Just like Old Times, Caps Get Penguins

Article excerpt

What was the Washington Capitals' reward for their best regular season in 14 years and the NHL's top record over the past 100 days? It's another playoff matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, their tormentor of so many springs past.

The Caps and Penguins met five times in six postseasons from 1991 to 1996 with Pittsburgh winning four of those series. What's more, Washington blew 3-1 leads in 1992 and 1996, losing both Game 7s at home and falling in a four-overtime classic in Game 5 at home in 1996.

"I just kind of laughed about it when I realized it was Pittsburgh again," said left wing Steve Konowalchuk, one of eight Caps to have faced the Penguins in the playoffs. "It's one of those `it figures' kind of things. But I'm not going to lose any sleep because of what happened in the past."

Neither are Konowalchuk's fellow Caps-Penguins alumni.

"It's not like we're fearing them," Caps defenseman Ken Klee said. "We have to just keep playing our game, win our games at home and take care of business."

However, the Caps haven't done that against the Penguins this season. Pittsburgh won three of the four meetings, joining Northeast Division champion Toronto as the only Eastern Conference teams to take the season series from Southeast Division winner Washington. In the teams' only matchup since Feb. 1, Pittsburgh won 4-3 in overtime on March 30 at MCI Center. The Penguins, despite the absence of NHL scoring leader Jaromir Jagr, scored three power-play goals against the Caps' highly rated penalty killing unit.

"They're a little more offensive-minded than we are," said defenseman Calle Johansson, who joins ailing right wing Peter Bondra as the only remaining Caps from the 1991 and 1992 teams that lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Penguins. …