Rivalry between Penguins and Capitals heating up in playoffs

The Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins can be forgiven if they feel like they know each other a little too well.

In addition to visiting one another four to five times during every regular season, the Metropolitan Division foes have also met in the playoffs for three straight years. The Penguins won the previous two series on their way to consecutive Stanley Cup titles, but Washington showed it won’t go down a third time without a fight after a controversial win in Game 2 on Sunday.

Pittsburgh is still awaiting the return of Evgeni Malkin, who has missed three games with a lower-body injury suffered during the Penguins’ opening-round victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Even without Malkin, who led the team in scoring during the season, Pittsburgh was able to finish off the Flyers and take home-ice advantage away from the Capitals with a comeback victory in Game 1 of their series.

Malkin’s scoring could have helped the Penguins on Sunday in Game 2, when no luck appeared to be going their way. Washington won the game 4-1, but not without some controversial moments that will loom large over the series now that it’s tied. The first moment was a hit on Pittsburgh defenseman Brian Dumoulin by Capitals forward Tom Wilson, who forced Dumoulin to leave the contest with a hit to the head as Dumoulin was trying to avoid the forechecking of Alex Ovechkin. Later in the game, the Penguins appeared to score when the puck disappeared between the post and the pads of Capitals netminder Braden Holtby, but officials did not signal a goal on the ice and replays were inconclusive, preserving Washington’s two-goal lead at the time.

The Penguins were understandably unhappy with Sunday’s result, and captain Sidney Crosby was adamant that his team was robbed of a goal. But luck good or bad is an essential part of any playoff run, which is something Crosby and Pittsburgh know well after four trips to the Stanley Cup final, and three Cup wins since 2008. As luck would have it, the Penguins have gone through Washington every time they’ve won a Cup, including during their successful playoff runs in 1991 and 1992. The Capitals, meanwhile, have never reached the Eastern Conference final during the Ovechkin era, and doing so with a win over Pittsburgh would carry extra symbolic weight.

The series now moves to Pittsburgh for Game 3 on Tuesday.