A lot of moments and memories help define the rivalry between the Penguins and the Washington Capitals.

The Penguins' 6-3 win Sunday at Verizon Center doesn't quite fit.

This was not a game from the 1990s, when Penguins fans gobbled up a lot of tickets when the teams played here and sometimes were just as loud as the Capitals faithful.

"The rivalry was still the rivalry," said Washington coach Adam Oates, who spent four-plus seasons playing for the Capitals and rattled off the names of Penguins greats he faced -- Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis.

"All those guys that I played against for a lot of years -- great teams," Oates said.

Neither was the game Sunday so much about the next generation of names in the rivalry -- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins, and Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals.

All three played strong games, but if the coaches' antithetical posturing is any indication, the rivalry was secondary to two teams in different places attempting to prosper in this lockout-shortened season.

"We have to build," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma nearly pleaded, even though his club is looking more and more like the group that has been widely picked to be a Stanley Cup contender or winner.

The Penguins pulled out of a 2-2, second-period tie -- forged when the Capitals got a whacky bounce for a goal -- and rode a Chris Kunitz hat trick and cohesive play in all areas of the ice to their third win in a row.

Those three games -- a shutout against the Rangers in New York; their first win this season at Consol Energy Center against New Jersey; and a win Sunday against Washington -- moved the Penguins into a second-place tie with Tampa Bay and Montreal in the Eastern Conference with 12 points, one behind Boston, through nine games.

"We weren't where we needed to be or where we wanted to be at all for the better part of the first six games," Bylsma said. "Having one good game or winning in Madison Square Garden or winning a home game or coming in here and winning doesn't mean we're a great team or we're going to win hockey games."

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