Capitals

The scoreboard, and the clock, both favored 'Bama

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The scoreboard, and the clock, both favored 'Bama

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) Alabama controlled just about every aspect of the BCS title game. Including the clock.

On the way to beating Notre Dame 42-14 for the national championship on Monday night, the Crimson Tide also won the time-of-possession battle in every quarter - and by a fairly significant margin in three of those periods.

For the game, Alabama held the ball for 38 minutes, 13 seconds, compared with 21:47 for the Fighting Irish.

And the tone was set in the opening quarter, when Alabama had the ball for just over 12 minutes, running 22 plays to Notre Dame's eight and ending that period with a 202-23 edge in total yards.

``We had a hard time getting off the field, and a lot of that had to do with Alabama,'' Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. ``They ran the ball effectively. For us, we've been able to manage the run game. They were able to run the ball effectively, and then obviously when you do that, it opens up so much of the play-action game.''

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RUN, BAMA, RUN: When Alabama runs, Alabama wins.

That axiom held true once again Monday night in the BCS title game - for the 50th straight time.

The Crimson Tide have rushed for at least 150 yards in a game on 50 different occasions since the start of the 2008 season. And they've won every one of those contests, after rushing for 265 yards on the way to a 42-14 win over Notre Dame.

The last time Alabama ran for more than 150 yards and lost was Nov. 17, 2007, when the Crimson Tide were beaten by Louisiana-Monroe 21-14.

Alabama finished 7-6 that season. In the five seasons that have followed, the Tide has 61 wins, tying Boise State for the most in major college football over that span.

And, most notably, Alabama now has three of the last four BCS national titles. Naturally, the Tide ran for at least 150 yards in all three of those title tilts.

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TOUGH CALL: Alabama might have gotten a break early in the BCS title game when the Crimson Tide appeared to fumble a punt - but kept the football anyway.

The Tide held a 7-0 lead when Christion Jones muffed his attempt at fair-catching a Notre Dame punt. The ball was loose and Notre Dame appeared to recover, but officials said the Irish interfered with Jones' try at a catch.

Replays suggested that Jones was hit by one of his own teammates, not any Notre Dame players.

Alabama kept the ball and wound up scoring on the drive for a 14-0 lead, on the way to a 42-14 win.

``What I disputed was the validity of the fair catch,'' Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. ``I thought it was an invalid fair-catch signal. The official thought otherwise. And then of course we couldn't tell exactly, but our guys that watched it on the video thought that we did make contact. That would have been a nice play to go our way early in the game. Obviously it didn't go our way, but ... it certainly didn't change the outcome of this football game.''

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BIGGEST CROWD: The BCS title game was the most highly attended event in the history of Sun Life Stadium.

The announced attendance for Alabama-Notre Dame was 80,120 - a bit higher than the previous mark of 78,468, set four years ago when Florida and Oklahoma played here for the national championship.

Those 80,120 tickets will result in $80,120 being donated toward a fund for the victims of last month's school massacre in Newtown, Conn. The Orange Bowl Committee announced the donation on Monday night.

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SABAN'S RINGS: Alabama coach Nick Saban is pretty tough to beat in big games.

He's now 8-1 in championship games - 4-1 in Southeastern Conference title matchups during his stints at Alabama and LSU, and 4-0 in games that decided the BCS national title.

``I think it's pretty special what we've accomplished, what the players accomplished, what the coaches accomplished. I think it's really special,'' Saban said. ``And one of these days, when I'm sitting on the side of a hill watching the stream go by, I'll probably figure it out even more.''

Of course, in a classic Saban move, he immediately dropped the sense of nostalgia and returned to his next challenge - that being next season.

``What about next year's team? You've got to think about that, too,'' Saban said.

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2 BETTER THAN 1: The BCS title game marked the sixth time that Notre Dame entered a No. 1-vs.-No. 2 matchup as the top-ranked team in the country.

It was also the first time the Irish lost one of those clashes.

The Irish had been 4-0-1 when playing as No. 1 against No. 2 - before falling to Alabama 42-14 on Monday night. The loss also denied Irish coach Brian Kelly what would have been career win No. 200.

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Alex Ovechkin's evolution as a player was on full display in Game 6

Alex Ovechkin's evolution as a player was on full display in Game 6

We all know that Alex Ovechkin is a world-class goal scorer. He is the best goal scorer of his generation and perhaps the best of all time. He tallied another two goals Monday in Game 6, but that’s not what really impressed head coach Barry Trotz.

While Ovechkin's career is full of highlight reel goals, it was the ugly plays that really caught Trotz's eye on Monday.

"[Ovechkin's] evolved in areas of his game," Trotz said after the game. "He’s not just at that dot. He’ll go to the front of the net, he’s not scared to do that. It’s just adding layers to his game."

Ovechkin's first goal of the game was not pretty. It won't make any Top 10 lists, it won't be shown throughout the U.S. and Canada. It was an ugly rebound goal...and it was beautiful.

Just four minutes after Nick Foligno tied the game, Ovechkin put the Caps back ahead with a rebound goal. He had parked himself in front of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and was in perfect position when Bobrovsky made a kick out save to backhand the rebound into the empty net.

Those are the type of plays we did not always see from the Great 8 and it didn't stop there.

As Washington tried to close out the game, Ovechkin went all out trying to help his team preserve the lead as he blocked a shot from Ryan Murray with less than three minutes to go.

"I’m probably as proud of him right at the end of the game blocking shots and doing that type of thing," Trotz said. "That’s full commitment. When that was necessary, that’s where you get your street cred with your teammates. You’ve got to block a shot when it’s necessary and get a puck out when it’s necessary. I’d probably give him more props on that than even scoring goals because that’s what you really expect of him."

Few expected a 32-year-old Ovechkin to rebound from a 33-goal season, but he did just that with 49 goals in 2017-18 to win his seventh Rocket Richard Trophy as the league-leader. The reason why was on full display on Monday. It is because he has evolved his game. Instead of relying just on the quick rushes, pretty one-timers and incredible dekes, he has committed more to getting to the contested areas and scoring those dirty goals.

That commitment on offense seemed to translate to the defense as well as he was there blocking shots with the rest of his teammates.

"Those are the necessary things, those necessary details that allow you to win," Trotz said. "If you don’t have them, then you’re not going to win."

MORE CAPITALS: Pens again: Capitals to face Penguins in NHL Playoffs for third consecutive year

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Capitals to face Penguins in NHL Playoffs for third consecutive year

Capitals to face Penguins in NHL Playoffs for third consecutive year

The Caps are headed to the 2018 NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins… again.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

Yes, for the third time in three years, the Capitals will play the Penguins, hoping to take down the defending Stanley Cup champions and advance out of the second round of the playoffs and to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since the 1998 season, when the team made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Capitals are riding momentum from their first-round series win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, where they fought back from an 0-2 series hole to win the series thanks to a 6-3 victory in Game 6 Monday night in Columbus.

That momentum coupled with home-ice advantage — should they choose to capitalize on that this time around — could create an ideal atmosphere for the Caps to take a 2-0 series lead before heading to Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4.

A perennial problem, Sidney Crosby enters this series playing some of his best playoff hockey. In their 4-2 series win over the Philadelphia Flyers, the Pens’ captain scored six goals in six games, including a hat trick in the opening matchup.

But he’s not the only one creating havoc for goalies. Center Jake Guentzel is tied with Crosby at the top of the league in goals and points in the playoffs. The pair each had six goals and seven assists against the Flyers, as well as 17 shots on goal apiece.

Is it possible they’ll get stonewalled by Braden Holtby, who — despite not starting initially in the first two games for the Caps against the Blue Jackets — is rocking a 93.6 save percentage and ranks fourth in the league with a 1.66 goals against average among goaltenders who have played more than one postseason game.

If the Caps can find a spark in their offense with Holtby staying strong in goal, perhaps this could be the year they finally slide past the Pens.

However, history isn’t exactly on Washington’s side. In the second-round series from the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, the Pens hold an 8-5 record over the Caps, eliminating them both years on their way to back-to-back Stanley Cups.

Pittsburgh leads the Caps in the overall playoff game record, 38-24, and they’ve met for 10 series in the postseason, dating back to 1990-91. Four times the series was pushed to a Game 7, but the Caps never came out on top.

The one and only time the Caps have ever eliminated the Pens from the playoffs was in the 1993-94 season, when they beat Pittsburgh 4-2 in the first round before losing to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

But hey, this year could become the second time in franchise history the Caps take down the Pens.

The NHL has yet to announce when Game 1 of the Capitals vs. Penguins series will take place, but with the Wizards playing Game 6 of their NBA Playoff series at home on Friday, the likliest start date is either Thursday, April 26 or Saturday, April 28.