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Caps fall to New York in Game One

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Caps fall to New York in Game One

NEW YORK -- If the Capitals are going to find a way to beat the Rangers for a third time in four years, Braden Holtby is going to need to learn to silence Neew York's offense and their rowdy fans.

Holtby allowed goals to rookie Chris Kreider and veteran Brad Richards 90 seconds apart in the third period, then had to listen to derisive chants from the sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden the rest of the game as the Capitals dropped their series opener 3-1 Saturday afternoon .

The series resumes with Game 2 Monday night in Manhattan.

And if the Caps hope to even their best-of-seven series, they'll need better play from their 22-year-old rookie goaltender, who allowed three goals on 14 shots, especially with Henrik Lundqvist imitating a Venus flytrap at the other end of the ice.

The seventh-seeded Caps seemed to have the top-seeded Rangers right where they wanted them through two periods -- locked in a defensive battle of chip and chase.

But Kreider changed all that 7 minutes into the third period with one wicked blast of a slapshot.

Kreider took a pass from Derek Stepan and got a stride ahead of Mike Green before ripping a shot under the left catching glove of Holtby, who came out to challenge and had a clear view of the shot.

Ninety seconds later Jaso Chimera and Karl Alzner lost battles along the wall and Richards made them pay, beating Holtby between the pads for a 3-1 lead on just 12 shots

Nicklas Backstrom joked on Friday that the series between the Caps and Rangers would amount to two teams out there just blocking shots.

It sure looked that way after 20 minutes on Saturday.

The Capitals withstood an early thrust of offense from the Rangers at the start of the game before finding their skatng legs. Still, the two teams combined for just 10 shots in the opening period despite each team having a pair of power plays.

The Rangers broke the ice 12:38 into the second period when Artem Anisonov outmuscled Mike Green behind the net and scored his first goal of the playoffs on a wraparound. It looked like the Rangers might carry that lead int the third period, but Jason Chimera finished off a nice 3-on-2 rush by tapping a perfect pass from Brooks Laich through the 5-hole of Henrik Lundqvist.

Any life that gave the Capitals evaporated with Kreider's goal 7 minutes into the third period.

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After starting season in good health, Ian Mahinmi is dealing with right knee injury

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After starting season in good health, Ian Mahinmi is dealing with right knee injury

Just when it looked like Ian Mahinmi was turning a corner, the Wizards center has been sidelined with a right knee strain and his status is up in the air for Tuesday's game at the Brooklyn Nets.

Mahinmi didn't participate in the Wizards' practice on Monday, according to NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller, and will be evaluated pregame.

Mahinmi has yet to miss a game this season, one of six players to appear in all 26 of the Wizards' games. Last year, he played in only 31 of their 82 games due to injuries.

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Those injuries included a host of knee problems. Mahinmi had surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in his left knee last October. After that he developed tendinitis in his right knee and underwent platelet-rich plasma treatment in both knees in December. Mahinmi also had a left calf strain in April that caused him to miss games in the playoffs. He then had a minor procedure involving his meniscus in his left knee early in the summer.

Mahinmi has avoided the injury bug this season so far and in recent weeks has improved his play. He set season-highs in points in each of the past two games with 10 points and eight rebounds against the Suns and 14 points and three assists against the Clippers. In his last 10 games, Mahinmi is +53 and averaging 4.4 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game.

If Mahinmi can't go, that should open the door for Jason Smith to get some playing time, based on how head coach Scott Brooks treated Mahinmi's absences last season. But it would also mean heavier minutes for starting center Marcin Gortat.

The Wizards have a back-to-back set of games coming up at the Nets on Tuesday and then at home against the Grizzlies on Wednesday, something to keep in mind as they determine his status.

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Villanova takes top spot in new AP Poll, but West Virginia is climbing

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Villanova takes top spot in new AP Poll, but West Virginia is climbing

Villanova's unbeaten start now includes a No. 1 ranking in the AP Top 25 , while Arizona State is making a rapid rise into the top 10 under third-year coach Bobby Hurley.

After a tumultuous week in which unanimous No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Kansas lost, the Wildcats (10-0) earned 41 of 65 first-place votes to hop over Michigan State and reach the top for the third straight season.

Villanova and Michigan State were the favorites to take over at the top after the Blue Devils' weekend loss at Boston College, though there was far less certainty for voters about who was now the nation's top team. The Spartans (9-1) earned 19 first-place votes to climb from third to second, while the other five first-place votes went to the Sun Devils -- who leapt 11 spots to No. 5 after Sunday's win at Kansas.

RELATED: LAST WEEK'S NCAA AP TOP 25 POLL

Arizona State (9-0) is off to its best start since the 1974-75 season. Now the Sun Devils — who also have a win against Xavier this season — have their highest ranking since reaching third during the 1980-81 season.

Wichita State climbed three spots to No. 3, followed by Duke and Arizona State. Unbeaten Miami climbed four spots to No. 6, followed by North Carolina, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Xavier to round out the top 10.

Villanova helped itself with an impressive win against No. 12 Gonzaga last week in New York, though the Wildcats had to fight to the final minute Sunday to close out a La Salle team that entered at 5-5.

"It's always an honor to be ranked No. 1," Villanova coach Jay Wright said in a statement. "It's great for the Nova Nation and we appreciate the respect of the writers. We know it's early, though, and we need to get a lot better."

West Virginia made one of the biggest jumps this week in the poll, climbing seven spots to No. 11 from No. 18 last week. Virginia — following its 68-61 loss to West Virginia — dropped one spot to No. 16. 

Although it's not quite in the mix yet, Virginia Tech received 15 votes this week, and Georgetown — which grabbed a few votes last week — is no longer in the mix, despite remaining undefeated with the best record in the Big East.

KANSAS' FALL

The Jayhawks (7-2) slid 11 spots to No. 13 after two losses last week, the first coming against Washington in Kansas City, Missouri, before losing to the Sun Devils in Allen Fieldhouse.

SHUFFLE UP

Only two teams — No. 8 Kentucky and No. 12 Gonzaga — stayed in the same spot. Thirteen teams rose in the poll, while four of the seven teams that fell slid at least eight spots.

TOP RISERS

Arizona State's leap was the biggest, though No. 11 West Virginia (9-1) moved up seven spots after beating then-No. 15 Virginia. No. 14 TCU (10-0) climbed six spots after a win against a then-ranked Nevada team.

Miami, UNC, No. 15 Seton Hall, No. 17 Purdue and No. 20 Tennessee all climbed four spots.

LONGEST SLIDES

While Kansas' losses stood out, No. 22 Florida had the biggest fall of the week.

The Gators (6-3) slid 17 spots after home losses to Florida State and to Loyola Chicago — a game in which they led for all of 93 seconds. Florida salvaged a win against Cincinnati in the Never Forget Tribute Classic in Newark, New Jersey, to avoid a four-game skid.

No. 18 Notre Dame (8-2) fell nine spots after an upset loss to Ball State, while the No. 25 Bearcats (7-2) slid eight spots.

NEWCOMERS

There were three newcomers to this week's poll, though one is more of a welcome back.

The list included No. 19 Florida State (9-0) and No. 24 Texas Tech (7-1), while Arizona returned to the rankings at No. 23.

Arizona's 0-3 showing at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas made the Wildcats the first team in three decades to go from No. 2 in the AP Top 25 to unranked in a week. But four straight wins have the preseason Final Four favorite back in the poll.

SLIDING OUT

Minnesota (No. 14 last week), Nevada (No. 22) and Southern California (No. 25) all fell out of the poll.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.

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