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Bengals revive season, beat reeling Giants 31-13

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Bengals revive season, beat reeling Giants 31-13

CINCINNATI (AP) The best game of Andy Dalton's career saved the Cincinnati Bengals' season, ended their four-game losing streak and provided a chance to get back into playoff contention with a strong closing run.

Things aren't so upbeat for the defending Super Bowl champions. Sure, the New York Giants are still in first place, but their trend is definitely down.

Dalton threw a career-high four touchdown passes - each to a different receiver - for a 31-13 victory Sunday that left the Bengals revived and the Giants reeling.

The Bengals (4-5) knew they had to win the game to have any realistic chance of making it to the playoffs.

Now, they get to play Kansas City and Oakland the next two weeks with an opportunity to get back over .500.

The odds are still against them, but the win over New York (6-3) kept them in it for at least a little while longer.

``To beat the defending Super Bowl champs is a big deal,'' said Andrew Hawkins, who had the second of the Bengals' four touchdown catches. ``The NFL has great parity. This was a great example of it. Today we played extremely well. Spirits were high.''

The Bengals were spirited leading up to the game. Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green told a New York sports radio station that the Giants ``have a lot of holes'' on their defense, which has given up a lot of big plays.

Some of the Giants were miffed. Safety Antrel Rolle said he'd let his pads do the talking during the game.

Rolle gave up one of the four TD passes, and the Giants were pretty much out of words to describe their all-around worst showing of the season.

``Just a little subpar from what we're used to,'' said Victor Cruz, who had three catches for only 26 yards. ``I don't know how to explain it. I don't know what's going on. I don't know what's wrong.''

It's starting to feel familiar. Last season, the Giants also opened 6-2, then dropped four in a row. The Giants won three of their last four to reach the playoffs, where they got hot at the right time.

``Obviously we know that last year we went through a tough stretch and we were able to come out and win some games when we needed to, get back in the mix and make the playoffs,'' Eli Manning said. ``We still have the lead in the division now.''

The Giants remain ahead of Dallas (4-5) in the NFC East, but head into their bye week with a lot of problems. The most puzzling ones involve the offense, which was one of the league's best the first six weeks but has fallen apart.

Manning threw for only 125 yards - his lowest total in four years - during a sloppy 24-20 loss to Pittsburgh a week ago. That showing could be excused after the Giants spent their preparation week dealing with the fallout of Superstorm Sandy.

There was no explanation for this one. Manning threw two interceptions in the third quarter that set up Cincinnati touchdowns, and the Giants had four turnovers in the second half. Plus, Cruz dropped a potential touchdown pass while the Bengals pulled away.

``That's what won the game for us, getting the ball with great field position and scoring when we got down there,'' said Dalton, who was 21 of 30 for 199 yards without a sack or interception.

Manning was 29 of 46 for 215 yards with no touchdowns, a season-high four sacks, the two interceptions and a fumble.

``I still believe Eli will bounce back and will play the way that he has played, at a championship level,'' Coughlin said. ``I certainly don't quite understand where we are and why.''

Manning couldn't uphold the family legacy of beating the Bengals. A week earlier, older brother Peyton led the Denver Broncos to a 31-23 win in Cincinnati, improving to 8-0 career against the Bengals.

Even though he got a scouting report from his brother during the week, Eli couldn't pull it off before a less-than-capacity crowd of 56,614. He fell to 1-2 career against Cincinnati.

``No, I'm not worried,'' Manning said. ``Over the years, we've gone through stretches where we haven't played our best football and we've been able to bounce out of that, and that's what's going on right now.''

The Giants' defense also has big issues. Cornerback Corey Webster let Green run past him along the sideline on the game's fifth play, thinking a safety was behind him to help. Wrong. Green was wide open for a 56-yard touchdown that proved Green's point.

Right away, he'd found a huge hole in New York's defense. The Giants have given up 39 passes of 20 yards or more, 10 for touchdowns.

``Their defense is great,'' said Green, who had seven catches for a game-high 85 yards. ``We were able to break some big plays.''

NOTES: The home team has won every game in the series, which the Bengals lead 6-3. ... Giants WR Domenik Hixon left in the first quarter with an ankle injury and didn't return. ... It was the first time this season that Dalton didn't throw an interception. ... Green has a TD catch in eight straight games, tying T.J. Houshmandzadeh for second-longest streak in Bengals history. ... There were nearly 9,000 unused seats at Paul Brown.

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

1. Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

2. T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

3. Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

4. Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

5. Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

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