PITTSBURGH (AP) — Alex Ovechkin scored twice to tie Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead with 48 goals and the Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington Capitals swept the season series from the Pittsburgh Penguins, winning 6-3 on Tuesday night.
Crosby had a goal and two assists to give the Penguins captain his fourth 100-point season in five seasons — he missed only when he sat out two months of 2007-08 with a high ankle sprain — but Pittsburgh still lost its fourth in a row to Washington.
Ovechkin had four goals in 18 games before scoring on a power play early in the third period, then added an empty-net goal with a second remaining. Nicklas Backstrom set up both during a three-assist game, giving him 67 assists.
Pittsburgh played without star forward Evgeni Malkin, who missed his eighth game in his last 10 — this time with an undisclosed illness that caused him to leave the ice a few minutes into the pregame warmup. He missed five games with a bruised right foot before scoring during a 4-3 overtime victory over Atlanta on Saturday.
The Capitals had little to play for except any possible momentum that sweeping the Stanley Cup champions might generate should the teams meet in the playoffs, yet won their second in as many nights. Washington already is assured of being top-seeded in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Penguins lost their fifth in eight games and slipped into fourth place in the conference, two points behind Atlantic Division leader New Jersey and one behind Northeast Division champion Buffalo. The Devils beat Atlanta 3-0 and the Sabres defeated the New York Rangers 5-2.
Pittsburgh is winless in 10 games this season against the Capitals and Devils, dropping all six to division rival New Jersey. The Penguins have three games remaining, against the Islanders in the final regular-season home game in Mellon Arena on Thursday and road games against Atlanta and the Islanders this weekend.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury after Tomas Fleischmann scored 21 seconds after Crosby scored on a power play to get Pittsburgh within a goal at 2-1. As Penguins forward Max Talbot drove Alexander Semin into the boards, the puck came loose, Fleischmann grabbed it and beat Fleury with a wrist shot at 6:42 of the second. An angry Fleury broke his stick against a wall as he walked down a tunnel leading to the Penguins' dressing room.
Penguins defenseman Jordan Leopold scored twice around Matt Bradley's 10th goal for Washington, giving him three goals in two games after he didn't score in his first eight games with Pittsburgh. Leopold's goal at 0:49 of the third, with Crosby getting the second assist for his 100th point, briefly made it 4-3.
Ovechkin restored Washington's two-goal lead four seconds after Bill Guerin drew Pittsburgh's only penalty, a high-sticking call at 2:33 of the third. Jordan Staal won the ensuing faceoff, but the puck deflected off linesman Andy McElman to Ovechkin, who beat Brent Johnson on a slap shot for his fifth goal in 19 games.
Earlier, Semin scored his 39th goal, and Mike Knuble's fourth goal in as many games against Pittsburgh this season — on a seemingly harmless wrist shot from the right circle — made it 2-0 with 42 seconds gone in the second.
Semyon Varlamov, the losing goalie as Pittsburgh beat Washington in a seven-game playoff series last spring, made 26 saves in his first regular-season start against the Penguins.
NOTES: Capitals D Mike Green rested for a second successive night. He leads all NHL defensemen with 74 points. ... Washington ended 24-10-7 on the road. ... Washington has won seven of eight from Pittsburgh the past two seasons. ... Washington went 6-0-1 against Pittsburgh during the 1984-85 season.