Capitals

Fifth-ranked Indiana blows out Jacksonville 93-59

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Fifth-ranked Indiana blows out Jacksonville 93-59

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) Indiana continued its roll right through the small-school portion of its schedule Friday night - and its finally ready to start play in the rugged Big Ten.

Jordan Hulls scored a season-high 20 points, Cody Zeller added 16 and the fifth-ranked Hoosiers cruised past Jacksonville 93-59 in their final non-conference game.

The Hoosiers (12-1) have won three straight, all by at least 34 points.

Jacksonville (5-8) was led by Dylan Fritsch with 15 points and Jarvis Haywood with nine, but lost for the fourth time this season to a power-conference school. The Dolphins have now dropped four of their last six overall.

It certainly wasn't pretty.

For the second time this season, the Hoosiers struggled after a prolonged break. Two weeks ago, they lost to then-unranked Butler in their second game in 14 days.

On Friday, after taking a week off for Christmas, Indiana started sluggishly again. This time, the nation's highest-scoring team and second-best shooting team missed its first four shots and turned the ball over four times on its first eight possessions before finally settling down, taking the lead and eventually pulling away.

The Hoosiers couldn't even get Zeller to bail them out of that funk. The 7-foot center went to the bench with three points and three rebounds after drawing his second foul with 9:08 left in the half. He picked up two more fouls in the first eight minutes of the second half and padded his stats with a late scoring flurry - after the game was already in hand.

So the Hoosiers turned to their outside shooters.

Hulls got things started with a 3-pointer midway through the first half to make it 24-17, and when the 9-2 run ended, with Yogi Ferrell's steal and 15-foot pull-up jumper, the Hoosiers led 30-19.

Hulls followed with three straight 3s in the final 90 seconds, finishing the half with 17 points and five 3s as the Hoosiers took a 48-33 lead at the break.

That was all the short-handed Hoosiers needed on this night. Indiana played again without injured forward Austin Etherington, injured guard Maurice Creek and freshman forward Jeremy Hollowell, who missed his third straight game as the Hoosiers and the NCAA look into a compliance issue. Athletic director Fred Glass made the announcement in a statement less than an hour before tip-off.

Fortunately for Indiana, it didn't need any extra bodies to get past the outsized and overmatched Dolphins.

An 11-3 run early in the second half made it 63-41 and Jacksonville never got closer than 21 the rest of the way.

Five Indiana players finished in double figures.

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How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

The Capitals found themselves in deep trouble on Saturday.

Game 5 at Capital One Arena provided Washington a golden opportunity to take a 3-2 lead in their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A loss -- another home loss -- would have been a devastating blow.

After battling back from a 2-0 series deficit, to lose in Washington would mean facing elimination in Columbus. Game 5 was the game the Caps needed and it would have slipped away from them if not for Nicklas Backstrom.

The Caps’ most underrated superstar -- the one who is constantly overshadowed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby -- took center stage on Saturday as he tipped a Dmitry Orlov shot past Sergei Bobrovsky at 11:53 of overtime to seal the victory for Washington.

“It was just a good shot from [Orlov],” Backstrom said after the game. “I thought before he had a chance to block it, and I got a tip on it, and it’s usually what happens in the playoffs. Tip goals or rebound goals. That’s the way it is. It was nice.”

Backstrom’s overtime goal capped off a three-point night for the veteran center, who also scored in the first period and assisted on a goal from T.J. Oshie.

The team ended up needing every one of his points.

From the start, Columbus outplayed Washington. With the series tied 2-2, a best-of-three mentality took over and the Blue Jackets pushed hard for the pivotal Game 5 win.

It is in those very moments that team needs its superstar players to step up. In Game 3, it was Holtby who stole the show to help Washington steal a win in Columbus.

On Saturday, it was Backstrom.

Columbus converted a shorthanded goal to seize a 1-0 lead in what was shaping up to be a dominant first period. A fluke goal from Backstrom, however, made sure the score was knotted up, 1-1, after the opening frame.

With the puck behind the goal line, Backstrom tried to slip a pass through the crease. Bobrovsky got a piece of the puck with his stick, but the amount of spin on the pass forced the puck to carom off the stick, off the back of Bobrovsky himself, and into the net.

“I was trying to make a pass,” Backstrom said. “Honestly, got lucky. I don’t know who came back-door there but I was trying for him. I’ll take it.”

After a back and forth game, the Blue Jackets came out swinging to start the third. Down 3-2, Columbus tied the game just 2:30 in and made a real push to win the game in regulation. Washington was outshot 16-1 in the third and looked like they had no push at all.

But the Caps looked like a different team when they took the ice for the extra frame. What happened in between periods?

“As I was leaving the room after the period, I could hear guys, the right guys, all saying the right things,” head coach Barry Trotz said.

When later asked if one of those guys was Backstrom, Trotz said, “Absolutely. He's one of the leaders on our team. They were all talking about let's make sure we're doing the right things. There's a lot of pride, lot of good leadership in that room.”

Whatever Backstrom and the other leaders said did the trick. Washington made a strong push in overtime leading to Backstrom’s game-winning goal.

This isn’t the first time Backstrom has delivered. Saturday’s overtime tally is the fourth of his career. That’s the most in franchise history and tied for fifth in NHL history.

Through his efforts on the ice, the Caps were able to erase a bad first period and steal the win in overtime. But it also took a big effort off the ice to get the job done.

“If you just look at the scoresheet, that doesn't say enough of about Nick Backstrom, his contribution from in the dressing room to on the ice to key moments to key faceoffs,” Trotz said.

“I've been on his soapbox about how complete a player he is and I never really worry about Nick Backstrom. He's got enough games under his belt, he's got enough stats to back it up and he's played huge minutes and he's one of our leaders. He's a tremendous hockey player.”

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John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."

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