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Caps Create Own Misfortune With Their Loss to Penguins

Penguins 4, Capitals 2

Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby celebrates a second-period goal as the Capitals' Boyd Gordon shows his disappointment.
Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby celebrates a second-period goal as the Capitals' Boyd Gordon shows his disappointment. (By Linda Spillers -- Associated Press)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 10, 2008; Page E01

There are tough losses, and then there are heartbreaking ones. Somehow, the Washington Capitals managed to squeeze both varieties into the same weekend.

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One day after blowing a late lead in Boston, the Capitals outdid themselves against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center, where Nicklas Backstrom accidentally scored into his own net with 28 seconds remaining to deal his team a devastating 4-2 defeat in one of the most anticipated games of the regular season.

"That was officially heartbreaking," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I feel bad for Nick. He was doing everything that he could to prevent it and ends up shooting it in his own net."

Alex Ovechkin (two assists) dropped to the ice, burying his face in his gloves. Goaltender Cristobal Huet did, too, pressing his mask into the ice.

Neither of them could believe what had just transpired.

The play began when Penguins captain Sidney Crosby one-handed a pass through the crease. Backstrom, parked at the opposite side, presumably went to clear the puck into the corner. But instead of firing it out of harm's way, the 20-year-old snapped it between Huet and the goal post to put the Penguins ahead 3-2.

The goal was credited to Crosby, his second of the game and 19th point in 11 career games against the Capitals. Evgeni Malkin contributed three assists and Jordan Staal added an empty-net goal in the final seconds to clinch the result.

"We've been on the other side of that before, and it's not fun," Crosby said. "Obviously, it's a big break for us."

Backstrom, a rookie of the year candidate with 58 points, left the building without commenting to reporters.

"We don't want Nicky to beat himself up, because he played a great game for us tonight, and he's played great for us all season," said Brooks Laich, who scored his eighth goal in 10 games in the second period. "We'll be there for him tomorrow."

The Capitals' playoff hopes dimmed significantly yesterday, 24 hours after the Bruins pulled off an improbable 2-1 victory at TD Banknorth Garden with two 5-on-3 power plays in the final 5 minutes 1 second.

With 12 games remaining, Washington is seven points behind Carolina for the Southeast Division lead and six points out of eighth place in the conference.

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