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Longoria takes in Winter X before spring training

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Longoria takes in Winter X before spring training

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) Evan Longoria bundled up before stepping out into the cold, zipping his bright blue winter jacket all the way up, putting on his scarf and pulling his gray stocking cap tight over his ears.

This wasn't exactly baseball weather.

The Tampa Bay Rays third baseman spent Saturday hanging out with fellow athletes sponsored by Red Bull and taking in the dizzying sights and loud sounds of the Winter X Games.

For a change, Longoria was just a fan - gushing over meeting Mark McMorris, who won the snowboard slopestyle competition over a talented field that included Shaun White.

And for once, Longoria didn't draw a crowd; nobody really knew who he was. He wasn't the All-Star who signed a lucrative new contract in the offseason.

No, he was simply that guy shivering like everyone else.

``It's pretty cool to see other professionals do what they do,'' said Longoria, who left the 80-degree weather of Scottsdale, Ariz., for his trip to Aspen. ``Just chillin' with the Red Bull people.''

Emphasis on chill. Sure, it was 35 degrees but the snow moved into the area Saturday night.

Makes the warmth of Florida sound awfully nice about now.

Longoria will report to Port Charlotte, Fla., for spring training with Tampa Bay's pitchers and catchers on Feb. 12 because the Rays want to check his progress after he underwent minor surgery on his left hamstring in late November. That partially torn hamstring hampered him all last season, when played in just 74 games.

``Two weeks after the surgery, I felt like it had never happened,'' Longoria said. ``It was that good. The surgery helped that much.''

Although he's surrounded by snowboarders, he has no desire to try it. Longoria will stick with hitting hanging sliders instead of the slopes. But when his career is over - and his contract permits it - he wants to try snowboarding again. When he was younger, Longoria used to head up to Big Bear in California to get in a few runs.

``But I didn't have the money to afford the right gear so I was cold and miserable,'' he said. ``I think it would be fun to give it a try again with the right gear.''

He certainly came away with a sense of awe for these athletes. He watched the 19-year-old McMorris turn in some gnarly tricks to capture his second straight slopestyle title.

``That McMorris kid is the truth,'' Longoria said. ``He's crazy good.''

Longoria has been, too.

The two-time AL Gold Glove winner and 2008 AL Rookie of the Year ranks second on the Rays career list with 130 home runs and third with 456 RBIs.

This illustrates the importance of Longoria last season: Tampa Bay went 41-44 without him and 47-27 with him in the starting lineup. That's a reason why the Rays agreed to a $136.6 million, 10-year contract with Longoria that adds six guaranteed seasons and $100 million.

It's a lot of money - and pressure.

Then again, he's been there before. Just six games into his major league career in `08, Longoria agreed to a $17.5 million, six-year contract that included club options.

Now that was pressure.

``People were like, `This guy hasn't even proven himself at the big league level and you just gave him all that money?''' Longoria recalled. ``With this contract, the expectations will be higher for people on the outside looking in. I understand. I'm an established player and know what I need to do to prepare and succeed.''

Like spending the offseason working out. Five days a week, he was at a local training facility. And with a fully enclosed cage at his house, he didn't have to go far to take some swings. That cage will come in handy when Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki uses his house for spring training, since it's only 10 minutes from Colorado's facility.

When Longoria shows up for camp, he's going to have quite a few new teammates to meet. The Rays traded James Shields to the Kansas City Royals, getting top prospects Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi along with two other minor leaguers in return. The team also signed first baseman James Loney.

However, Tampa Bay saw outfielder B.J. Upton leave for Atlanta.

``I'm excited to see how it comes together,'' Longoria said. ``The most important thing is good clubhouse chemistry.''

The Rays open the season April 2 at home against Baltimore. Longoria hopes he's in the lineup for the game. See, he and his girlfriend are expecting their first child the day before.

``We're excited,'' he said, ``and we're a little bit nervous.''

About this time of year, Longoria gets a little antsy. That switch gets flipped in his head, telling him it's almost time for baseball.

``Innately, it just happens,'' Longoria explained. ``I know it's around the corner, but I'm still enjoying my time off.''

And trying to stay warm.

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3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

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USA TODAY Sports

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

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USA TODAY Sports

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 at the 2:30 mark of 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.