Capitals Have A Score to Settle With Penguins – A Historical Recap

Feb 17, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins players engage in a scrum during the third period against at the CONSOL Energy Center. Washington won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

While the Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby rivalry has been arguably, the NHL’s premier rivalry of the last decade, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins rivalry extends well beyond the year the two best players in the league first clashed. These two teams have been playing high-octane games since the days of Dale Hunter and Mario Lemieux. In the 2015-16 regular season, the Caps went 2-2-1 against Pittsburgh, being outscored 16-13. (Crosby recorded a goal, while Ovechkin was pointless).

With the Caps set to face the Pens in the second round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the history between these two powerhouses is filled with playoff clashes (eight total) that have been hard-fought contests. The Penguins have defeated the Capitals in seven of those eight, with Washington’s only series win coming in 1994. NoVa Caps is going back in time to visit each of the eight series.

1991 Prince of Wales Division Finals
Coming into this matchup the Capitals had finished the season third in the Patrick Division, while the Penguins won the division. In the first game of the series, the Caps defeated the Pens 4-2. From then on, however, the Penguins dominated the Capitals. Pittsburgh beat the Caps 7-6 in overtime in Game 2 while then winning the following three games by a combined score of 10-3. The Penguins would then go on to win the Stanley Cup. Mark Recchi led the Penguins with ten points (four goals, six assists), while Calle Johansson led all Capitals skaters with seven points (two goals, five assists).

Series Overview
GAME 1: Capitals win 4-2
GAME 2: Penguins win 7-6 in OT
GAME 3: Penguins win 3-1
GAME 4: Penguins win 3-1
GAME 5: Penguins win 4-1

1992 Prince of Wales Semifinals
After finishing second and third, respectively, in the Patrick Division, both the Capitals and Penguins were looking to renew their rivalry from the year before. In Washington’s case, they were hoping to get revenge for the beating they received from the Pens. However, the Penguins would prove to be, once again, a tough nut to crack. While the Caps would take three out of the first four contests,  Pittsburgh would bounce back to win three straight to take the series in seven games, despite being outscored 27-25. Mario Lemieux would lead the Penguins with 17 points (six goals, 10 assists), while Mike Ridley would lead the Caps with 11 points (all assists).

Series Overview
GAME 1: Capitals win 3-1
GAME 2: Capitals win 6-2
GAME 3: Penguins win 6-4
GAME 4: Capitals win 7-2
GAME 5: Penguins win 5-2
GAME 6: Penguins win 6-4
GAME 7: Penguins win 3-1

1994 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
The Capitals and the Penguins were facing each other in the playoffs for the first time in two seasons, and during that time, the NHL had undergone an expansion and a realignment. This series was the first time in their playoff history that the Caps would best Pittsburgh, as the Caps would eliminate the Pens in six games. The Capitals would outscore the Penguins 19-12. Mario Lemieux would once again lead Pittsburgh in scoring, as he recorded seven points (four goals, three assists) in the six games. Washington would be led by Joe Juneau, who also recorded seven points (three goals, four assists).

Series Overview
GAME 1: Capitals win 5-3
GAME 2: Penguins win 2-1
GAME 3: Capitals win 2-0
GAME 4: Capitals win 4-1
GAME 5: Penguins win 3-2
GAME 6: Capitals win 6-3

1995 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
As in previous series, the Capitals played well in the beginning, winning three out of the first four games of the series, before losing three straight to fall in seven games. Unlike the previous three matchups (where their primary starter was Don Beaupre), the Capitals were backstopped by young netminders Jim Carey (2-4-0) and Olaf Kolzig (1-0-0), who were playing in their first playoff series. The Capitals were outscored 29-26 in the series. The Caps were led in scoring by Peter Bondra, who recorded eight points (five goals, three assists) in the seven games, while Pittsburgh was led by Ron Francis, who scored 14 points (three goals, 11 assists).

Series Overview
GAME 1: Capitals win 5-4
GAME 2: Penguins win 5-3
GAME 3: Capitals win 6-2
GAME 4: Capitals win 6-2
GAME 5: Penguins win 6-5 in OT
GAME 6: Penguins win 7-1
GAME 7: Penguins win 3-0

1996 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
In what would be their last playoff matchup for four years, the Capitals and Penguins did not disappoint. Each team would win two games in the first four games before Pittsburgh took the series in the next two contests. After a mediocre performance by Carey, the Caps turned to Kolzig, who went 2-3-0 with a .934 save percentage to Carey’s 0-1-0 record, and .744 save percentage. The team was led in scoring by Juneau, who registered only seven assists. The Penguins were headed by Lemieux, who had eight points (two goals, six assists).

Series Overview
GAME 1: Capitals win 6-4
GAME 2: Capitals win 5-3
GAME 3: Penguins win 4-1
GAME 4: Penguins win 3-2 in OT
GAME 5: Penguins win 4-1
GAME 6: Penguins win 3-2

2000 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
In their first playoff meeting in four seasons, this series belonged to Pittsburgh from the start. The Penguins would take the first three games before the Caps managed to win a game to stave off elimination, before losing in Game 5. Vezina Trophy-winning Olaf Kolzig was unable to keep the Pens in check, going 1-4-0, with a disappointing .845 save percentage. Pittsburgh outscored the Caps by an astronomical 17-8. The Penguins were led in the scoring department by Jaromir Jagr, who finished the series with 10 points (three goals, seven assists). Second-year pro Jeff Halpern led the Capitals with a meager three points (two goals, one assist).

Series Overview
GAME 1: Penguins win 7-0
GAME 2: Penguins win 2-1
GAME 3: Penguins win 4-3
GAME 4: Capitals win 3-2
GAME 5: Penguins win 2-1

2001 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Unlike some of the previous series, this series was a low-scoring affair, with neither team ever going above five goals in a single game. Washington would win the first game before dropping two straight. They would win one more before the Pens closed the door, winning Game 5 and the decisive Game 6. The Penguins were led in scoring by Lemieux, who had seven points (four goals, three assists), while Halpern led the team in scoring with five points (two goals, three assists).

Series Overview
GAME 1: Capitals win 1-0
GAME 2: Penguins win 2-1
GAME 3: Penguins win 3-0
GAME 4: Capitals win 4-3 in OT
GAME 5:  Penguins win 2-1
GAME 6: Penguins win 4-3 in OT

2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Perhaps the NHL’s most-anticipated playoff series in memory, this showdown featured two of the game’s brightest young superstars in the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin and the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby. The two did not disappoint, with both players recording a hat trick in Game 2 (a Washington win that would put the Caps ahead 2-0 in the series). The series would go the distance with seven games, with Crosby and Pittsburgh edging the Caps en route to a Stanley Cup championship. The Caps were led by a young team (with a few veterans in Sergei Fedorov and Viktor Kozlov) featuring Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, and Alex Semin, while Pittsburgh countered with a mix of youngsters and veterans, including Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Sergei Gonchar, Bill Guerin, and Chris Kunitz. The Caps were led in scoring by Ovechkin, who recorded 14 points (eight goals, six assists), while Crosby led the Penguins with 13 points (eight goals, five assists).

Series Overview
GAME 1: Capitals win 3-2
GAME 2: Capitals win 4-3
GAME 3: Penguins win 3-2 in OT
GAME 4: Penguins win 5-3
GAME 5: Penguins win 4-3 in OT
GAME 6: Capitals win 5-4 in OT
GAME 7: Penguins win 6-2

Unlike those previous teams, this year’s Capitals squad is built to win a Cup, with a forward group of veterans such as Ovechkin, Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, and Jason Chimera, previous Stanley Cup winners in Justin Williams and Mike Richards, and highly-skilled youngsters such as Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky. Their defense is also a strength, featuring veterans John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Karl Alzner, and Brooks Orpik, and promising youngsters Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov. The Capitals are looking to reverse history  and defeat Pittsburgh in an effort to get to the promised land.

**According to CSN Washington’s Chuck Gormley, the NHL will announce Round 2 schedules after the completion of Round 1**

By Michael Fleetwood

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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5 Responses to Capitals Have A Score to Settle With Penguins – A Historical Recap

  1. Pingback: Washington Capitals Daily Report – 2/25 | Washington Capitals News | NoVa Caps

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  4. Ron Bove says:

    Excellent article and I agree this is the year that the Caps WILL reverse itself against the Pens.
    I truly believe the Caps will win it in 6 games.

  5. Pingback: Washington Capitals Daily Report – 4/27 | Washington Capitals News | NoVa Caps

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