Game in a nutshell: Seeking their first sweep of a three-game series this season for the ninth time, the Nationals once again came up short. And this one stung a little more because of the man on the mound for the Phillies: Cole Hamels. A couple of weeks removed from his headline-making, suspension-inducing start at Nationals Park, the left-hander dominated the NL East leaders. Hamels carried a no-hitter into the sixth and departed after eight scoreless. Edwin Jackson tried to keep things close but was done in by some early struggles and wound up taking the loss. Adam LaRoche delivered a solo homer off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth, but it was too little, too late. On this night, Hamels rose above the rest.
Hitting lowlight: Tough to find highlights when you're completely shut down by the opposition. The Nationals did squat against Hamels for five innings, managing only three walks and no hits against the lefty. And even once they did get something going in the sixth, they found a way to not score. Danny Espinosa's leadoff double broke up the no-hitter, and Bryce Harper's single to right kept things going. But Espinosa (with third-base coach Bo Porter waving him around) tried to score and was nailed at the plate by Hunter Pence. Moments later, Ryan Zimmerman also singled to right, which would have scored Espinosa ... had he not just been thrown out at the plate.
Pitching highlight: Jackson was not sharp early on, putting seven men on base (five hits, two walks) in the first three innings alone. But credit to the veteran right-hander for battling back and churning out a quality start in the end. Jackson was much more efficient over his final three innings, and in the process managed to make it through the seventh on only 79 pitches. Had the Nationals not been trailing at the time, Davey Johnson might have even left his starter in.
Key stat: It took until the ninth inning of the Phillies' sixth game against the Nationals this season before Papelbon made his first appearance.
Up next: After a day of rest Thursday, the Nationals' nine-game tour of the NL East continues in Atlanta for a showdown with a Braves team that has been battling them for the top spot in the division for several weeks. Ross Detwiler meets Tim Hudson in Friday's 7:35 p.m. series opener at Turner Field.
CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.
The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.
The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.
Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.
Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.
“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”
The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.
February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.
Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.
Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.
Here are the three stars of the game.
1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.
Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.
2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.
Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.
3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.
Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.