After recent games against the Storm and Sun, after a brutal weather system pounded the D.C. metropolitan area this weekend and with the temperatures remaining in the unbearable range, it almost seems appropriate that the struggling Washington Mystics find the Mercury next on the schedule. The Mystics (2-10) returned home following a three straight road losses, but the Verizon Center has been no magic elixir halfway for the WNBA's lowest scoring team midway through their four game homestand. Now after losses to Seattle by eight points and Connecticut by 13, Washington faces Phoenix (4-9) on Sunday (1 p.m.) in a rematch from earlier this month, yet another result that went the wrong way for Coach Trudi Laceys squad.The latest setback Washington has lost nine of 10 games - came Friday night. Trailing by four points at halftime, the Mystics offense powered down upon returning to the court, unable to score during the opening 4:20 of the third quarter. In that stretch the Sun pulled away with a 12-0 run and outscored the Mystics 27-12 in the quarter for a 63-44 lead. When you dont make shots, its a little deflating, Lacey said. We came out missed a couple of shots and turned the ball over. It takes us out of our offensive rhythm. There are two things we have to do. We have to play with energy all the time and we have to take care of the basketball.The low scoring Mystics - 68.4 points per contest on the season and 63.3over its last three games - also need to even out the recent free throw line imbalance.The Mystics have taken 22 fewer attempts in the two losses while beingoutscored at the charity stripe 51-27. Monique Currie scored 20 points in the earlier meeting against the Mercury. That output represented her season-high until the Mystics small forward tallied 21 points against the Sun, sinking two 3-pointers. Over her last four games, the former Bullis star has made half her shots (7 of 14) from beyond the arc. Washington will need more of that deep accuracy - plus steady effort throughout for a winning effort against the Mercury.We need to be more consistent, coming out in the second half ready to fight and ready to play; we just need to leave it all out there, Currie said following Fridays loss. We need to be more confident and aggressive. Teams are coming in here and theyre being the aggressive ones. The Sun came out after halftime and they hit us first.The shorthanded Mercury are coming off an impressive 84-81 win in Chicago on Friday despite suiting up only eight players. DeWanna Bonner, the WNBAs third-leading scorer (20.4), paced four double-digit scorers with 27 points. On June 20, Bonner played the entire 40 minutes and scored a team-high 19 points in an 80-77 win over the Mystics. The 6-foot-4 wing drained a clutch 3-pointer during a frantic comeback as Washington let a five-point lead slip away over the games final two minutes and 26 seconds. Crystal Langhorne led the Mystics with 21 points.Despite the win in Chicago, the Mercury have lose six of eight road games this season playing without injured star Diana Taurasi (hip flexor). Washingtons only two victories have come at home, along with five losses.
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.”
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."