Caps try to sweep season series from Pens

( - The Washington Capitals attempt to sweep their season series with the rival Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday evening in what could be a heated contest at Verizon Center.

The Capitals had lost eight straight versus the Penguins heading into this season, but shut Pittsburgh out in the first of four meetings before taking a 3-1 decision on the road last Tuesday.

Alex Ovechkin had a goal and also a slash on the right foot of Kris Letang early into the third period that sent the Penguins defenseman falling into the boards. Letang temporarily left the game, but returned.

"I didn't like it," Penguins head coach Mike Johnston said of Ovechkin's slash. "I don't think anybody on the ice saw it, or they would have called it."

Johnston's club attempted to stick up for Letang for the rest of the game, but drew a number of penalties and Washington's Joel Ward potted the game-winning goal during a 5-on-3 power play with 4:13 remaining.

The victory was part of a four-game winning streak for the Capitals that came to an end with Sunday's 3-2 setback to the hosting Philadelphia Flyers. Ward and Tom Wilson had the goals, while Braden Holtby made 25 saves.

"We just weren't sharp and they forced us not to be sharp," said Washington head coach Barry Trotz. "You have to be really prepared for that and we fell and dug ourselves a 2-0 hole."

The loss, coupled with the Penguins' 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday, pushed the Capitals into fourth place in the Metropolitan Division. They are one point back of the third-place Pens, who trail the New York Rangers by three points for second place in the standings.

Evgeni Malkin and Patrick Hornqvist scored twice each for Pittsburgh in the rout of Florida. Paul Martin added a goal and Sidney Crosby posted two assists for a Penguins club that had snapped a three-game skid the previous day with a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues.

"If we play right, we play our game, we can beat any team in the league. We showed the last two games how we can play," Malkin said.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 34 shots in the win. He is 16-10-2 lifetime versus the Capitals with a 2.38 goals against average, .916 save percentage and three shutouts.

Holtby is 3-4-0 versus the Pens with a 2.50 GAA and .924 save percentage. He was in net for both shutout wins this season.

Penguins defenseman Christian Ehrhoff was able to take part in contact drills on Tuesday as he appears close to returning from a concussion. He has not played since Jan. 28 at Washington where he banged his head on the ice after trying to hit Ovechkin along the boards.