Capitals

Even with aching toe, Garcon makes Redskins better

Even with aching toe, Garcon makes Redskins better

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) From head to toe, three things are immediately noticeable when Washington Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon takes the field.

- His mouthpiece looks like vampire fangs. Nothing special, he says. Just something the team dentist designed for him a few years back when he was with the Indianapolis Colts.

- He appears to be the only NFL player whose jersey has a cedilla, the curvy thing that dangles from the letter ``c.'' His parents are from Haiti, accounting for his French name. He speaks Creole and understands French, although he says the French class he took in college didn't help much at all.

- He's makes the Redskins offense a lot better, even though he's playing with a toe that hurts. And hurts. And hurts. And has been hurting for some 2 1/2 months.

``I think I'm going to make it through the whole season,'' Garcon said this week. ``Hopefully nothing crazy happens. But I've been dealing with the pain for so long now, it's only getting numb to it or getting used to it.''

When Garcon caught the first touchdown pass of Robert Griffin III's career - 88 yards in the season-opening win over the New Orleans Saints - little did anyone know that the moment would yield as much frustration as excitement. Garcon tore a ligament in the second toe on his right foot while sprinting to the end zone, and the intervening weeks have been flush with thoughts of how to play through pain, how best to avoid surgery and whether he should even try to play again this season.

``It is frustrating because it's just a toe,'' Garcon said. ``But it plays a big part. I need my toes to push off.''

Garcon returned for Weeks 4 and 5, but he clearly wasn't physically ready and served more as a decoy than anything else, catching four passes for 44 yards. It looked like more of the same when he returned for again this month against the Philadelphia Eagles, catching three passes for a tepid 5 yards.

Coach Mike Shanahan wasn't certain whether Garcon would be able to play again four days later against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving because of the possible effect of the stadium's artificial surface on his toe.

``No matter what, I have to go out there and play,'' Garcon said. ``If it's grass, turf, AstroTurf, concrete - I've got to be out there no matter what. It's going to be a pain throughout the year.''

Against the Cowboys, Garcon looked again like the player signed to a $42.5 million, five-year contract to fill the team's need for a No. 1 receiver. He had five catches for 93 yards, including a 59-yard acrobatic catch-and-run score that gave nary a hint of anything wrong with his foot.

``He just brings a different attitude to the receiving corps,'' Griffin said. ``He's our guy. Having him out there is definitely a plus. ... He was in his own world. That's how he is when he's out there. He plays in the zone and I think it helps the other receivers to have him out there.''

The Redskins (5-6) hope Garcon can play another key role in Monday night's NFC East showdown against the New York Giants (7-4), but the fickle foot means offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will have to be flexible with the game plan.

``You never know because he's not 100 percent healthy,'' Kyle Shanahan said. ``But when he does feel good, he's a big-time player. And when he's not fully going, I still think (having) him out there help us. ... It makes me a little less decisive in what we're going to open up with and stuff we're going to do, but it's definitely a problem I don't mind having.''

Still to be decided is how and when the toe will heal. Garcon has never had surgery, and he's adamant that he'll opt for it only as a last resort.

``It's slowly going away,'' Garcon said. ``The surgery is not something I want to do. But if a few doctors say I need it, then I'll probably do it. But if I don't need it, I'm not getting it.''

Notes: LB London Fletcher (sprained left ankle) and LT Trent Williams (left thigh bruise) again did not practice. ... Griffin was chosen as the NFL's offensive rookie of the month for November. He also won the honor for the month of September.

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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.