Instant analysis of the Capitals’ 4-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday night at Verizon Center:
How it happened: The Penguins stormed out to a 2-0 lead on first-period goals by defenseman Paul Martin and right wing Beau Bennett and kept their feet on the gas the entire game in the first of four meetings between the bitter rivals. The Penguins outshot the Capitals 40-17.
What it means: The first-place Penguins [14-8-0] extended their lead over the second-place Caps [12-9-1] to three points. The Caps remain five points head of the third-place Rangers.
Goal of the night: Sidney Crosby finished off an incredible passing display with 1:34 remaining in the second period to give the Pens a 3-0 lead. Positioned in Alex Ovechkin’s favorite spot in the left circle, Crosby watched Evgeni Makin pass the puck from the halfwall to Chris Kunitz in the slot, who passed to James Neal at the goal line, who found Crosby in the left circle – all in a span of about 2 seconds. Crosby didn’t have much room to beat Braden Holtby but he threaded a one-timer over the goalie’s right shoulder for his 11th goal of the season.
Another tough night: Holtby entered the game with an 0-3-0 career mark against the Penguins, along with a 4.52 GAA and .861 save percentage. He surrendered four goals on the first 36 shots he faced, falling to 0-4-0 against Pittsburgh. For what it’s worth, Michal Neuvirth is 2-0-2 with a 1.71 GAA and .937 save percentage against the Pens.
Ovi vs. Sid: The hyped-up battle between the team’s two captains was pretty one-sided. Crosby won a faceoff against Brooks Laich to set up the first goal of the game, a floater by defenseman Paul Martin that made it past a screened Holtby. Crosby added the killer power-play goal late in the second period to make it 3-0. Ovechkin rang a shot off the right post early in the game and slammed into Crosby late in the second period but was otherwise held quiet by the Penguins.
Who let them in?: Every time the Penguins scored loud cheers were heard in all four corners of the arena. What’s up with that?
What’s next: The Capitals have an 11 a.m. practice scheduled for Thursday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. They’ll then board a flight for Toronto, where Friday night’s game against the Maple Leafs will be a homecoming for both rookie Tom Wilson and center Mikhail Grabovski.