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At the end of the day, Ward and defenseman Roman Hamrlik said, facing the Penguins is just another chance for the Caps to prove themselves and earn two points. But what a rivalry like this does is help both teams get their games in gear — especially this early in the season.

Said Capitals goalie Tomas Vokoun: “You know what, they’re a good team, and if you want to be the top team you’ve got to beat the best teams.”

One rivalry game at a time.