The rivalry between young National Hockey League superstars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin is about to reach the next level.
Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins will meet Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals in the second round of the NHL playoffs, marking the first time the two young stars have faced off in the post-season.
The matchup was forged Tuesday when Washington and the Carolina Hurricanes closed out the first round with wins in Game 7 of their respective series.
The Capitals beat the New York Rangers 2-1, capping a stirring comeback from a 3-1 series deficit. The Capitals became the 21st team in NHL history to win a series after trailing 3-1.
Carolina beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in a series finale that was just as dramatic. With 1:20 left in the game and the Devils leading, Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal scored in a 48-second span to stun the home side.
The Hurricanes, ranked sixth in the Eastern Conference, meet the top-seeded Boston Bruins in the next round.
In the Western Conference, the Vancouver Canucks will face the Chicago Blackhawks, while the Detroit Red Wings will meet the surprising Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim faces the defending Stanley Cup champions after eliminating the San Jose Sharks, who finished the regular reason with the league’s best record.
But the matchup between the Penguins and Capitals might have the highest potential for drama because of the rivalry between Crosby and Ovechkin.
Ovechkin beat out his Canadian counterpart for rookie of the year honours in 2006, but Crosby took the next round by taking the Hart Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s most valuable player, the next season. Ovechkin won the Hart in 2008.
The congenial nature of the early phase of their rivalry has given way to a more acrimonious tone this season, with Crosby criticizing Ovechkin’s penchant for elaborate goal-scoring celebrations after a Washington win over Pittsburgh earlier this season.
“Like it or lump it, that’s what he does,” Crosby said at the time. “Some people like it, some people don’t. Personally, I don’t like it.”
The Russian returned the favour, taking Crosby to task for his vocal nature.
“What I can say about him?” Ovechkin said. “He is a good player, but he talks too much.”
Ovechkin has also had past friction with Pittsburgh’s other young superstar, Evgeni Malkin, who won the scoring race over the regular season.