- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sidney Crosby matched Alex Ovechkin’s hat trick, but the Pittsburgh Penguins couldn’t match the Washington Capitals, who are halfway to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Ovechkin scored two goals in the final 7:07 to notch his first career playoff hat trick and lead his Caps to a 4-3 victory against the rival Penguins a commanding 2-0 lead in this Eastern Conference semifinal series Monday night at sold-out Verizon Center.

Crosby had all of Pittsburgh’s goals, but it Ovechkin took over the third period. Four seconds after Evgeni Malkin went to the penalty box for tripping David Steckel — the other goal scorer for the Caps — Ovechkin blasted a one-timer from Mike Green past Marc-Andre Fleury to put Washington in front.

He added an insurance marker with 4:38 remaining, which set off a wild celebration with hats strewn about the ice and chants of “M-V-P” echoing through the building. Crosby’s third goal with less than a minute remaining cut the Penguins’ deficit in half, but it wasn’t enough for Pittsburgh to salvage a split in the District.

For the second straight game Crosby gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead. After Alexander Semin took an extra penalty during a post-whistle scrum with Brooks Orpik to give Pittsburgh a power play, Crosby stuffed the rebound of a Sergei Gonchar slap shot under the left leg of goalie Simeon Varlamov at 6:38 of the opening period.

Crosby nearly made it 2-0 during a two-man advantage late in the first. Bill Guerin sent a pass across the crease to Crosby near the right post, but Varlamov was able to slide across and snuff out his one-timer. He also got a piece of a slap shot from Gonchar during the wild sequence, which set off a boisterous round of cheers for the 21-year-old rookie.

The Penguins had gone four straight games without a power-play goal, and the Caps were 30-for-32 on the penalty kill in their past six contests.

Ovechkin made it a 1-1 game 2:18 into the second period thanks to a defensive breakdown by Pittsburgh. Both Malkin and Hal Gill gravitated to Sergei Fedorov as he brought the puck in the offensive zone, but his pass to Viktor Kozlov opened up a 2-on-1, and Ovechkin buried the one-timer for his fifth goal of the playoffs.

Crosby did net the Penguins’ second goal 6:58 into the middle period. Guerin’s shot from the right wall was deflected by Chris Kunitz off Varlamov, but Crosby was able to win inside position for the rebound in a joust with Green.

Steckel netted his second goal in as many games to even the score at two. A shot from Tyler Sloan, who was making his NHL playoff debut in place of the injured John Erskine, deflected off Penguins defenseman Kris Letang in front and came straight to Steckel near the right post and he slid it under a sliding Fleury.

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