James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

Capitals punishment: Penguins decimated in D.C.

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The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins frequently provided hockey fans with thrilling, back-and-forth games. This wasn’t one of those classics.

The first period was a full-fledged disaster for the Penguins, especially for Matt Murray, who was struck by Evgeni Malkin‘s errant stick. Marc-Andre Fleury couldn’t really stop the bleeding either on Wednesday, with Washington eventually winning 7-1.

More about that unfortunate Malkin high-sticking of Murray here.

T.J. Oshie (two goals, two assists) and Nicklas Backstrom (two goals, three assists) stole the show from Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin isn’t sweating it too much, though, as he broke a rare scoring slump with a nice goal in the final frame.

Opposite directions

The Capitals had been stumbling ever-so-slightly lately, only managing one win in their previous four games (1-2-1). This is exactly how they wanted to begin a five-game homestand.

Sidney Crosby and the Penguins came into this on quite a roll, winning three of four and generating a standings point in all but one of their last nine contests (7-1-1). To continue the opposite trends, this loss begins a road-heavy stretch for Pittsburgh.

That run would be that much more daunting if Murray is once again injured, and Malkin’s involvement would add insult to that injury. We’ll have to keep an eye out for updates on that front.

One thing that wasn’t in doubt for very long was this game. The two teams won’t meet again until a Jan. 11 date in Pittsburgh.

Odds are high that it will be a more competitive match than Wednesday’s lopsided affair. (Not that the Capitals are complaining.)

Video: Malkin tags Murray in the face with stick during scrum

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Well, that was a terrible first period for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It’s not just that they’re currently down 3-0 against their rival the Washington Capitals on NBCSN.

It’s how they fell behind 3-0 that stings. In the case of Matt Murray, that’s meant literally; watch him taking Evgeni Malkin‘s errant stick to his face – which was not protected by his mask – during a scrum that was just a mess.

At that point, it was 2-0 for Washington late in the opening frame thanks in part to a Nicklas Backstrom goal that probably hurts Murray almost as much as that Malkin high-stick.

In another example of a goalie allowing a goal moments after “going in cold,” Marc-Andre Fleury saw his team go down 3-0 thanks to this tally:

Woof.

It’s too early to tell if Murray is actually hurt or not. The way things have been going for prominent players lately, you can’t blame the Penguins if they’re nervous.

Murray did not return to the ice to start the second period, but the score could conceivably play a role in that decision. We’ll see if there are additional updates.

Minor trade: Logan Shaw to Ducks, Panthers get Michael Sgarbossa

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The Anaheim Ducks received Logan Shaw while the Florida Panthers acquired Michael Sgarbossa in a small trade on Wednesday.

Sgarbossa is a 24-year-old player who did not go drafted and currently has 19 games of NHL experience. He put up solid numbers in the AHL last season (44 points in 62 games).

Shaw, also 24, was the 76th pick of the 2011 NHL Draft. He’s played in more NHL games (53, all in 2015-16) but his AHL stats haven’t been quite as impressive.

Seems like a fairly even trade of two players likely to bounce between the AHL and NHL levels. Then again, with the way the Panthers have identified bargains in the likes of Jonathan Marchessault and Colton Sceviour, you never know if we’ll look back at this differently …

WATCH LIVE: Penguins – Capitals on Wednesday Night Rivalry

You can’t ask for much more than Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals on Wednesday Night Rivalry.

Of course, there’s always Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin, but as you know, these teams present plenty of other high-end players. Each squad is well-coached and should be considered legit contenders in the East, only spicing up an already robust rivalry.

With injuries hitting big stars around the NHL lately, we should savor these nights where some of the big names are ready to go.

You can watch this game on NBCSN, online or via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.

Video: A decade of Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin

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Both players have experienced ups and downs – whether from injuries or disappointments – but overall, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin deliver over and over again.

With Connor McDavid and other young guns infiltrating the rankings, it’s remarkable that the faces of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals are still going strong.

Wednesday presents another chapter in their rivalry, which is – prepare to feel old – now at the decade mark.

The video above celebrates what this rivalry’s meant, what it continues to mean and what we might see next.

Does anyone else get a “Friday Night Lights” feel at times while watching it, by the way?