Penguins beat Capitals, again, as Fleury gets 5th shutout
PITTSBURGH – Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves for his fifth shutout of the season, leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 2-0 victory over the Washington Capitals Tuesday night.
Jussi Jokinen and Sidney Crosby scored for the Penguins, who swept the teams’ home-and-series one night after beating the Capitals 3-2 in Washington. Pittsburgh has won three in a row and picked up at least a point in eight of its last 10 games.
The Penguins have also beaten their longtime rivals a franchise-record eight straight times.
Jaroslav Halak stopped 32 shots in his third start for Washington. Alexander Ovechkin was held without a point for the fourth consecutive game as the Capitals lost for the fourth time in their last five.
Fleury tied his career high for shutouts in a season while winning his sixth straight start against the Capitals, whom the Penguins swept the season series from for the second year in a row.
Pittsburgh widened its lead in the Eastern Conference to three points over the idle Boston Bruins and also increased its Metropolitan Division bulge to 16 points over the New York Rangers.
The Penguins were playing for the first time since completing their longest road trip (five games) in three years.
As good as Fleury was, Halak was almost as strong in a losing cause.
Among Halak’s better saves was stopping James Neal on a partial breakaway a minute into the third period. Unlike Fleury, Halak was played both games on consecutive nights between the teams. Acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Sabres last week, Halak’s first three starts with the Capitals have come over a four-day span.
Jokinen beat him at 16:41 of the first. Left unchecked by Capitals defenseman Mike Green while skating through the slot, Jokinen offered a deft re-direct of a Matt Niskanen shot from the right point for his 17th goal of the season but first since Jan. 30.
Evgeni Malkin earned the second assist on the play, extending his assists streak to five games.
Crosby scored for the second straight night against Halak, this time with a low wrist shot to the stick side with 5:48 left in the game after skating swiftly down the right wing.
Lee Stempniak had the only assist on the goal in his home debut for Penguins after he and fellow forward Marcel Goc were acquired in trade-deadline day deals last week.
Eleven minutes into the second period, the Capitals came the closest to scoring when rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov flipped a shot from just to the right of Fleury that clanged off the post before deflecting off of Fleury’s left pad as he sprawled out.
Largely untested and forced to make just 12 saves through two periods, Fleury faced the brunt of the Washington onslaught during the third.
The Capitals’ No.2 NHL power play was given an opportunity 8:02 into the third when Niskanen was whistled for high-sticking.
Fleury denied a wide open Mark Chimera’s whacks at the puck to the left of his crease about a minute into a power play that soon was negated when Nicklas Backstrom took a high-sticking penalty of his own at 9:10 of the period.
The Capitals had sustained pressure during another power play that began with 4:08 left, but Fleury denied Troy Brouwer and Marcus Johansson in quick succession.
Washington dropped into 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings and dropped three points out of the final playoff spot.
Notes: Fleury’s shutout was the 28th of his career. … Washington C Brooks Laich did not make the trip to Pittsburgh because he continues to be hampered by a groin injury. Laich has missed two of the past four games. … Early Tuesday, the Capitals recalled C Casey Wellman and D Patrick Wey from their American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey. Wey, a native of a Pittsburgh suburb, was a healthy scratch. … Before the game, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said that D Kris Letang has been skating and working out in Pittsburgh. Letang has not played since suffering a stroke Jan. 29. He remains out indefinitely.
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