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Digest: Backstrom has five-point night as Capitals rout Penguins, 7-1

The Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom: "We were hungry out there and we won battles."

Determined to get out of their recent funk and motivated to measure up to the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Capitals took out their frustrations in a 7-1 victory over the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.

The score was indicative of just how lopsided the game was as the Capitals got two goals and three assists from Nicklas Backstrom and two goals and two assists from T.J. Oshie. They scored short-handed, at even strength and on the power play and skated the Penguins out of the building in the rivals' second meeting of the season.

"We played really quick tonight, we got on their D-men," said Backstrom, who tied his career high with five points. "We were hungry out there and we won battles and obviously we scored on our chances, too. That's huge."

Washington had lost two in a row and three of four and didn't look at all like a team that lost in overtime Tuesday night at Columbus. Alex Ovechkin ended his four-game point drought with his eighth goal of the season, and Dmitry Orlov and Justin Williams also scored.

Ovechkin got a scare when he was taken down by Kris Letang in the second period, leaving the ice briefly before returning a few minutes later. He said his arm went numb but that he was healthy enough to come back and contribute to the blowout.

"It's nice to see when we play like that, we stick together and we don't give them anything or much," Ovechkin said. "It's a good sign."

It's a bad sign for the Penguins to put up that kind of effort despite being rested. Pittsburgh allowed a short-handed goal to Oshie early and took nine minor penalties as things fell apart.

"These games are humbling," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. "We were embarrassed out there tonight, all of us."

Cup-winning goaltender Matt Murray left the game late in the first period after teammate Evgeni Malkin accidentally hit him in the head when he was trying to shove Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner. Murray said he went through the NHL's concussion protocol and was medically cleared to return, but Sullivan opted to stick with Marc-Andre Fleury out of an abundance of caution.

After Murray allowed two goals on 14 shots, Fleury gave up five goals on 25 shots. Phil Kessel scored the Penguins' only goal in garbage time as they lamented a wasted game.

"It's a couple my faults, a couple penalties," Malkin said. "We're not ready today. Washington lost last two games. They're hungry. They deserved this win."

The Capitals didn't let up and poured on the points as the Penguins' penalties and mistakes added up. Twelve different players had at least one point, and the beleaguered power play got some much-needed practice and went 2-for-7, scoring at 4-on-3 and 5-on-3.

No matter the source of the offensive explosion, this was the kind of game Washington would like to play on a regular basis.

"We played fast," goaltender Braden Holtby said. "We didn't stop skating all night. Just watching the last couple games, it seemed like we were just missing a couple strides here and there to keep that team speed up. Tonight guys were committed. I think it was a game where we realized we need to be better and play more to our identity."

Et cetera

Contingency plans set for high school football state championships

The state football championships could be played a week later this year if Navy hosts the American Athletic Conference championship at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Dec. 3. The state finals are scheduled to be played at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for the first time after being moved from M&T Bank Stadium because the Ravens installed a natural grass field over the summer. The games are now set for Dec. 1, 2 and 3. However, if Navy's football team, which is in first place in the West Division of the AAC, hosts the conference championship, the state finals would be moved to Dec. 8, 9 and 10. Advancing teams would have two weeks to prepare for the finals. The Class 3A final would be played Thursday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. The Class 4A final would be Friday, Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m. The Class 1A final would be Saturday, Dec. 10 at 3:30 p.m., followed by the 2A final at 7 p.m.

Katherine Dunn

Pompey foundation Tribute: The Pete Pompey Foundation is hosting a benefit night of dinner and entertainment Friday at the Gala Center in Windsor Mill. The event, titled "Thoughts Matter: Music and Memories," will go from 8 p.m. to midnight and will include an open buffet and DJ to provide the entertainment. The foundation is asking for a $40 donation, and proceeds will go toward building the Pete Pompey Life Skills Center in Baltimore. The mission for the center is to provide a safe place off the streets for youth while teaching them valuable life skills. Legendary coach and educator Pete Pompey died Jan. 22 of pneumonia and had been living with Alzheimer's disease since the summer of 2011. He was 75. Pompey spent 31 years as a football and basketball coach at Dunbar and Edmondson, and was an educator for 37 years. November is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month. For more information on the event or how to make a donation, contact Pompey's daughter, Rhonda McNair, at 443-473-9651 or go to the Pete Pompey Foundation page on Facebook.

Glenn Graham

Varsity girls soccer: Archbishop Spalding (13-2-3) remained No. 6 in the USA Today/National Soccer Coaches Association of America Super 25. Notre Dame Prep (11-3-3) fell from No. 21 to No. 25.

Orioles: The club announced that it will play an exhibition March 31 at 3 p.m. at Harbor Park in Norfolk, Va., against its Triple-A affiliate, the Tides. The Orioles played in Norfolk in 2012 and 2014. The Florida portion of Orioles' exhibition season will end March 30 with a home game against the Detroit Tigers at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. Tickets will go on sale March 4 at 10 a.m.

--Jon Meoli

Harness racing: Eight invitational and stakes pacers will compete in the first $100,000 Potomac Pace on Tuesday at Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington. Shamballa, the only horse to defeat superstars Always B Miki and Wiggle It Jiggleit in the same race, and Mach It So, who finished second behind Always B Miki at Meadowlands on Saturday, were entered for the one-mile pace on the five-eighths-of-a-mile oval. Also entered are Wakizashi Hanover, Dealt a Winner, Keystone Velocity, All Bets Off, Mel Mara and Split The House.

Major League Soccer: D.C. United acquired Argentine midfielder Luciano Acosta on a permanent transfer from Boca Juniors after the expiration of his one-year loan agreement. He will occupy a designated player spot for the majority of his contract. Targeted allocation money will be used to buy down his salary budget charge for the 2017 season.

College football: West Virginia Wesleyan senior running back Michael Anderson (Howard) was named Offensive Player of the Year in the Mountain East Conference. Anderson was joined on the All-MEC first team by West Virginia Wesleyan senior defensive back Jabari Weems (McDonogh) and Concord junior defensive back Jeremiah Johnson (Perry Hall). The second team included Fairmont State senior quarterback Cooper Hibbs (Arundel), Fairmont State junior running back Terrell Charles (Howard), Shepherd freshman running back Brandon Hlavach (Eastern Tech), Shepherd senior offensive lineman Jacob Kingston of Pasadena, Shepherd junior offensive lineman Brandon Wooten (North Harford), Fairmont State sophomore linebacker Jerry Iweh (Perry Hall) and Shepherd freshman defensive back Chris Jones (Milford Mill). Shepherd's Monte Cater was named Coach of the Year. ... The American Athletic Conference championship will be televised nationally on ABC. The game will be Dec. 3 at noon at the home site of one of the conference's divisional winners.

Men's college basketball: Towson signed 6-foot-3 guard Travis Ingram Jr. of I.C. Norcom in Chesapeake, Va., to a letter of intent. Ingram played for the Baltimore Elite Amateur Athletic Union program. ... UMES freshman forward Tyler Jones was named Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week.

Women's college basketball: Keena Samuels had a game-high 17 points, but Coppin State (0-3) fell, 77-46, to host George Washington (2-1). The Colonials opened with a 16-6 lead and cruised.

Men's college lacrosse: Loyola Maryland named senior defenseman Jack Carrigan, senior midfielder Ryan Fournier, senior attackman Zack Sirico and senior midfielder Brian Sherlock captains. Sherlock will be the first three-time captain in recorded school history; Carrigan was a captain in 2016. ... Towson has put season tickets on sale. Prices are set at $40 for adults, $25 for youth (ages 2-12) and $25 for senior citizens (65 and over). Tickets can be purchased at oss.ticketmaster.com/aps/towson/EN/buy/quickbuy/247 or by calling 1-855-TU-Tiger.

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