NHL On NBC: Penguins, Capitals play for top spot in Metropolitan

Penguins Capitals
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NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. Coverage begins at 12 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

First place in the Metropolitan Division is on the line on Sunday afternoon in the nation’s capital when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Washington Capitals (12 p.m. ET, NBC).

It is an interesting matchup not only because of what is on the line, but because neither team is all that satisfied with the way it is playing entering the game despite their overall records.

Let’s start with Pittsburgh.

The Penguins enter the game with a 23-8-2 record since the start of December (one of the best marks in the league during that stretch) despite dealing with a series of significant issues. But Mike Sullivan has been critical of his team’s commitment to defense in recent games, leaning too heavily on its goalies and coming off of ugly back-to-back losses to Toronto and Buffalo.

Saturday’s loss to the Sabres marked just the first time since November 29-30 that they lost consecutive games, and was only the third time all season they have lost consecutive games in regulation.

Sullivan said after the game that he was both disappointed and concerned with the team’s defensive play, and that even though the team is saying all of the right things, it isn’t showing up in their actions on the ice.

“It’s not enough to just play hard,” said Sullivan on Saturday. “You have to play smart.”

The Penguins are currently playing without some of their best defensive players as defensemen Brian Dumoulin and John Marino, as well as forwards Dominik Kahun and Zach Aston-Reese have been injured. The team is also playing without its top goal scoring winger in Jake Guentzel.

There is an equal amount of frustration on the Washington side.

Alex Ovechkin finally scored the 700th goal of his career on Saturday afternoon, but it was not enough to gain a point against the New Jersey Devils in a 3-2 loss. The Capitals are now just 3-7-1 in their past 11 games and have not done a lot to help out their goalies, Braden Holtby and Ilya Samsonov.

The team acquired defenseman Brenden Dillon from the San Jose Sharks this past week to help address that.

This is the second regular season matchup of the year between the two teams, with the Penguins winning 4-3 in Washington in early February.

They will play each other two more times after Sunday, with both games being played in Pittsburgh.

Matt Murray (Pittsburgh) and Braden Holtby (Washington) are expected to get the start in goal for the two teams on Sunday.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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