Capitals

Maryland's fast start could be deceiving

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Maryland's fast start could be deceiving

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) Mark Turgeon has worked magic in his second season at Maryland, leading his young team to 7-1 start that would suggest the Terrapins could be a force in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Or is it just an illusion?

``Our perception is a lot better than reality right now,'' Turgeon said Wednesday night after the Terrapins notched their seventh straight victory, a 100-68 rout of Maryland-Eastern Shore.

Sure, Maryland's victims include Morehead State, Georgia Southern and LIU-Brooklyn. But the seven-game run - which followed a season-opening 72-69 defeat against Kentucky - featured a 77-57 road win over previously unbeaten Northwestern in which the Terps outscored the Wildcats 49-31 after halftime.

That was the game that got people saying this Maryland team just might be pretty good.

``We played a nice game at Northwestern, really guarding them and executing the second half. We showed strides,'' Turgeon said. ``But we've got so far to go. I just don't want people thinking that we're this great team. Because we're not yet. We have a chance to be. We're getting better and improving each day.''

This squad has far more cohesion and depth than last year's team, Turgeon's first since leaving Texas A&M to replace the highly successful Gary Williams. Maryland went 17-15, leaning heavily on the inside play of raw 7-foot-1 freshman Alex Len and the outside scoring of guard Terrell Stoglin.

After leading the ACC in scoring as a sophomore, Stoglin was suspended by Maryland for a full year for failing to comply with the school's Code of Conduct for athletes. Instead of serving the suspension, he opted to hire an agent and enter his name into the NBA draft.

Fortunately for the Terrapins, Len is back - with more weight, confidence and skill under the basket.

With Len, senior James Padgett and freshmen Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare jamming the middle, the Terrapins rank among the national leaders in rebounding margin. Transfer Logan Aronhalt has replaced Stoglin as the designated gunner, going 15 for 23 from 3-point range.

``I think Logan is probably the best shooter in the country if you leave him open,'' Mitchell said.

The strength of the team is its depth, which runs so deep that Turgeon tossed three new starters into the mix against UMES. He also intends to shuffle his lineup again Saturday against South Carolina State.

That kind of ploy might not have worked last year.

``I have never had a team like this, that really likes each other as much as they do and are as deep as this team is,'' Turgeon said. ``There are no bruised egos because of who we started.''

Freshman guard Seth Allen, who received his first college start Wednesday, said of the lineup change: ``Our team is so close, so nobody really got mad or had a problem with it. Everybody was pushing the new starting five to be great.''

Len played only 17 minutes. Xavier transfer Dez Wells, who poured in 23 points against Northwestern and 25 in a follow-up win over George Mason, scored seven in 19 unspectacular minutes.

Maryland's defense wasn't up to Turgeon's standards, but he wasn't complaining too much after a 32-point win.

``Obviously we didn't guard or rebound well,'' he said. ``I'll give these guys a pass because we have been guarding our tails off in practice.''

Maryland has five non-league games at home upcoming before beginning ACC play on Jan.5 against Virginia Tech. By that time, Turgeon hopes a team with five freshmen, six sophomores and only two seniors (Padgett and Aronhalt) can grow up and fulfill expectations.

``Everybody expects us to be great. We're a very young basketball team,'' Turgeon said. ``We've gotten the cart before the horse. For these guys to do what they're doing is pretty impressive to me, but we're nowhere near where we're going to be.''

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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.