Capitals

Bowl-eligible Syracuse set for finale at Temple

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Bowl-eligible Syracuse set for finale at Temple

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Syracuse has made a habit of losing the last game of the regular season. The Orange have lost seven straight and figure it's about time to end the dubious streak.

``I've never won my last regular-season game,'' senior wide receiver Alec Lemon said as the Orange prepared to face Temple on Friday morning. ``That's something I want to do - go out with a win. We've got to win every down, go out there and be physical, and make every play when the ball's thrown to you.''

Syracuse (6-5, 4-2 Big East) was sitting at 7-3 entering the final two games of 2010, eligible to play in the postseason for the first time since 2004. Instead of finishing with a flourish, the Orange floundered, losing to Connecticut and Boston College at home before rebounding to defeat Kansas State in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Last year, the Orange stood at 5-2 at midseason and lost their last five games.

``I kind of don't want it to creep into our minds,'' offensive tackle Justin Pugh said. ``That's kind of what happened with that Pinstripe Bowl team. We kind of felt complacent after that. We had two games and we lost those two games. We could have really had a good year that year and we kind of let off the pedal.

``Last year, losing those last five games, we don't ever want to end a season (that way). Our goal is to go out and win this next game and win three in a row.''

Syracuse has rallied with four wins in five games to qualify for the postseason for the second time in three years and has something more to shoot for. While the Big East's BCS bid will go to Rutgers or Louisville, Syracuse and Cincinnati (3-2 Big East) can still clinch a share of the conference championship if a number of games go their way in the final two weeks.

``We were fortunate enough to achieve our goal this season, but our regular season isn't over yet,'' said Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, who grew up in West Chester, Pa. and will have a large entourage at the game. ``We've still got a game ahead of us that we want to win. We want to finish the season off right, finish the regular season with a winning record.''

Temple (4-6, 2-4) has a lot riding on the game, too. The Owls, in their first season back in the Big East since 2004, are trying to schedule a 12th game in Hawaii, and a win over Syracuse is paramount. If the Owls do get that extra game and beat both the Orange and Hawaii, they'll have the six wins needed to play in a bowl game.

``We're down the home stretch right now,'' Temple head coach Steve Addazio said. ``We have to play Syracuse. I told our team we're playing for a bowl game,''

Syracuse is coming off an impressive comeback victory Saturday night at Missouri. Nassib hit Lemon for the winning touchdown in a 31-27 win with 20 seconds left on the clock, but the Orange left the field in tough shape and with a short turnaround.

Head coach Doug Marrone said half his 22 starters were banged-up, and there's no rest in sight. Temple beat Army 63-32 last week at West Point to snap a four-game slide - all in the Big East - as the Owls scored nine more points than in the four losses combined.

Montel Harris rushed for a Big East-record 351 yards and seven touchdowns against the Black Knights and gave quarterback Clinton Granger some breathing room in his first college start. Granger threw only four passes.

The Orange expect a difficult game.

``Everybody is a little sore, banged-up. You fight through it,'' Syracuse defensive tackle Jay Bromley said. ``Especially with what they did last week at Army, you can't look at this team as a pushover. You really have to go out there and play this game because they're going to give you everything they've got.

``We know that Temple is not what their record says they are. When we were 1-3, we knew we were better than our record. With Temple, they're way better than their record shows they are.''

And with Temple, you know what you're going to get.

``We know they're going to run, run, run, and when they get tired run some more,'' said Bromley, who had six tackles and two sacks against Missouri. ``They're a hard-nosed football team. We know we have to work hard to beat this team.''

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3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

After a rough start, the Caps battled back to make a game of it against Tampa Bay, but ultimately fell 4-2 to the Lightning. Here's why.

The first period

To put it simply, this game was lost in the opening period. Washington was the better team for the second and third but they could not overcome the 3-0 lead they spotted the Lightning in the first. Beyond the goals, the Caps just did not play well. Even the simplest of plays looked difficult as Washington struggled to get the puck out of their own zone, gave up numerous turnovers and scoring chances and just looked overmatched. Braden Holtby also looked shaky allowing three goals on just eight shots. Usually he is able to cover up some of the mistakes the defense makes it front of him, but he was not there to bail the team out on Tuesday in what was a really rocky start.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-LIGHTNING

Taking a penalty 34 seconds into the game

Entering Tuesday’s game, Tampa Bay boasted the second best power play unit in the league. Playing a disciplined game is part of every game plan, but that is especially true against such a dominant unit. Giving up a penalty just 34 seconds into the game was not an ideal start. The call itself was debatable. Brett Connolly was called for interference when he knocked over Dan Girardi in the offensive zone. The puck was just behind Girardi as he had lost control of it in his skates. The sticking point here is that Girardi no longer had possession and Connolly could have played the puck instead of the player. Most referees would probably let that go with the puck so close, but Connolly was not so lucky. Whether it was a good call or not, the Caps found themselves down a man and down a goal soon after as Brayden Point scored the power play tally.

A missed opportunity from Kuznetsov on one end, a goal for Nikita Kucherov on the other

Even after spotting the Lightning a 3-0 lead, the Caps made a game of it. Lars Eller struck on the power play in the second period and Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington to within one with about nine minutes left to play. Just over a minute later, Evgeny Kuznetsov stole the puck away from Nikita Kucherov, the frontrunner for league MVP this season, at the Tampa blue line giving the Caps a short 2-on-1. Defenseman Andrej Sustr was textbook on the play forcing Kuznetsov as far wide as he could go while still covering the passing lane and Kuznetsov elected to shoot from the faceoff dot rather than attempt the pass to T.J. Oshie.Andrei Vasilevskiy made a routine blocker save to deny what looked like a great opportunity to tie the game. As always happens in hockey, a failed opportunity on one end led to an opportunity in the other direction. Less than a minute later, Kucherov made up for his mistake by scoring a breakaway goal to put the game out of reach at 4-2.

MORE CAPITALS: KEMPNY EXCITED TO MOVE FROM LAST PLACE CHICAGO TO FIRST PLACE WASHINGTON

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3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

The first 20 minutes of Tuesday's game did not go well for Washington. The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three times in the opening frame and rode that lead all the way to the 4-2 win.

With the game heading towards a repeat of their blowout loss to Chicago, the Capitals rebounded in the second period to make a game of it as Lars Eller scored on a power play. Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington within one in the third period, but Nikita Kucherov slammed the door shut with a breakaway goal to extend the lead back to 2.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Brayden Point: Tampa Bay won this game in the first period when they took a 3-0 lead. Point scored two of those three goals. His first came only 2:30 into the game. He retreated to the blue line on the power play believing Jay Beagle would clear the puck. When Beagle turned the puck over, he recognized it and immediately crashed the net, taking a Ryan Callahan pass in the slot and shooting it through the five-hole of Braden Holtby.

On his second goal, Anton Stralman saw an opportunity on the Caps’ line change and passed the puck up to Point at the blue line. Point turned on the jets to get behind the defense and went five-hole again on Holtby to make the score 3-0.

2. Alex Ovechkin: After the first period, Washington slowly took this game over for much of the remaining 40 minutes. Ovechkin was a big part of that as he totaled an incredible 19 shot attempts for the game. Nine of those shots were on goal and he found the back of the net in the third period for career goal No. 594.

3. Tom Wilson: Through the first period, the Caps looked well on their way to a repeat of the 7-1 debacle they suffered Saturday in Chicago. They had nothing going in this game until Wilson drew a trip from Vladislav Namestnikov in the second period. Eller would score on the resulting power play giving Washington some much-needed life.

The Namestnikov penalty was the 29th drawn penalty of the season for Wilson, which moves him into a tie with Matthew Tkachuk for the most drawn penalties in the NHL.