Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin (8) warms up before an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
- The Washington Capitals try to bounce back in a rematch with the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday
- The Capitals come into this contest on a four-game losing streak
- Read below for the odds, game preview and betting pick
You’ve got to like the Pittsburgh Penguins (7-5-1) and their odds against Washington because they’ve had the Capitals’ (6-4-3) number this season.
When looking at this matchup, Pittsburgh leads the season series 3-0 going into Tuesday night’s game at PPG Paints Arena at 7pm ET. Pittsburgh won the last meeting 6-3 on Sunday. They also have 5-4 and 4-3 wins, so the games have been very close.
Capitals vs Penguins Odds
|Washington Capitals||+108||+1.5 (-165)||Ov 6.5 (-120)|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||-125||-1 (+138)||Un 6.5 (-103)|
Odds taken Feb 15 at DraftKings
But Pittsburgh hasn’t been blowing anybody out. The Penguins’ first six wins were by one-goal, so this is something Washington can capitalize on. On Sunday, the Penguins blew the game open late in the third period with two empty-net goals.
The Capitals are a slight betting favorite (+2100) over the Penguins (+2400) to win the Stanley Cup behind overall favorites Colorado and Vegas at +750.
Renewal of Ovechkin-Crosby Rivalry
This is yet another instalment in the Alex Ovechkin-Sidney Crosby rivalry. The two have taken part in 55 head-to-head matchups over their careers, and Crosby and the Penguins have enjoyed a 34-19-2 advantage.
Crosby has a decided edge individually as well, with 28 goals and 51 assists for 79 points. Ovechkin has 31 goals and 24 assists for 55 points.
Is there anything better than overtime goals from Sidney Crosby against the Capitals? pic.twitter.com/tsHqfqxpT0
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 20, 2021
Ovechkin has played only nine games between COVID-19 protocols and postponements this year. He has a goal and three assists in three meetings with the Penguins, while Crosby has two goals and three assists against the Capitals this season.
Bryan Rust holds a hot hand for Pittsburgh. He’s leading the team in scoring with 13 points on five goals and eight assists. Crosby is right behind with five goals and seven assists for 12 points.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 14, 2021
Something that could propel Washington is the power play. The Capitals lead the league with a 35.5% efficiency, but Ovechkin has been relatively quiet with only one PP goal so far. That won’t last for long. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh ranks near the bottom of the league on the penalty kill, with only a 70.7% efficiency.
New Leadership in Pittsburgh
With Ron Hextall (GM) and Brian Burke (President of Hockey Operations) now at the helm, it’s fair to expect an initial boost across the Penguins’ lineup. Another trend to watch is Pittsburgh’s remarkable ability to rally late in games.
They have been known to build hard-nosed and tough to play against teams over the years. Let’s see what the future holds for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
— Hockey Night Punjabi (@HkyNightPunjabi) February 14, 2021
They have either been tied or trailing going into the third period in each of their 12 previous contests. On Sunday, the Penguins nursed a one-goal lead going into the final frame and pulled away for a 6-3 victory over Washington.
Bumpy Start For Tristan Jarry
It’s expected that Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry will get confidence from the last win. He has had a bumpy start this season and has been sitting for long stretches due to the steady play of Casey DeSmith. DeSmith, however, was unavailable on Sunday due to a non-COVID-19 related illness and remains questionable for Tuesday, forcing Maxime Lagace into the backup role.
— Taylor Haase (@TaylorHaasePGH) July 25, 2020
Both teams come into this game relatively healthy. The Capitals have looked not quite right lately — Sunday was their first game in a week due to COVID-related postponements.
Pittsburgh has been carried by the top line of Crosby, Rust and Jake Guentzel, who combined for eight points against the Capitals on Sunday, and have been the team’s one constant during the opening month.
Defense Rests Too Much For Capitals
The Capitals have been let down by their defense. Washington has allowed 22 goals during its current four-game losing streak. Expect the Capitals to carry lots of emotion into this game against Pittsburgh in a bid to turn things around.
Ovechkin could be the key. On Sunday, he recorded only an assist on three shots, but did not score a goal in 25:46 of ice time. The 35-year-old logged so much ice due in part to extended shifts on Washington’s four power plays.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 14, 2021
The Penguins are 5-0 at PPG Paints Arena, with three of those victories coming against the Capitals. At some point, the Capitals are going to end this run. They are just too good to stumble to their fifth straight loss.
Don’t forget, they started the season on a 6-0-3 run, so look for them to return to form. They are No. 2 in the league in goals scored at 3.54 goals a game but 30th in goals allowed. So long as their defense stiffens, look for the Capitals to reverse their slide.
I see value in betting for Washington as road underdogs.
Pick: Capitals ML (+100)
Curtis has been a sports writer for more than 40 years, contributing to the Toronto Star, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, the Guardian and Forbes. He has covered the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, PGA, ATP and WTA. Curtis resides in Toronto.