Washington Capitals Win in Pittsburgh, 6-3

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 15, 2009

PITTSBURGH, Jan., 14 -- Alex Ovechkin was booed each time he touched the puck Wednesday night, and on a number of occasions, the Pittsburgh Penguins attempted to punish him physically.

It was, in other words, exactly the type of atmosphere in which the reigning MVP thrives.

Ovechkin broke out of a four-game goal drought by scoring twice and setting up another goal in a big third period at Mellon Arena, where the Washington Capitals snapped a season-long three-game losing streak with a 6-3 victory before a sellout crowd.

"When he gets in a slump and then he breaks the slump, he doesn't just break it just to break it," Coach Bruce Boudreau said of Ovechkin, who moved into a tie with Philadelphia's Jeff Carter with 29 goals for the league lead. "That's what Alex does. He's a real emotional guy and he plays on that passion and when he gets going he's pretty to stop."

Tomas Fleischmann netted his third goal in three games at 8 minutes 11 seconds of the third period to put the Capitals ahead 4-3, and Ovechkin clinched it about three minutes later. Ovechkin looped in the Pittsburgh zone, with seemingly half the Penguins in pursuit, then fired a pass intended for linemate Nicklas Backstrom (three assists).

But the puck went off defenseman Ryan Whitney's skate instead, scooting past Penguins goaltender Marc-André Fleury, who faced 41 Washington shots. The Capitals are now 17-0-1 in Ovechkin's last 18 multigoal games and have won three straight in Pittsburgh, their longest winning streak here since winning four in a row in 1985.

"Today we play hard, better than last night," Ovechkin said, referring to Tuesday's 5-2 loss to Edmonton at home, an effort that drew the ire of Boudreau. "We worked hard, we crashed the net and hit the guy and we have lots of traffic. It was a very emotional game."

It was indeed emotional. But it was a night on which Ovechkin kept his emotions in check. He laid hits on rivals Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, but he did so in the context of the game, unlike previous contests in which he appeared to go headhunting. In fact, Ovechkin drew a call on Malkin after the Penguins' star elbowed and cross-checked him in the first period.

Viktor Kozlov and Alexander Semin also scored for the Capitals in Semin's first face-to-face meeting with Crosby since his controversial comments regarding the Penguins' captain. Crosby notched a pair of assists, but suffered a leg injury in the first period after colliding with Kozlov and eventually left the game late in the third.

"I thought [Ovechkin and Semin] did a really good job of just going about their business and playing really hard," Boudreau said.

Defenseman Jeff Schultz scored into an empty net to provide the final margin, and goalie José Theodore finished with 26 stops. Washington's power play, meantime, produced multiple scores for the first time in eight games, just hours after Boudreau led a video session in which he stressed "getting back to basics."

The game went into the third period tied at 2. But it didn't take long for the Capitals to take their first lead on a power-play goal by Ovechkin.

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