Game against Penguins marks the fifth season in a row
It has become a Washington tradition. For the fifth year in a row, the Capitals will host a Super Bowl Sunday matinee at Verizon Center -- a game that has produced its share of memories in recent seasons.
They are back at it Sunday afternoon with a game against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The game again will be televised nationally on NBC, adding some extra juice to a rivalry that doesn't need much to make it compelling.
The two teams met Feb. 6, 2011 -- a 3-0 Caps victory -- and Feb. 7, 2010, after a blizzard crippled the D.C. region. That was a 5-4 classic also won by the Caps on an overtime goal by Mike Knuble after they trailed 4-1. Last year they lost 4-1 at home to the Boston Bruins. In 2009 they beat the Ottawa Senators 7-4.
|Penguins at Capitals|
|When » Sunday, 12:30 p.m.|
|Where » Verizon Center|
|TV » NBC|
"You can't help but get up for that game," Washington forward Jason Chimera said. "It seems like the whole city gets excited when you play Pittsburgh. It falls on the Super Bowl a lot of times, so it's a fun game. If you don't get up for these games, there's something wrong."
And that is a good thing for a Caps team that came into the weekend desperate for any kind of victory. They finally took care of the rival Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night 3-2. Washington's players and coaches are relatively satisfied with their play over the last week despite two regulation losses in which they blew a third-period lead in both Ottawa and Toronto and suffered an overtime loss at New Jersey.
"In my opinion, I think we've been playing decent hockey the last few games," Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said. "It's just [Pittsburgh is] definitely a team where if you don't play that 60 minutes like we've been talking about, we're going to be in trouble because they only a need a couple minutes to score a few goals. It's definitely a big test for us. But it's the test we need right now."
The Penguins (5-3-0, 10 points) proved that Saturday when Crosby scored a goal and added two assists in a 5-1 win over New Jersey. It is the first meeting between the clubs in the lockout-shortened 2013 season. They will play again on Thursday in Pittsburgh.
Braden Holtby is expected to start in goal for the second game in a row for Washington (2-5-1, five points) He earned the win Friday against Philadelphia but has never faced Pittsburgh. The atmosphere at Verizon Center on Super Bowl Sunday should be close to what Holtby saw last spring when he started for the Caps in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"Those Super Bowl day games with Pittsburgh are awesome hockey games," said Knuble, who played the last three years with Washington but now plays for the Flyers. "Couple years in a row we played them. They're really fun, and the team was going through some really good times. ... I'll remember those forever."