Capitals

Marleau nets 2 again as Sharks beat Coyotes 5-3

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Marleau nets 2 again as Sharks beat Coyotes 5-3

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Sharks coach Todd McLellan's decision to start the season with familiar lines from a year ago is paying early dividends for San Jose.

Patrick Marleau scored the tiebreaking goal with 1:53 remaining for his third straight two-goal game, helping the Sharks rally from a two-goal deficit to beat the Phoenix Coyotes 5-3 in their home opener Thursday night.

Joe Thornton added three assists - getting one on each of Marleau's scores - and an empty-net goal as San Jose's two biggest stars appear in midseason form already. Marleau has six goals and two assists and Thornton has one goal and eight assists as the Sharks have opened the season with three straight wins for the first time since 2008-09.

``They're clicking,'' McLellan said. ``They had big nights tonight. Teams are going to count on their big guys to get the job done. Ours are producing right now.''

Logan Couture and Marty Havlat also scored for San Jose. Antti Niemi made 32 saves.

Steve Sullivan, Antoine Vermette and Lauri Korpikoski scored for the Coyotes, unable to hold onto a 3-1 lead in the third period on the back end of a back-to-back.

``It's a shame because we played so well for most of the game,'' coach Dave Tippett said. ``In the third period we make a couple of errors and it cost us. It's hard to stomach. We have no time for learning. We need people to get in there and get the job done. We need to finish and we'll have to find people who can do that. That's a point wasted for sure.''

Marleau started San Jose's comeback with a goal midway through the third and then beat Jason LaBarbera for the game-winner. Thornton started the play with a sharp up-ice pass to Joe Pavelski, who fed Marleau for the wrist shot.

``Joe made a great play coming back,'' Marleau said. ``He picked up a loose puck, and I kind of just took off, and he found Pav, and Pav was able to slide it over to me. I just tried to get it away as quick as possible.''

The Coyotes seemed to take control with two goals in a span of 2:27 of the third to take a 3-1 lead. The outburst started when Sullivan came out of the penalty box to start a 15-second power play that Phoenix capitalized on. Sullivan's shot was blocked but Vermette knocked the rebound past Niemi, who was off-balance after Shane Doan was knocked into him by a Sharks defender.

While Niemi had little chance to stop that shot, he did a poor job on Phoenix's next goal when Korpikoski beat him to the short side from a bad angle to give the Coyotes a two-goal edge.

``Once we get down, there's still belief in this team where we can come back from deficits like that because we know the skill and talent we have and the offensive capabilities of the players on this team that we can score goals in bunches,'' Couture said.

That proved to be true as Marleau took a pass from Thornton in the slot and beat LaBarbera to make it 3-2. Havlat then got the equalizer when he knocked in a rebound with 6:54 remaining, and Marleau provided the game-winner.

``We had the game under control and we just gave it away,'' Doan said.

After beating Calgary and Edmonton in their home openers to begin the season, the Sharks got their long-awaited chance to play before their own fans for the first time in more than nine months because of the four-month NHL lockout.

San Jose got a break when Phoenix goalie Mike Smith was scratched with a lower-body injury. Smith, who became the first goalie to shut out the Sharks three times in one season a year ago, left Wednesday's win over Columbus in the first period with the injury.

LaBarbera was up to the task early as the Sharks used the energy from the crowd to get off to a fast start. San Jose took 12 of the game's first 13 shots, including seven during a 2:39 stretch on the power play that included 1:22 of 5-on-3 time.

San Jose took advantage of its next power-play chance when Derek Morris was sent off in the final minute of the period for cross-checking Justin Braun. Thornton won a faceoff from Boyd Gordon and got the puck to Pavelski at the point. Pavelski's shot was tipped by Couture into the net for the Sharks' sixth power-play goal of the season.

The Coyotes equalized in the second period when Sullivan scored 1:48 into the two-man advantage for his fourth goal in two nights.

NOTES: The Sharks played a video tribute to the team's original owner, George Gund III, who died this month from cancer. ... Matthew Irwin got his first career point with an assist on Marleau's first goal. ... F Scott Gomez, signed Wednesday by San Jose, did not dress. ... Coyotes C Matthew Lombardi left in the second period with an upper-body injury.

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Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

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USA TODAY Sports

Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

The mood in the Capitals locker room following a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday was one of frustration. Forty minutes of strong play from Washington amounted to nothing because of a disastrous opening first period in which the Lightning jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

No one in the locker room was more frustrated than Braden Holtby.

"Obviously you don't want to go down three," he told reporters after the game. "That's on no one else but me. The third goal, especially the third, fourth goal, that's the difference in the game. I thought we played a really strong game against a really good team. We should have got a better result and that's on me why we didn't."

Tampa scored three goals in the first off of only eight shots. For the game, the Lightning managed to pierce Holtby four times off of only 19 shots.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS LOST TO THE LIGHTNING

Frustration seemed to boil over on the fourth goal when a normally stoic Holtby was visibly upset after allowing Nikita Kucherov to beat him on a breakaway in a play similar to what we saw in the All-Star Game.

See for yourself:

"The key to getting better is learning from your mistakes and obviously I didn't do that," Holtby said. "I was just trying to play it patient. I wasn't trying to cheat towards that move and he came at it a different way. That's on me for not recognizing it. That's not a goal I can give up in that situation after our team battled the way they did, especially in the third."

The frustration Holtby feels likely is not the result of one goal, but the culmination of a recent slump that continues to plague the Vezina winner.

Holtby has lost four straight starts and has given up at least four goals in each of those games.

While Holtby was quick to take the blame for Tuesday's loss, head coach Barry Trotz was quick to defend his netminder.

"No one takes the loss," he said. "We all take a loss. I take a loss, the group takes a loss and Braden's part of the group. ... He's had a little tough stretch. It's no different than, we've got guys that haven't scored in 15, 20 games. It's no different than a player."

The challenge now is overcoming that slump.

For a slumping skater, Trotz could try different line combinations or play someone in different situations over the course of the game. Getting a starting goalie out of a slump, however, is more difficult. Most of the work has to be done in practice with the hope that it will carry over into the next game.

"You analyze how the goals are going in, what you're doing differently," Holtby said. "There's always some stuff that you can't control and stuff that you can and it's focusing on those contrallables that you can make a difference at. Like the first goal in Chicago, the last two goals here, those are goals that I could and should stop. You get to practice the next day and you focus on that and work hard until you figure it out so you don't do it again."

MORE CAPITALS: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-LIGHTNING

Part of the problem in Washington is that team defense is the Caps' biggest weakness. For most of the season, and even in years past, Holtby has made up for much of the team's mistakes on the backend. Now that he is slumping those mistakes become much more glaring and costly.

"The goaltenders in this league are erasers," Trotz said.

Lately, Holtby has not been able to erase those mistakes.

But the team has already moved to address the defense. Brian MacLellan added a puck-moving defenseman in Michal Kempny to help the team get the puck out of the defensive zone more quickly. Waiving Taylor Chorney could also signify another move may be coming before Monday's trade deadline.

As for Trotz, even during the slump, he made clear his confidence in Holtby has not wavered.

"He has been a rock since the day I've been here the last four years and he's been an elite goaltender and I look at him that way."

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

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USA Today Sports

2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn't beat Francouz.

RELATED: OVECHKIN HAS LITTLE DESIRE TO WATCH 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS