Devils take joy in frustrating the Rangers

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Devils take joy in frustrating the Rangers

From Comcast SportsNet
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- If you have any doubt the New Jersey Devils are frustrating the New York Rangers in their Eastern Conference finals, just look at Game 4. Forget that Zach Parise scored two goals and set up another in the Devils' 4-1 win that evened the series at 2-all. Look at the extracurricular stuff in the game Monday night. Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur got sucker-punched by former teammate Mike Rupp, who might now be facing a suspension. New Jersey teammates Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique and Steve Bernier were the victims of cheap shots, and the Rangers spent most of the final 20 minutes killing off penalties and acting foolish. In 48 hours, the tide has turned again in this series between longtime rivals. Henrik Lundqvist is no longer in the Devils' heads, and the Rangers seemingly are the ones fighting demons heading into Game 5 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. "It's a good sign, I guess, when they take liberties on players," Brodeur said after making 28 saves en route to his 10th postseason win. "That means they're getting off their game a little bit. We've been working really hard, putting our head down, taking a lot of shots throughout the playoffs. "It's no different in this series," the 40-year-old three-time Stanley Cup winner said. "And as we go, we're going to keep doing the same. And it's paying off for us to be disciplined about these things." The Rangers were undisciplined. They took six penalties and one led to Parise's first goal early in the third period that pushed the lead to 3-0. The tally gave New Jersey a comfortable lead, but the game was far from over, especially when Rupp punched Brodeur with a jab that appeared to connect in the neck area and slide up his mask. The punch seemingly came out of nowhere and almost set off a battle on the ice. It did spark a shouting match between coaches Peter DeBoer of the Devils and John Tortorella of the Rangers on the benches. "You don't like to see that," DeBoer said of the hit on his goaltender. "He's a key guy for us. Two teams battling it out. He's a big boy. He can take care of himself." Brodeur was more surprised by the incident than anything. "I didn't expect anything," he said. "I never got punched like that in my career. First time. It kind of surprised me more than anything, but now I know I can take a punch." Tortorella refused to say anything about his shouting match with DeBoer, with whom he has argued several times this season, including Sunday when he complained about the Devils using illegal picks and embellishing penalties. "This isn't about John and I," DeBoer said. "This is about the guys on the ice. So, I don't have anything to say about that." This game -- and its result -- was almost anticlimactic after the shenanigans. Bryce Salvador and Travis Zajac beat Henrik Lundqvist less than four minutes apart in the first to give the Devils their first two-goal lead in the series, which is developing an intensity and emotion comparable to the classic 1994 Eastern Conference Finals between these two rivals. In that series, there were suspensions on both sides, three double-overtime games, a Game 6 "Guarantee" by New York captain Mark Messier, and unparalleled drama. Well, this one is getting there. On Monday, Brodeur, the only remaining player on either side from that series, even notched an assist in the third, on Parise's empty netter, capping a game in which the Devils maintained their composure and bounced back from a 3-0 shutout in Game 3, while the Rangers took several uncharacteristic penalties and seemed rattled from the start. And the chippiness increased with each period. New York's Marc Staal whacked Elias in the back of the knee with his stick in the second. Ryan Callahan, the Rangers captain, and New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk tussled and then jawed at each other from the respective penalty boxes. "There are going to be situations out there where we get into each other's faces," Callahan said. "That's playoff hockey." But the Rupp incident might have been a little over the top, even for the Stanley Cup playoffs. A former Devil who scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal for New Jersey in 2003 against Anaheim, Rupp jabbed Brodeur while the goalie was in his crease in the third after a stoppage in play. That almost set off a free-for-all among the players on the ice, especially after Brodeur reacted like he had been hit by a roundhouse left. As Brodeur walked through the locker room, he was asked if Rupp was his friend. "That's what I thought," he said before heading to the podium for a postgame news conference. Rupp was not available for comment. Ruslan Fedotenko ruined Brodeur's bid for his 25th career playoff shutout with just over five minutes to play. The Rangers pulled Lundqvist, who had shut out the Devils in Games 1 and 3, with less than three minutes to play, and Brodeur made two outstanding saves to keep it a two-goal game. Parise -- two days after he did not speak to reporters after a disappointing effort in Game 3 -- finally iced it with his second of the game and sixth of the playoffs. It was a clearing pass that found its way into the net. Brodeur's assist was his fourth point of the playoffs, an NHL record for a goaltender in one postseason. But this game -- which did not include New York's Brendan Prust, who was suspended for elbowing Anton Volchenkov in Game 3 -- was decided early because the Devils finally found ways to beat Lundqvist. Salvador's wrist shot from the point found its way through a half-dozen players and sneaked by the Rangers' netminder for New Jersey's first goal since the third period of Game 2. Zajac's goal gave the Devils a 2-0 edge at 11:59, and the rejuvenated Parise had a big hand in it. New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus sent the puck along the boards and New York's Michael Del Zotto made two mistakes. He didn't flag down the puck and then he allowed Parise to skate past him, setting up a 2-on-1 break. Parise lifted a pass over the stick of a prone Dan Girardi, and Zajac one-timed the pass into the upper portion of the net before Lundqvist could react. Parise extended the lead to 3-0 early in the third, just 4 seconds after New York's Derek Stepan was sent off for high-sticking. Kovalchuk took a shot from the point that Lundqvist could not control and Parise whacked the rebound into the net. NOTES: Veteran Petr Sykora, who had played in every game for the Devils this season and won the 2000 Stanley Cup with New Jersey, sat, as Jacob Josefson returned to the lineup. ... With Prust forced to miss the game, the Rangers dressed seven defenseman, including Stu Bickel, who returned to the lineup after sitting for Game 3. ... Rangers rookie forward Chris Kreider had his three-game goal scoring streak snapped. ... The Devils' win was played on the 18th anniversary of New Jersey's 3-1 victory over the Rangers in the aforementioned 1994 series. That was also a Game 4, and that also tied that series, 2-2. New York went on to win in seven games. ... Monday night's game marked the first time the Rangers allowed more than three goals in a contest during these playoffs. New York tied an NHL record by holding its opponents to three goals or less in 17 consecutive games to begin the postseason.

Scherzer roughed up as Nats drop second straight to Cubs

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Scherzer roughed up as Nats drop second straight to Cubs

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 8-6 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field:

How it happened: After the Nats enjoyed a brief 2-0 lead highlighted by a first-inning solo home run by Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer's homer problem reared its ugly head once again. 

The barrage began in the second inning when Tommy La Stella took Scherzer deep to tie it up at 2-2. The 31-year-old right hander then allowed back-to-back solo shots to Anthony Rizzo and Nats-killer Ben Zobrist in the fourth. It got worse, as Zobrist hit his second home run of the day, this time a three-run homer, making it 7-2 Cubs and essentially ending Scherzer's day. 

The Nats' put together a four-run rally in the eighth thanks to a two-run double by Jayson Werth and a two-run home run by Wilson Ramos. But like Thursday night, it was too little, too late. 

What it means: The Cubs are good. Really, really good. It also means that the Nats, while off to a solid start themselves, aren't yet in the class of the North Siders, whose run differential now sits at a ridiculous +98. Washington has dropped the first two games of this marquee series, and is now 5-3 on this 10-game road trip. 

Scherzer gets roughed up: The Nats' $200 million man turned in his worst start of the season against the Cubs — and perhaps the worst start of his tenure in D.C. Scherzer's home run issues continued Friday afternoon, as he yielded four long balls —tied for his career-high for a start — en route to allowing seven earned runs over five innings. Never before had he allowed that many runs since joining the Nats. 

Murphy's back at it again: The silver lining in Friday's tough loss is that Daniel Murphy continues his scortching start to the season. After going hitless Thursday night, the Nats second baseman rebounded bigtime by going 4-for-4 on the afternoon to raise his batting average to an MLB-leading .406. It feels like this can't last all season, but a month into the season, he hasn't found himself in anything remotely resembling a slump. It's unlikely that Murphy's the next incarnation of Ted Williams, but it's safe to say the Nats may have gotten a bargain when they signed him this offseason at three years, $37.5 million. 

What's next: The Nats will hope the third game in this four-game set is the charm as they'll send Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 1.15 ERA) to the mound Saturday afternoon to oppose the Cubs' Jason Hammel (4-0, 1.24 ERA). 

Reynolds says he committed "sin" of asking ex-Steeler for advice

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Reynolds says he committed "sin" of asking ex-Steeler for advice

OWINGS MILLS – Nobody has to tell Ravens rookie Keenan Reynolds about the intensity of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry. Reynolds admitted Friday that when seeking advice on switching from quarterback in college to wide receiver in the NFL, he asked former Steelers star Hines Ward for advice.

“I know that’s like a cardinal sin in this building,” Reynolds said after his first day of Ravens rookie minicamp. “We got to talk before the draft, to ease everybody’s mind.”

Ravens fans will certainly forgive Reynolds, especially if Ward offers helpful hints. As a sixth-round pick, Reynolds hopes to make an immediate impact as a receiver-returner with the Ravens, after a brilliant career playing quarterback at Navy.

Reynolds got encouraging news off the field this week, when Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, said he would do everything in his power to make sure Reynolds’ Navy commitments would not interfere with playing for the Ravens.

Reynolds said he had not received a further update on the Navy’s plans for him. But a precedent for Reynolds playing NFL football right away has already been set. Patriots long snapper Joe Cordona, who was Reynolds’ teammate at Navy, played his entire rookie season with New England last year while also working at a Naval Preparatory Academy in Rhode Island.

Cordona has been a sounding board for Reynolds.

“I’ve been blowing his phone up this whole process,” Reynolds said. “I was blowing him up on draft day. He has really helped, and his experience, obviously, being able to serve and play, has been really helpful.”

Reynolds has known for months that his NFL future would probably not be at quarterback.

“When I got invited to the (East-West) Shrine game, I saw that I wasn’t a quarterback anymore,” said Reynolds, who was listed as a running back for that game.

But Reynolds is not complaining, and he knows many people are rooting for him.

“This is an opportunity to pursue the dream at the next level, and I’m embracing it with everything I can,” Reynolds said.

Caps look to last year's loss to Rangers for confidence against Penguins

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Caps look to last year's loss to Rangers for confidence against Penguins

Down 3-1 in their best-of-seven series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Caps know they have a tough hill to climb if they hope to avoid another second round exit. Not many teams have been able to overcome a 3-1 deficit, but the Caps are finding confidence from an unexpected source: last year's playoffs.

Not only did the Capitals hold a 3-1 series lead over the New York Rangers, they came within 1:41 of winning the series before the Rangers tied Game 5 and eventually stunned the Caps in seven games.

"We're in a reverse situation last year where we, Game 5, we had a team that basically pretty well down and out," head coach Barry Trotz said, "and they threw a puck to the net and it hits one of our defenseman, goes in and they end up winning in overtime and that sort of changed it."

Now that the Caps find themselves on the other end of the 3-1 deficit, they are drawing on that experience as a guide for how to climb back against the Penguins.

"It's a very similar situation," Braden Holtby said. "I think we're up 3-1 last year against the Rangers and it could have been 3-1 the other way. Same as this year. It could be 3-1 in our favor pretty easily. A couple breaks go the other way so in realizing that, you can take a page out of what the Rangers did and stuck with what they were doing last year."

RELATED: TROTZ LOOKS TO SPARK OFFENSE BY SWITCHING UP OFFENSIVE LINES

It's a lesson Washington has struggled with over its history.

In the Bruce Boudreau era when the Caps developed a reputation as a team that could not win when it mattered, the players routinely abandoned the gameplan whenever they began to struggle. That's a mistake Trotz is determined to prevent the Caps from repeating again.

"We have to find another way to not really reinvent the game but just execute better, be a little sharper," Trotz said. "We get a chance to score, we've got to bury our chances. Those are the things that matter and then we've got to stay with it."

With their win in Game 5, the Rangers stole the momentum and suddenly the Caps began to feel the pressure in a series that had seemed well in hand. The lesson is clear: one win is all it takes to change a series.

"It can spiral pretty quick," Tom Wilson said. "When your'e the team that's up 3-1, you lose the game tomrrow night, it's 3-2 then we steal another one. It's not like we're down 8-1 in the series. ... It's the first team to four and they're only at three."

"We've got to have a belief that you win one, win the first period, keep going and if you win one, then things can change," Trotz said. "I mean we were prime candidates to see it first hand in the Rangers series last year so, hopefully all we can do is look at the game in front of us and go from there."

MORE CAPITALS: TROTZ: CAPS NEED MORE PRODUCTION FROM 'CERTAIN GUYS'