Capitals

Anderson, Arkansas not panicking after tough loss

Anderson, Arkansas not panicking after tough loss

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Mike Anderson's honeymoon period at Arkansas might very well have come to an end after an uninspired loss at Texas A&M.

The second-year coach, however, is still holding out hope of leading the Razorbacks back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.

Arkansas (9-5, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) had won five in a row before Wednesday, when the streak came to a crashing halt in the 69-51 loss to the Aggies.

``The one thing, we're not going to panic,'' Anderson said. ``I know that. I mean, if you look at the progress this team has made up until this point, we're going in the right direction. We took a step back.''

That the Razorbacks lost away from home was hardly a surprise, given they were 1-7 in SEC road games last season and have yet to win away from Bud Walton Arena this season. What was surprising was how poorly Arkansas played, scoring a season low that was more than 30 points below their average.

The Razorbacks shot a dismal 4 of 15 from the free throw line and were also outrebounded 51-27, enough to even test the patience of the level-headed Anderson - who singled out guard Mardracus Wade for not grabbing a rebound in 27 minutes of action.

``They've got to hear it loud and clear, `If you're going to be able to play, there's accountability when you're out on the floor,''' Anderson said.

Even more surprising was the performance of second-leading scorer Marshawn Powell. The junior, who was averaging 15.2 points, struggled with foul trouble in 12 minutes of action and was held scoreless for only the second time in his career.

The only other time Powell didn't score in a game was while playing only one minute against Texas Southern in 2010. His struggles away from home this season, however, have become a common occurrence.

Powell is now averaging 7.0 points in four road games, well below his overall average of 14.1. That includes a 2-point effort in a neutral-court loss to Arizona State, and the forward is now shooting just 35.1 percent (13 of 37) away from home.

Arkansas didn't make its players available to talk in advance of Saturday's home game with Vanderbilt (6-7, 0-1), but Anderson refused to call Powell's poor play away from home anything but a coincidence. Anderson said Powell must do a better job of playing through foul trouble, and he has to do a better job of giving the junior the opportunity to do so.

``He's one of our most experienced forwards on our basketball team, so I think it's going to be important,'' Anderson said. ``But hopefully he'll find his stride. He's been pretty good so far this year, and now the SEC play is here, we want him to be even better.''

Anderson also refused to weigh himself down with big-picture concerns about a program that's now 15-16 in its last 31 games dating to last season. The former Alabama-Birmingham and Missouri coach preached a return to the national spotlight for Arkansas - which won the national championship in 1994 - when he was hired to replace the fired John Pelphrey.

The latest loss was a cold reminder of just much work is left to resurrect a program that hasn't made it past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament since 1996.

``I just think it's the mental, the mental toughness has got to get there,'' Anderson said. ``We've got to be a little more mentally tougher, especially when adversity takes place.''

The Razorbacks lost nine of their final 12 games last season, missing the NCAAs for the fourth straight season. Anderson, for one, isn't about to give up just yet on a return to that level - this year or in the future.

``When we started the year, that (was) our goal and is still our goal,'' Anderson said. ``I think, you know, certainly I made the statement to start the year; we want to be an elite program. We will be an elite program. And like I say, everything is a work in progress. We'll continue to work. It's going to happen.''

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Ovechkin-less Caps win in Montreal in return from the All-Star break

Ovechkin-less Caps win in Montreal in return from the All-Star break

With Alex Ovechkin serving a one-game suspension, the Capitals still were able to pull out a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday in the team's return from the all-star break.

The power play contributed a goal despite the loss of Ovechkin and Braden Holby played well late in the game to preserve the win.

Here is how Washington won.

The power play

Coming into Monday's game, the Caps had the 30th ranked power play since Dec. 1 striking at only 14.1-percent. With no Ovechkin, it seemed unlikely that the power play would be able to suddenly find success against Montreal. Yet, the power play looked much improved with crisp puck movement that kept the Canadiens guessing. The puck movement was much quicker and more deliberate than the power play had shown of late which has looked far too slow and indecisive.
Washington cashed in with a goal from Tom Wilson as Jakub Vrana fed him from behind the net and he beat the defense to the slot.

Petry’s second goal

Jeff Petry opened the scoring with a goal for Montreal in the first period. Wilson tied the game at 1, but Petry scored again early in the second period...for the Caps.

Brendan Leipsic tipped the puck behind the net and Lars Eller grabbed it and tried to stuff it. He couldn't. Travis Boyd then tipped the puck in front of the net where Petry was trying to cover the back door to help out netminder Cary Price. Instead of helping, however, he ended up kicking the puck into his own net giving him one goal for each team and giving the Caps the 2-1 lead.

Kuznetsov on his butt

All-star defenseman Shea Weber had the puck in Montreal's defensive zone and was pressured by Evgeny Kuznetsov. In terms of a forecheck matchup, you would have to give the edge to Weber in that situation and nine times out of 10, you'd be right. This time, however, Weber lost the puck behind him with Kuznetsov pressuring. Weber turned and knocked over Kuznetsov to try to get to the puck. On his butt, Kuznetsov still managed to get a stick to the puck, passed it to T.J. Oshie who dropped it off to Jakub Vrana. Vrana netted it for his 23rd goal of the season, but the play was all started by the great forecheck by Kuznetsov.

Holtby's third period

When Holtby is feeling it, he is hard to beat. Protecting the Caps' lead, Holtby was strong in the final frame with 14 saves on 15 shots. The save of the night came when Joel Armia tried to tip a puck past Holtby and succeeded. The puck hit the post and Armia raised his arms to celebrate. Holtby, however, plucked the puck out of the air with the glove before it could cross the line which was confirmed by review.

Holtby had plenty of struggles heading into the all-star break, but was strong in the team's return with 31 saves.

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A response game for Holtby, a butt pass and some power for the power play

A response game for Holtby, a butt pass and some power for the power play

The Capitals made sure the one-game suspension to Alex Ovechkin did not cost them with a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the win

Better power play

Even without Alex Ovechkin, the power play looked much improved. The most noticeable improvement was the puck movement.

One of the issues on the power play has been slow and indecisive puck movement. The Caps were much quicker with their passes on Monday and kept the puck constantly moving which kept Montreal guessing.

Washington's power play has focused largely on position over movement which is fine and was productive for several years years. Lately, however, if the passes the players want aren't open, they freeze up with the puck, hold onto it too long, then try to force passes through covered passing lanes. On Monday, each time a player took a pass, the puck was off their stick shortly after. They already knew where the puck was going when they got the puck and quickly moved it not allowing the penalty kill to get set.

The key now will be continuing that puck movement when Ovechkin returns.

A good night for Holtby

If you're going to get all over Braden Holtby for every bad game, you have to give him credit when he has a good one. Holtby allowed only two goals on Monday. The first was a 3-on-2 with Dmitry Orlov and T.J. Oshie playing defense and Orlov misplayed it allowing Jeff Petry wide open in front of the net. The second came as Dale Weiss was also left alone in front of the net. Holtby played it awkwardly coming out to challenge Weiss, but did not extend the pads to try to force Weiss wide and gave him too much room. Still, the defense left him out to dry in both situations.

Otherwise, it was a very strong game.

Holtby made 14 saves in the third period alone and 31 saves overall for a .939 save percentage on the night. It is the first time in eight games he has managed a save percentage over .900.

Turning point

Montreal took a 1-0 lead off a Jeff Petry goal and the Canadiens were all over the Caps to start. Then Washington earned a power play opportunity and, well, it was awful with Ovechkin, surely it would be terrible without him. Instead, Wilson scored to tie the game and the power play looked much improved. Suddenly, the Caps were back in the game.

Play of the game

This is great forecheck work by Evgeny Kuznetsov on one of the best defensemen in the game, Shea Weber. He forced a turnover then made the pass from his butt to set up the goal.

Stat of the game

Lars Eller loves playing against Montreal. He recorded one assist and was one of the Caps' best players on Monday.

Quote of the game

Holtby has had struggles in the past, but he always seems to rebound at some point and return to his dominant self. Todd Reirden called Monday's game a "response" performance for the netminder after his best performance in several weeks.


Fan predictions

Close. The Caps rebounded from a 1-0 deficit and ended up winning 4-2.

Saw a lot of predictions for two goals for Richard Panik who played in Ovechkin's spot on the top line. Panik had two shots on goal, but no points in 12:35 of even-strength ice time.

No goals for John Carlson, but Holtby did have a strong game and the Caps had a two-goal win.

Bold.

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