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Sundqvist scores winner, Wilson fights Bortuzzo as Blues top Capitals

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When the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals last met each other Oskar Sundqvist was on the wrong end of a Tom Wilson hit that left him injured and Wilson suspended for 20 games, his fourth suspension in a calendar year (and his third against the Blues).

Sundqvist had a much more enjoyable night on Thursday when he scored the game-winning goal in the Blues’ 5-2 win.

The night also featured Wilson dropping the gloves with Blues defender Robert Bortuzzo in a rather spirited bout that was clearly intended as a means of attempting to settle the score.

Have a look.

This is the second time over the past month that Wilson has dropped the gloves in response to a hit that resulted in a suspension. Earlier this month he fought Pittsburgh’s Jamie Oleksiak in a one-sided bout that did not go well for Oleksiak. That fight was an answer to Wilson’s postseason hit on Zach Aston-Reese that resulted in a three-game ban for Wilson and ended Aston-Reese’s postseason.

Robert Thomas, Colton Parayko, Alex Pietrangelo, and Tyler Bozak also scored for the Blues in the win.

Thomas, oddly enough, was one of the other players on the receiving end of a hit that earned Wilson a suspension over the past year.

The other big story out of this game is that Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin snapped his six-game goal-less drought by scoring his 30th goal of the season. It is the 14th consecutive season that Ovechkin has scored at least 30 goals in a season, making him one of just two players in league history to ever start their career with 14 consecutive 30 goal seasons. Former Capitals forward Mike Gartner is the other.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

The Buzzer: Huge games for Kris Letang, Avalanche top line

Three Stars

1. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins. Kris Letang is having a Norris Trophy worthy season for the Pittsburgh Penguins and is already among the league leaders in ice time on a nightly basis. He had to take on an even bigger role on Wednesday night in their 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals due to the injury suffered by Jamie Oleksiak in the game’s first minute. Letang ended up playing more than 32 minutes and was absolutely sensational all night. This was the second time he topped the 32-minute mark in a game this season, but unlike the first one this game did not go to overtime. He played all of those minutes in regulation. Along with helping to shut down the Capitals’ offense, he also recorded an assist on Sidney Crosby‘s second period power play goal. That assist gives him 27 points in 32 games so far this season.

2. Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche. If the Colorado Avalanche win a game you can be sure their top line of Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog played a huge role in it. That was the case on Wednesday night in their 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens as they accounted for both of the team’s goals. Rantanen had two more points, including his 16th goal of the season, to help lead the way. With those two points he added to his league leading point total and is now up to 58 points for the season. He of course was not the only player on that line to shine on Wednesday night.

3. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche. Right behind Rantanen in the points race this season is his teammate and linemate, Nathan MacKinnon. He recorded two assists in the win and remains three points behind Rantanen in the scoring race with 55 for the season. Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov is the only other player in the league this season to have already topped the 50-point mark so far.

Highlights of the Night

The save of the night belonged to Marcus Pettersson of the Pittsburgh Penguins for sweeping the puck right off of the goal line when it was just inches away from potentially tying the game in the third period.

Gabriel Landeskog bats the puck out of mid-air for the game winning goal early in the third period. This play was challenged by the Montreal Canadiens for goalie interference but upheld after review.

Factoids

It was a two-point night for Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, scoring a goal and recording an assist in their win over the Washington Capitals.

Joe Thornton, of course, entered the NHL seven years before Crosby did and has played in 625 more games than Crosby has at this point.

The Colorado Avalanche top line is comically dominant.

 

Scores

Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Washington Capitals 1

Colorado Avalanche 2, Montreal Canadiens 1

 

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Pettersson’s goal line save helps Penguins top Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins put an end to the Washington Capitals’ five-game winning streak and Alex Ovechkin‘s goal-scoring streak on Wednesday night in an intense rivalry game featuring the winners of the past three Stanley Cups.

Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust provided the offense for the Penguins in the 2-1 win, while Matt Murray turned aside 31 of the 32 shots he faced in his second game back from injury.

The save of the night, however, did not belong to Murray. It instead went to Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson for sweeping a loose puck off the goal line when it was just a matter of inches from tying the game in the third period. That play happened just a few minutes after Riley Sheahan made a similar (though not as close) play on the goal line.

The Penguins acquired Pettersson just a couple of weeks ago from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forward Daniel Sprong.

While Sprong has taken advantage of his increased role in Anaheim and found his offensive game, Pettersson has been a solid addition to the Penguins’ third defense pair. This was by far his biggest play since the trade.

All of the Penguins’ defenders came through on Wednesday, especially their top pairing of Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin who spent much of the night going up against Ovechkin. They needed huge minutes from them, too, because the Penguins played almost the entire game with only five defenders after Jamie Oleksiak was injured 55 seconds into the game in a fight with Capitals forward Tom Wilson.

[Related: Penguins’ Oleksiak injured in fight with Capitals’ Wilson]

The Penguins, now 9-4-3 in their past 16 games, are tied with the New York Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan Division (the Islanders currently own the tiebreaker) and are one spot back of the Montreal Canadiens for the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. Not anywhere near where they want or expect to be, but they are taking strides to get back on track after a tough start to the season.

The Capitals, meanwhile, had won five games in a row entering the night and still have a nice cushion in the division. They are also 13-4-0 in their past 17 games.

This game also snapped what was a six-game goal-scoring streak for Ovechkin who still has a league-best 29 goals in 33 games, including 17 in his past 15 games. Those are just some of the stunning numbers for him this season.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Penguins’ Oleksiak injured in fight with Capitals’ Wilson

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It took less than a minute for Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson to drop the gloves with Pittsburgh Penguins defender Jamie Oleksiak on Wednesday night.

It did not go well for Oleksiak, who was clearly shaken up in the one-sided fight and missed the remainder of the first period.

It was not a totally random encounter, either.

This was all likely a carryover from the 2018 second-round playoff matchup between the two teams when Wilson was suspended three games for a hit to the head of Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese. In the aftermath Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford was highly critical of Wilson for not fighting Oleksiak on the ice the night of the hit.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette back in May…

“When Jamie challenged Wilson, he couldn’t run quick enough to get away from him,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette during an interview on a variety of topics Monday morning, adding that having Reaves would’ve “offset” Wilson’s physical play.

“Until, of course, the referees get in close, then [Wilson] comes back and says something to him.”

Wednesday’s game was the first time the two teams have played with Wilson back in the lineup after missed the remainder of the playoff series and was suspended for the first two regular season meetings this season. He not only dropped the gloves with Oleksiak, he went right after him.

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.

WATCH LIVE: Capitals, Penguins meet on Wednesday Night Hockey

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues as the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Washington Capitals on Wednesday Night Hockey with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

This will mark the 48th regular-season matchup between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, with Crosby (21G, 45A – 66 points) outscoring Ovechkin (30G, 20A – 50 points) to lead Pittsburgh to a 28-17-2 record in the previous 47 contests (WSH: 19-21-7). They also have met 25 times in the playoffs, with Crosby (13G, 17A – 30 pts) and Ovechkin (15G, 18A – 33 pts) each averaging more than a point per game and Pittsburgh holding an advantage in their head-to-head games (13-12) and series (3-1).

The Penguins fell 4-2 to the Anaheim Ducks on Monday for their fifth loss in their last 10 games. Head coach Mike Sullivan doesn’t have a lot of patience left for their lackluster play.

“There needs to be a level of accountability and ultimately that falls on me,” he said. “Sometimes the biggest hammer a coach has is ice time, and there have been situations over the last little while where the coaching staff has utilized that. That’s not something this coaching staff likes to do. We want our guys to take ownership for their own expected games, and we want them to take ownership for the way this team is going to play.”

One example of this accountability was playing Guentzel just 3:40 in the second period on Monday. Given 8:36 on ice in the third period, Guentzel responded with several strong shifts and three shots.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Washington enters tonight as one of the hottest teams in the league, winners of five straight games and 12 of their last 14. They’ve also been lighting the lamp at a furious pace, scoring three or more goals in every game during that 12-2-0 stretch (4.29 goals per game).

Alex Ovechkin is riding a career-best 14-game point streak (17G, 6A), the longest active streak in the league. Ovechkin is on pace to score a career-high 74 goals this season. His current career best was 65 goals in 2007-08. The last person to score 74+ goals was fellow Russian Alexander Mogilny, who tallied 76 goals in 1992-93.

While Ovechkin has deservedly dominated headlines, Evgeny Kuznetsov is currently on an eight-game point streak (1G, 9A) and has also tallied at least one assist in all eight of those games.

[Related: Alex Ovechkin’s stunning numbers]

What: Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals
Where: Capital One Arena
When: Wednesday, Dec. 19, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Penguins-Capitals stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

PENGUINS
Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Bryan Rust
Zach Aston-ReeseEvgeni MalkinPhil Kessel
Tanner PearsonDerick BrassardPatric Hornqvist
Riley SheahanMatt Cullen – Garrett Wilson

Olli MaattaJamie Oleksiak
Marcus PetterssonJack Johnson
Juuso RiikolaChad Ruhwedel

Starting goalie: Matt Murray

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas BackstromT.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Tom Wilson
Brett ConnollyLars EllerDevante Smith-Pelly
Dmitrij JaskinNic DowdTravis Boyd

Michal KempnyJohn Carlson
Dmitry OrlovMatt Niskanen
Jonas SiegenthalerMadison Bowey

Starting goalie: Braden Holtby

Six-time Emmy Award-winner Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk, and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Pierre McGuire will have the call from Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Kathryn Tappen hosts NHL Live ahead of Penguins-Capitals on Wednesday, alongside analysts Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and insider Darren Dreger.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule