Pens Are at Home On Road, Top Caps

Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby, the NHL's leading scorer, finishes with a goal, an assist and six shots to help Pittsburgh all but ensure the franchise's first playoff berth since 2001. (Jim Young - Reuters)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 28, 2007

One of the season's largest crowds packed into Verizon Center last night to catch Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals take on Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Unfortunately for the home team, a large percentage of those fans wore black and gold -- and they weren't afraid to voice their allegiance.

At times, in fact, it sounded like a home game for the Penguins, who fought back from an early two-goal deficit, struck three times on the power play and skated off with a 4-3 victory, which clinched the franchise's first playoff berth since 2001.

"Obviously their fans have something to cheer about," said Capitals goaltender Olie Kolzig, who finished with 25 saves. "They've had quite a turnaround from last season and they are playing good hockey."

Much of that stunning turnabout has to do with Crosby, the NHL's leading scorer. The dynamic 19-year-old had a goal, an assist and six shots for the Penguins, who also got a pair of goals from defenseman Ryan Whitney and 27 saves from goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

Ovechkin, meantime, set up the contest's first goal with a slick pass, but had an otherwise quiet night, despite skating 23 minutes 31 seconds. In his quest for a second straight season with at least 50 goals, the 21-year-old all-star remains stuck on 43 with five games remaining.

"They do great job on the power play, but five on five I think we beat them," Ovechkin said. "We played well today and we have lots of chances to score goals."

But they didn't, and now they've dropped four straight and 13 of the past 15. They also were swept by the Penguins in the season series for the first time (0-4).

With about two minutes remaining, Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon pulled Kolzig in favor of an extra attacker. The strategy paid off with 32 seconds left when defenseman Milan Jurcina scored to pull the Capitals within a goal. But they weren't able to squeeze another past Fleury, who stopped four of five Capitals' attempts in the waning moments.

"We're not the type of team that quits," Fleury said, before adding about the large contingent of Penguins fans, "That was pretty cool, to be on the road and see our fans traveling to watch us play."

When the teams hit the ice for warmups, the Capitals were booed by the out of towners in the sellout crowd of 18,277. When the Penguins emerged, Crosby was showered with chants of "M-V-P!"

One Penguins fan held up a sign that read, "25 Tickets: $975, Party Bus: $1,375, 30 More Years Beating the Caps: Priceless." Another lifted a poster board with the words, "Sid 4 MVP."

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