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Wisconsin stumbles into Big Ten championship game

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Wisconsin stumbles into Big Ten championship game

MADISON, Wis. (AP) Wisconsin isn't about to apologize.

Yes, the Badgers (7-4, 4-3) are stumbling into the Big Ten title game after a 21-14 overtime loss to No. 4 Ohio State on Saturday. Currently third in the Leaders Division, they've basically been gifted a shot at playing for the Rose Bowl because the Buckeyes and Penn State, the two teams ahead of them, are ineligible for the postseason because of NCAA violations.

But it's not as if that's their doing.

``We don't control that,'' quarterback Curt Phillips said. ``We just have to make the most of this opportunity.''

Make no mistake, the Badgers badly wanted to beat Ohio State (11-0, 7-0) to prove they're worthy of being in the Big Ten title game. Get a little payback from last year, too, when a struggling Buckeyes squad stunned the Badgers on a desperation heave in the closing seconds.

They came close, forcing overtime when Phillips found Jacob Pederson for a 5-yard score with eight seconds left in regulation. But Carlos Hyde gave the Buckeyes a quick lead, and Wisconsin could find nothing on offense in the extra period.

It was their second straight loss in overtime at Camp Randall, following a 16-13 loss to Michigan State last month. The Badgers' four losses this season have been by a total of 16 points.

``It hurts to do everything you can in your power and still fall short,'' Montee Ball said. ``And it's happened twice to us, back to back at home. It's not a good feeling.''

The lone bright spot for the Badgers was that Ball scored his 78th touchdown in the second quarter, tying the major college career record set by Travis Prentice of Miami (Ohio) in 1999. Ball had a chance to claim the record for himself, but he fumbled at the goal line with less than three minutes left in regulation.

Ball leaped over a scrum with the ball held in front of him, and Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier punched it loose.

``It's a teaching moment for everybody, players and coaches,'' coach Bret Bielema said. ``I had this flash in my mind when we were running up to the line for that play, `Don't jump. Don't jump.' Because I knew (Ball) was doing anything he could to get in the end zone. And I can't discredit him for the effort.''

This whole season has been a series of teaching moments for the Badgers.

The year began with Ball being attacked just before training camp opened, leaving him with a concussion that kept him out of practice and slowed him at the start of the season. Starting quarterback Danny O'Brien was benched after three games and replaced by Joel Stave, only to have him break his collarbone against Michigan State. Phillips now is getting the first starts of his career after being sidelined by three ACL surgeries.

Oh, star linebacker Chris Borland missed Saturday's game against the Buckeyes, too.

Every week seems to bring a new challenge, and just withstanding them ought to count for something. On Saturday, Wisconsin outplayed the Buckeyes for most of the second half after falling behind 14-0. Wisconsin held the Buckeyes to 236 yards of offense, more than 200 yards below their average, and only allowed them to cross midfield once after halftime.

But the Badgers also got the ball at their own 35 or better four times, and only came away with one touchdown.

``It's times like these when you really, really find out what kind of people you have,'' Bielema said. ``This is when things would fall apart. ... The guys keep buckling up and playing, and it really shows the true character of who you are. I'm very, very proud of them. But being proud of them won't get them a win.''

The Badgers will keep trying, however. They have another chance to show they're worthy of that Big Ten title game next week, when they travel to Penn State.

``We're just going to make sure we correct our mistakes going to Penn State, and to play hard and finish off the regular season right,'' Ball said. ``I'm sure winning in Indy and going to the Rose Bowl and winning there would erase all the losses we've had. Because that's our goal.''

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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.