Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals (A: -110, H: -110, O/U: 5)
Series tied 0-0
Alex Ovechkin doesn’t look back fondly on the last time his Washington Capitals met fellow captain Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the postseason, although the encounter proved to be an epic Eastern Conference semifinal series showdown. The talented twosome put on a show in 2009 before Crosby’s Penguins won the series in seven games – and later the Stanley Cup – a result Ovechkin would like to remedy when the Metropolitan Division rivals meet in Washington for Game 1 on Thursday.
“It’s history,” the three-time Hart Trophy-winning Ovechkin told reporters. “I don’t like to look back. I’m looking forward. What was the past, it’s over. Right now, it’s a new challenge and a new moment in our life.” Ovechkin, who collected eight goals and six assists in the 2009 series, got the Presidents Trophy-winning Capitals off on the right foot by scoring a team high-tying three goals and setting up two others in their six-game series victory over Philadelphia. Crosby, who had eight goals and five assists versus the Capitals seven years ago, recorded a team-high eight points (three goals, five assists) as the Penguins dusted off the rival New York Rangers in five contests of their opening-round series. Special teams were the name of the game for both teams as Pittsburgh’s 8-for-21 38.1 percent) power-play performance led the NHL clubs in the first round, while Washington scored on eight of its 27 opportunities (29.6 percent) with the man advantage.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC TVAS
PROBABLE GOALIES: Penguins – M. Murray (0.935%), Capitals – B. Holtby (0.925%).
Penguins – RW B. Bennett (Questionable Thursday, shoulder), G M. Fleury (Doubtful Thursday, concussion).
Capitals – D K. Alzner (Probable Thursday, upper body), D B. Orpik (Questionable Thursday, concussion).
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (52-27-8, 41-46 ATS, 39-33 O/U): Crosby scored in overtime on April 7, allowing Pittsburgh to defeat Washington for the third time in five outings this season with a 4-3 victory. Rookie Matt Murray made 27 saves in that win with franchise goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury dealing with post-concussion symptoms, and the 21-year-old returned from his own upper-body ailment to turn aside 85-of-89 shots as the Penguins won the final three games of their series with the Rangers. Evgeni Malkin picked up where left off after missing over a month with a lower-body injury, scoring two goals and setting up five others in four games of the first-round series.
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (60-20-8, 40-48 ATS, 34-37 O/U): Braden Holtby tied an NHL single-season record with 48 wins in the regular season and didn’t miss a beat in the first round, yielding just five tallies on 154 shots for an impressive 0.84 goals-against average and .968 save percentage. Some familiar faces aid in the last line of defense in the form of ex-Penguins defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, but with the former expected to return from a three-game absence due to an upper-body injury. Fellow blue-liner Karl Alzner is also nursing an upper body injury, but he’s likely to return and log considerable minutes in the series.
* Penguins are 10-1 in their last 11 road games.
* Capitals are 1-5 in their last 6 vs. a team with a winning record.
* Over is 10-1-3 in Penguins last 14 when their opponent scores 2 goals or less in their previous game.
* Under is 9-1-4 in Capitals last 14 Conference Semifinals games.
* Over is 2-0-2 in the last 4 meetings.
* Penguins are 6-2 in the last 8 meetings in Washington.
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