Capitals-Penguins: Ovechkin and Crosby Hat Tricks Put Series in the Spotlight

Matt DolloffCorrespondent IMay 5, 2009

WASHINGTON - MAY 04:  Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals celebrates being named the first star of the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 4, 2009 at the Verizon Center in Washington,  DC.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

In one of the most anticipated playoff showdowns in years, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin are living up to the billing of their rivalry as arguably the two greatest players in the world, and they are doing it the right way. Both players are not trying too hard to get under each others skin or throwing each other off their games.

They are using their talents to do their best to help their team win, and it shined through in Monday night’s thrilling Game Two, which the Capitals won 4-3 on the strength of Ovechkin’s first career postseason hat trick.

Both players registered hat tricks in the game, none of the goals coming easily.

Crosby had to fight the puck home on a rebound to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead, and Ovechkin didn’t answer until 2:17 of the second period when he blasted a perfect Viktor Kozlov pass into the net for the one-timer goal.

Crosby took the lead back with his second goal in the same period, another front-of-net rebound.

David Steckel, whose goal ended up being the difference in Ovechkin and Crosby’s battle, tied the game. Between that and Ovechkin’s third goal (another one-timer), it was mostly the Simeon Varlamov show.

The goalie made several stunning saves on the Penguins, including a one-timer from Evgeni Malkin.

Ovechkin iced the game with just over four minutes remaining when he led his own rush and fired a twisted wrister past Marc-Andre Fleury for the hat trick.

Crosby was able to match Ovechkin with his own hat trick, on yet another rebound in front of the net, with 30.4 seconds left in the game. It was too little too late, as the Caps held on.

At ESPN, Scott Burnside believes this game confirmed that the Capitals, not the Penguins, are the best young team in the league.

I’m not sure I’m ready to agree with Burnside here. The Capitals have certainly proved to be better in this series thus far, but the Penguins have basically played without scoring champ Evgeni Malkin. Granted that Malkin has two assists in the two games, those numbers look pedestrian next to Crosby’s four goals.

If Malkin was playing at the same level as Crosby or Ovechkin, we could be talking about a 2-0 Penguins lead in the series. But to date, he has failed to take his game to the next level.

So for that reason, I’m skeptical to accept the Capitals as the best young team in the league just yet. But they have certainly been the ones to rise to the occasion.

Even though the Capitals have a 2-0 lead, NHL fans will be glued to their screens as this series progresses. It's hard to believe that Crosby and Ovechkin could possibly play any better, but the scary thing is that they really could. And if Evgeni Malkin wakes up, there could be a major battle brewing between these two teams.

Pittsburgh will have to win the next two games to have a chance in the series, but considering they are the defending Eastern Conference champions, it should not be ruled out.

Whatever happens, Crosby and Ovechkin have taken their rivalry to the level of "epic duel" over which we have been salivating for years.



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