The matchup: Though still bringing up the rear in the WNBA's Eastern Conference, the Washington Mystics enter the finale of their four-game homestand on a winning note. Only stringing together a bunch more victorieswill equal the roll San Antonio is currently on.The Mystics (3-10) snapped a five-game losing streak on Monday by scoring their most points this season in a 90-77 win over Phoenix. Crystal Langhorne tallied 22 points, hitting 9 of 12 shots in the victory and the Mystics bench scoring helped push the team into the winner's circle. "Anytime you win it's very calming,'' said Langhorne, who leads the Mystics with 16.5 points and 6.9 rebounds. "When you keep losing, it's stressful. To get this win, it's a good feeling.''Washington will need another power display from the power forward on Friday (7 p.m.) when facing San Antonio (9-5), the hottest team in the league. Led by point guard and 13-year veteran Becky Hammon, the Silver Stars have won five straight including an 88-72 triumph over Indiana on Thursday.Washington has lost three straight in the series, including 73-67 last July at the Verizon Center. Hammon, the WNBA leader in assists (5.6) this season, scored 22 points in that matchup and she directs a squad that averages a robust 82 points per game on the season and has proven even more potent during the winning streak.With slow starts the norm, the Mystics average 70 points per game, ranking next-to-last in the WNBA.Last time out: For the first time all season, the Mystics led after the first quarter, shooting 64.7 percent over the opening 10 minutes for a27-18 lead. Perhaps more importantly, they showed they knew how to hold the early advantage. Washington never trailed and scored a season-high 50 points in the first half.Langhorne, who scored 11 in the first quarter, received offensive help off the bench from Noelle Quinn (18 points) and rookie Natalie Novosel, who finished with a career-best 12.I think the starters came in they really set it-up well and when the second team came in I think we were the energy," said Novosel, the Mystics first-round pick out of Notre Dame. Quinn for the win: Early in the season, Mystics coach Trudi Lacey moved Quinn into the starting lineup. Her first year in Washington, the 6-foot guard remained in her off-the-ball role until the latest rotation tinkering sent her to the bench before facing the Mercury. Perhaps that is where she belonged all along as Quinn hit a flurry of jumpers in the second and third quarters, the latter buckets stymying a Phoenix comeback."It's a good look for me," said Quinn, perhaps stating the obvious about coming off the bench after posting her season-high point total. "It makes me come in there knowing that I have to be a difference maker."Comeback stars: Before landing in D.C, the San Antonio stopped in Indiana Thursday night for a meeting against the Fever. The Silver Stars played sick early, trailing by 18 points. They clearly figured out a cure at halftime, roaring back for a stunning 88-72 win. Hammon flashed her scoring touch with a team-high19 points as San Antonio outscored Indiana 60-27 in the second half. Jia Perkins scored 17 points off the bench and Sophia Young, San Antionio's leading scorer (16.6), added 15.
Not much separated the Washington Capitals and the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. A late 2-on-0 goal for Brett Connolly proved to be the difference.
Here's why the Caps ultimately walked away with the 1-0 win.
A first period goalie interference call
Andreas Athanasiou thought he had given the Red Wings a first period lead, but Barry Trotz challenged the call for goalie interference. The review showed that Tyler Bertuzzi clipped Philipp Grubauer in the head with an elbow right before the shot went in. Given how long it took the Caps to get going in this game, it is fair to say an early deficit would have been hard to overcome.
Killing off a full two-minute 5-on-3
Two man advantages are hard to kill. Killing off a full two-minutes at 5-on-3, that's a tall task. With the game still scoreless in the second period, T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller were both assessed penalties giving Detroit two-full minutes at 5-on-3. The Red Wings managed four shots on goal, but Washington was able to successfully kill off the penalty and keep the game scoreless.
There were few players who had strong efforts on Tuesday, but Grubauer was phenomenal. Even when the game felt sleepy in the first two periods, Detroit still managed 28 shots on goal, all of which were turned aside by the German netminder. When Washington finally took the lead in the third, the Red Wings woke up and began pushing the offense, but Grubauer was in the zone at that point and could not be beaten. His best save came in the third period when he stared down a breakaway from Athanasiou and extended the pad to deny the shot.
It wasn’t pretty but the Caps eventually got what they needed in Detroit: two points.
After a sleepy first 40 minutes, Brett Connolly scored midway through the third period and then Philipp Grubauer made sure it stood up at Little Caesars Arena, where Washington eked out a 1-0 victory Thursday over the scuffling Red Wings.
Tarik’s three stars of the game:
1-Philipp Grubauer, Capitals
For much of the game, Grubi was left to fend for himself. Good thing for the Caps he was up to the task. The German netminder, who has been one of the NHL’s top goaltenders since Thanksgiving, turned aside 39 shots, including three stops on a pivotal 5-on-3 penalty kill in the second period.
2-Brett Connolly, Capitals
The Caps didn’t get many Grade-A opportunities vs. Jimmy Howard. But Connolly buried one of the few they got…on a 2-on-0, set up by Jakub Vrana in the third period. Connolly’s goal was his 15th of the season in his 63rd game, equaling the career-high he set a year ago in 66 contests. Vrana, meantime, has three goals and five assists since getting scratched 12 games ago.
3-Lars Eller, Capitals
Eller didn’t record a point, but he was all over the puck in Motown. The veteran center finished with a game-high six shots on net. He also had a key backcheck against Darren Helm, on a shorthanded breakaway, in the first period. Eller was good in the dot, too, winning eight of 12 faceoffs.
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