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NHL on NBCSN: Capitals fight to earn first win vs. Penguins in 26 months

Mar 11, 2014, 8:43 AM EDT

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) lunges for the puck against Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green (52) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, March 10, 2014, in Washington. The Penguins won 3-2.(AP Photo/Nick Wass) AP

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Washington Capitals at the Consol Energy Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins have been fierce rivals since Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby broke into the league, but there’s no question that the competition has been very one-sided lately.

Washington hasn’t defeated Pittsburgh since Jan. 11, 2012 and it doesn’t take much to figure out which has been the better team this season. The Penguins are cruising to the Metropolitan Division title with a 43-17-4 record while the Capitals are just trying to claw their way into the playoffs.

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That task was made a little harder for the Capitals yesterday when Pittsburgh earned a 3-2 victory against them in the first half of this home-and-home series. That was Washington’s fourth loss in five games and was largely due to Crosby’s efforts. He led the Penguins with a goal and three points, giving him six points in three contests against Washington in 2013-14.

By comparison, Ovechkin had a quiet night and has now been kept off the scoresheet for three straight games.

One of the main differences between Pittsburgh and Washington is that the Penguins have plenty of scoring depth. On the rare occasions Crosby doesn’t get a point, they still have the likes of Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, and Jussi Jokinen. Beyond Ovechkin, Washington’s only major threat is Nicklas Backstrom. With that in mind, if Washington is going to rebound today, it will likely be courtesy of Ovechkin.

That being said, there are some x-factors. Assuming Washington opts to use him on back-to-back nights, Evgeny Kuznetsov will be worth watching. The 21-year-old KHL standout made his Capitals debut on Monday, getting two shots on goal in 10:22 minutes.

It wasn’t a start worth remembering, but he was making the transition to North American hockey while playing against one of the league’s best teams. Washington is hoping that he’ll be able to adjust quickly and provide the squad with that extra offensive weapon that they sorely need. He is capable of turning some heads tonight.

From Pittsburgh’s perspective, there’s not a lot left to play for until the postseason starts. The stakes coming into this game are higher for Washington, but that doesn’t mean the Penguins will have trouble getting motivated for this one. Diminishing a chief rivals chances of advancing to the playoffs is something worth fighting for.

  1. hockey412 - Mar 11, 2014 at 8:53 AM

    Eh give the kid (Kuznetsov) more ice time, what’s it going to hurt. He definitely did not look like a liability out there, so see what he can do.

    I’m still sore from just watching those Ovi/Orpik collisions yesterday.

  2. JoeAvg - Mar 11, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    “From Pittsburgh’s perspective, there’s not a lot left to play for until the postseason starts.”

    I’m sure the Pens would still prefer to have home ice throughout the playoffs. That should give them enough motivation.

  3. jpelle82 - Mar 11, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    i dont think the caps match the intensity they had last night, and now they go to hostile territory against fleury who is just about unbeatable in that building. i think its gonna be a bit more lopsided tonight

  4. penguins87and71 - Mar 11, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    I like the Pens to win tonight as well especially with Fleury between the Pipes. Though I’m a little leery about tonights game, especially after a long road trip. I would have preferred this game to be tomorrow so the players have some down time, but oh well.

  5. bencia823 - Mar 11, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    This is the one bad thing about paying for gamecenter and hulu instead cable. I guess I’ll have to find another free stream from russia…

    • jpelle82 - Mar 11, 2014 at 11:15 AM

  6. penguins87and71 - Mar 11, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    Whatever happened to the Capitals? A few years ago I thought it would be and Pittsburgh and Washington as the powerhouse teams in the Eastern conference for years to come. I thought they would they would be battling for 1st place in the Eastern conference year after year, but that hasn’t been the case. These two franchises are going in the opposite direction.

    • blomfeld - Mar 11, 2014 at 11:18 AM

      if ‘X’ equals Crosby and ‘Y’ equals Ovechkin … then ‘X’ equals ‘Y’ to the power of ten !

    • 7mantel - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:20 PM

      I guess your not a medium !

  7. csilojohnson - Mar 11, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    bencia, if you know anyone with subscribed television. willing to give you thier login info. email and password. you can stream on NBC.
    gamecenter is light years ahead of NBC as quality goes. still better then nothing.

  8. mordock57 - Mar 11, 2014 at 5:51 PM

    I’m liking Stempniak already on the top line. He has the speed to keep up with Sid and Kunitz and so far the chemistry seems to be there. I’ve already thanked my friends in Calgary for their annual gift. I wonder who they’re giving us next season? 😉

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