Scoring stars Crosby and Ovechkin were shut out in an unexpected defensive duel, with Pittsburgh’s Ronald Petrovicky scoring the pivotal goal and Fleury making 30 saves as the Penguins won a season-high sixth in a row by beating Washington 2-0 Saturday.
The Penguins had been 0-30-1 when Crosby didn’t score in his two-year NHL career, but Fleury turned in his second shutout in three games and fourth of the season. The No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft has stopped all but four of 106 shots in his last three games, and has a 10-1-2 record in his last 13 games.
“The guys were blocking shots and clearing rebounds and that’s always a big help for me,” said Fleury, who shut out Florida 3-0 Tuesday. “The team did a great job on him (Ovechkin), they were always close to him and he didn’t get too many shots on net.”
Ovechkin’s 13-game scoring streak, the NHL’s longest this season, and Crosby’s eight-game run ended in a game that featured excellent penalty-killing and goaltending. Crosby leads the NHL with 82 points and Ovechkin went into the game with a league-high 33 goals.
Ovechkin was visibly agitated, apparently because he felt the Capitals played well enough to win, but didn’t in their third straight loss and eighth in 10 games.
“We lost the game, we had our chances, but they have a great goalie,” said Ovechkin, whose only three shots came in the third period. “We have to score and we didn’t score. I was just very mad. I think it was a good game for us. We just lost.”
Ovechkin had scored in every Capitals game this calendar year, getting eight goals and 12 assists in 13 games. He was last scoreless Dec. 30 against the Rangers. Crosby hadn’t been shut out since Jan. 10 at Florida.
“It’s not too often Sid doesn’t get a point, but when he does, it’s good that other players step up and take the game under control,” said Jordan Staal, who scored an empty-net goal with 38 seconds remaining for his 17th. “That’s what happened and it’s a good feeling. He (Fleury) was amazing.”
Petrovicky, injured or scratched for more than half of the Penguins’ games this season, not only scored the most important goal, but did so unassisted. Washington’s Eric Fehr missed on a backhander halfway through the second period and Petrovicky picked up the puck in the corner and skated up the right wing boards.
Petrovicky hesitated momentarily at the top of the right circle and faked a pass, only to throw a wrist shot on the net that eluded Olaf Kolzig, who otherwise stopped 18 shots.
“I saw one guy going to the net and I tried to flick it toward the net and I just hit the right spot, I guess,” said Petrovicky, who has two goals in four games after not previously scoring all season. “The d-men went with the other guys and that gave me a little extra time.”
With a 26-17-8 record, the Penguins are the NHL’s most improved club and, with an 8-0-1 record in their last nine games, are in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001. They have 26 more points than they did last season, when they were 12-29-10 and already out of playoff contention.
An improved defence led by Fleury is a major reason why, though the scoring of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Staal usually is credited for the turnaround. Fleury has played in 24 of Pittsburgh’s 26 victories.
“We had some great opportunities,” Washington’s Chris Clark said. “We had some rebounds we couldn’t put in. The third period, he played unbelievable. He’s one of the best goalies we faced.”
Despite giving up four goals in a 5-4 shootout decision Thursday over Montreal, the Penguins have allowed only 11 goals in six games. They killed off all four Washington power plays.
Fleury’s best save of the 13 he made in the final period came when Ovechkin’s pass from the neutral zone created a short breakaway for Fehr, but Fleury challenged the shot and made the save.
Notes: Crosby took two shots. … Ovechkin was on the ice for both Penguins goals. … Penguins F Colby Armstrong sat out with a sprained knee. His hit on Montreal’s Saku Koivu on Thursday night led to the retaliatory penalty taken by Sheldon Souray and a seven-minute power play that resulted in two Penguins goals. The teams meet again Sunday in Montreal, but Armstrong did not make the trip. … D Milan Jurcina, picked up in a trade with Boston on Thursday, started in his first game for Washington. … Petrovicky didn’t have a point all season until getting a goal and an assist in a 7-2 decision at Phoenix a week ago Saturday.