Caps Bottle Up The Penguins

Penguins goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin stops a shot on goal by Capitals' Adam Oates (77). AP

The Washington Capitals shouldn't count on doing this too often: Getting Mario Lemieux mad and still winning the game.

Jeff Halpern scored the game-winning goal with 3:20 remaining after Lemieux-led Pittsburgh rallied from two goals down in the third period, and the Capitals beat the Penguins 4-3 Wednesday night.

Richard Zednik had a goal and two assists as the Capitals opened a seemingly safe 3-1 lead, squandered it as the Penguins scored twice in 3 1/2 minutes, then rallied themselves to improve to 8-0-1 on the road since Jan. 27.

The Capitals not only beat the Penguins for the second time in five days to go to 13-1-2-1 in their last 17 games, they won in Pittsburgh for the first time in eight games (1-6-1) since Nov. 12, 1997.

Lemieux, angry after taking a goal-producing penalty, scored his 25th goal and set up Alexei Kovalev's 40th to quickly make it 3-all after Washington's neutral-zone trap frustrated the Penguins for two periods.

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  • "As a goalie, you're going uh-oh, he's awake and he's mad," the Capitals' Olaf Kolzig said. "I think the penalty he took woke him up. I think he was peeved. ... When he drives the net like that, it adds a spark to their team. They see the owner-superstar driving the net, and they start thinking, `Maybe we should drive the net, too.' "

    Lemieux was still mad a half-hour after the game, apparently because the Penguins dominated both the first and third periods and still lost. He declined to talk to reporters.

    "When he's playing like that, when you see somebody do that and yodon't get excited, you shouldn't step on the ice," said Kevin Stevens, who scored in the first period as the Penguins outshot the Capitals 13-3. "When he's like that, you can't stop him."

    However, Halpern won it with his 17th of the season, taking advantage of goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin's ill-advised sprawl even before the puck was shot to flip a wrister into the top of the net on a 2-on-1 break.

    The goal came five seconds after Alexei Kovalev's boarding penalty expired.

    "It was a great pass by James Black, and I had all the time in the world on it," said Halpern, who had two goals Saturday in the Capitals' 4-3 victory over Pittsburgh. "So I wanted to bear down on it. I saw the goalie was sliding over so I knew if I got it upstairs, it had a good shot."

    Sergei Gonchar and Zednik scored second-period goals to give Washington a 2-1 lead, and Adam Oates' power-play goal at 9:17 of the third period put the Capitals two goals up.

    That goal resulted from a roughing penalty on Lemieux, who complained earlier to the referees about several infractions he felt weren't called.

    "You could see it in his eyes, he just took the game over," the Penguins' Bob Boughner said. "He's not very happy. It was a wasted effort on our part. We had enough to win."

    Lemieux came flying out of the penalty box and quickly helped set up Kovalev's goal at 10:27, then scored the tying goal at 13:57 by one-timing Martin Straka's pass by Olaf Kolzig. Both Pittsburgh goals were on the power play.

    "Giving up a 2-goal lead like that is something we don't want to do as a defense-minded team," Halpern said.

    Before that, the Capitals appeared to turn the game around by scoring twice in just over 2 1/2 minutes of what lately had been the Penguins' most dominant period, the second. The Penguins outscored opponents 27-6 in the second period of their 12 most recent victories, during a span in which they won 12 of 18.

    Notes

  • Lemieux sat out Washington's victory Saturday, the second of games on consecutive nights for the Penguins. However, he plans to play Thursday at Atlanta.
  • Washington is a league-best 28-10-4-1 since Dec. 1.
  • The crowd of 17,148 was the Penguin' 17th consecutive home sellout since Lemieux returned, and their 30th in a row overall.
  • The Penguins scored the first goal for only the second time in 13 games.
  • Zednik also had two goals Saturday. The Capitals are 12-0-1 when he scores.
  • Washington is 10-1 in the second game of its 11 most recent back-to-back situations.


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