Late-game drama in Detroit as Tigers take opener

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Late-game drama in Detroit as Tigers take opener

From Comcast SportsNetDETROIT (AP) -- Al Alburquerque reached out and snagged a sharp grounder to the mound -- then planted a little kiss on the ball before tossing it to first.The relieved reliever gave his Detroit teammates a reason to laugh in ninth inning of a tight game. Moments later, the Tigers were celebrating.Don Kelly scored the tying run on a wild pitch in the eighth, then hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth that lifted the Tigers over the Oakland Athletics 5-4 Sunday for a 2-0 lead in their AL playoff series.Detroit overcame three A's leads and seesawed to victory. It was 1-all before a wild final three innings that included a key error by Oakland center fielder Coco Crisp, two game-tying wild pitches and several momentum changes.Alburquerque kept it tied in the ninth when he got Yoenis Cespedes to hit a comebacker with men on first and third and two outs. He gave the ball a quick smooch before throwing underhand to first."I just did it," he said. "It was the emotion of the game. I wasn't trying to be a hot dog."Oakland outfielder Josh Reddick wasn't thrilled."We didn't appreciate that. I thought it was immature and not very professional," Reddick said. "You don't do that on the field. Save it for the dugout. That's all I'm going to say."Detroit will go for a sweep of the division series matchup in Game 3 on Tuesday at Oakland.Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera doubled twice for the Tigers, hit a fly ball that Crisp dropped for two runs and later singled in the ninth.It was the sixth straight postseason loss for the A's, all to Detroit. The Tigers swept Oakland in the 2006 AL championship series, winning the series on Magglio Ordonez's homer in Game 4 -- which was Detroit's last sudden-death postseason win before Sunday.Omar Infante and Cabrera hit back-to-back singles off Grant Balfour with one out in the ninth. With runners on first and third, Prince Fielder was intentionally walked, bringing up Kelly, who had stayed in the game as the designated hitter after pinch-running the previous inning."Was looking for a fastball and I got it," Kelly said. "It's a great feeling, to be able to go out there in that situation and do that."Kelly's fly to right was plenty deep enough to score Infante without a play at the plate. It was another big playoff moment for Kelly, who hit a home run last year when the Tigers beat the New York Yankees in the decisive fifth game of the division series.A favorite of manager Jim Leyland, Kelly hit .186 during the regular season but made the postseason roster as a pinch-running option who can also play any position in the field."It takes everybody to contribute and we got contributions from everybody," Leyland said.Alburquerque missed most of the season after offseason surgery on his throwing elbow. He came on to face Cespedes with the Tigers in a jam, and that one out was enough to earn him the win.And the right-hander entertained his teammates in the process with a bit of, um, comic relief."We were cracking up in the dugout," Detroit pitcher Max Scherzer said. "We were like, Did he really just kiss the ball?' ... Alburquerque does some crazy things on the mound."It was tied at 4 after both teams made their share of mistakes in the seventh and eighth. Cliff Pennington gave the A's the lead with an RBI single in the seventh, but Crisp dropped Cabrera's two-out flyball in the bottom half, allowing two runs to score.Oakland tied it in the eighth on a wild pitch by Joaquin Benoit, and Reddick followed with a solo homer to give the A's a 4-3 lead. Then it was Ryan Cook's turn to throw a tying wild pitch, allowing Kelly to score.Pennington nearly came through again for Oakland in the ninth, but his deep drive down the left-field line was just foul."We just need to win a game," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "If you start thinking about three games ahead, you lose your focus on Tuesday's game."On a drizzly day at Comerica Park, the Tigers and A's were sloppy with the game on the line.With runners on first and second and two out in the seventh, Cabrera lifted a fly to center. Crisp, charging hard, tried to make a basket catch but bobbled the ball. He nearly recovered to make a falling grab, but the ball popped out of his glove and the Tigers took a 3-2 lead."I saw it come off the heel of my glove, and I tried to grab again," Crisp said. "I even went for it barehanded, but I couldn't get it."Cespedes led off the eighth with a single and stole second and third. With one out and the infield in, Benoit threw a wild pitch to allow the tying run. The worst was still to come for the Detroit reliever, who allowed Reddick's homer to right that put Oakland ahead 4-3.Reddick had struck out in all six at-bats in the series before that.Oakland again gave up the lead immediately. The A's have taken the lead four times in this series, but on each occasion they failed to hold it through the bottom half of the inning.Doug Fister allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings for Detroit, striking out eight. Rookie Tommy Milone was impressive for the A's, allowing a run and five hits in six innings. He struck out six.Fister gave the A's trouble early with his slow, sweeping breaking ball, but Oakland hit four singles in the third. Crisp's slow roller to third turned into an infield hit when Cabrera threw wide to first. Stephen Drew struck out looking -- and had words for plate umpire Mark Wegner -- but Cespedes followed with a run-scoring single.Oakland nearly scored again on a single to right by Brandon Moss, but rookie Avisail Garcia threw Crisp out at home.The A's showed frustration with the plate umpire during Game 1, and that spilled over to Sunday. Reddick struck out looking for the third out of the third and threw his bat away immediately. Wegner took off his mask and stared at the Oakland hitter as he headed back toward the dugout, but the situation didn't escalate.Cabrera hit a one-out double in the bottom of the third -- to the same spot in left-center as his double in the first. He went to third on a single by Fielder and scored on a dribbler by Delmon Young that was too slow to be a double play.Milone retired 10 in a row, starting with Young's RBI groundout.

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The Caps are hopeful Matt Niskanen avoided serious injury

The Caps are hopeful Matt Niskanen avoided serious injury

PHILADELPHIA—The Capitals are hoping the injury suffered by Matt Niskanen during Wednesday’s 4-1 win over the Flyers is not serious.

The veteran defenseman’s left leg appeared to buckle after a leg-on-leg collision with rugged Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas in the second period. You can see the replay in the video above. Niskanen returned for one shift but exited the game shortly thereafter and did not return.

As he walked out of the visitors’ dressing room following the game, he appeared to have a slight hitch in his step.  

“We don’t think it’s too serious,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “We’ll look at him tomorrow.”

Trotz added: “When he first was diagnosed by our trainers it was more precautionary. We’ll get our doctors to look at that, and we’ll see where we are tomorrow.”

RELATED: Two disallowed goals for Flyers help Caps earn first win post-bye

Trotz said he did not take issue with the play that resulted in the injury. Gudas was pursuing Marcus Johansson in the corner when he appeared to turn into Niskanen, clipping Niskanen's leg. Niskanen was also bumped from behind by Wayne Simmonds on the play.

“No, he just got tangled up on a couple of guys,” Trotz said. “I haven’t looked at it that closely, on their defenseman [Gudas] coming down. I think [Niskanen] got wedged between two guys.”

Niskanen, 30, plays a vital role for the Capitals, skating an average 22:26 per game, including important minutes on the power play and penalty kill.

If his latest injury causes him to miss any time, the Capitals will not need to make a move as they have six healthy defensemen on the roster. The team could, however, call up veteran Tom Gilbert, whom they acquired last week via trade as injury insurance.  

Niskanen missed one game earlier this season due to an upper-body injury.

MORE CAPITALS: Breakdown of the Flyers two no-goals vs. Capitals

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Two disallowed goals sink Flyers as Caps earn first win after the bye

Two disallowed goals sink Flyers as Caps earn first win after the bye

Final score: Washington Capitals 4, Philadelphia Flyers 1

How it happened: The Flyers scored just 23 seconds in, but Barry Trotz came up with a heads up challenge for goalie interference that revealed that Dale Weise pushed Braden Holtby. In the second period, the Flyers had what they thought was their first goal, but replay showed the shot hit off the crossbar and never crossed the line. After two disallowed goals, the Flyers could not recover.

Washington responded to the lifeline in the first period with goals from Nicklas Backstrom and a laser from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Brayden Schenn pulled Philadelphia back within one in the second period, but Kuznetsov's second of the night put the Caps back in control. T.J. Oshie would add an insurance tally in the third.

What it means: The Caps earned their first win after the bye week and seventh in their last nine game. Washington now sits three points ahead of the Minnesota Wild for the top record in the NHL and the Metropolitan Division by five.

Goals

Capitals goal: Nicklas Backstrom from T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin at 6:33 in the first. Oshie and Ovechkin teamed up for a fantastic forecheck effort which forced the puck to the boards. Backstrom eventually emerged from the scrum with it and wristed a knuckler into the top shelf. Caps 1, Flyers 0

Capitals goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov (power play) from Justin Williams and John Carlson at 16:28 in the first. With the Caps set up on the power play, Kuznetsov just squared up and wristed a lazer into the top shelf. No one saw the puck go in but Kuznetsov and the ref. Caps 2, Flyers 0

Flyers goal: Brayden Schenn from Brandon Manning at 6:54 in the second. The Caps failed to clear the puck out of the zone allowing Manning to collect. He fired the slap shot and Schenn got his stick on the puck for the deflection. Caps 2, Flyers 1

Capitals goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from Justin Williams and Taylor Chorney at 17:59 in the second. Taylor Chorney was quick to get the puck up ice to launch the Caps on the counter attack. Williams carried it into the offensive zone and Kuznetsov tried the quick pass, but the puck hit off of defenseman Radko Gudas’ stick and deflected into the net. Caps 3, Flyers 1

Capitals goal: T.J. Oshie from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom at 15:23 in the third. A fantastic pass by Ovechkin sparked the rush. Oshie returned the favor to Ovechkin who nearly beat Neuvirth for the goal with the deke. The puck trickled its way to the goal line and Oshie tapped it in for insurance. Caps 4, Flyers 1

3 Stars

1. Evgeny Kuznetsov: Kuznetsov can be a hit or miss player sometimes. He was an absolute hit on Wednesday. Kuznetsov's first-period goal was an incredible shot lasered into the top shelf. It was in and out so fast only he and the ref knew it was in. When a player is playing well, he is often rewarded with good puck luck as well and that was true of Kuznetsov as his second goal came on a pass that was deflected through the five-hole of Michal Neuvirth by the stick of Gudas. And that's just what you see on the scoresheet. Kuzy's hands were on display all night as he deked and dangled all over the ice.

2. T.J. Oshie: Oshie scored the insurance tally in the third period, but Oshie gets the second star for his effort on the forecheck, not the offense. The top line was all over the Flyers every time they were on the ice to the point that Philadelphia struggled to exit their own zone. The Caps' first goal of the game came as a result of the turnover generated by Oshie's work on the forecheck.

3. Taylor Chorney: Playing in his first game since Jan. 26, Chorney did not look like he was working through any rust. He had a few offensive opportunities as well and his quick reaction in the second period sparked a counter attack that led to Kuznetsov's second goal.

Look ahead: The Caps finally return home to host Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers on Friday. Then, it’s another quick turnaround on Saturday as Washington will play the Predators in Nashville on Saturday at 5 p.m., 22 hours after the start of Friday’s game.

Tell us what you think: Philadelphia thought they had taken the lead 23 seconds into the game, but Trotz's challenge restored the score to 0-0. How important was that challenge for the Caps and how much did it determine the outcome of the game?