Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals Wave Goodbye to Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-2

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 23, 2009

There was a time not so long ago when Washington Capitals fans had to brace themselves for two things when Pittsburgh came to town: a disproportionately large number of Sidney Crosby jerseys and a likely Penguins victory.

But a lot has changed over the past year, and that change was evident everywhere at Verizon Center yesterday. Penguins supporters were fewer and quieter, and on the ice, it was pretty much all Capitals, too.

Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin each scored goals and Nicklas Backstrom had two primary assists as Washington's star players outshined Pittsburgh's in a dominant 5-2 victory that snapped the Capitals' four-game losing streak on home ice to the Penguins.

"Not anymore," said Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau, who improved to 4-1-1 against Pittsburgh, which had won seven of nine meetings before his arrival. "Washington people are here in droves. They're drowning out any Penguins fans that come. And I expect fewer Penguins fans the next game."

The Penguins fans who did show up had little to cheer about. The Capitals built a 3-1 lead on goals by Ovechkin, Semin and Sergei Fedorov before the game was 21 minutes old, then they put it away with scores by Shaone Morrisonn and Brooks Laich in a span of 25 seconds late in the second period.

The quick strikes prompted new Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma to pull starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who yielded five goals on 20 shots. José Theodore, meanwhile, made 31 saves in Washington's net and improved to 3-0-0 with a 2.67 goals against average against the Penguins this season.

"We played terrible against Colorado," Ovechkin said, referring to Friday's listless 4-1 loss to the woeful Avalanche. "We didn't play our game, we didn't play our system and we tried to play too cute. But tonight we played simple, played our system with great energy and our four lines played awesome. Sometimes you need to lose like that to realize you have to work harder and do a better job."

Pittsburgh all-stars Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each recorded an assist, but they had an otherwise quiet afternoon -- on the score sheet, anyway. The Ovechkin-Crosby rivalry turned personal in the second period. The league's past two MVPs shoved each another behind the goal early, then had a heated verbal exchange as they headed to the bench for a line change. After being separated by a linesman, Ovechkin dismissed Crosby with a mocking wave of his gloved hand.

"I don't like it personally but that's him," Crosby said. "I was skating to the bench and he pushed me from behind, so I gave him a shot back. That's hockey, and he likes to run around these days. That was it."

Ovechkin said: "It was not a cheap shot. It was a game moment. If he don't like it, it's his problem."

Boudreau said Crosby initiated the confrontations and was attempting to provoke the Capitals' bench.

"He started it," Boudreau said with a laugh. "Sidney was jawing at everybody. Every time he would come off, you see him talking to our bench and our bench talking to him. I think he got frustrated because he hasn't the freedom that he had in this building before."

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