Get your game notes: Capitals at Penguins

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins hosting the Washington Capitals, starting at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• The Penguins enter tonight’s game having defeated the Capitals in five straight meetings. Their last loss to the Caps came over two years ago (Jan. 11, 2012), when current backup Tomas Vokoun (currently on injured reserve) outdueled Marc-Andre Fleury, 1-0. Jason Chimera scored the game’s only goal.

• The Penguins have won 12 straight home games, a streak that began exactly two months ago (Nov. 15). If they defeat the Capitals tonight at CONSOL Energy Center, the Pens will set a new franchise record, breaking their mark from last season (Feb. 22-Mar. 30, 2013). Of the NHL’s six home win streaks of 10+ games in the NHL since the beginning of the 2011-12 season, three belong to Pittsburgh.

• The NHL’s top goal-scorer Alex Ovechkin (33) and point-getter Sidney Crosby (67) will face each other for the 34th time since they joined the league in 2005-06. Here is a composite of their 33 previous head-to-head meetings, including the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinal.

Goals | Assists | Points | Wins
Ovechkin 25 21 46 12
Crosby 23 35 58 21

• The Penguins (25.2%) and Capitals (25.0%) boast the top two power plays in the NHL, and all six of the league’s players who have been on the ice for at least 29 of their teams’ power play goals represent the Pens or Caps. (Elias Sports Bureau)

Team PPG | Individual PPG (NHL rank) | Individual PPP (NHL rank)

Sidney Crosby 36 3 (T-90th) 23 (T-2nd)
Alex Ovechkin 36 12 (1st) 23 (T-2nd)
Nicklas Backstrom 33 3 (T-90th) 26 (1st)
Troy Brouwer 32 5 (T-30th) 11 (T-54th)
Chris Kunitz 32 11 (2nd) 18 (T-10th)
Evgeni Malkin 29 3 (T-90th) 19 (T-7th)

• Heading into tonight’s game, injuries have cost the Penguins an NHL-high 279 man-games (51 more than 2nd-ranked Anaheim). Only seven Pens have suited up in all 47 games: forwards Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Jussi Jokinen, Brandon Sutter and Craig Adams, defenseman Matt Niskanen and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (who has started 37 games and backed up in 10).

• The Penguins have three of the NHL’s top four scorers, in terms of points per game average.

Games played | Points | Points/game

Sidney Crosby 47 67 1.43
Steven Stamkos 17 23 1.35
James Neal 27 36 1.33
Evgeni Malkin 36 46 1.28

• The Capitals have played past regulation in an NHL-high 18 games this season, including an NHL-high 14 shootouts. The Caps’ 10 non-regulation wins and eight shootout wins are both tied for the league lead. However, they are winless in their past five OT/SO games since their last win on Dec. 15.

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson