— Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals (32-19-10, 74 pts) continued their dominance against the Pittsburgh Penguins (36-20-5, 77 pts), winning their 7th straight road game against Pittsburgh with a 1-0 victory on Monday night at the Consol Energy Center.
Ovechkin’s power play goal at 16:38 of the second period was the difference in the game, as Ovechkin blasted a slap shot past Marc Andre Fleury into the top corner of the net for his 24th goal of the season.
It was a blistering shot from Ovechkin, where his coach said after the game that he couldn’t even see the puck go in on the replay.
The win was a big one for the Capitals who took the season series from Pittsburgh, 3-1, and have closed the gap on Pittsburgh for the No. 4 seed, trimming Pittsburgh’s lead to 3 points. A win by Pittsburgh would have pushed them 7 points ahead of Washington with 21 games left to play.
The Capitals who have won two straight, are now just a point out of first place in the Southeast division.
— For the Penguins it was another battled tested game from Dan Bylsma’s hockey club, but again, the inability to finish plays kept the Penguins off the scoresheet, despite out-shooting the Capitals 39-24 in the loss.
“I thought we created a lot of chances and a lot of opportunities,” Pens center Jordan Staal said. “Obviously, their goalie did a pretty good job of keeping us from the second rebounds. But I think we did a lot of good things.”
Pittsburgh is 2-5-1 in their last eight games but help is on the way with James Neal set to practice with the team today at 12:00 p.m. and make his Penguins debut Wednesday night against San Jose.
Another added dividend for Pittsburgh is that Chris Kunitz is very close to returning to the lineup and could also be back in the lineup for Wednesday night.
However, with 6 days until the NHL trade deadline, there is still a major need for the Penguins to add some more skill to their lineup, especially a player with the ability to finish in the scoring areas.
With over $5 million in cap space, the Penguins are fully expected to explore all options.
— Alexander Ovechkin had a solid game last night and is showing some signs of resembling his old self, but something is just off. To me, he just doesn’t appear to have that same quickness to blow by players and get a step on defenders that we have been accustomed to seeing in previous years.
Ovechkin hasn’t been the Capitals only core player to see his play dropoff this season. Niklas Backstrom (15G-38A-53pts) is among them and has gone from a 101 point season to on pace for 71 points this season.
— There are a lot of areas in Brett Sterling’s game where you can see why’s he’s been unable to stick in the NHL but he’s probably among the Penguins top-5 “pure” goal scorers in their entire organization and I’m talking about even when the likes of Crosby and Malkin are healthy.
Sterling has great ability to bury the puck in the scoring areas, especially in the slot. However, it’s probably not enough for him to stick once a full lineup is intact.