Capitals

Notre Dame trying to find answers vs. S. Florida

Notre Dame trying to find answers vs. S. Florida

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame headed to South Florida looking for answers.

With sixth-year forward Scott Martin out indefinitely with a bad left knee - possibly even for the season - coach Mike Brey is opening competition for who will take his place. The competition will be between Tom Knight, who has seen more playing time lately, Garrick Sherman, who hasn't played the past two games and freshmen Zach Auguste and Austin Burgett.

``There's a lot of games left. If we have to learn on the fly for a while to have what need to have in February, that's what we've got to do,'' Brey said.

Brey points out the 24th-ranked Fighting Irish (15-4, 3-3 Big East) have lost key players during two of the past three seasons and still made the NCAA tournament. When Luke Harangody, that squad's leading scorer, injured his knee in February 2010, Brey scrapped his offense and went to a more deliberate style and won six straight. Last season the Irish lost Tim Abromaitis early in the season and still managed to finish 22-12.

``So it's territory we've been in before,'' Brey said.

The loss of Martin, though, comes at a bad time. Two weeks ago, the Irish were 14-1 overall and a win over Connecticut on Jan. 12 would have given the Irish their best start since opening 24-1 under coach Digger Phelps during the 1973-74 season. Instead they have lost three of four, including two of three at home capped by a 16-point loss against Georgetown on Monday. The Irish will be seeking to turn it around when they play at last-place South Florida (10-8, 1-5) on Saturday.

Brey said the Irish have to play better in all facets. The Irish are averaging 73.1 points a game, but are averaging just 59 points the past four games. Brey said the Irish need to do a better job of screening for each other and getting better shots. The Irish also have been outrebounded in four straight.

Point guard Eric Atkins said believes the Irish need to be better defensively.

``We just have to be a tougher team, grabbing rebounds, getting to the 50-50 balls. Those are just toughness aspects of the game we have to get better at,'' he said.

Jack Cooley, the leading scorer at 14.8 points a game, said the Irish need to better as a unit.

``This team, especially last year, got through funks as a unit and that's what we're going to have to do this year, come together through adversity,'' he said.

The Irish will be looking for someone to step up and replace Martin as the team's vocal leader. Brey said he met with the other four starters and told them he's expecting them all to fill the void.

``That needs to be developed over the next couple of weeks. That's something I really need to keep an eye on,'' he said.

Brey believes part of his team's troubles is that they put so much pressure on themselves to try to win a league title that when things started going wrong the Irish started getting tight. He's telling them to forget all that.

``Let's just play and compete,'' he said. ``Let's not overanalyze this thing.''

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.