Caps come close, but can't beat Penguins

Caps come close, but can't beat Penguins
March 10, 2014, 10:45 pm
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(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

WASHINGTON – If Monday night’s 3-2 loss to Sidney [add your descriptive adjective here] Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins was a measuring stick, the Capitals came up just short – again.

In what has become a recurring theme against these two teams, the Penguins found a way to win to climb over the Boston Bruins for the overall points lead in the Eastern Conference with 90.

The Capitals found a way to lose for the fourth time in five games and for the seventh straight time against the Penguins to remain one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final wild card playoff spot.

“Now we know that we can beat these guys,” Capitals defenseman John Carlson said, “and we certainly need to do it."

“It’s very tough,” Capitals coach Adam Oates added, “because the guys played a good hockey game, probably one of the better games we’ve played against that team. To come out on the short end of the stick is difficult. … We’ve got to give them credit. Their big dogs scored.”

Blame it all on Crosby.

[RELATED: More analysis from Washington's 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh]

The Penguins’ 26-year-old captain scored one goal and assisted on a pair of goals by Chris Kunitz to give Pittsburgh all the offense it needed against Alex Ovechkin and the Caps.

Ovechkin recorded four shots and a team-high seven hits, but was held without a goal for the second time in three meetings with the Penguins.

The Caps conclude their season series with the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. With 16 games remaining in their regular season, they may need to go 10-4-2 down the stretch to get into the postseason for the seventh straight season.

“Every time we don’t win a game it puts us back in the standings,” Ovechkin said. “Right now we’re in a desperate position and we’re going to fight through it.”

If the Caps hope to get into the playoffs they’ll need to eliminate the mistakes that led to Pittsburgh’s three goal.

Kunitz blew past Caos defenseman Mike Green on the first goal just 46 seconds into the game.

“Greenie got caught a little flat-footed on the play,” Oates said, “probably a little surprised at the end of the shift that Kunitz had that much juice.”

Crosby’s power play goal came with Nicklas Backstrom in the penalty box serving an undisciplined slash to Crosby’s hands.

And on Kunitz’ game-winning goal in the second period, Backstrom failed to get to the puck before Kunitz could whack in Lee Stempniak’s rebound.

The Caps outshot the Pens 33-20 for the game but could not convert on a power play with 2:17 remaining in regulation.

“They’ve always been pretty tight games,” Crosby said. “I think they had some really good chances throughout the game but we need to find a way to stay out of our end a little bit more.”