eric Fehr redirected a pass from left wing Jason Chimera past Penguins rookie netminder Jeff Zatkoff for his 11th goal of the season.

Less than a minute later Crosby drew a slashing minor on Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom and converted on the power play, drilling a pass from center Evgeni Malkin past Halak for his 30th goal of the season. It marked the sixth time in Crosby's nine-year career that he hit the 30-goal mark

The score stayed that way until the 8:57 mark of the second period when the Caps' power play awakened. With Penguins center Joe Vitale in the box for tripping, Backstrom's centering pass intended for center Brooks Laich caromed off the skate of Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi and behind Zatkoff to tie the score at 2-2.

It was the first power-play goal allowed by the Penguins in five games.

Kunitz restored Pittsburgh's lead with 7:20 remaining in the second period when he beat Backstrom to right winger Lee Stempniak's rebound and netted his second goal of the night. Crosby picked up a secondary assist, giving him the 92nd three-point game in his career.

NOTES: Prior to Monday, Washington RW Alex Ovechkin, Penguins C Sidney Crosby and Penguins C Evgeni Malkin played in the same game 20 times, with Pittsburgh going 14-5-1. ... Monday marked the NHL debut of highly touted Capitals rookie LW Evgeny Kuznetsov, who played the previous five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League. Kuznetsov and Crosby both wear their birth years on their jerseys -- Crosby 87, Kuznetsov 92. ... Capitals coach Adam Oates entered the game having lost all five games against Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. The two were teammates for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 2002-03. ... The Penguins entered the game with a 17-5-1 record against Metropolitan Division teams. ... The Capitals and Penguins go right back at it Tuesday night in Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center. The projected starting goalies are Marc-Andre Fleury for Pittsburgh and Braden Holtby for Washington.
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