Capitals

Bears blitz Bruins 49-26 behind Martin, Florence

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Bears blitz Bruins 49-26 behind Martin, Florence

SAN DIEGO (AP) Routing the UCLA Bruins almost seemed like a sidelight for Baylor Bears quarterback Nick Florence.

Nabbing one of Robert Griffin III's school records? Now that was a big deal.

The Bears overwhelmed the No. 17 Bruins 49-26 in the Holiday Bowl on Thursday night as Florence threw for two scores and ran for another. Glasco Martin ran for three touchdowns.

Florence completed 10 of 13 passes for 188 yards, giving him 4,309 for the season to break RG3's school record of 4,293 set in his 2011 Heisman Trophy-winning season.

``For me, I just wanted a chance to play. I just happened to follow a Heisman Trophy winner,'' Florence said. ``I'm not Robert. I'm not 6-3. I don't run a 4.3. You saw that tonight. Man, if I could run a 4.3 it would be nice. So I just had to be me. I tried to manage this offense and play within myself. He's a heck of player, he's done a heck of a job for this program, put us on the map. I'm humbled and honored to hold that record. He deserves it. I never thought that would have happened this year. I just wanted to win games.''

Baylor (8-5) won its final four games and five of six.

``That was a question we asked all our players, `What was going to happen now that Robert's gone?''' coach Art Briles said. ``And our guys responded, fought together, believed in each other. They have always sustained and never lost focus.''

Lache Seastrunk rushed 16 times for 138 yards and one score for Baylor, which outgained UCLA 494-362. The Bears came in leading the nation in total offense with 578.8 yards per game.

Baylor's defense came up big, too. The Bears sacked Brett Hundley six times, including two by Chris McAllister, and shut down UCLA's career rushing leader Johnathan Franklin. Franklin, who averaged 130.8 yards this season, gained 12 yards on his first carry of the game but was a non-factor after that, finishing with just 34 yards on 14 carries.

Overall, the Bruins gained only 33 yards on 28 carries. They came in having averaged 202.9 yards rushing.

``They played well upfront,'' UCLA coach Jim Mora said. ``When we are at our best is when we can run the football. We couldn't find any room to the football. They played physical.''

Hundley was 26 of 50 for 329 yards and three touchdowns to set UCLA's season passing record with 3,740 yards. The old record was 3,470 by Cade McNown in 1998.

UCLA (9-5) lost its final three.

The Bruins were never in this one. Baylor raced to a 21-0 lead by early in the second quarter on Martin's 4-yard run and Florence's TD passes of 8 yards to Antwan Goodley and 55 yards to Tevin Reese.

UCLA punted four times and lost the ball on downs before getting a break when Baylor's Jordan Navjar fumbled after a reception when he was hit by Eric Kendricks, with Randal Goforth recovering at the Bears 21. Two plays later, Joseph Fauria caught a 22-yard pass from Hundley to pull the Bruins to 21-7.

Baylor quickly added two more touchdowns to put it out of reach at 35-7. Martin burst up the middle for his second touchdown of the game, a 26-yarder, and, after UCLA punted yet again, Seastrunk broke free for a 43-yard touchdown run with 1:58 left before halftime.

UCLA then converted two fourth downs, including a fake punt, to move to the Baylor 12 with 7 seconds left. On fourth-and-10, Mora opted to go for a field goal and Ka'imi Fairbairn converted from 30 yards.

Martin added a 1-yard TD run in the third quarter and Florence had a 1-yard scoring run in the fourth.

Martin had 98 yards on 21 carries.

Baylor rushed for 306 yards.

``We knew coming in that we could run the ball well, and the O-line did a heck of a job and made my job easy,'' Florence said. ``It makes throwing a lot easier.''

Hundley threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Shaq Evans early in the fourth quarter and a 34-yarder to Logan Sweet as the game ended.

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A first period to forget, a strong night for Holtby and hope for the third line

A first period to forget, a strong night for Holtby and hope for the third line

 

WASHINGTON -- The Capitals returned home only to have their six-game winning streak snapped by a Columbus Blue Jackets team that had lost its last four.

Check out the recap of the game here.

Observations from the loss

The first period is in the running for worst of the season

Washington was outshot 20-6, could not get possession and could not get the puck out of the defensive zone. Things were getting comically bad as Michal Kempny accidentally shot the puck on his own net which forced a save from Braden Holtby and then a trip as he tried to keep Pierre-Luc Dubois from getting to the loose puck. Later in the period, Gustav Nyquist got a breakaway chance when Jakub Vrana basically passed the puck right to him.

Why was it so bad? Maybe it was the jet lag, maybe the Caps came into this one thinking they would have an easy time against a bad team or maybe it was just one of those nights. Regardless, it was bad. While Washington played better as the game went along, that first period really set the tone for the entire 60 minutes.

Holtby was the only reason the Caps were in this game

The Caps will likely have to choose between Holtby and Ilya Samsonov in the offseason as their goalie of the future. Because of that, some fans are already drawing lines in the sand and declaring themselves for Team Holtby or Team Samsonov. Those Holtby detractors take every opportunity to declare every bad game as Holtby’s fault, but that was just not the case on Monday.

Holtby was the only thing, the only thing keeping Washington in this game.

Holtby made 33 saves for the game, 19 of which came in just the first period alone. The third goal Holtby allowed was soft as he showed Riley Nash too much daylight off the post allowing Nash to bank the puck off him and in, but besides that, it was a really strong game for the Caps' netminder overall.

The third line showed signs of life but remains a work in progress

Coming into this game, Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller, and Richard Panik had played less than 24 minutes together at 5-on-5 this season. Having a full lineup back, Reirden was able to utilize this line and the results were good. They ultimately did not produce any points, but the line looked very good to start and it looks like there is potential there.

"They did some good things," Reirden said. "I thought early on they were probably one of our better lines to start the game. They were the group that was giving us some offense and giving us some possession time and I thought executing at probably the highest level."

Look, I know many fans out there are done with Panik already, but give him time to actually play on the line he was signed to play with. The Caps have banked a ton of points and sit first in the entire NHL. They have the flexibility to experiment with the third line and see if that trio can build some chemistry together.

Keep an eye on the home record

The loss drops Washington's home record to 8-3-4 for the season. Not terrible, but not great either especially when compared to their 14-2-1 record on the road. I'm not ready to think there is something wrong with theCaps at home yet, but this is something that is worth monitoring.

Turning point

The Caps had nothing going for them through 40 minutes, but it would not be the first time they were able to rally from a multi-goal deficit in the third period to get the win. Heck, I'm not sure people would even be surprised by it anymore. When Alex Ovechkin scored less than a minute into the third, my gut reaction was OK, here we go. Here comes the rally.

Nash's goal put an end to all of that when he was able to bank the puck in off of Holtby from behind the goal line. At that point, you knew the game was over.

Play of the game

On the first period breakaway Nyquist received courtesy of Vrana, Nyquist tried to beat Holtby with the backhand through the 5-hole. The Caps' netminder recovered well and swept out the pads to deny him the goal. Had Washington come back to make a game of this one, this save would have been one of the pivotal moments of the game.

Stat of the game

Congratulations to Craig "Woody" Leydig!

Quote of the game

Reirden on what went wrong in the first period:

"There wasn't a whole lot going right. That was, to me, one of our worst two periods of the year."

Fan predictions

You got the score right, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had one goal and one assist. I'm pretty sure you meant that the Caps were going to win though so you didn't nail this one as much as it looks like you did.

Umm...just a narrow miss there.

Go home Mike, you're drunk.

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Caps finally lay an egg to end six-game winning streak

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Caps finally lay an egg to end six-game winning streak

WASHINGTON - Put it away. 

Honestly, what else can the Capitals say after a 5-2 loss to the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday at Capital One Arena. 

They had won six games in a row. They had just swept a four-game road trip to Detroit and the three California teams (San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim). Things were going great. That's always dangerous in the NHL.  

Use any excuse you want - a trap game before playing the powerhouse Bruins visit in two days, a letdown coming home for the first time since Nov. 29, a sleepy Monday night crowd in early December - but the Capitals were having none of it. 

"Even if you had a winning streak like this, I think it's important - when you lose, there's no easy games in this league, that's for sure,” Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. “You’ve just got to bounce back right away. We have a good test on Wednesday against Boston. I think, right?"

Forgive Backstrom if he wasn’t quite certain that a showdown loomed with the Bruins, who have the second-most points in the NHL behind Washington (22-5-5). It’s a tough time of year for players and the calendar gets away from them.

But after eight games out of the lineup with an upper-body injury, Backstrom was just happy to be back on the ice. He even scored a goal late in the third period to cut the Columbus lead to 4-2 before an empty-netter put things away. 

Up in Ottawa, the Bruins (20-5-6) were also losing a game you wouldn’t expect: 5-2 to Ottawa. Combine the Blue Jackets and Senators have just 55 points. That’s barely more than Washington (49) and Boston (46) on their own, but in the NHL there’s too much parity to take any game for granted.

“You've got to be on top of your game or you're susceptible to ending up on the wrong end of things,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “We’ve been really consistent, obviously, through 30-plus games of doing that. Tonight, we weren't. Had a bad start to the game. It cost us.”

Consider it a humbling lesson. Just like when the New York Islanders won a game at Tampa Bay on Monday night and the lead in the Metropolitan Division is seven points for the Capitals. No reason to panic, no reason to do anything other than start a new streak against a top-level opponent on Wednesday that should give both Washington and Boston a good sense of where their game is.

Take the good and toss the bad: Backstrom is back and scored. The penalty kill, with Lars Eller playing a bigger role, was solid again at 5-for-5 and the third line of Eller. Carl Hagelin and Richard Panik played as a unit for the first time since early October. 

Braden Holtby (33 saves, 37 shots) had a great first period in goal, but gave up an ugly bad-angle shot in the third to Riley Nash just a few minutes after Alex Ovechkin had cut the lead to 2-1 in the first minute of the third period with his 21st goal. But Columbus scored three times in the third - once on an empty net. A game Washington was chasing almost the entire way turned into a deserved Blue Jackets win. Things have gone so well so far in 2019-20. Time to flush it fast. The Bruins await.  

“We were lucky it was only a 1-0 game because of the way [Holtby] played,” Hagelin said. “We started getting better and better as the game went on, but it wasn’t enough. That’s one of those games where you have to forget about it and move on.” 

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