Capitals

Clippers cruise to 90-77 win over Timberwolves

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Clippers cruise to 90-77 win over Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Jamal Crawford scored 22 points, Blake Griffin added 20 and the Los Angeles Clippers hardly broke a sweat in cruising to a 90-77 victory over the free-falling Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night.

Lamar Odom grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out six assists, and the Clippers outscored Minnesota's bench 45-23 to overcome Chris Paul's third straight missed game because of a knee injury.

Luke Ridnour scored 21 points and Ricky Rubio had four points and six assists in his first start of the season for the Timberwolves, who lost leading scorer and rebounder Nikola Pekovic to a bruised right quadriceps in the third quarter.

The Timberwolves shot just 35.7 percent and missed 15 of their 19 3-pointers in losing their fifth straight game.

Even without their MVP candidate out there to steer the ship over the last few games, the Clippers have been humming right along. Backup Eric Bledsoe clearly has been watching how Paul goes about his business because the third-year Kentucky point guard has played with a maturity and explosiveness that has allowed the Clippers to not miss a beat.

Bledsoe picked up two quick fouls in the first 3 minutes on Thursday night, but that was no problem for the deepest team in the league. Coach Vinny Del Negro went to the super-sub Crawford, who scored 12 points in the first half to help Los Angeles muddle through an uninspired start.

``We should come into every arena feeling we should get the W,'' Caron Butler said at the morning shootaround. ``That's not being cocky or overconfident. That's having enough confidence in our ability and ourselves and the personnel we have out there and the system that we run.''

The Clippers looked a little too overconfident early in the game, seemingly playing on cruise control against a team they knew was undermanned and overwhelmed. Los Angeles turned the ball over 17 times in the first three quarters and coasted offensively to allow the Wolves to hang around.

Minnesota trailed by just five going into the fourth quarter, but the Clippers simply wore down the Timberwolves with their depth. Bledsoe scored only two points, but Crawford's 3-pointer with 5 minutes to go gave Los Angeles a 13-point lead and the short-handed Wolves simply faded away.

Pekovic was injured while getting tangled with Griffin under the basket in the third quarter and Alexey Shved rolled his left ankle midway through the final period, the latest in an incredible pile of injuries for the Wolves this season. Kevin Love is out for two months with a right hand that is broken for the second time this season, Brandon Roy may not play at all this season with recurring knee problems, Chase Budinger is out until March with a knee injury and Josh Howard and Malcolm Lee are both lost for the season with injuries.

Head coach Rick Adelman missed his sixth straight game while tending to his sick wife.

NOTES: Paul and Griffin were voted starters for the Western Conference in the All-Star game. ... The Timberwolves held a moment of silence for Minnesota Lynx COO Conrad Smith, who died after a long battle with cancer on Wednesday night. Smith also worked for the Timberwolves, Twins and North Stars over the years. ``Simply put, Conrad is irreplaceable,'' Timberwolves and Lynx president Chris Wright said. ... The Wolves agreed to terms with F Mickael Gelabale of France, who planned to join the team on Friday. ... Ronny Turiaf, a 38 percent free throw shooter this season, drew jeers when he airballed a freebie in the fourth quarter.

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Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

The Capitals managed to earn a point on Friday in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, but the game felt like a missed opportunity for Washington. After giving up four goals in the first period, seven power plays including two 5-on-3s, and two power play goals, the Caps knew they had no one to blame but themselves for the loss.

“We were still not quite there maybe emotionally,” Lars Eller said.

At least not for the first period. The Caps allowed four goals in the opening 20 minutes to dig themselves into a 4-1 hole. Each goal came from the slot as the Caps had no control over the front of their own net.

“Just tough to start that way, to kind of dig ourselves a big hole,” Brett Connolly said. “Obviously, it’s good to come back and get a point but we don’t need to do that to ourselves. It takes a lot of energy to get back in that game.”

Washington battled back to tie the game at 4, but penalties ultimately derailed their momentum, allowing Florida to retake the lead.

After scoring three straight goals, the Caps took three minor penalties in the final three minutes of the second period.

Alex Ovechkin was called for interference on Aaron Ekblad as he made no attempt to play a loose puck that trickled past the Florida defenseman. He was clearly focused on delivering the hit and nothing else.

Less than a minute later, Eller was caught on the ice a tad early, and Washington was called for too many men.

“I see Backy coming for a change, they had full possession,” Eller said. “I don't see behind my back, I think the guys are telling me he has one skate over so I think it was an unnecessary call, but what am I going to say? It's a tough one.”

With 1:15 of a two-man advantage to work with, Jonathan Huberdeau scored the go-ahead goal late in the period.

Even after a furious comeback, the Caps could not escape the second with the score tied because of the penalties.

Just 43 seconds after Huberdeau’s goal, Washington went right back to 5-on-3. Evgeny Kuznetsov was tossed from a faceoff by the linesman and argued the call, eventually earning himself an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“He said something he shouldn't have said to the referee,” Reirden said of the call.

The Caps' penalty problems were exacerbated by the continued problems of the penalty kill.

Heading into Friday's game, Washington was only killing off 72.2 percent of the power plays they faced. They allowed another two power play goals Friday as they continued to struggle when facing the extra man.

“We have room for improvement for sure,” Reirden said of his penalty kill. “It’s a new system, new with the way we’re killing, its new personnel. We’re learning. We’re missing a key guy in Tom on that as well. It’s not easy, either, when you’re 5-on-3 when they’ve got talented players that can convert in that spot. It’s definitely a work in progress and I didn't expect it to go smoothly to start with. That’s one of the areas that we knew was gonna be new to our team this year and it’s gonna continue to take some work. It’s something that definitely is a work in progress.”

Mistakes put the Caps down 4-1, they put them down 5-4, they cost them a valuable point against a previously winless Panthers team before a four-game road trip through Canada, and they are ultimately why the defending Stanley Cup champions are only 3-2-2 to start the season.

And they know it.

“We’re still trying to find our game,” Connolly said. “Would we have liked to have picked up where we left off? Yes. But it’s not easy. We played a lot of hockey last year and a short summer and you come in here and there’s a lot of distractions, a lot of that kind of stuff. We’ve done some good things and we’ve done some not so good things.

"I think if you look at last season we weren't very good either at the start. We weren't at our best. Just take the positives and know that we can overcome that. It hasn’t been disastrous. We’re still getting points, we’re still above .500 right now with a tough couple back-to-backs to start the year. So not the worst start, but obviously we have another level.”

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Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

The Florida Panthers played over half of Friday’s game with five defensemen after a hit from Alex Ovechkin ultimately knocked Mark Pysyk out of the game.

Early in the second period, Ovechkin attempted to enter the offensive zone with the puck, but it was swept away at the blue line back to Pysyk. Pysyk quickly chipped the puck away and then was on the receiving end of a hit from Ovechkin.

In real time, the hit did not appear to be a big one. It wasn't even the biggest hit Ovechkin delivered in the game, as in the third period he sent Aleksander Barkov flying with a shoulder hit. But Pysyk went down to the ice after the hit and left the game soon after.

After the game, Florida head coach Bob Boughner did not mince words.

“Pysyk got a high hit to the head,” he said.

When asked if he thought the league should review the hit, Boughner said, “I hope they do because if you see the replay, it's high. It's a head shot. And the league's trying to clamp down on that. Whether there's no call, I don't blame the refs. Maybe they missed it. That happens. But those are the kind of plays that need to be reviewed.”

Based on the replay, it is hard to determine if the principal point of contact was the head. Ovechkin does not launch himself, but does appear to take an upward trajectory into Pysyk. Still, it seems like a hard sell to say Ovechkin was targeting the head.

But the hit did send Pysyk out of the game, and in today’s NHL, when head hits are a big topic of conversation and when a player is injured on a play, the NHL has shown it takes those plays more seriously.

Pysyk returned to the game for one more shift after receiving the hit, but left the game after and did not return.

“Right now we're still getting him checked out, but we'll see more in the morning,” Boughner said.

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