The Pittsburgh Penguins host the Washington Capitals at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday, Mar. 12 in the teams’ last regular season meeting of 2018-19. Even with Connor McDavid and Austen Matthews tearing up the league, veteran superstars, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin continue to prove themselves the best in the game.
When Ovechkin scored his 45th goal of the season on Mar. 1 against the New York Islanders, he became the first NHL player to score 45 or more goals in 10 seasons. The Caps are tops in the Metropolitan Division, recently sliding ahead of the Islanders.
The Penguins, despite injuries to key players including Kris Letang, are six points behind the Capitals and rank third in the division with 83 points.
Here’s what you need to know about the Caps vs. Pens matchup:
After a seven-game losing streak in January, the Capitals have pushed their way to the top of the Metropolitan standings and are likely to stay there with 13 games to go, and should win the division title for a fourth consecutive season. Of course, the team’s sights are on defending their Stanley Cup title and they are playing like it.
Heading into Tuesday’s game, the Caps are riding a seven-game winning streak and are 9-1-0 in their last ten games. They defeated the powerhouse Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night before hitting the road for four games, against the Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning and New Jersey Devils this week.
The Islanders are just behind the Caps with 85 points and a game in hand, meaning the Capitals can’t afford to take their foot off the gas this late in the season. If the playoffs started today, Washington would face the Carolina Hurricanes, who somehow defied the odds to sneak into the first wild-card spot, but with the Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets hot on their heals, it’s tough to predict whether the ‘Canes will make the playoffs for the first time in almost a decade.
Right now, it looks like the Caps could beat any team, but the Penguins will be the first in a series of hard matchups this week.
The Penguins were in ninth place in the Eastern Conference and out of the playoffs as of Feb. 23 after losing to the Flyers in their Stadium Series game at Lincoln Financial Field. Since then, the Pens have won five of their last seven games.
With Crosby carrying his team, the Penguins defeated the red-hot Boston Bruins on Sunday to end the Bruins’ 19-game point streak, the second longest in franchise history.
If the playoffs started today, the Penguins would face the New York Islanders, who are looking to make a surprising return to the playoffs after two seasons on the outside. But with the Caps only six points ahead of them in the standings, you can bet the Penguins are vying for top spot, or at least home ice for the playoffs now that it’s within reach.
The Penguins visit the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday before returning home for back to back contests against the St. Louis Blues and Flyers over the weekend. None of these games can be taken lightly since the Penguins have struggled against both the Sabres and Flyers recently.
This is the fourth and final meetings between the clubs for the 2018-19 regular season. The Penguins have won two of the three, and all were one-goal games. After a 7-6 OT barn burner, which the Penguins won, the two subsequent games were 2-1, with the Penguins winning the most recent matchup in December, when Crosby had a goal and an assist to propel his team to victory.
With Evgeni Malkin is two points shy of hitting the 1000 mark and Ovechkin four goals shy of 50, this could be a night to remember in Pittsburgh.