Capitals 6, Penguins 3
WASHINGTON (AP)—There was only one thing left for Alex Oveckhin to do to firmly stake his claim as the NHL’s top rookie. He needed to beat Sidney Crosby head-to-head.
In the fourth and final meeting between the NHL’s next-generation stars, Ovechkin finally got the better of his rival. The 20-year-old Russian scored his 42nd goal and added two assists Wednesday night in the Washington Capitals’ 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“We didn’t want to see Ovie go out of here without winning this game,” Washington coach Glen Hanlon said. “We tried to really take away the fact that it was Crosby-Oveckhin. We just wanted to make this a team game, and I think we played a strong game.”
Crosby did not score and had one assist, leaving Ovechkin 10 points ahead in the rookie scoring race. Pittsburgh outscored Washington 19-8 in the first three meetings with Crosby having the better numbers each time, but Ovechkin’s better overall season has made him the odds-on favorite to win the Calder Trophy.
“We finally beat this team, and I’m happy,” Ovechkin said. “He’s a good player, but we don’t think about each other. We play for a team and try to help the team to win.”
Ovechkin made a perfectly timed pass to Chris Clark on a 2-on-1 break in the first period, supplied the secondary assist on Dainius Zubrus’ goal in the second period, and snapped a blistering wrist shot past goalie Sebastien Caron on a power play in the third.
Ovechkin has scored in seven straight games, bettering his own franchise rookie-record streak. He has the most goals by an NHL rookie since 1992-93, when Teemu Selanne set a record with 76.
“The competition is always high when we play each other,” Crosby said. “That’s to be expected. It’s just the way it goes—someone has to come out on top.”
The Oveckhin-Crosby showdown was nearly upstaged by a wacky blooper goal from Ivan Majesky. Near the boards at his own end—some 160 feet from the Pittsburgh net—Majesky lifted the puck high in a simple attempt to clear the zone while killing a penalty. The puck landed near the Penguins’ blue line and bounced and rolled all the way into net, taking a last-second bend that left Caron flat-footed and embarrassed.
“It was a lucky bounce, but it counts,” Majesky said of his first goal of the season. “It’s in, so that’s all it’s about.”
Said Caron: “It bounced one way. It bounced back the other way. Just really weird. It’s always tough when those types of things happen. Just a nightmare of a goal.”
Colby Armstrong, John LeClair and Ryan Malone scored for the Penguins, who have lost four straight. Crosby’s assist came on Armstrong’s goal. Behind the goal line, the rookie made a pass from an near-impossible angle through the crease to set up his teammate for the game’s first score.
“Sebastien gave up three bad goals,” Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. “It’s tough to win when you give up one bad goal, and we gave up three bad goals. You can’t expect to win any hockey game like this.”
Two of Pittsburgh’s three wins since Jan. 6 have been over the Capitals. … Crosby finished with three goals and six assists in the four head-to-head meetings; Ovechkin had three goals and three assists. … Capitals D Brendan Witt, who expects to be shipped elsewhere by Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline, was a healthy scratch. D Jamie Heward remains sidelined with an upper body injury. … Pittsburgh RW Michel Ouellet sat out the game, one night after getting slammed in the mouth with a stick against Tampa Bay. … A pigeon made his way down to the ice during the first intermission and appeared to duel with a promotional flying blimp. The bird remained a humorous diversion in the second and third periods, fluttering not far from the players’ heads and occasionally landed on the playing surface.