WASHINGTON -- With their much-talked about trip to the White House out of the way, the Pittsburgh Penguins will turn their focus back to hockey Wednesday night when they visit the Washington Capitals.
The Stanley Cup winners visited President Donald Trump on Tuesday, but beyond the White House, the Penguins are not very welcome in Washington. The last time they came to town, in May, they ended Washington's season in the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight year, both coming after the Capitals had won the Presidents' Trophy.
"We've seen each other a lot the last couple of years," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Still a lot of guys left over from those playoff series and stuff.
"They're playing good hockey, we're coming off a good game we want to build off of. They're always heated games, and that'll be a good test for us."
The Penguins (1-1-1) have been all over the place in their first three games. After a 5-4 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on opening night, they were routed 10-1 at Chicago before blanking Nashville 4-0 on Saturday.
They will be without Ian Cole on Wednesday night after the defenseman took a puck to the face on Saturday night when he blocked a slap shot, causing him to lose multiple teeth. However, winger Patric Hornqvist may make his season debut after offseason surgery on his right hand.
Washington (2-0-1) won its first two games behind Alex Ovechkin's seven goals before dropping a 4-3 overtime decision to the Lightning on Monday night. The Capitals let up against Tampa Bay, squandering a 3-1 lead despite a strong effort by backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer.
"Early in the season here, that's a learning moment for us," said Capitals winger T.J. Oshie, who scored twice Monday. "I feel like every year you kind of get that same thing. Once you get a lead, you start sitting back. So we'll get that out of our game."
The Capitals continued their penalty-killing excellence ... most of the way. After killing off 13 consecutive power plays to start the season, they allowed their first power-play goal in the overtime.
"A lot of those guys haven't killed penalties," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "(Nathan) Walker wasn't killing much in (AHL) Hershey, and (Alex) Chiasson wasn't killing much in Ottawa and Calgary, so they're taking on some new roles, and they're doing a real good job."
After his early-season goal surge, Ovechkin was held scoreless Monday night. Against the Penguins, he has 20 goals and 21 assists in 48 regular-season games.
"Obviously he's off to a good start right now, but we'll definitely be trying to do something about it," Penguins defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, who figures to replace Cole in the lineup, told the Post-Gazette.
Washington's Nicklas Backstrom has seven goals and 38 assists in 38 games vs. Pittsburgh, while Oshie has seven goals and 10 assists in 18 games.
Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are averaging well over a point per game against the Capitals. Crosby has 20 goals and 40 assists in 41 games, while Malkin has 16 and 35 in 51 games.
Penguins goalie Matt Murray missed last season's playoff series due to injury, and the since-departed Marc-Andre Fleury pitched the 2-0 Game 7 shutout that sent Pittsburgh to the conference finals. Murray is 2-2 with a 4.43 goals-against average vs. the Capitals.
Washington's Braden Holtby is 7-7-2 (2.77 GAA) with two shutouts against the Penguins.
The Capitals again will be without forward Tom Wilson, who is serving a four-game suspension for boarding St. Louis Blues forward Sammy Blais.