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The Pittsburgh Penguins will try to keep their slim hopes of a division title alive, and Alex Ovechkin is slated to become the first player in Washington Capitals history to reach 1,000 NHL games when the teams clash Sunday night at PPG Paints Arena.
The Capitals (46-25-7) are coming off a 4-1 loss Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes but still sit first in the Metropolitan Division, three points ahead of the second-place Penguins (45-28-6), who clinched a playoff spot for a franchise-record 12th year in a row Saturday with a 5-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
The Capitals were disappointed with the loss against the Hurricanes, which ended a five-game winning streak.
“It was a game that (we) could (have) put some more distance between us and the Penguins,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said.
Capitals center Jay Beagle said it was not a matter of putting the Penguins game ahead of the game against the Hurricanes.
Less than 24 hours after setting a franchise record by qualifying for the playoffs for the 12th straight season, the Pittsburgh Penguins attempt to climb within one point of the top spot in the Metropolitan Division when they host the first-place Washington Capitals on Sunday. Pittsburgh, which made the postseason 11 consecutive times from 1991-2001, punched its ticket for this year’s tournament with Saturday’s 5-2 home triumph over Montreal.
Phil Kessel and Riley Sheahan each recorded a goal and an assist for the two-time defending Stanley Cup-champion Penguins, who are 29-8-2 at home – including a 6-0-1 mark in their last seven – and have only three games remaining. Kessel is second on the team with a career-high 87 points – eight behind leader Evgeni Malkin, who notched a pair of assists against the Canadiens. Washington, which has four contests left, had its season high-matching five-game winning streak halted Friday as it dropped a 4-1 home decision to Carolina. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who leads the league with 45 goals but has produced just one in his last five contests, is expected to skate in his 1,000th NHL game on Sunday.