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Penguins beat Capitals for third straight win

The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a Super Bowl Sunday matinee that featured superstars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin, it was Chris Kunitz who stole the spotlight, scoring a hat trick to send the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 6-3 victory over the Washington Capitals.

Paul Martin, Matt Cooke and Kris Letang also scored for the Penguins, who are on their first three-game winning streak of the season and only one point behind the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins.

"We're trying to build a new identity and that's trying to play 60-minute games," said Kunitz, who had two goals in his first eight games. "I think we've done a great job at building on that and everyone is believing in that and that's what's giving us success."

The Capitals (2-6-1) lost for the seventh time in nine games, but remain only three points out of a playoff spot.

"We don't give up and that's the most important thing," Ovechkin said. "It was a challenge. I think it was a good game on both sides. I think if we play the whole game like we did in the third period, we win the game."

Through nine games, Ovechkin has only four points, with two power-play goals and two assists. He has only one even-strength point.

Before Sunday's game, Ovechkin said he was embarrassed by his offensive numbers, but after the game Capitals coach Adam Oates said he was happy with his captain's play.

Ovechkin finished with five shots and three hits in nearly 22 minutes of ice time.

"I thought he played great," Oates said. "Way better. More touches, more involved. He's skating better, more physical."

Still, the Penguins had the Capitals chasing the entire game.

Pittsburgh opened the scoring for the eighth time in nine games when defenseman Paul Martin threaded a shot through a screen just 3:37 into the contest.

The Capitals battled back to tie the score on Mike Green's second goal of the season. The defenseman was knocked to the ice by Letang, but got to his feet and drilled a shot over former Capitals goaltender Tomas Vokoun at the 5:05 mark of the first.

The Penguins restored their one-goal lead at the 8:20 mark when Cooke deflected a shot by Deryk Engelland past Braden Holtby (1-3-0), but the Caps tied the score early in the second period on a fluky goal by defenseman John Carlson.

Carlson was trying to rim the puck around the boards and Vokoun retreated behind his net to stop the puck. But with the net open, the puck hit a seam in the boards and rolled into the net for Carlson's first goal of the season.

That's as close as the Capitals would get.

Letang gave the Penguins their third lead of the game when he ripped a shot over a diving Joel Ward and under the left elbow of Holtby with just under seven minutes gone in the second period.

Kunitz made it 4-2 when he took a pass from Crosby and rifled a slapshot over Holtby's left shoulder, then gave Pittsburgh a three-goal lead with a power-play goal at the with a little under six minutes to play in the middle period.

The Capitals drew to within 5-3 on a power-play goal by Mike Ribeiro, with Ovechkin getting a secondary assist, but Kunitz finished them off on a power-play goal with 7.2 seconds remaining.

"It was kind of a weird game," said Crosby, who finished with three assists and has a team-high 13 points, one more than Malkin. "I felt like there were points where there was really nothing much happening, kind of a slow game. Then it seems like we traded chances and one team would have momentum. It was just a weird game."

NOTES: This was the third Super Bowl Sunday meeting between the two teams in four years. The Capitals are 14-7-2 on Super Bowl Sundays. ... The Capitals were without defenseman John Erskine, who served the first of a three-game suspension for elbowing Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds on Friday night. Veteran Tom Poti took Erskine's spot in the lineup and played in his first game since Jan. 24. ... Defenseman Matt Niskanene (foot) was an injury scratch for the Penguins. Forward Brooks Laich (groin) and defenseman Jack Hillen (shoulder) sat out for the Capitals. ... The Penguins return to action Tuesday night in Uniondale, N.Y., against the Islanders. The Capitals' three-game homestand concludes on Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
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