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Canadiens drop Caps to 0-3 for 1st time since '93

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Canadiens drop Caps to 0-3 for 1st time since '93

WASHINGTON (AP) Andrei Markov's resurgence continued with a goal and an assist, and the Montreal Canadiens cruised to a 4-1 win Thursday night over the Washington Capitals, who are 0-3 for the first time in nearly two decades.

Finally healthy after twice tearing the ACL in his right knee, Markov was part of a second-period spree in which the Canadiens scored in all sorts of ways against a Capitals team that is out of sorts. In order, Montreal's goals came 5-on-3, 5-on-4 and 5-on-5 in a little over 6 minutes to take a 3-0 lead.

Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges scored for the Canadiens, and Carey Price made 30 saves. Montreal, the worst team in the Eastern Conference a year ago, has won two straight under new coach Michel Therrien since opening the season with a loss to Toronto.

The Capitals also have a new coach teaching a new system, and he is having a much harder time getting his players in gear after a compressed training camp in the lockout-shortened season. Adam Oates' team has been outscored 14-6 through three games, with seven of the opponents' goals coming on power plays.

Joey Crabb's goal with 2:23 to play was the lone goal for the Capitals, and two-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin remains without a goal on the season. Oates shook things up by putting Wojtek Wolski on the first line with Ovechkin, and the two ran into each other in the offensive zone in the first period. Michal Neuvirth made his first start of the season in net, but he had a realistic chance to stop only one of the four Montreal goals.

The result was frequent booing throughout the game for the Capitals, who are 0-3 for the first time since dropping six straight to start the 1993-94 season.

Washington also ended a six-game winning streak against Montreal and lost in regulation to the Canadiens for the first time since Nov. 20, 2009.

Markov has three goals on the season, helping to mitigate the absence of Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who is a restricted free agent and has yet to come to terms on a new contract.

Markov supplied the assist on the game's first goal, sliding the puck to Plekanec during a two-man advantage while Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer were in the penalty box.

Markov put in an easy rebound to make it 2-0 during a power play just 63 seconds later.

The third goal came after a classic defensive lapse. Three Capitals chased the puck into the corner, leaving Gionta alone in front of the net to receive a pass from Rene Bourque.

Josh Gorges made it a four-goal lead late in the second period.

Notes: Washington hasn't been shut out by Montreal since 2008, but the Capitals have shut out Montreal five times during that span. ... Matt Hendricks, who got into a fight in Washington's previous game to try to give his team a boost, was at in again Thursday, tussling with Montreal's Brandon Prust in the third period.

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Follow Joseph White on Twitter:http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

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3 key observations from Game 1: Pittsburgh capitalizes

3 key observations from Game 1: Pittsburgh capitalizes

The Pittsburgh Penguins seized the early series lead with a 3-2 victory in Game 1 on Thursday. Here are three key observations from the game.

1. Sidney Crosby is already having a better series than last year

Despite losing to the Penguins in last year’s series, the Caps actually played Crosby very tough, allowing him only two assists and no goal in six games. After Game 1, he already has two goals. That’s a bad sign. While limiting Pittsburgh’s secondary scoring will be key, Washington also cannot allow Pittsburgh’s top player to run wild on them. He will make them pay for every mistake they make.

RELATED: Jill Sorenson has a message for the pessimistic Caps fans

2. Braden Holtby is still not at his best

After a shaky start to the Toronto series, Holtby rebounded with two strong performances in Games 5 and 6 to help lead the Caps to the series win. Thursday was a step back. You cannot blame him for the first goal. What is a goalie supposed to do on a 2-on-1 against Crosby? The second goal, however, Holtby got his glove on the initial shot by Olli Maatta, but was unable to catch it. The resulting rebound was tipped to Crosby for the goal. Make no mistake, these are the best two teams left in the playoffs. It will take a superhuman effort to win. Allowing three goals on 21 shots isn’t it. I still do not think it is time to even consider putting in Philipp Grubauer, however. Holtby is not the reason why the Caps are losing, he is just not playing at a level in which he will be able to steal a game for Washington anytime soon.

3. Pittsburgh forwards play incredibly high

All year Trotz has stressed to his forward the importance of getting back on defense and not getting caught too far up the ice. Pittsburgh‘s forwards do the exact opposite. When back on defense, the Penguins’ forwards play very high in the defensive zone. There were even times when a forward was skating at mid-ice when Washington was still attacking. Pittsburgh is a fast team that likes to push the rush. By playing so aggressive, they are able to get the puck out of the zone and push the attack faster. But this comes at a price as they leave themselves more vulnerable in the defensive zone. The Caps need to be aware of how quickly Pittsburgh can push the counter, but they also need to take advantage of their vulnerability defensively.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps' locker room 'somber' after Game 1 loss

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Sidney Crosby scores twice to lead Penguins to Game 1 win over Washington

Sidney Crosby scores twice to lead Penguins to Game 1 win over Washington

Final score: Washington Capitals 2, Pittsburgh Penguins 3

How it happened: Both teams looked pretty even to start as they felt one another out in a goalless first period. Things did not start well in the second. Caught too far up on the opening faceoff, the Caps gave up the first goal of the game to Sidney Crosby just 12 seconds in. Crosby would score his second of the game less than a minute later to make it 2-0 just 1:04 into the second. Washington was on its heels so they got physical. Dmitry Orlov crushed Tom Kuhnhackl and John Carlson leveled Evgeni Malkin and the team seemed to feed off of both hits leading to an Alex Ovechkin goal late in the period. Evgeny Kuznetsov tied that game at 2 in the third period, but Nick Bonino put Pittsburgh back on top for good just 4:31 later.

What it means: With the Game 1 loss, Washington yielded home-ice to the Penguins and now face what many will call a must-win Game 2 in Washington before the series shifts to Pittsburgh. This marks the first time this season the Caps have lost to the Penguins in regulation.

Goals

Penguins goal: Sidney Crosby from Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist at 0:12 in the 2nd period. Matt Niskanen pinched up the ice immediately on the faceoff to open the second period. A turnover in the neutral zone led to a 2-on-1 for Pittsburgh with Guentzel feeding Crosby for the one-timer. Caps 0, Penguins 1

Penguins goal: Sidney Crosby from Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist at 1:04 in the 2nd period. Maatta fired a slap shot from the blue line that Braden Holtby was unable to glove. Hornqvist was there for Pittsburgh to collect the rebound and feed to a charging Crosby for the goal. Caps 0, Penguins 2

Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin from Lars Eller and T.J. Oshie at 18:17 in the 2nd period. A big hit from Dmitry Orlov on Kuhnhackl seemed to ignite the Caps as did a hit from John Carlson and Evgeni Malkin less than a minute later. Carlson’s hit dispossessed Malkin of the puck and Oshie carried it into the offensive zone and dropped it back for Eller. Eller tipped it to a nearby Ovechkin who was allowed to walk in to the top of the circle without being challenged. The result shot beat Marc-Andre Fleury to the top shelf. Caps 1, Penguins 2

Caps goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from Matt Niskanen at 8:05 in the 3rd period. A prolonged offensive attack and the constant movement of the Caps allowed for Kuznetsovy eventually to get free. Niskanen corralled the puck and pulled off the cross-ice pass to Kuznetsov who was able to tap it in past a helpless Fleury. Caps 2, Penguins 2

Penguins goal: Nick Bonino from Scott Wilson and Ian Cole at 12:36 in the 3rd period. Justin Schultz held the puck behind the Penguins' net, passed to Cole who made a stretch pass to Wilson who was along the boards. Wilson went into the offensive zone drawing Kevin Shattenkirk then chipped the puck to the center for Bonino who was in alone on net. Caps 2, Penguins 3

Caps stars

1. Dmitry Orlov: Crosby's two goals took the wind right out of the Caps' sails and the team seemed to lack energy for most of the second as a result. That changed when Orlov knocked Kuhnhackl to the ice. The Penguins bench was upset as they felt the hit was high, but the point of contact was not the head and the referee did not deem it worthy of a penalty.

2. Alex Ovechkin: There were some frustrating moments in which Ovechkin was forced into traps along the boards and he took an early penalty, but Washington needed him the most and desperately needed a boost, he was there to give them the goal and put them on the board.

3. Evgeny Kuznetsov: Kuznetsov needs to be a factor in this series if the Caps hope to win and he was in Game 1. He registered 10 shot attempts, four shots on goal and scored the game-tying goal in the third. He did not score a single goal in last season's series against Pittsburgh.

Look ahead: The series remains in Washington for Game 2 on Saturday. It will then shift to Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday.

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