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Mired in seven-game slide, Penguins face Capitals

Sportsnaut
Feb 14, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) and Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) talk before a face-off during the second period at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins will aim to apply the brakes on their seven-game winless streak Wednesday night when they open a three-game road trip against the Washington Capitals.

Pittsburgh enjoyed a 4-0-1 start to the season before its troubles began with a 6-3 setback against the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 24. That result started a disastrous 0-6-1 run, marking the Penguins’ longest winless stretch since Jan. 26-Feb. 8, 2006.

To put that into context: A then-18-year-old Sidney Crosby was playing in his rookie season.

Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan remains optimistic despite the team’s tumble in the standings.

“My belief in this group is unwavering, and I know that we have what it takes to right the ship here, so to speak,” Sullivan said. “That’s what we’re trying to do with the circumstance that we’re in.”

Crosby scored a goal and set up Jake Guentzel’s tally in the Penguins’ 3-2 setback to the Seattle Kraken on Saturday. The superstar captain, however, was not keen on talking about recording his 900th career assist in his 1,120th NHL game, a feat that made him the sixth-fastest player to reach the milestone in league history.

“You look at the game as a whole and we did a lot of good things, but we’re making a few mistakes. When you’re losing, that’s magnified even more. So that’s the situation we’re in,” Crosby said. “We just have to try to build off it, continue to play good hockey and trust that we’ll get rewarded.”

Crosby leads the team in assists (eight) and points (14) and shares top honors on the club in goals (six) with Guentzel.

Crosby has crushed the Capitals to the tune of 84 points (28 goals, 56 assists) in 64 career games.

While Pittsburgh is mired in a pronounced skid, Washington halted its four-game winless streak (0-2-2) with a 5-4 victory vs. Edmonton on Monday.

Superstar captain Alex Ovechkin scored a goal in his third straight game to boost his career goal total to 788, 13 shy of tying Hall of Famer Gordie Howe for second on the NHL’s all-time list.

Ovechkin, who leads the team in goals (eight) and points (13), has five and seven, respectively, during his six-game point streak. The three-time Hart Trophy recipient has 69 points (37 goals, 32 assists) in 69 career games vs. the Penguins.

Russian countryman Evgeny Kuznetsov recorded a franchise-high-tying four power-play points (two goals, two assists) in Monday’s win, the Capitals’ first since a 3-0 shutout of Nashville on Oct. 29.

“I felt like we play good but not good enough for wins lately,” Kuznetsov said. “This win will give us big breath, and we can breathe a little bit and coaches can finally show us some positive moments, because that’s big when you come in next morning.”

Washington won three of the four meetings between the Metropolitan Division rivals last season. Ovechkin (one goal, four assists) and Kuznetsov (three goals, two assists) each had five points in the season series, while Crosby had four assists.

–Field Level Media