Pittsburgh at Washington
When: 7:30 PM ET, Thursday, April 27, 2017
Where: Verizon Center, Washington, District Of Columbia
Generational talents Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby will resume their personal rivalry as their respective teams, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, meet in the playoffs for the second time in as many years and third since 2009. While the clubs are set to open their Eastern Conference second-round series Thursday in Washington, Ovechkin was quick to insist that there's more on the line than just one-on-one bragging rights.
"We respect each other," Washington's three-time Hart Trophy winner said of his rival, who has received the honor on two occasions. "That battle between me and him, it's great. I think me and him enjoy it, (the media) enjoy it, fans enjoy it. But right now it's not about me and him. It's about (the Capitals) and Penguins." While the Capitals posted a 2-0-2 mark in the season series, Pittsburgh traditionally has gotten the better of its division rival in the playoffs - most notably in both 2009 and 2016 on its way to hoisting the Stanley Cup at the end of those tournaments. Crosby has taken the first step on what he hopes is a long journey by collecting seven points (two goals, five assists) in the Penguins' five-game first-round series victory over Columbus while Ovechkin had a team high-tying three goals in a six-game series triumph over upstart Toronto.TV:
7:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, Sportsnet, TVAS2ABOUT THE PENGUINS:
Evgeni Malkin had an NHL-best 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in the first round and six (five goals, one assist) versus Washington this season while linemate Phil Kessel added eight (two goals, six assists) and four (one goal, three assists), respectively. While plenty is expected from those proven names, rookie Jake Guentzel (NHL-best five goals) and Bryan Rust (four goals) also made their presence known in the first round. Coach Mike Sullivan has gone as far to label Rust "a high-stakes player" after the 24-year-old recorded 10 goals in 28 career playoff games, including eight in his past 13.ABOUT THE CAPITALS:
T.J. Oshie matched Ovechkin in goals this season with a club high-tying 33 and was knotted with the Russian Olympian as well as Justin Williams and Tom Wilson with three in the first round. Oshie erupted for six points (five goals, one assist) in last year's Eastern semifinal loss to Pittsburgh and 10 (three goals, seven assists) in four regular-season encounters, a total that was eclipsed by Nicklas Backstrom's 12 (four goals, eight assists). "It's a perfect scenario," the 29-year-old Backstrom said of the upcoming series versus the Penguins. "Even if we finish first in the regular season, they're the Stanley Cup champs, so we're the underdogs. It's perfect for us."OVERTIME
1. Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury, who stepped in for fellow G Matt Murray (lower body) prior to Game 1 versus the Blue Jackets, boasted a .933 save percentage in the first-round series as opposed to .884 in three appearances against Washington this season.
2. The Penguins and Capitals tied for third on the power play during the regular season and continued that good fortune in the playoffs, with the former going 5-for-15 while the latter converted five of 17 opportunities.
3. Washington D Karl Alzner is questionable for the series opener after missing the last four games versus the Maple Leafs because of an upper-body injury.PREDICTION:
Penguins 4, Capitals 3
Stats and Records