- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2009

After watching Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin beat him with four shots through two games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said Tuesday he would not be surprised if Ovechkin plays with an illegally curved stick blade.

“I haven’t taken a look at it,” Fleury said. “The puck sometimes sticks to it pretty good, even if it’s bouncing.”

The NHL does not allow for a blade curve of more than three-quarters of an inch.

Ovechkin, who has scored 50 goals in a season three times, has never been caught using an illegal stick during a game. Former New York Rangers coach Tom Renney once challenged a blade used by Ovechkin, but officials determined it was legal.

Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar said he could not advise coach Dan Bylsma to request an in-game measurement of Ovechkin’s blade. A successful challenge would give the Penguins a power play, but they would be penalized if the blade proved legal.

“To be honest, I’ve never checked it out,” said Gonchar, who is a friend of Ovechkin’s. “Next time I’m with him, I will.”

A case of deja vu

Go ahead and write off the Penguins. They’ve been here before.

After all, a 2-0 deficit in their best-of-seven second-round playoff series against the Caps seems easy to overcome for a club that jumped from 10th place and five points from a playoff spot to the East’s No. 4 seed in the final 25 games of the regular season.

Also, they’re not exactly strangers to the concept of dropping two games on the road to open a series. They did that in the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals against Detroit and still managed to extend that series to six games — starting with a Game 3 win at Mellon Arena.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said facing this two-game series deficit is less daunting.

“Those two games we didn’t play well, and it was probably a little more frustration,” he said. “These two games we played probably good enough to win but didn’t. … We have to have the mentality that if we do the same things at home, we’re going to get the results.”

The Penguins were shut out in two games at Detroit to open the Cup finals. They lost by a goal in each of their defeats at Washington to start this series.

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau spoke as if his club is taking nothing for granted despite winning the first two.

“These guys went to the Stanley Cup Finals last year, so the one thing you know is they believe,” he said. “Every game is going to be like a war against them, so the minute we let up is the minute we’re going to be in trouble.”

Letang sits out practice

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang was one of several players who did not participate in an optional practice Tuesday. Bylsma said Letang was evaluated by a team physician for an undisclosed injury.

Letang was hurt in the third period of Monday’s Game 2. Bylsma described Letang’s availability for Game 3 as “a strength issue,” adding that Letang is “much better than we originally thought.”

Philippe Boucher likely would replace him the lineup.

No suspension for Kunitz

The NHL reviewed video footage of a closing-seconds incident in which the Penguins’ Chris Kunitz appeared to cross-check Caps goalie Simeon Varlamov in the head and decided not to issue a suspension.

“He was going to the net, trying to create a loose puck and trying to jam home a rebound,” Bylsma said. “He had no intention of doing anything but that and trying to get us back in the game.”