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Boston College has another chance to play spoiler

Boston College has another chance to play spoiler

BOSTON (AP) Virginia Tech needs to win its last two games to make a bowl for the 20th consecutive year. The chance to spoil that is the most Boston College can hope for during its second straight losing season.

``It's critical to maintain that this is an aberration from what this program does,'' said BC offensive lineman Emmett Cleary, one of 16 seniors who are hoping that a win in their final home game on Saturday will make up for an otherwise disappointing season. ``You can't treat this stuff like business as usual, and you can't if you want to be the program that we think we are.''

A week after trying - but failing - to ruin Notre Dame's national championship hopes, BC (2-8, 1-5 ACC) will has little to play for except the opportunity to keep the Hokies (4-6, 2-4) out of a bowl. Though they're not exactly longtime rivals like BC and Notre Dame, the only two Catholic schools in the FBS, Boston College and Virginia Tech have had some memorable matchups dating to their days in the Big East.

Shortly after they defected to the ACC one year apart, BC won three straight regular-season matchups against ranked Hokies teams. But Virginia Tech beat the Eagles in the conference title game in 2007 and again in `08.

``It's still Virginia Tech,'' BC center Andy Gallik said. ``We're going to have a little more emotion. And it's the last time the seniors are going to play at home as a family.''

Since then, BC has struggled, winning fewer games each year and finally ending its bowl streak last year. Virginia Tech would need to beat BC on Saturday and then Virginia next week to extend a bowl streak that reaches back to 1993.

``It's not something you can really ignore because we haven't been 4-6 around here in a long time,'' Hokies cornerback Antone Exum said. ``We feel like we're probably the best 4-6 team out there. Our record doesn't indicate how good of a team this is. We still have talent and guys that can get it done, but for some reason, the ball just hasn't been bouncing our way this year and we've just to focus on finishing these last two games and getting to a bowl game.''

BC (2-8) has lost two in a row since beating Maryland for their only Atlantic Coast Conference win of the year. The Eagles have lost four straight to Virginia Tech, including the 2008 ACC championship game.

The Hokies opened the season as the No. 16 team in The Associated Press Top 25 and moved as high as 13th before a loss to Pittsburgh and on Sept. 17 and then two more losses in the next three games sent them tumbling from the rankings. In all, they have lost five of their last six games, including a 28-22 loss to No. 8 Florida State after taking a 22-20 lead with 2:19 left.

``We know what we have to do,'' quarterback Logan Thomas said this week. ``After the loss we just had, it's encouraging to see how well we can play. We kind of put it all together. ... We know that we've got to have these next two to go to a bowl and we're excited about it just because the added pressure makes you play better.''

For BC, the only pressure is on the seniors playing their final home game.

A group that joined one of the most successful classes in school history - four-time bowl winners with a 39 victories in four years - is leaving at one of the program's low points. With just two wins, the Eagles could match the 1989 for the worst record since the winless 1978 season and they are certain to post the first back-to-back losing seasons since Tom O'Brien took over in the wake of a gambling scandal that cost the school its football and basketball coaches along with its athletic director.

Unless the Eagles win their last two games - they play North Carolina State on Nov. 24 - it would be the fifth consecutive season of diminishing win totals.

``I think Saturday will be a lot more enjoyable if we get a win,'' tight end Chris Pantale said. ``I could leave Alumni (Stadium) with a good taste in my mouth.''

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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.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.