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Texans look to limit mistakes against Patriots

Texans look to limit mistakes against Patriots

HOUSTON (AP) Win the turnover battle.

That's Texans coach Gary Kubiak's biggest concern as his team prepares for a divisional playoff game at New England.

The Patriots lead the NFL in turnover differential this season at plus-25. The Texans have done well in that area this year and were seventh with a plus-12 margin.

But in the first meeting with New England, Matt Schaub threw an interception on Houston's second drive, contributing to an early 14-0 hole in a 42-14 win by the Patriots.

``They get them,'' he said. ``They don't give it up. If we go in there and do anything to help them we're in trouble.''

Kubiak is also preaching the importance of taking advantage of opportunities this week. He was unhappy with Houston's inability to do that in the first meeting with the Patriots.

The Texans were just outside of the red zone when Schaub was intercepted in that game. And Houston went on fourth down twice before halftime and didn't convert after passes fell incomplete.

``Missed opportunities, they hurt all the time, but against these guys they're a lot worse because of what they do offensively and how good they are,'' Kubiak said of the Patriots. ``When you get opportunities to go down there and score some points, you better. You better not hurt yourself. We've got to find ways to do that. They're going to make plays and we understand that, but we got to find a way to make quite a few ourselves.''

Another component of that will be for Houston to score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals like it did again and again against the Bengals. Houston dominated the first half of that game, outgaining Cincinnati 250-53, but led by only two points at halftime after kicking three field goals.

``We've just got to finish,'' Kubiak said. ``We moved the heck out of the ball and had a good day offensively. We've got to finish, got to put those points on the board.''

Especially this week when the Texans face a New England team averaging an NFL-best 34.8 points a game. Houston is averaging 26 points, but managed more than 20 points just once in the last five games.

The Texans are 9 1/2-point underdogs in this one. Kubiak doesn't think his players are concerned about that.

``We know that our effort and how we performed last time wouldn't give us a chance against anybody on the road,'' Kubiak said. ``It's about right now refocusing on all the things we have to do to go down there and have a chance to be successful, and I'm sure that's what they're thinking about.''

That's doesn't mean the Texans haven't noticed that almost no one is giving them a chance to win on Sunday. Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy's piece in the Sunday newspaper called the Texans ``fraudulent,'' and said all the Patriots have to do to get to the AFC championship game is ``beat the terrible Texans.'' It got the attention of Arian Foster.

The star running back responded by changing his Twitter avatar to the first three paragraphs of the column on Monday.

Foster had 32 carries for 140 yards in Houston's wild-card win, and the Texans will certainly need another big game from him against the Patriots. They faced Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins of Cincinnati and not go up against another in Vince Wilfork.

``If you sit there and think you're going to run it at him consistently, it's very difficult,'' Kubiak said of Wilfork. ``They're very good against the run ... the thing that is so difficult, is he plays everywhere. So it's not like you go the other way with the ball or try to avoid something. You're going to have to deal with him all day long.''

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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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