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Penguins continue dominance over Capitals
Washington, DC (SportsNetwork.com) - Chris Kunitz potted a pair of goals, including the go-ahead marker in the second period, as the Pittsburgh Penguins continued their recent dominance of the Washington Capitals with a 3-2 victory at Verizon Center.
Sidney Crosby assisted on both of Kunitz's scores and tallied one of his own in Pittsburgh's seventh consecutive win over the Capitals, while Jeff Zatkoff outperformed counterpart Jaroslav Halak with a 31-save performance between the pipes.
"At the end of it, the goalie has to make the big save and we had that all night," said Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi of Zatkoff.
Halak, making his second start for Washington since being acquired from Buffalo at last week's trade deadline, stopped just 17-of-20 shots.
Eric Fehr and Nicklas Backstrom accounted for Washington's goals in the loss, the Capitals' fourth in five games.
The two rivals will square off again Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
"I think we have to look at the positives," Fehr said. "We had some time where we outplayed them and we have to try to do that again tomorrow."
Washington twice rallied from one-goal deficits to knot the score at 2-2 midway through the second period, but Kunitz struck for the second time of the night with 7:20 left in the middle session to put the Penguins in front to stay.
The goal came on a rush up the ice led by Crosby, who dropped the puck back to Lee Stempniak for a shot that Halak kicked away. Kunitz raced in down the left side while uncovered, however, to deposit the rebound into an opening.
Zatkoff made the lead stand with a seven-save third period. Washington had an opportunity to tie after the Penguins were called for too many men on the ice with 2:17 left, but never got a shot on goal during the advantage.
"I thought we did a good job just sitting back and not giving them passing lanes and making them shoot themselves," said Scuderi. "It's way easier for the defense and goalie if you can just keep the puck on one half of the ice and not have to be going side-to-side. I guess I thought everyone did a good job with that."
The scoreless final frame was in stark contrast to the game's early stages, which yielded a combined three goals in the first four minutes.
Kunitz began the barrage a mere 46 seconds in, blowing past Caps defenseman Mike Green after taking in a Crosby feed and placing a backhander under Halak's arm.
Fehr drew Washington even at the 3:03 mark by rushing the net to tap in Jason Chimera's centering pass, though the tie lasted all of 49 seconds. Backstrom took a slashing penalty shortly after the score, setting up Crosby's successful one-timer from the right circle on the resulting power play.
The Capitals struck on a power play of their own in the second period to tie the score once more. With Pittsburgh's Joe Vitale in the box for tripping, Backstrom's attempted pass from the right wing was redirected in the crease before trickling past Zatkoff with 8:57 elapsed in the stanza.
Kunitz's two goals extended his career-high total to 31, while Crosby reached the 30-goal mark for the sixth time in his career ... Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington's first-round pick in the 2010 draft, made his NHL debut after being signed away from the KHL in Russia over the weekend. The 21-year-old recorded two shots on goal ... Stempniak finished with a pair of assists ... Washington last topped the Penguins on Jan. 11, 2012.
03/10 22:52:48 ET