Capitals-Penguins Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 21, 2012
A visit from a Washington Capitals team frequently struggling to score would seem to provide the surging Pittsburgh Penguins a good chance for their longest win streak in 2011-12. The Capitals, though, haven't lost in Pittsburgh since the 2009 postseason and will try for their ninth consecutive regular-season victory there Sunday afternoon. Pittsburgh (26-17-4) has won five in a row, all but erasing the sting of the season-high six-game skid that immediately preceded the current streak. The Penguins kept their run going Friday with a 5-4 shootout win over Montreal as Evgeni Malkin shined once again. The All-Star center scored the tying goal with 2:43 remaining in regulation, extending his goal-scoring streak to five games, and converted the only shootout attempt for either team. Malkin has eight goals and two assists during his team's win streak and 10 goals over his last eight games. "He's able to do a lot of things that a lot of guys aren't able to do," said center Dustin Jeffrey, who scored his first two goals of the season and added an assist Friday. "He seems to be scoring those timely goals for us. What he's been doing lately for us, it's just unbelievable." Washington, meanwhile, has been shut out twice in the past three games, including a 3-0 defeat in Carolina on Friday. The Capitals are 2-5-1 in their last eight road games. "We got outworked," forward Troy Brouwer said. "We tried to make cute, tough plays through the seams. I was a culprit of that once or twice as well. We're not pointing fingers at anybody, but we've just got to collectively work harder." While splitting its last eight overall contests, Washington (25-19-2) has scored two goals or fewer six times but beat Pittsburgh 1-0 at home in one of those games Jan. 11. Jason Chimera scored an early goal and Tomas Vokoun stopped 30 shots as the Capitals improved to 12-1-2 in their last 15 regular season matchups with the Penguins. Washington has been even more dominant when it visits Pittsburgh, scoring a combined 24 goals during its six consecutive wins there dating back to the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals. The Capitals dropped two of three at Mellon Arena while losing that series in seven games. Washington has totaled 34 goals in its last eight regular season visits to Pittsburgh. Alex Ovechkin has 10 goals and three assists in those contests. Ovechkin, who has two goals in his last eight games overall, also has only two over his last seven against the Penguins but one of those came Oct. 13 at Pittsburgh. James Neal scored for the Penguins late in the third to send that game to overtime, but Dennis Wideman gave the Capitals a 3-2 win on a power-play score in the extra session. Penguins starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has a 1.79 goals-against average over his last six starts, while Washington's Tomas Vokoun has allowed six total goals while losing his last two outings. Vokoun, though, has limited the Penguins to five total goals the last four times he's faced them.
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