NCAA

Beninati: Immediate Dividends

Beninati: Immediate Dividends

Thursday, March 4, 2010 11:25pm

By Joe Beninati
Capitals Play-by-Play

Throughout his pro career Scott Walker has been in the right place at the right time, and he sure was again in the third period this evening when the Caps needed a spark from their new teammates. Walker crashed the net two times for backhand goals in the final frame to help put away the pesky Tampa Bay Lightning.The home crowd at Verizon welcomed Walker, Joe Corvo, and Eric Belanger with open arms after they were acquired yesterday at the trade deadline. Three and a half weeks had passed since the Caps last had a home date on the schedule and they were ready to make an impression.

Eric Fehr handcuffed Lightning goalie Mike Smith to open the scoring. But Tampa's power play has been ridiculously sharp against Washington this year and Steve Downie kept them hot with a nasty deflection past Semyon Varlamov. Then it was time for the Mike Knuble show in period two. Knuble worked a two-on-one to perfection with Brooks Laich for one of his tallies. And doubled up with a beautiful follow up to give the Caps some breathing room at 3-1.Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louiswere their old dynamic selves tonight and because of that the Lightning were always in this game. Lecavalier drilled two sharp looking snap shots past Varlamov and St. Louis was as clever a set up man as you will find with three assists, that could have easily have been six.Nicklas Backstrom, normally an outstanding feeder in his own right, turned into a shot blocking machine while killing a penalty in the second period. The Swede demonstrated a great deal of courage standing in the way of two powerful blasts from Kurtis Foster, within 20 seconds of each other. The fans went nuts and deservingly so.

The stage was set for a thrilling third period, and that was where Walker made himself right at home in front of the Tampa net. He's a player that performs with a hunger for success that's contagious.

So the homestand gets off to a flying start and the Rangers visit on Saturday. We all continue to be spoiled by all these wins and hope they keep piling up all the way through June.

Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

PITTSBURGH -- No. 1 Virginia allowed just seven points in the first half and secured the regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference title outright with a 66-37 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Freshman guard De'Andre Hunter came off the bench to lead the Cavaliers (26-2, 14-1 ACC) with 14 points in a game that didn't take big offensive efforts from Virginia's regulars. Of the five starters, only guard Ty Jerome exceeded his season average with 13 points.

The game was never competitive, as Virginia started on an 8-0 run and Pitt didn't make a field goal until Jared Wilson-Frame hit a 3-pointer at the midway point of the first half.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett rested most of his regulars in the second half. Reserve Nigel Johnson added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Parker Stewart led Pitt (8-22, 0-17) with 12 points, all on 3-pointers. Pitt had next to no presence inside. The Panthers were outscored 28-8 in the paint and out-rebounded 36-24. Seven of Pitt's 11 made field goals were from beyond the arc.

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.

RELATED: SEE THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-SABRES HERE

Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.