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Nuggets spoil Love's surprising debut for Wolves

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Nuggets spoil Love's surprising debut for Wolves

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Andre Iguodala had 18 points and nine rebounds to spoil Kevin Love's surprise season debut in the Denver Nuggets' 101-94 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

Danilo Gallinari scored 19 points for the Nuggets, who withstood a furious start by a Timberwolves team buoyed by the return of their All-Star power forward.

Love scored 34 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, helping the Wolves take a 17-point lead in the first half. But he didn't get a whole lot of help in his first game in nearly five weeks. Nikola Pekovic had 10 points and seven rebounds in his return from a three-game absence.

After a sluggish start to the season, the Nuggets (6-6) have picked up two straight quality road wins against Memphis and Minnesota.

Ty Lawson had 18 points and nine assists and Kenneth Faried had 14 rebounds for the Nuggets, who overcame 20 turnovers.

Love broke his right hand on Oct. 18, about two weeks before the start of the regular season, and the team estimated a recovery time of six to eight weeks. But he quietly rejoined the team at practice during a four-day break between games, and the Wolves did their best to keep a lid on his return for as long as possible.

Coach Rick Adelman even dodged a question about Love's progress about 75 minutes before the game, but word leaked out a few minutes later that Love was back in the starting lineup less than five weeks from his injury.

The stunned Timberwolves fans roared like they haven't all season when he was announced in the starting lineup, and the surprises just kept coming.

During his halftime interview with FoxSports North, Love said he called his father on Wednesday to tell him he was playing, then asked if he had any advice.

``Let it fly,'' Stan Love told his son.

Did he ever.

Love scored 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting in the first quarter, an incredibly fluid performance considering his long layoff. J.J. Barea and Pekovic returned from injuries as well, and the Wolves led by 17 points in the first half, but Love's Olympic teammate helped Denver come roaring back in the third quarter.

Iguodala hit three 3-pointers and then unleashing a spin move in transition and a dunk over two Timberwolves to tie the game at 67. Lawson added another from long range and Faried threw down a dunk that gave the Nuggets a 92-87 lead with 2:41 to play, and Denver was able to hold on.

Barea finished with 12 points, but the Wolves missed nine free throws. Love missed six of those.

Andre Miller scored all 11 of his points in the fourth quarter for Denver.

NOTES: Faried had just four points before fouling out. ... Love picked up a technical foul in the third quarter for tossing former teammate Kosta Koufos to the ground after they got tangled up underneath the basket. ... Timberwolves PG Luke Ridnour picked up a rare technical foul in the third quarter for gesturing after a foul call from referee Danny Crawford. ... Crawford gave Faried a technical for the same thing later in the period

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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.