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Chargers' win not expected to save Turner's job

Chargers' win not expected to save Turner's job

SAN DIEGO (AP) Chargers President Dean Spanos presented Norv Turner with a game ball after San Diego stunned the Steelers, its first regular-season victory in Pittsburgh in 15 tries.

That's the same Dean Spanos who is expected to fire Turner, most likely along with general manager A.J. Smith, shortly after this dismal season ends.

The 34-24 victory Sunday isn't expected to change anything, other than keep the Chargers mathematically, if not realistically, alive for a wild-card playoff berth at 5-8.

Turner tried to deflect talk of his future Monday, trying to keep the focus on the next opponent, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers (4-9), who beat Atlanta 30-20 on Sunday.

``That's not the thing that's on my mind,'' Turner said about his job status. ``We're trying to get ready for Carolina and trying to build on what we did last week. That's where I'm at.''

Turner did say that Spanos has not yet told him he's going to be fired.

Turner and Smith got a reprieve last year when the Chargers ended the year 4-1 to finish 8-8. But Spanos said then that they'd need to win this year to save their jobs. Turner said then he expected the Chargers would have to make the playoffs this year to save their jobs.

With the Chargers apparently headed toward a third straight year out of the playoffs, Spanos isn't expected to grant another reprieve.

The best the Chargers can do this year is 8-8, which still requires them to win out. One more loss will guarantee their first losing season since 2003.

After Carolina, the Chargers travel to face the New York Jets and finish at home with the lowly Oakland Raiders.

Indianapolis leads the wild-card race at 9-4. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are next at 7-6, followed by the Jets at 6-7 and the Chargers, Buffalo, Miami and Cleveland at 5-8.

After the Chargers lost seven of their previous eight games, the victory over the Steelers left many fans wondering: ``Where has that been all season?''

``I mean, it's been there, it's just about execution,'' running back Ronnie Brown said Monday. ``You know, like we've been saying all season, when we execute, when we do it the way we're capable of doing it, the results are usually good. But unfortunately, we haven't been able to be consistent and do it for four quarters throughout the whole season.''

It was San Diego's first victory against a winning team this year.

``I don't think our effort has been an issue in the games we played,'' Turner said. ``We haven't been as efficient as we were yesterday.''

One of the biggest factors was that Philip Rivers didn't commit any turnovers and was sacked only once. The Chargers converted 12 of 22 third downs and came up with a game-changing play on a turnover. Backed up deep in his own territory, Ben Roethlisberger tried to throw a screen pass but it caromed off tight end David Paulson's rear and rolled into the end zone, where Quentin Jammer fell on it for a TD that gave the Chargers a 27-3 lead in the third quarter.

``We've been in that game a number of times, and that one play has gone against us,'' Turner said. ``Their lateral that we ended up falling on for a touchdown gave us a lead that they were not able to get back in terms of after that play. We've had some of those plays go against us.''

NOTES: Turner's son, Scott, is offensive quality control coach for the Panthers. ... Carolina coach Ron Rivera was San Diego's defensive coordinator from midway through the 2008 season through 2010. ... The Chargers are headed for another local TV blackout because nearly 13,000 tickets remain unsold before Thursday's deadline. It would be the third straight blackout and fourth this season for Southern California's only NFL team.

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Wilson's return sparks Capitals to a 5-2 win at Minnesota

Wilson's return sparks Capitals to a 5-2 win at Minnesota

Tom Wilson stayed on brand in his return from a long suspension.

The Capitals’ big man scored a goal and took a penalty on the same play in his first game of the season, a 5-2 win against the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night. 

Wilson won’t get the 16 games back he missed for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist. But he tried to make up for it in his debut. 

Wilson scored Washington’s second goal at 19:32 of the first period when he drove the net hard and deflected a pass from teammate Dmitry Orlov past Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk. But this being Wilson, nothing is totally uncontroversial.  

The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder was moving fast. There was no stopping him. Wilson, with some help from Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, collided with Dubnyk. The puck was already in the net, but the referee decided Wilson needed to go think about what he’d done after Dubnyk got clocked in the head. It was a two-minute goalie interference call. 

That’s an odd play rarely called. Either the goal counts or it doesn’t, but maybe because Wilson had already scored before running into Dubnyk both calls could stand. 

“It was a first for me to score and get a penalty on the same play,” Wilson told reporters in St. Paul. “I was just going hard to the net and Snarls [Orlov] put it right on my tape. It was a great pass at full speed. I was trying to do everything I could to get out of the way. I’ll take the goal and the kill went out there and got it done. It was good to see.”

It was far from Wilson’s only contribution in his first game back. He also fought Marcus Foligno at 11:58 of the second period on the faceoff after Minnesota cut a Washington lead to 3-1. He didn’t back down when asked to go by Foligno. 

“He’s a key player for our team, brings so much energy both on the ice and off the ice,” forward Andre Burakovsky said. “Huge lift for the team to get him back earlier. Didn’t expect that and I think he had a really strong game today. Obviously, he got the goal in his first game back and then some dirty works. Obviously, I think he’s a huge guy for us in PK and it showed today.”

Wilson didn’t get the assist on the goal that put the game away. Alex Ovechkin found Orlov for a one-timer on a pass from the left faceoff circle to the right. But it was Wilson driving hard toward the goal that kept a Wild defenseman with him and allowed Orlov the space to finish Ovechkin’s pass. Those little things have been missed in the 16 games Wilson was suspended. He was relentless. 

One big issue for the Capitals: The penalty kill. Wilson has been a big part of that group in recent years and without him – and, to be fair the departed Jay Beagle and the injured Brooks Orpik – Washington entered the game 29thin the NHL in penalty kill percentage (71.7 percent). Wilson wasn’t eased into anything. He played 5:23 on the penalty kill and the Capitals killed five of six Wild power plays. 

[Wilson] does a lot not just on the ice, but in our room. Adds a ton of energy. Well respected player for how he trains,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden. “Going through a tough time and obviously kind of a surprise for us to get him back today. We were hoping to at any point here and we were able to take advantage of a fortunate bounce for our team before even the game started. But I didn’t expect him to have as strong a game as he did." 

"Obviously able to convert on a great play on a line rush, but just the other things he did. Our penalty kill, the opposition scores a goal and, you talk about shifts after goals, not giving the team any more momentum than they’ve already gotten and he gets in a fight there. There’s a lot to like about Tom Wilson and I thought he had a strong game. It was great to have him back.”

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Wild

4 reasons the Caps beat the Wild

Think the Caps missed Tom Wilson? It sure looked like it.

Washington looked like a completely different team with Wilson back in the lineup Tuesday in a dominant 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild.

Here are four reasons the Caps won:

Tom Wilson

Wilson made his season debut Tuesday after his suspension was reduced by a neutral arbitrator earlier in the day. Wilson’s addition to the lineup had two effects. One, it made the lineup a lot deeper. Without Wilson, Todd Reirden was having trouble putting together the right lineup. Several players cycled on the top line and every line behind the top had to shuffle. Wilson came back onto the top line and immediately the rest of the lineup fell into place.

The top line looked better, the second line looked better and the third line looked better with their regular lineups back intact.

Wilson’s return also brought a lot of energy to the team and that was evident from the very start of the game. The Caps outshot Minnesota 12-6 and took the 2-0 lead in the first period of the game. Compare that to the rather lethargic game we saw on Sunday, clearly, Wilson brought a spark.

Oh, yeah, Wilson has also had a pretty darn good game too. He scored in the first period of the game in a typical Wilson play. He completely blew past Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter and tipped in a pass from Dmitry Orlov as he crashed the net on goalie Devan Dubnyk.

Somehow Wilson was also given a goalie interference penalty… but the goal still counted? Regardless of what was an obvious reputation penalty, it was a good return for Wilson, who also had a fight with Marcus Foligno and helped set up Orlov’s second goal by crashing again and drawing the defense over to him.

Dmitry Orlov

Orlov broke a 19-game goal drought with a goal just 7:23 into the game.

Lars Eller had the puck and cut to the blue line in the offensive zone turning to the middle. Minnesota got caught puck watching as the defense shifted with Eller, leaving Orlov open on the left. Eller found him and Orlov took advantage of the extra space to score his first goal of the season.

Orlov would add an assist on Wilson’s goal and a second goal in the third period off a beautiful pass from Alex Ovechkin.

The typically reliable defensive pairing of Orlov and Matt Niskanen struggled at the start of the season prompting Todd Reirden to switch up the pairs and place Orlov with John Carlson. Clearly, the move had the desired effect in Tuesday’s game.

The schedule

Tuesday’s game was the Wild’s first at home since Oct. 27. Minnesota was coming off a seven-game road swing and they looked a bit weary at the start of the game. As mentioned above, the Wild were outshot 12-6 in the first period and then 15-8 in the second.

Really, this game was a perfect storm. Not only were the Wild tired from a lengthy road trip, but they also were dealing with a Caps team that was pumped up by the return of Wilson.

Part of what made Sunday’s loss to Arizona so disappointing was the fact that the Coyotes were on the second leg of a back-to-back with their starting goalie on IR. The Caps were not able to take advantage, but they certainly took it to a vulnerable, road-weary team on Tuesday.

The penalty kill

Washington’s porous penalty kill was the reason the Caps lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday and a major reason they fell to Arizona. The PK finally stood tall on Tuesday as the Caps were able to kill off four out of five penalties on the night. The lone power play goal the team gave up came in the third period when the Caps were already up 5-1 and the game was no longer in doubt.

You can add the penalty kill to the long list of things that Wilson instantly improved in his return. Wilson logged 16:47 of total ice time on Tuesday and 5:23 of that came on the penalty kill.

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