Streaking Capitals, Penguins meet in Washington
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WASHINGTON - Something has to give when Metropolitan Division rivals with winning streaks meet Wednesday night in Washington.
The host Capitals (26-9-5) have won six straight, including the win that ended the Columbus Blue Jackets' 16-game win streak, and the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins (26-8-5) own a five-game streak.
The teams are part of a three-way tie for second place -- along with the New York Rangers -- in the division behind Columbus.
Washington, which opens a three-game homestand, matched its season-high winning streak with a 4-1 win Monday night in Montreal. Winger Alex Ovechkin had a goal and two assists, giving him 999 career points. The goal was number 544 and tied him with Canadiens legend Maurice Richard for 29th place on the NHL's all-time goal's list.
"Ovi is big on the big moments. I think he recognizes how great The Rocket was and to just tie (Richard's goal total) in this building would be pretty special, so it was really good," Capitals head coach Barry Trotz told the team's website. "And then he got real close to that thousandth point. I think it should be right for him to get that one in Washington in front of our own fans."
Red hot goalie Braden Holtby's bid for a third straight shutout ended when the Canadiens tied the score early in the third. He completed the longest scoreless streak of his career, 169 minutes and 12 seconds.
"It's almost a good thing that it snapped, then it's not a distraction, we can focus on playing and the guys showed a lot of character coming back," Holtby told NHL.com.
Holtby has four shutouts in his last 12 starts.
"He's like (Montreal's Carey) Price, in that he's very calm and pucks hit him in the chest," Penguins center Nick Bonino told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "He's always well-positioned.
"You have to make passes. You have to make him move. You have to screen him a little bit."
In 15 career games versus Pittsburgh, Holtby is 6-7-2 with a 2.59 goals-against average (GAA) and .918 save percentage.
The Penguins returned from a week-long layoff to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2 Sunday for their fifth straight win.
Six different players scored and Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves. He has won seven of his last eight decisions.
Goaltender Matt Murray, who missed the last two games with a lower body injury, is day-to-day. He practiced Tuesday for a second straight day.
Fleury is 20-11-2 with a 2.56 GAA versus Washington, while Murray is 1-2 with a 3.37 GAA.
Defenseman Kris Letang -- seven points in the last five games -- missed practice Tuesday with an illness that affected several Penguins.
"We're hopeful he's going to be OK," coach Mike Sullivan told the team's website regarding Letang's status for Wednesday. "But we'll watch him today and see how it goes. Obviously, he didn't feel well enough to skate today."
The Capitals will likely have winger T.J. Oshie (upper body injury) back after he missed Monday's game.
The teams split the first two meetings, with host Pittsburgh winning a shootout opening night and Washington routing the visiting Penguins 7-1 on Nov. 16.
"We didn't have our best effort," Penguins left winger Chris Kunitz told the Post-Gazette about the loss. "They kept laying it on us."
Ovechkin has 28 goals and 19 assists in 46 games against the Penguins, while Sydney Crosby's totals are 19 goals and 36 assists in 39 games versus Washington. Evgeni Malkin has 12 goals and 35 assists in 34 games against the Capitals.
Updated January 10, 2017