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Campbell leads Hong Kong Open; McIlroy misses cut

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Campbell leads Hong Kong Open; McIlroy misses cut

HONG KONG (AP) Hong Kong Open leader Michael Campbell says it will be easier for him to end a seven-year winless drought after defending champion Rory McIlroy missed the cut at the Hong Kong Open on Friday.

The 43-year-old Campbell holed a 10-foot birdie at the last for a 6-under 64 that gave him a one-stroke lead at 9 under on the Fanling course at Hong Kong Golf Club.

Four other 40-somethings followed Campbell on the leaderboard. Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain, 48, posted a 67 to share second with Zhang Lian-wei of China, 47, and Fredrik Andersson Hed of Sweden, 40, who both shot 66.

And 42-year-old Anders Hansen of Denmark matched Campbell's 64 to sit fifth at 7 under.

Campbell denied Tiger Woods the 2005 U.S. Open title at Pinehurst, and hasn't tasted success since winning the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth four months later.

He was surprised to learn McIlroy missed the cut with a 5-over total.

``It now makes winning the Hong Kong Open a lot easier, definitely,'' Campbell said. ``But then Rory's world No. 1 for a reason as he's a wonderful talent and I've admired him ever since he turned pro.''

The New Zealander based in Spain was third in the Portugal Masters a month ago, his best result in years. He confessed there were occasions since his last win, after which he became distracted by off-course events, that he considered quitting golf. But he gained inspiration from the winning efforts of fellow 40-somethings.

``You can't buy confidence, you just have to earn it, and I think I've earned it over the last seven years since I haven't won a golf tournament,'' Campbell said.

``There have been times where I wanted to throw it in, but what's really inspired me over the last, particularly over the last four or five years, is seeing my friends around the same age bracket as me, the 40-plus club.

``The likes of Ernie (Els) winning his fourth major, Thomas Bjorn winning three times last year. Paul Lawrie's had a wonderful last couple of years. Padraig Harrington, he's 40 now. Jim Furyk winning the FedEx Cup. And the list goes on.

``So being 40 isn't that bad playing golf, and seeing my friends win tournaments left, right and center definitely inspired me to don't give up and keep on playing.''

McIlroy double-bogeyed his last hole in a round of 72, following a 73 to open his title defense.

``It's disappointing as you never want to miss the cut and even more when you are defending a tournament,'' he said.

``So it's not the week I wanted but then I have a few days to work on my putting and try and get ready for (the Tour Championship in) Dubai.''

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Capitals to face Penguins in NHL Playoffs for third consecutive year

Capitals to face Penguins in NHL Playoffs for third consecutive year

The Caps are headed to the 2018 NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins… again.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

Yes, for the third time in three years, the Capitals will play the Penguins, hoping to take down the defending Stanley Cup champions and advance out of the second round of the playoffs and to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since the 1998 season, when the team made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Capitals are riding momentum from their first-round series win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, where they fought back from an 0-2 series hole to win the series thanks to a 6-3 victory in Game 6 Monday night in Columbus.

That momentum coupled with home-ice advantage — should they choose to capitalize on that this time around — could create an ideal atmosphere for the Caps to take a 2-0 series lead before heading to Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4.

A perennial problem, Sidney Crosby enters this series playing some of his best playoff hockey. In their 4-2 series win over the Philadelphia Flyers, the Pens’ captain scored six goals in six games, including a hat trick in the opening matchup.

But he’s not the only one creating havoc for goalies. Center Jake Guentzel is tied with Crosby at the top of the league in goals and points in the playoffs. The pair each had six goals and seven assists against the Flyers, as well as 17 shots on goal apiece.

Is it possible they’ll get stonewalled by Braden Holtby, who — despite not starting initially in the first two games for the Caps against the Blue Jackets — is rocking a 93.6 save percentage and ranks fourth in the league with a 1.66 goals against average among goaltenders who have played more than one postseason game.

If the Caps can find a spark in their offense with Holtby staying strong in goal, perhaps this could be the year they finally slide past the Pens.

However, history isn’t exactly on Washington’s side. In the second-round series from the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, the Pens hold an 8-5 record over the Caps, eliminating them both years on their way to back-to-back Stanley Cups.

Pittsburgh leads the Caps in the overall playoff game record, 38-24, and they’ve met for 10 series in the postseason, dating back to 1990-91. Four times the series was pushed to a Game 7, but the Caps never came out on top.

The one and only time the Caps have ever eliminated the Pens from the playoffs was in the 1993-94 season, when they beat Pittsburgh 4-2 in the first round before losing to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

But hey, this year could become the second time in franchise history the Caps take down the Pens.

The NHL has yet to announce when Game 1 of the Capitals vs. Penguins series will take place, but with the Wizards playing Game 6 of their NBA Playoff series at home on Friday, the likliest start date is either Thursday, April 26 or Saturday, April 28.

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 6

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 6

The Capitals wrapped up their series against the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 6-3 Game 6 win on Monday. Here's how they were able to finish off the Blue Jackets.

A big save at one end, a goal at the other

You see it all the time in hockey, a big save on one end turns into a goal on the other and we saw it in the first period. One of Braden Holtby’s best saves of the night came in the first period when he managed to get in front of a deflection attempt by Cam Atkinson. Pierre-Luc Dubois fired a pass to the slot and Atkinson got a backhand on it, but it was not enough to beat Holtby. Less than a minute later, Dmitry Orlov fired a slapshot past Sergei Bobrovsky to give the Caps the first-period lead.

A two-goal period from Alex Ovechkin

Despite the 1-0 score, all the momentum began to swing in Columbus’ way in the second period. Washington squandered a two-man advantage which brought the Nationwide Arena crowd back to life. Soon after, Nick Foligno tied the game at 1. Just when everything started going the Blue Jackets’ way, however, Alex Ovechkin brought them back down to Earth with two goals in the second period. His first came about four minutes after Foligno’s tally as he backhanded in a rebound goal past Bobrovsky. It was an ugly goal, but beautiful at the same time. His second was the familiar power-play goal from the office.

Two quick responses

Every time Columbus tried to build momentum the Caps had an answer. The crowd and momentum fuelled Columbus to Foligno’s first goal, but Ovechkin answered four minutes later. The Blue Jackets pulled to within one early in the third period with a goal from Pierre-Luc Dubois, but 91 seconds later Devante Smith-Pelly beat Bobrovsky with an absolute snipe to the top corner in one of the prettiest goals you will see this postseason. That felt like the moment Washington declared they were not going to allow themselves to lose this game.

The penalty kill

The Caps’ penalty kill was integral to the series as a whole and it came through in a big way again in Game 6 with another perfect game. Washington killed off all four power plays they faced including two in the third period.

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