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, Va. (AP) Like tourists flocking to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom, the Pittsburgh Penguins making a trip to Washington in the playoffs has become a rite of spring.The Penguins and Capitals will face off in the second round for the third consecutive year with the core groups changed only slightly from past battles. Back-to-back Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh still has playoff MVPs Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and Washington still has stars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom trying to make the Eastern Conference final for the first time.”We faced each other for a lot of games, and we should know each other right now inside out,” Backstrom said. ”That’s just how it is. It’s usually tight series and one-goal games. We’re excited about this one.”It’s hard not to get the ”Groundhog Day” feeling about these teams meeting for the fourth time in the past 10 years. The Penguins won the previous three series despite not having home-ice advantage, twice winning Game 7 in Washington on the way to capturing the Stanley Cup.But this year is different in many ways, most notably on the Pittsburgh injury front. Malkin and winger Carl Hagelin will miss Game 1 on Thursday night in Washington. Coach Mike Sullivan said Malkin will travel, making him a possibility to play in Game 2 this weekend after missing the end of the Philadelphia series with an apparent lower-body injury.”I think guys have to step up in different roles maybe,” Crosby said. ”I don’t think anybody has to put too much pressure on themselves. Collectively we can find ways and those are guys who aren’t easy to replace, but that’s what we’re faced with.”A year after the last series between these two division rivals, gone from the Penguins are forwards Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz and Matt Cullen, defensemen Trevor Daley, Ian Cole and Ron Hainsey and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Gone from the Capitals are forwards Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson and Daniel Winnik and defensemen Nate Schmidt, Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk.”They have different personnel, we have different personnel,” said Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, who’s back after missing the 2017 playoffs because of neck surgery. ”The series is going to play out differently. The game is going to be won differently. You don’t know how it is going to go.”Pittsburgh, trying for a rare championship threepeat, has won nine of 10 all-time series against Washington, many of which predate current players and coaches. But Capitals coach Barry Trotz said it’s ”fitting” his team must again go through its nemesis to advance.Asked why this year the outcome will be different, Ovechkin said: ”I don’t know. One day, it have to happen. If we want to get success, we have to beat Pittsburgh and move forward.”SID VS. OVICrosby has won 44 of the 70 previous games against Ovechkin in the NHL regular season and playoffs, world junior championships www.starsshoponline.com
, world championships, World Cup and Olympics. There may not be another dueling hat tricks game like the one in the 2009 playoffs, but Crosby and Ovechkin are red hot going into their latest showdown. Crosby is tied at 13 points with linemate Jake Guentzel for the scoring lead in the playoffs, and Ovechkin’s five power-play goals helped Washington beat Columbus in six.”This year I think he’s playing his best, but it’s good to see,” Backstrom said of Ovechkin. ”Hopefully everyone can raise our level here in the second round.”POWER PLAYERSThe Penguins relied heavily on their top-ranked power play unit to land a 12th straight playoff berth – the longest active streak in the NHL – but their title bid will rely heavily on a penalty kill that’s been uneven at best. Pittsburgh was a middling 17th during the regular season (80 percent) but killed 90.5 percent of Philadelphia’s power plays in the opening round. Washington scored just once with the man advantage in four regular season meetings with the Penguins, who kept Ovechkin in check.”You have to reduce his time,” Letang said. ”You don’t want him to have all kinds of time to really use that puck.”MURRAY’S METTLEPenguins goaltender Matt Murray won the Cup twice as a ”rookie” by NHL standards after backstopping the Penguins to titles in 2016 and 2017. He missed all of Pittsburgh’s playoff series against Washington, however, while recovering from a lower-body injury. The 23-year-old has been up and down against Washington in his brief career and is coming off a Philadelphia series in which he flip-flopped between great (two shutouts) and not-so great (allowing four-or-more goals twice). Still, Murray has never lost a playoff series he’s played in, and even after giving up four quick goals in the first 21 minutes of Game 6 against Philadelphia, he limited the Flyers to just one the rest of the way to give his teammates time to rally.HOLTBY DIALED INCapitals goaltender Braden Holtby allowed six goals on 35 shots through the first two games of the Penguins series last year before getting his game back together. He has only allowed 10 on 137 shots in four-plus games since replacing Philipp Grubauer this time around and looks like a goalie who can match Murray save for save.—AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed.— ST. LOUIS (AP) — Patrik Laine scored five goals Saturday in the Winnipeg Jets‘ 8-4 victory at St. Louis, two short of 97-year-old NHL record.It was the 61st five-goal game in league history. Darryl Sittler of the Toronto Maple Leafs was the last player to score six goals in a game, on April 22, 1976, against Boston.Brandon Tanev, Blake Wheeler, and Jack Roslovic also scored for the Jets, who snapped their first two-game losing streak of the season.Laine’s five goal outburst gives him a league-leading 16 goals in 10 November games.Joe Malone, who played in the early days of the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens, scored seven goals in a game with the Quebec Bulldogs in January 1920. He also had a six-goal game and three five-goal games.Laurent Brossoit allowed four goals on 27 shots for his first career win against St. Louis. He improved to 4-1-1.Vladimir Tarasenko, David Perron, Ryan O’Reilly, and Pat Maroon scored for the Blues.CAPITALS 5, RANGERS 3NEW YORK (AP) — Brett Connolly scored the tiebreaking goal with 6:24 left in the third period Dallas Stars T-Shirts Womens
, and Washington won its season-high fifth straight game.Alex Ovechkin, Nic Dowd, Jakub Vrana and Tom Wilson also scored for defending Stanley Cup champion Washington, and John Carlson had three assists. Pheonix Copley, starting in place of Braden Holtby, stopped 27 shots.Jimmy Vesey, Brady Skjei and Ryan Strome scored for the Rangers, who lost their second straight, ending a seven-game winning streak on home ice. Kevin Hayes had two assists and Alexandar Georgiev finished with 23 saves.BLACKHAWKS 5, PANTHERS 4, OTSUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Erik Gustafsson scored 2:32 into overtime to give Chicago the win.Gustafsson wristed in his third goal of the season to beat Florida goalie James Reimer, snapping Chicago’s two-game overall losing streak and eight-game road skid.Alex DeBrincat tied it with 2 seconds left in regulation and David Kampf, Patrick Kane and Alexandre Fortin also tallied for the Blackhawks. Gustav Forsling had two assists and Kampf added an assist for a three-point night.Goalie Cam Ward made his first start since Nov. 12 and stopped 34 shots.Mike Hoffman, Jared McCann, Aaron Ekblad and Frank Vatrano scored goals for the Panthers. Jonathan Huberdeau recorded a pair of assists.Reimer made 36 saves for the Panthers, who lost their third straight.SABRES 3, RED WINGS 2, SODETROIT (AP) — Sam Reinhart and Tage Thompson scored in a seven-round shootout to give Buffalo its ninth consecutive victory.Jeff Skinner and Thompson scored for Buffalo in regulation, and Linus Ullmark made 35 saves.Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha scored for Detroit, and Jimmy Howard stopped 33 shots. Andreas Athanasiou scored in the shootout for the Red Wings.MAPLE LEAFS 6, FLYERS 0TORONTO (AP) — Andreas Johnsson had a hat trick midway through the first period and Toronto routed Philadelphia.John Tavares, Patrick Marleau and Josh Leivo also scored, and backup goalie Garret Sparks made 35 saves for his first shutout of the season and the second of his career. Mitch Marner added two assists.Calvin Pickard, who was claimed by the Flyers on waivers from Toronto before the start of the season Dallas Stars Hoodies Womens
, allowed four goals on six shots for Philadelphia (10-11-2) before being pulled. Anthony Stolarz allowed two goals on 34 shots in relief.BRUINS 3, CANADIENS 2MONTREAL (AP) — John Moore scored a power-play goal with 2:57 left and Boston beat Montreal.David Backes and Jake DeBrusk also scored to help the Bruins win for third time in four games. Tuukka Rask made 32 saves, and David Krejci had two assists.Jonathan Drouin and Tomas Tatar scored in the third period for Montreal, and Carey Price stopped 32 shots. The Canadiens have lost four straight.PENGUINS 4, BLUE JACKETS 2PITTSBURGH (AP) — Jake Guentzel scored his first career regular-season hat trick to send Pittsburgh past Columbus.Tanner Pearson also scored for the Penguins, who have won two of their last three after losing nine of their previous 10. Kris Letang had three assists and Sidney Crosby two. Phil Kessel continued an eight-game point streak for Pittsburgh and Evgeni Malkin has a seven-game run.Casey DeSmith made 37 saves for Pittsburgh.Cam Atkinson and Scott Harrington scored for the Blue Jackets, who lost for the second time in three games.ISLANDERS 4, HURRICANES 1NEW YORK (AP) — Thomas Greiss made 26 saves, and Valtteri Filppula, Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Bailey and Adam Pelech scored for New York.Brock Nelson, Anders Lee and Bailey finished with multipoint games. It was the sixth multipoint game of the season for Bailey.Justin Williams scored for the Hurricanes. Carolina starter Scott Darling made 15 saves in the loss. The Islanders limited the Hurricanes to a single goal for the third straight game.AVALANCHE 3, STARS 2DENVER (AP) — J.T. Compher and Mikko Rantanen scored 45 seconds apart late in the third period, and Colorado rallied to beat Dallas.Rantanen also had an assist, and Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and an assist for the Avalanche. Colorado has won four in a row and is 6-0-1 in its last seven games.Radek Faska and Jamie Benn had goals, Alexander Radulov had two assists and Anton Khudobin stopped 33 shots for the Stars. Dallas has lost three of its last four.GOLDEN KNIGHTS 6, SHARKS 0LAS VEGAS (AP) — Max Pacioretty scored twice and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 33 shots to earn his league-leading fifth shutout of the season for Vegas.It was the second shutout in as many nights for Fleury and marked the first time the 15-year veteran recorded back-to-back shutouts since the 2014-15 season.William Karlsson, Colin Miller, William Carrier and Alex Tuch also scored for Vegas.CANUCKS 4, KINGS 2LOS ANGELES (AP) — Vancouver rookie Elias Pettersson scored his 13th goal of the season and helped the Canucks snap an eight-game winless streak.Adam Gaudette and Sam Gagner also scored for the Canucks, and Tyler Motte added an empty-net goal. Goalie Jacob Markstrom stopped 20 shots.Drew Doughty and Matt Luff scored for the Kings, whose 7-14-1 record is the worst in the NHL. Cal Petersen stopped 26 shots.