Just A Thought
@ESPN_Burnside: Used to be a time when a matchup between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin was appointment hockey. As time has passed, injuries, the emergence of new stars and the waxing and waning fortunes of both teams have seen the luster wear off the rivalry between the two great stars. But with Pittsburgh and Washington now occupying the same division, perhaps that will change. If so, score the first meeting between the new division rivals as an emphatic victory for Crosby, who had a goal and an assist in the Pens' 4-0 victory in Washington on Wednesday. The Caps had just 18 shots on goal, with Ovechkin registering just two, as the Penguins shut down the Capitals' vaunted high-octane offense. Meanwhile, the Penguins seem to have put their recent offensive woes behind them, with Evgeni Malkin adding a pair of assists and James Neal, slowly working his way back into a groove, picking up another assist. The win gives Pittsburgh a three-point lead over the Capitals in the Metropolitan Division, where this storyline figures to pick up more oomph as the season progresses.
@CraigCustance: One of the promising developments for the American Olympic hockey team has been the emergence of a number of defensemen making a case to play in Sochi. John Carlson, Keith Yandle, Erik Johnson, Torey Krug and Seth Jones have all had outstanding starts to help their cause. But Wednesday night's win over the Capitals was a reminder why Dan Bylsma doesn't need to look far to find a duo that works in Sochi. Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik helped shut down Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, following a game in which they saw plenty of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, limiting the Ducks to one goal. Those are Olympic performances against Olympic-caliber competition.
@Real_ESPNLeBrun: Make it three straight losses as the Ottawa Senators continue to mystify and disappoint, this time a 4-3 loss at home to Minnesota in which top D-pair Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot allowed Mikko Koivu to walk into the slot with 2:57 left in the third period and snap home the winner. How is it that a team that was missing half its roster a season ago to injury could survive and even reach the second round of the playoffs, then this season -- with its full complement of stars healthy and back on the ice -- has somehow lots its identity and can't do anything right? I spoke with GM Bryan Murray on Monday, before back-to-back losses to the Flyers and Wild, and the frustration in his voice was clear. He's working the phones for a trade. Easier said than done, but at this point perhaps the only tonic for a team that's been a surprise for all the wrong reasons.
@KatieStrangESPN: You really can't ever write off the Devils, can you? Sure, the mediocrity of the Eastern Conference provides fertile ground for a dramatic turnaround, but the Devils have climbed back into the playoff picture with Wednesday night's white-knuckle 4-3 win over the league-leading Anaheim Ducks. The legendary Jaromir Jagr forced overtime at the Honda Civic Center before Travis Zajac's fluky goal gave the Devils their second straight win and fourth in the past five games. Wednesday's win was the first of a big three-game West Coast swing for the Devils that also includes stops in San Jose and L.A. If ageless wonders Jagr and veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur -- 5-0-0 in his last five starts -- continue playing this way, the Devils could continue to make waves in the East.
Quote Me On That
"For Crosby to one-time that one off his off-wing, put it where he did -- guys like that are going to score goals."
-- Washington goalie Braden Holtby
"We need to respond to this. We're not playing great hockey right now. We want to be an elite team in this league, and we're not playing like it."
-- Anaheim's Ben Lovejoy
• Penguins: 3-1-0 in last 4 games overall; won last 5 meetings vs. Capitals (last loss to WSH: Jan. 11, 2012)
• Capitals: 3-game winning streak ends; shut out for 2nd time this season (other shutout loss: Oct. 16 vs. Rangers)
• Wild: 11-2-1 in last 14 games after 3-3-3 start
• Senators: lost 3 straight games; 1-4-0 in last 5 games
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