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NFL team to play 4 home games in London

NFL team to play 4 home games in London

From Comcast SportsNet
JACKSONVILLE, Florida (AP) -- The NFL and the Jacksonville Jaguars announced Tuesday that the small-market franchise will play one home game in London for four consecutive seasons beginning in 2013 -- a step the team believes will broaden its fan base and take some pressure off locals who have mostly failed to fill the stands in recent years. "I passionately believe the big growth now is going to come from overseas," owner Shad Khan said. "We've got to go where we can leverage and take advantage of some of those things. You've got to fish in ponds where you've got fish in there. We're going to a pond where there are no fishermen." The Jaguars will play at Wembley Stadium, which has hosted one NFL game annually since 2007. "We want to create an identity, a bold, ambitious franchise that is aggressive and forward-thinking on the field and away from the field," Khan said. "We want to be the kind of franchise players want to belong to, sponsors want to be part of, and Jacksonville is proud of. ... The key point is to sell Jacksonville to the world. We are a well-kept secret, but after today, that's not going to be the case." By all accounts, the Jaguars are the NFL's least popular team. They rank at or near the bottom of the league in website hits as well as Twitter and Facebook interactions. Although Jacksonville is the largest city in the continental United States in terms of land mass, it is home to just 1.3 million people -- and that includes several surrounding areas; London alone has 8 million people. Missing the playoffs in 10 of 12 seasons has made attracting fans a problem in Jacksonville. The team used to pack the stands regularly, even though it plays in a stadium built to house large crowds for the annual Florida-Georgia college football game. But in 2005, the Jaguars decided to cover up nearly 10,000 seats with tarps to reduce capacity and limit television blackouts. Even though the Jaguars haven't blacked out a home game since 2009, they still have struggled to fill EverBank Field. Playing an annual game in London will reduce season-ticket prices by 10 percent, possibly making the remaining package a more affordable and enticing option. Reaction, though, was mixed among the fan base. Some supported the decision and others questioned the team's motives. After all, if the Jaguars become England's team and continue to have issues back home, what's to stop the NFL from moving them across the pond for good? "You can't fault them if anyone is mad about this," kicker Josh Scobee said. "We can only ask for their support in going over there and ask them to watch it on TV." The St. Louis Rams had been scheduled to play in London in 2013 and 2014, but they pulled out last week, citing a need to focus on lease negotiations and ease fan discontent. The Jaguars scooped up the available games -- plus some. "It's just good for the Jaguar brand," tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "It's exciting to go over there and put ourselves on the map worldwide. When I got drafted in 2006, there were some of my family members who didn't even know who the Jaguars were." Players recognized the major pitfalls -- traveling overseas and giving up home games -- but no one knocked the decision publicly. "We know football is the greatest sport in the states, so for fans in other areas who don't get to watch it first hand, it's good for them to experience and see what we all brag about," cornerback Rashean Mathis said. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell joined Khan for the announcement, which fittingly came on a gray, rain-soaked day in Jacksonville -- typical London weather. Goodell reaffirmed his commitment to expanding to multiple games in England and eventually establishing a franchise there. "The big issue for us was finding a community that understood that this could be great for the community, wrap their arms around it and say this is a win-win situation," Goodell said. Khan said the Jaguars are committed to playing all four years at Wembley, even if the team becomes a Super Bowl contender and a hot ticket in Jacksonville. "I think if you make a commitment, you stick with it," said Khan, who bought the team in November for 770 million. "To me, we're all in." Khan added that he would consider playing more games overseas after the deal expires in 2016. He also acknowledged that the payoff probably won't be seen immediately. He suggested that Londoners could fall in love with the Jaguars and decide to visit Jacksonville regularly. The ultimate goal, though, would be to have European companies spend millions in Jacksonville. "If somebody builds a container port, if somebody makes an investment out of Germany or England or Netherlands and they chose Jacksonville, that would be a huge return from my viewpoint," Khan said. "You could have people come here -- we've got beautiful golf, weather -- instead of vacationing in Miami or some place and they come up here and watch a game or two. That would be a huge return for me." Coach Mike Mularkey and cornerback Aaron Ross have made the trip before -- Ross with the New York Giants in 2007, and Mularkey with the Dolphins that year -- and both praised the fans and the experience they gained from making the trip. "I know Shad's been trying to have people recognize what's going on here in this town," Mularkey said. "I think this is a great opportunity to get it. Obviously going overseas, that's making a statement."

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How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

The Capitals found themselves in deep trouble on Saturday.

Game 5 at Capital One Arena provided Washington a golden opportunity to take a 3-2 lead in their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A loss -- another home loss -- would have been a devastating blow.

After battling back from a 2-0 series deficit, to lose in Washington would mean facing elimination in Columbus. Game 5 was the game the Caps needed and it would have slipped away from them if not for Nicklas Backstrom.

The Caps’ most underrated superstar -- the one who is constantly overshadowed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby -- took center stage on Saturday as he tipped a Dmitry Orlov shot past Sergei Bobrovsky at 11:53 of overtime to seal the victory for Washington.

“It was just a good shot from [Orlov],” Backstrom said after the game. “I thought before he had a chance to block it, and I got a tip on it, and it’s usually what happens in the playoffs. Tip goals or rebound goals. That’s the way it is. It was nice.”

Backstrom’s overtime goal capped off a three-point night for the veteran center, who also scored in the first period and assisted on a goal from T.J. Oshie.

The team ended up needing every one of his points.

From the start, Columbus outplayed Washington. With the series tied 2-2, a best-of-three mentality took over and the Blue Jackets pushed hard for the pivotal Game 5 win.

It is in those very moments that team needs its superstar players to step up. In Game 3, it was Holtby who stole the show to help Washington steal a win in Columbus.

On Saturday, it was Backstrom.

Columbus converted a shorthanded goal to seize a 1-0 lead in what was shaping up to be a dominant first period. A fluke goal from Backstrom, however, made sure the score was knotted up, 1-1, after the opening frame.

With the puck behind the goal line, Backstrom tried to slip a pass through the crease. Bobrovsky got a piece of the puck with his stick, but the amount of spin on the pass forced the puck to carom off the stick, off the back of Bobrovsky himself, and into the net.

“I was trying to make a pass,” Backstrom said. “Honestly, got lucky. I don’t know who came back-door there but I was trying for him. I’ll take it.”

After a back and forth game, the Blue Jackets came out swinging to start the third. Down 3-2, Columbus tied the game just 2:30 in and made a real push to win the game in regulation. Washington was outshot 16-1 in the third and looked like they had no push at all.

But the Caps looked like a different team when they took the ice for the extra frame. What happened in between periods?

“As I was leaving the room after the period, I could hear guys, the right guys, all saying the right things,” head coach Barry Trotz said.

When later asked if one of those guys was Backstrom, Trotz said, “Absolutely. He's one of the leaders on our team. They were all talking about let's make sure we're doing the right things. There's a lot of pride, lot of good leadership in that room.”

Whatever Backstrom and the other leaders said did the trick. Washington made a strong push in overtime leading to Backstrom’s game-winning goal.

This isn’t the first time Backstrom has delivered. Saturday’s overtime tally is the fourth of his career. That’s the most in franchise history and tied for fifth in NHL history.

Through his efforts on the ice, the Caps were able to erase a bad first period and steal the win in overtime. But it also took a big effort off the ice to get the job done.

“If you just look at the scoresheet, that doesn't say enough of about Nick Backstrom, his contribution from in the dressing room to on the ice to key moments to key faceoffs,” Trotz said.

“I've been on his soapbox about how complete a player he is and I never really worry about Nick Backstrom. He's got enough games under his belt, he's got enough stats to back it up and he's played huge minutes and he's one of our leaders. He's a tremendous hockey player.”

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John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."

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