Ovechkin sends Caps into Game 7 with Rangers

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Ovechkin sends Caps into Game 7 with Rangers

From Comcast SportsNet
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lose one game, win the next. No matter how seemingly devastating a defeat, in overtime or otherwise, the Washington Capitals -- from two-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin to playoff rookie goalie Braden Holtby -- simply do not allow setbacks to bother them. They regroup, get back out there and follow a loss with a victory, each time by the slimmest of margins. Ovechkin rebounded from a rare zero-shot performance by scoring after 88 seconds Wednesday night, Holtby made 30 saves, and the Capitals recovered the way they always seem to, beating the top-seeded New York Rangers 2-1 to force a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semifinal series. "We're resilient," Washington defenseman Karl Alzner said. "We have that thick skin. We know when to battle back when we need to and have to." Never moreso than after Game 5 on Monday night, when No. 7-seeded Washington managed to blow a lead in the last 10 seconds of regulation. New York scored a power-play goal with 7.6 seconds left in the third period to tie it, and another 1 12 minutes into overtime to win it. The Capitals could have folded. Instead, they staved off elimination, and the teams will meet in New York on Saturday night to determine who will face the New Jersey Devils in the conference finals. "It's where we want to be," Holtby said. "We didn't expect a short series." He improved to 6-0 in games immediately after losses this postseason. That's why the Capitals are 4-0 in games that follow overtime losses in the playoffs. One other bit of proof that they know how to bounce back: They haven't lost consecutive games since March 22-23. "Everyone, I think, counted us out," said Jason Chimera, who scored in the second period to make it 2-0, Washington's second two-goal lead of the series. "This is the way we are. ... We don't really crack." Ovechkin's reduced role became a major talking point throughout these playoffs: Usually a 20-minute-a-game guy, he played as few as 13 12 minutes in Game 2 against New York. He also came up quiet in Game 5 on Monday night, with no shots on goal, only the second time in 49 career playoff games that had happened to the man they call Alex the Great. Before Wednesday's game, Ovechkin told reporters: "We just can't go home right now." He helped make sure they didn't yet. About 1 12 minutes after the opening faceoff, Ovechkin dropped to a knee as he powered a slap shot just inside the right post from about 30 feet in front of goalie Henrik Lundqvist. It was Ovechkin's 30th career playoff goal, tying the franchise record held by Peter Bondra, and came 15 seconds after Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman was sent to the penalty box for tripping Chimera. Another miscue followed: Defenseman Ryan McDonagh wasted a chance to clear the puck, instead sending it along the boards right to a Capitals player. That giveaway led to a series of crisp passes by the Capitals -- Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green were credited with assists -- and an animated earful for McDonagh from Rangers coach John Tortorella. That early edge proved to be a good omen for the Capitals, who are 7-1 this postseason when scoring first -- and 0-5 when their opponent scores first. In this series, all six games were won by whichever team led 1-0. "Obviously, we talked about coming out and starting well, and they get a goal right away on the power play. It kind of set the tone for the game," Lundqvist said. "From there, it was just hard for us to get going." Later in the first period, Ovechkin nearly scored one of his YouTube-ready, "How did he do that?" goals, somehow managing to lift the puck past Lundqvist while belly-flopping onto the ice. But the puck hit the crossbar. Then, at the opposite end of the rink, Ovechkin used his back to block a shot by McDonagh, preventing the puck from even approaching Holtby -- the sort of thing the Russian wing is not known for, but his teammates have turned into an art form this postseason. The Capitals rank No. 1 in blocked shots during these playoffs -- the Rangers are No. 2 -- and Washington put together a 24-6 edge Wednesday. Ovechkin contributed three blocks. "He had a lot of energy," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. "He's ready to go when he's called upon, and he played a good game tonight." A little more than a minute after Chimera made it 2-0, the Rangers got a good chance to change the tenor of Game 6, when Capitals forward Jeff Halpern -- playing for the first time in more than six weeks -- was called for high-sticking John Mitchell, a 4-minute double minor. That was the same penalty called on Washington's Joel Ward in the final 30 seconds of regulation in Game 5, while the Capitals nursed a 2-1 lead. And, well, we know how that turned out. This time, though, the Capitals' penalty killers were up to the task, allowing the Rangers only three shots and no goals. When Halpern skated out of the box, the lead intact, the red-clad Capitals fans gave their team a standing ovation. "It kills you," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. There was one final moment of trepidation for the Capitals and their supporters. With his mom covering her eyes in the stands, Holtby gave up a goal with 50.5 seconds left -- a score that was credited to Rangers forward Marian Gaborik, whose shot deflected off Capitals forward Matt Hendricks' skate and defenseman John Carlson's hip in the crease. Said Ward: "You kind of think, Oh, no. Not again!' But we're a confident group." NOTES: Game 7 starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT. ... The Rangers haven't reached the conference finals since 1997; the Capitals haven't since 1998. ... Capitals F Jay Beagle was scratched because of what the team said was a lower-body injury and replaced by Halpern, who hadn't played since March 23.

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Career night propels Melo Trimble to another Big Ten Player of the Week award

Career night propels Melo Trimble to another Big Ten Player of the Week award

Melo Trimble is the straw that stirs the No. 24 Maryland Terrapins' drink, and during the team's most important week of the regular season, we saw just how important he is.

The junior guard scored a career-high 32 points in a pivotal road victory against a NCAA Tournament-bound Northwestern team, and followed it up with 27 points in a tough road loss against then No. 11 Wisconsin.

The two-game performance was enough for the Big Ten to award Trimble with Player of the Week honors, the fourth time he has received the award.

Trimble made 12 of his 17 field goal attempts against the Wildcats, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. He also contributed three assists and grabbed four rebounds. Against Wisconsin, he scored the bulk of his 27 points in the second half, but struggled from the free throw line, making just 5 of his 10 attempts.

Against the Wildcats, Trimble carried the load, putting the team on his back, and it was more than enough.

He attempted to do the same against the Badgers, but needed some extra help. That's where the Terps have struggled this season. Freshman Justin Jackson, Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan have the ability to do so, but they are still just freshman, meaning consistent output on the road late in the season is far from a guarantee.

But one thing is for sure, Melo Trimble continues to prove that he is the type of player that can single-handily carry a team to the NCAA Tournament's second weekend.

The Big Ten knows this, and it won't be long before the rest of the country does too.

RELATED: TERPS CONTINUE TO SLIDE DOWN AP TOP 25 POLL

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Obvserations from NBA All-Star weekend with eye towards trade deadline

Obvserations from NBA All-Star weekend with eye towards trade deadline

NEW ORLEANS — Another All-Star weekend is in the books, and now it's all about the trade deadline as teams have been as active as ever going into the stretch run of the season.

In the East, a lot of it has to do with the Cleveland Cavaliers being viewed as vulnerable.

They're still the favorites to advance to another NBA Finals but the Raptors, Wizards and Celtics believe they have a chance to make them uncomfortable. 

There will be drama.

My takeaways:

RELATED: NBA POWER RANKINGS AT THE ALL-STAR BREAK

1. Russell Westbrook is the Silky Johnson of All-Star Games. If you don't know who that is, see Chappelle Show.

What Westbrook did in taking 26 shots in 20 minutes for 41 points is try to lift the MVP from Anthony Davis, who was playing at home.

Davis wound up earning it with an All-Star record 52 points. Maybe Westbrook was just playing hard, but he came off the bench as a reserve and really wanted that trophy. He has no off button, but if that's not hating I'm not sure what is. 

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2. James Dolan and the New York Knicks can be thankful for the Sacramento Kings, who makes their incompetence as an organization pale in comparison.

The Kings gave up a three-time All-Star in DeMarcus Cousins for a rookie whose ceiling is unknown (Buddy Hield), a known quantity who is a role player at best (Tyreke Evans) and future draft picks with value that only can be gauged by the success of those picks. In other words, whatever Cousins' flaws -- and he has many -- draft picks mean little if the Kings don't draft well. And they don't have a history of doing so. The most difficult thing to project is the celing for players who are 19 and 20 years old.

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3. Pelicans GM Dell Demps, who has been undermined at almost every turn in his tenure because of ownership issues, pulled off a deal that should solidify his spot if not in New Orleans with a future organization. He knocked this deal for Cousins out of the park. It's a risk worth taking to pair him with Davis.

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4. Some semblance of defense needs to be played to resemble an actual game.

Then again, James Harden, Carmelo Anthony and Isaiah Thomas rarely play deefense in actual NBA games so in an exhibition it's all downhill.

Bradley Beal, who would've been a first-time All-Star, would've played harder. A vet like Anthony, in his 10th apperance and admittetdly didn't want to be there after he was named as a commissioner's pick, is too concerned with not getting hurt. The last All-Star Game at Verizon Center in 2001, the final score was 111-110. That's 131 fewer total point scored than Sunday and an indication of how far the effort has waned.

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5. Not buying that the Westbrook-Kevin Durant rivalry is over just because they passed the ball to each other. 

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6. To spice up All-Star Saturday night, have some D-League players compete with NBA players in the three-point shootout, skills competition and dunk contest. They'll take them more seriously which makes for a better product. NBA players won't want to be shown up.

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7. Given that the East had so many guards, the idea that they needed another frontline player in Anthony to "balance" the lineups is ridiculous.

It's a jump-shooting and dunking contest. No one is calling for iso post-ups in an All-Star Game. So Kevin Love's replacment didn't have to be Anthony (Yes, I'm beating the Beal shouldve been an All-Star dead horse).

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8. How great is it to have an All-Star weekend free of labor strife and jockeying for postion over a new collective bargaining agreement?

That baby was put to bed long ago and it's a signal at how new leadership for the league (Adam Silver) and players (Michele Roberts) have led to a more common sense approach to doing business.

A lockout benefits no one.

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9. Draft picks have become so overvalued.

As with the Kings, they're only as good as the selections that are made.

If it's a weak year (see 2016) then those picks aren't that big of a deal as it would be in a strong year (see 2017). All of this, however, is about projections. It's not an exact science. You can put a tape measure on things like height, weight, vertical leap but not heart, will and work ethic. When a variable such as millions of dollars enters the picture, it's impossible to tell how it will impact those traits positively or negatively. Therefore if I'm trading an All-Star, I want certainty in return for his services as in a proven impact player (though not necessarily an All-Star) and a pick or two. 

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10. Did I mention that the Kings' front office is the worst in basketball? 

They clearly believed they couldn't get more in return for Cousins which is why they should've a) traded him sooner; b) held onto him until this summer because they still had his rights; c) not be deceptive and dishonest about their intentions to the player and his representation. That's bad business.

RELATED: WALL EXPECTS WIZARDS TO MAKE A TRADE DEADLINE DEAL