Get your game notes: Penguins at Capitals, Rivalry Night

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

TOP STORYLINES

• Last game: Both last played on Sunday…PIT won at home over FLA, 5-1…WSH lost at PHI, 3-2.

• WSH sits in the 1st wild card spot in the East, 9 points ahead of BOS (2nd WC).

• PIT won its division the last 2 seasons, but has never won 3 straight division titles (currently in 47th season).

• PIT: 7-11-4 vs. Metropolitan Division teams this season

• No other team currently in a playoff position has below a .500 points% within its own division.

• Caps dominating Pens this season (Potential Playoff Meeting?): This is the 4th and final meeting of the season; Washington has beaten Pittsburgh in all 3 previous meetings this season, scoring 3+ goals in each game and outscoring the Pens 10-1 including 2 shutouts…PIT was last swept by WSH in season series in 2009-10 (0-2-2).

• 3 of the top 6 scorers in the league will be on display in this one, including the league’s top goal scorer, Alex Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 38 goals.

• Since Nicklas Backstrom entered the league in 2007-08, his teammate Alex Ovechkin leads the league in goals & points – Evgeni Malkin & Sidney Crosby rank 2nd & 3rd (Crosby 2nd in points; Malkin in goals – the other 3rd in each)…Backstrom ranks 8th in both goals & points.

• However, Crosby leads all NHLers in points/game since ’07-08 (Malkin – 2nd, Ovi – 3rd).

• 4 of 10 players with 550+ points since ’07-08

• Feb. for both clubs…WSH has gone 8-4-0 in the month…PIT is 6-4-1 in Feb.

• PIT comes in looking to win 3 straight for the first time since Dec. 15-20.

• WSH looks to win for the 5th time in the last 6 games (4-1-0 in last 5).

PITTSBURGH TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• PIT power play: 0-for-the-month (0-20) until its last 2 games when it went 1-3 in each (2-26 on PP in Feb.).

• Sidney Crosby is one goal shy of reaching the 20-goal mark for the 8th time in his 10-season career.

• Crosby had 2 assists vs. FLA to improve his points/game to 1.09 (1st in NHL).

• Evgeni Malkin recorded his first 2goal-1assist game of the season vs. FLA.

• He has 5 points (3G-2A) during a 3-game point streak.

• Career vs. WSH: 39 points (9G-30A) in 28 games

• Kris Letang had an assist vs. FLA to continue his hot stretch. He is tied with CGY’s Mark Giordano for most points among defensemen (47) and leads all blueliners in assists (37).

• Letang is 1 goal & 3 pts away from tying his career high in both (11G last season, 50 pts in 2010-11).

• Patric Hornqvist posted 2 goals & 1 assist vs. FLA to match a career high for points in a game (last done on Nov. 8 at BUF). The 1st-year Penguin is 2 goals & 1 assist shy of his 4th career 20-20 season.

• Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 34 of 35 shots vs. FLA for his 27th victory of the season.

• Fleury has allowed no more than 2 goals in each of his last 7 starts dating back to Feb. 4:

• 4-2-1 record, 1.00 GAA, .964 SV%

• Career vs. WSH: 16-10-2, 2.48 GAA, .916 SV%

• Fleury leads the league in shutouts with a career-high/franchise-record 8 this season

• The Rangers (9), Wild & Canucks (both 8) are the only teams w/ as many clean sheets as Fleury

• Braden Holtby (WSH), Ryan Miller (VAN) & Devan Dubnyk (MIN) are t-2nd with 6 shutouts.

WASHINGTON TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Alex Ovechkin (goals) & Nicklas Backstrom (assists & pts) are at the top of the league rankings this season.

• Despite 0 points in his last 2 games, Ovi still has 11 points (6G-5A) in his last 8 games.

• Ovi leads the NHL in Feb. with 9 goals and 16 points.

• Backstrom’s 4-game point streak was snapped at PHI but he has 7 points (2G-5A) in his last 5 games.

• The highest Backstrom has ever finished in the scoring race is 4th when he had 101 points back in 2009-10 (Ovi finished t-2nd that season w/ 109)… The highest Backstrom has ever finished in assists was 3rd – done 4 times. His career high in both was set in the 2009-10 season (68A-101PTS).

• Last season Sidney Crosby (PIT) led the league in assists (68) & points (104).

• Ovechkin has won the Rocket Richard Trophy 4 times including each of the last 2 seasons.

• Six players have won the league’s goal-scoring title 5 or more times including Maurice Richard himself.

• Ovechkin has won the Art Ross Trophy once in his career (2007-08) – it is the only season a Capitals player has ever led the league in scoring.
Ovechkin was the last player to win both the Rocket Richard and Art Ross Trophy in the same season, doing so in 2007-08 with 65 goals and 112 points (both career highs)…Jarome Iginla in 2001-02 with CGY is the only other player to have won both awards in the same season.

• Ovechkin is a 3-time Hart Trophy winner (MVP) – 2012-13, 2008-09, 2007-08.

• No two teammates have more points this season than Ovechkin & Backstrom (125).

• Not since Joe Thornton (assists & points) & Jonathan Cheechoo (goals), in 2005-06 as members of the Sharks, had two teammates ended the season leading the league in each of those categories.

• Braden Holtby has started the Caps last 4 games and despite giving up 3 goals vs. PHI, he has allowed only 7 goals total in those 4 starts (1.73 GAA, .938 SV%)

‘It’s not in his game’: Capitals coach Trotz defends Ovechkin after controversial slash

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Alex Ovechkin has been front and center a few times in the past few days.

He’s been accused of diving, continues to score goals, including another pretty one Tuesday, and, in the same game, he sent Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang sliding hard into the end boards after a slash to the back of the leg early in the third period.

There was no call on the play.

What ensued next was the Penguins trying to get revenge on Ovechkin, though the star wouldn’t bite. He smiled, though.

The Capitals took advantage of the Penguins’ lack of discipline in the final 20 minutes, scoring on a late power-play to win the game 3-1.

Washington’s head coach Barry Trotz defended Ovechkin after the game.

Their stories remain the same: Ovechkin’s intent was to hit the puck, which Letang was working to maintain control of with the Capitals captain on the forecheck.

“If you look at it, Ovi’s just trying to whack at the puck there,” said Trotz, as per CSN Washington.

“I looked at it on TV. From behind you can’t even see the puck, but from the front view you can see the puck is right by [Letang’s] skate and he actually moves his skate in front of the puck and Ovi sort of tries to throw it at the net.

“Letang slid a little bit, he tried to get his balance and went into the boards. I think you’re making a lot out of nothing. The ice is really slippery in the beginning of a period. Ovi doesn’t do that. It’s not in his game.”

Penguins let emotions get the better of them in loss to Capitals

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In a tied game, third period, on home ice, the Pittsburgh Penguins seemed more interested in retribution at times, after Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin caught Kris Letang with a wicked slash that wasn’t called.

What eventually happened, as the Penguins lost their cool and took a parade to the penalty box?

The Capitals took the lead, as Joel Ward scored on a beautiful passing play with less than five minutes remaining in the third period. They’d go on to defeat the rival Penguins by a final score of 3-1, and now possess the league’s second-best power play at 23.6 per cent after Tuesday.

Ovechkin scored his league-leading 37th goal of the season in the first period. Two of Washington’s goals came on the power play, which would certainly illustrate the need for a more disciplined effort from Pittsburgh, especially in such a tight game, even if it did get chippy.

“I’m not blaming the refs or the Capitals. I think it’s on us. You can be mad over a call. You can be disappointed. But you can’t let it get to your game,” said Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi, as per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

“I like the fact that we responded and didn’t take a lot of crap from them.

“But at the same time, we have to know the line to toe.”

Video: Ovechkin catches Letang with nasty slash

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Emotions started to boil over between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, after Alex Ovechkin caught Kris Letang with a wicked slash to the back of the leg early in the third period of Tuesday’s game.

There was no call on the play. Shortly after that happened, Chris Kunitz went after Ovechkin, who merely smiled and skated away.

Letang went crashing into the end boards, and briefly left the game. He did return for the Penguins.

The Capitals went on to defeat the rival Penguins by a final score of 3-1. The winning goal, off the stick of Joel Ward, came during a two-man advantage for Washington with less than five minutes remaining in the third period.

Ovechkin had his say on the matter after the game, saying the slash was not intentional and he was going for the puck.

NHL on NBC: Blackhawks, Penguins try to build momentum

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NBC continues its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Pittsburgh Penguins at the United Center at 12:30 pm ET today. In addition to NBC, you can also watch the game online.

Despite being among the NHL’s gold-standard franchises, the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins don’t meet all that often. When they do, it’s quite the treat, and hockey fans can check out their latest meeting on NBC.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Blackhawks bested the Penguins 3-2 via a shootout. Pittsburgh’s a much healthier team today than they were then, as Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin were unable to play on Jan. 21.

To point out the obvious, this game should be a star-studded affair. Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury join Letang and Malkin as Pittsburgh’s potent stalwarts. Chicago remains loaded with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa.

Hossa’s noteworthy beyond his very-brief status as a Penguin, as he has seven goals in his last four games.

One would think that both teams hope this contest will be a springboard for a strong finish to the regular season.

February has gone really well for Pittsburgh so far. They’ve won four of six games since a rocky month of January ended, including two straight contests. They also should be well-rested since they haven’t played since Thursday and only dealt with two games this week.

The Blackhawks’ efforts have been solid-to-good (at least from a shots perspective), yet their results have been a little frustrating. They’ve split their six games in February and are just 5-3-2 in their last 10 games.

In other words, these two teams have struggled – at least compared to their typically elite work – but there are plenty of reasons to believe that they can kick things up a notch before the games get a lot bigger. We might just see a little bit of that this afternoon.