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Capitals Punishment: Washington Embarrasses Penguins, 6-0



The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t hold any players out of their game against Washington Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena for “trade-related reasons,” as a number of clubs have done lately.

That doesn’t mean that everyone in their lineup actually was involved in the game, though.

Truth be told, there have been cruise ships with fewer passengers.

“As a group, we didn’t show up,” defenseman Kris Letang said.

The Penguins looked very much like a team that is resigned to sitting out the Stanley Cup playoffs, and that is bracing for some personnel changes before the NHL trade deadline Friday at 3 p.m.

Not that any GM who watched the game could have seen anything that would prompt him to place calling Kyle Dubas at the top of his morning to-do list.

The Capitals beat them, 6-0, dropping the Penguins’ record to 28-25-8 and nudging — or maybe shoving — them closer to the mathematical inevitability of elimination from playoff contention.

It was the Penguins’ fourth loss in their past five games.

They got an exceptionally early power play when Capitals center Connor McMichael was sent off for high-sticking Sidney Crosby 12 seconds into the game.

That penalty led to a goal which, as has been the case so often of late, was scored by the team charged with killing it.

Evgeni Malkin made an ill-fated pinch along the right-wing boards in the Washington end, allowing the Capitals to get a 2-on-1 break.

Tom Wilson’s initial shot slammed off the right goalpost, but he was able to bat the rebound out of the air and past Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry at 1:51 to put Washington in front to stay.

That was the 10th shorthanded goal the Penguins have allowed in 2023-24, including five in the past 10 games.

It was just Wilson’s second goal in his past 19 games, but gave him a four-game goal-scoring streak at PPG Paints Arena.

Wilson was high-sticked by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ryan Graves at 5:46, opening a nasty gash under his left eye.

Although Graves was given a double-minor, the Capitals were unable to add to their advantage while he was off the ice.

Penguins winger Jansen Harkins was called for slashing with 6.4 seconds to go before the intermission, and Alex Ovechkin raised the Capitals’ advantage to 2-0 30 seconds into the second period, as he swatted in a loose puck from left of the crease.

Nick Jensen made it 3-0 at 3:16, throwing a rebound past Jarry from near the same spot where Ovechkin had gotten his goal.

Harkins gave the crowd — but apparently, not his teammates —  a lift when he traded punches with Washington’s Beck Malenstyn at 7:18.

If that fight did provide a spark, it was snuffed when Hendrix Lapierre tossed a turning shot behind Jarry from the inner edge of the right circle at 8:50.

That goal convinced coach Mike Sullivan to replace Jarry, who had stopped 13 of 17 shots, with Alex Nedeljkovic. Or, considering the torpor with which his team was performing, perhaps Sullivan just wanted to punish Nedeljkovic.

The Penguins’ evening to forget become one Capitals rookie Ivan Miroshnichenko will remember forever, as he swept a shot past Nedeljkovic from in front of the crease at 16:21 for his first goal in the NHL.

The Penguins gave up an early goal for the third consecutive period when Sonny Milano scored from the bottom of the right circle at 2:13 of the third.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to practice Friday at noon at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex before traveling to Boston for their game against the Bruins Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.