- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 3, 2007

PITTSBURGH — Perhaps Alex Ovechkin said it best with his overly simplified evaluation of the Capitals’ most recent loss, Washington’s eighth in its last 10 outings.

“When we don’t score,” the frustrated left wing said succinctly, “we can’t win.”

The Caps were shut out for only the third time this season and the first time in almost three months, losing 2-0 yesterday afternoon to the Pittsburgh Penguins in front of the 10th sellout in the last 11 games at Mellon Arena.

In a game featuring the two teams with perhaps the greatest collections of young offensive talent in the NHL, defense reigned supreme. The lone tally with a goalie in the net came, not from the Caps’ young snipers Ovechkin or Alexander Semin, nor from Pittsburgh wunderkinds Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, but from little-used Pittsburgh right wing Ronald Petrovicky.

Jordan Staal added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who have won six in a row. Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and his second this week.

“We played well defensively and we played well offensively, but we didn’t score,” said Ovechkin, who had a 13-game point streak — the longest in the NHL this season — snapped. “I know we had a good performance, we played our system. It’s just that sometimes we don’t have luck.

“I was just really mad because I think it was a good game for us, but we lost.”

Crosby and Ovechkin entered the game 1-2 in the league scoring race and the duo has been anointed by the league as the saviors of hockey in America. But their heavily hyped head-to-head matchup yesterday proved to be a dud.

Crosby had only two shots on goal and no points. Ovechkin was not credited with a shot on goal until the third period (though he disputed that statistic) and finished with three shots and a minus-2 rating. Ovechkin had scored in every game since New Year’s Day and Crosby had at least a point in eight consecutive contests.

“I think both hockey clubs spent some time trying to shut down the young players and just did a good job defensively,” Caps coach Glen Hanlon said. “Instead of being a 6-5 one-goal game, it was a 1-0 one-goal game.”

The Penguins had been 0-30-1 when Crosby did not record a point during his two-year career.

“The puck bounced a lot, and we had chances to put the pucks in the net,” Caps right wing Chris Clark said. “[But] Fleury played unbelievable.

“He’s one of the best goalies we have come up against this year, and I thought we played strong. We had our chances; we just didn’t get the outcome we wanted.”

The winning goal — only the second score of the season for Petrovicky — came with 9:51 to play in the second period. The Caps’ Eric Fehr had just pushed the puck wide on a quality scoring chance from the slot, and Petrovicky picked it up and skated the length of the ice. Petrovicky then released a wrist shot that beat Olie Kolzig on the stick side.

“I just tried to flip it towards the net,” Petrovicky said. “I just hit the right spot, I guess, and it went in.”

The Caps’ best chances to score included Brian Sutherby being stoned by Fleury during the game’s opening minutes and then hitting a post midway through the second period, Ovechkin firing a shot considerably high and wide of Fleury late in the second period, and a shot by Fehr from the right wing midway through the third period that also was saved.

“They had the better goalie [today],” said defenseman Milan Jurcina, who made his Caps debut after being acquired via trade from the Boston Bruins on Thursday. “It was a game of two really good goalies. We just couldn’t pull it out. Some games are like that.”

The biggest impact Ovechkin made was when he hit Pittsburgh’s Maxime Talbot with a clean shoulder check in the first period. Play had to be stopped and Talbot gingerly made his way to the Penguins’ locker room, but he later returned.

Despite Ovechkin visibly showing frustration after the game, Hanlon said he was not worried about his team’s spirits after once again failing to gain ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The Caps, who last were shut out Nov. 9 by Carolina, left Pittsburgh nine points out of eighth place in the East.

“We’re not getting out-played by teams,” Clark said. “We’re just getting out-scored.”

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