Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals put their biggest rival firmly in the rear view mirror Sunday, thumping Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 5-2 victory that included a dismissive goodbye wave from one superstar to the other.
Ovechkin scored his league-leading 43rd goal, one of five Capitals to find the net, and Washington chased goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in the second period.
Ovechkin and Crosby got into a scuffle late in the second period and weren't reluctant to share their feelings about each other after the game.
"What I can say about him?" Ovechkin said. "He is a good player, but he talks too much."
"Like it or lump it, that's what he does," Crosby said when asked about Ovechkin's showmanship. "Some people like it, some people don't. Personally, I don't like it."
'He is a good player, but he talks too much.' — Alexander Ovechkin
The Capitals have won 13 straight at home versus Eastern Conference opponents and are 24-5-1 at home against all opposition.
Sunday's win, the Capitals' third in as many attempts against Pittsburgh this season, gives Washington its best record through 60 games (38-17-5) in franchise history.
The Capitals are 4-1-1 against the Pens since Bruce Boudreau became coach 15 months ago. Before Boudreau, the Capitals were 1-7-1 in their previous nine games in the series, giving Crosby the early bragging rights over Ovechkin in what the NHL hopes will be a long rivalry between its young marquee talents.
Now the Capitals are thinking Stanley Cup, while the Penguins — last year's losing Cup finalist — are far from being playoff contenders. They fell to 2-1-1 under interim coach Dan Bylsma, who was promoted after Michel Therrien was fired a week ago.
Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Sergei Fedorov, Shaone Morrisonn and Brooks Laich scored for the Capitals, who led 2-1 after the first period and 5-2 after Morrisonn and Laich beat Fleury on back-to-back shots 25 seconds apart in the second.
Fleury was pulled for Mathieu Garon after Laich's goal, which came at 13:21 of the period.
Maxime Talbot and Sergei Gonchar scored for the Penguins, who have lost six of seven on the road and lost in Washington for the first time since Ovechkin's rookie season in 2006.
In the final minute of the second period, Ovechkin gave Crosby a nudge with the shoulder as both skated to the benches. Crosby retaliated by pushing Ovechkin's upper body over the boards at the Capitals' bench.
Ovechkin then took his arm and gave Crosby a squeeze around the neck, and Crosby's helmet came off as linesman Greg Devorski stepped in to break up the two.
Crosby was clearly agitated and continued to be restrained by Devorski. Meanwhile, Ovechkin took his spot on the Capitals bench, smiled and gave Crosby a "so long" wave with his left hand.
"I was just skating to the bench and he pushed me from behind," said Crosby. "So I just gave him a shot back. That's hockey, and he likes to run around these days, so that was it."
Ovechkin said he was unhappy that Crosby had accused him of a cheap shot in a previous game this season.
The sellout crowd and national television audience came to see Ovechkin, Crosby and Evgeni Malkin — three of the top scorers in the NHL — but Crosby and Malkin had to settle for one assist apiece on Gonchar's goal.
Ovechkin finished with a goal and an assist, and his first-period score capped some fluid puck movement by his teammates on the power play.
After Fedorov and Nicklas Backstrom worked a perfect give-and-go, Backstrom sneaked a pass between defenceman Rob Scuderi's legs to set up Ovechkin's one-timer from the left circle.