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Column: Seattle isn't just sleepless, it's loud!

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Column: Seattle isn't just sleepless, it's loud!

That dull roar still rumbling between your ears a day later is not your imagination.

It's the echo from the 49ers-Seahawks game Sunday night, when an already notoriously loud hometown crowd outdid itself. How?

Start with CenturyLink Field, a U-shaped stadium with cantilevered roofs extending over most of the 67,000 seats in the grandstands, a configuration designed to bounce back sound. Then throw in some fans presumably hopped up on espresso and, thanks to a later starting time, some more who stopped at Safeco Field on the way over to quaff 24-oz. beers offered through a promotion at a mere $4.50 each.

Next, mix in their dislike for a nasty NFC West rival and especially coach Jim Harbaugh, who smacked the Washington Huskies every chance he got when he was at Stanford and has been tormenting Seahawks coach Pete Carroll ever since.

Finally, throw in that early, unexpected lead and - voila! - a near-perfect sound storm.

Just know it could have been worse.

``Obviously, they were jacked up last night,'' said Fred Gaudelli, the innovative producer of ``Sunday Night Football'' on NBC. ``But in my mind, it's one of the underrated sports towns in America. Actually, the special challenge there is always to convey how loud it actually is.

"We knew that going in, plus we knew the 49ers were the team their fans hate the most. So at Wednesday's regular `brainstorming session,' we turn to our head audio engineer and said, `How do we make viewers understand you can't hear the person next to you most of the time, even if he's yelling?' We wanted to be ready.''

Gaudelli knows what can happen to a team that ventures into Seattle without preparing for the wall of noise.

In 2005, the visiting New York Giants collected 11 false-start penalties in a single game, the start of a five-year span when opponents piled up league-leading totals, averaging twice as many there as the Seahawks. The Carolina Panthers once practiced for a game there by dragging loudspeakers down to the practice field and simulating the sound of a jet engine. If that sounds over the top, it is, by about 18 decibels. Jets are routinely measured at around 130, Century Link's best is only 112.

Gaudelli and his crew hatched a plan to demonstrate that by having sideline reporter Michele Tafoya speak into a microphone as the sound reverberated, then take a step back and try again. When they ran through it before the game, he had a stadium staffer simulate the crowd noise over the PA system. At the point Tafoya's words were drowned out the system was cranked to 50 percent of volume.

``So I asked the guy, is it really going to be that loud? He looked at me,'' Gaudelli chuckled into the phone, ``and said, `Double it.'''

The guy was right. That much was apparent at the start of the broadcast, when Tafoya interviewed Carroll - remember, the game hadn't even begun - and didn't dare stand anywhere but uncomfortably close.

Uncomfortable might be the right word to describe the 49ers as well, at least in the early going, when they had to burn timeouts as relatively inexperienced quarterback Colin Kaepernick was having trouble getting the play calls from his sideline. Right about then, he probably wished the 49ers had devoted more time to mastering their silent snap counts.

``The crowd's explosive, it really is,'' Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson said. ``They love us so much, and it brings so much energy to our football team. They keep us in the game, obviously, and they keep us alert.''

Experts have been arguing over the worth of home-field advantage for decades. Most concluded that in those places where it's statistically significant, it's usually because of a number of factors and not just one, such as noise. Since CenturyLink opened up in 2002, Seattle is 58-29 at home, a 67 percent winning clip that ranks the Seahawks sixth in the NFL over that span. That's a far cry from New England's league-best 72-15 record (83 percent).

But the Seahawks haven't had Tom Brady at quarterback, and their road record is dismal enough (33-55) that the boost the fans at CenturyLink have provided might be best measured by their last four playoff appearances. If that's not exact enough, try this: After a 2001 earthquake shook a viaduct that runs along the water and near the stadium, the University of Washington set up a lab to track future ``seismic events.'' One of them actually occurred during Marshawn Lynch's thundering, winning, 67-yard touchdown run in a memorable upset of the then-defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints on Jan. 9, 2011.

Yet while we know how Seattle fans make so much noise, why remains the subject of much speculation. Gaudelli, like a lot of people, blames coffee. But I'm going with a theory advanced Sunday night by announcer Al Michaels, who suggested the locals roar non-stop because showcase games gives them a rare chance to remind the rest of the country they're there.

``For media people on the East Coast,'' he said half in jest, ``Seattle might as well be Bulgaria.''

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Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Hurricanes tie series with Caps, Blues take series lead, Sharks avoid elimination

NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Hurricanes tie series with Caps, Blues take series lead, Sharks avoid elimination

As the first-round starts to head into the final games, each matchup is getting more and more critical, as was evident Thursday. Not only did the Carolina Hurricanes have the chance to even up the series with the Washington Capitals in Game 4, but the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets were playing for the 3-2 series lead and the San Jose Sharks found themselves in a must-win situation in order to avoid elimination against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Thursday's slate of games proved to be crucial and ultimately, played out well for the Hurricanes, Blues and Sharks. Here's how each series stacked up Thursday.

Hurricanes tie series against Caps with narrow 2-1 win

It was a close matchup between Washington and Carolina Thursday, but thanks to a couple of key goals and a big night for Petr Mrazek between the pipes, the Hurricanes were able to take Game 4 with a 2-1 victory.

Warren Foegele opened the scoring for Carolina just 17 seconds in, crashing the net and scoring on a lay-up that beat Braden Holtby. It was his third goal of the playoffs and the fastest playoff goal for Carolina in franchise history.

Alex Ovechkin was able to even the score in the second period with a one-timer on the man advantage, putting an end to 11 straight penalty kills for the Canes. The goal was Ovechkin's second of the playoffs, with both tallies coming on the power play. However, just before the second period came to a close, Teuvo Teravainen returned the lead for Carolina to make it 2-1.

Petr Mrazek made 30 saves on the night, including eight in the third period to guarantee the victory for the Hurricanes, while Holtby made 22 saves on 24 shots. Washington also lost T.J. Oshie to injury late in the game after he was hit from behind by Warren Foegele. The series is now tied 2-2.

Blues edge Jets with comeback victory, take series lead

Although the Jets were up 2-0 over the Blues heading into the third period, Winnipeg surrendered three unanswered goals as St. Louis took a 3-2 victory.

Adam Lowry scored just 12 seconds into the opening frame for the Jets' fastest playoff goal in franchise history to make it 1-0, and Kevin Hayes added a goal a little over halfway through the first to make it 2-0.

The lead would carry over until the final 20 minutes of regulation, where the Blues kicked it into full gear. Ryan O'Reilly beat Connor Hellebuyck on the power play a little over a minute into the third to pull the Blues within one. With about seven minutes to go, Brayden Schenn would tie the game at 2 with his first goal of the playoffs.

With the final minute winding down, it appeared that the game would be headed to overtime; however, Tyler Bozak was able to knock the puck loose and find a wide-open Jaden Schwartz in front, who fired the puck past Hellebuyck with just 15 seconds remaining to make it 3-2.

With the victory, the Blues now hold a 3-2 series lead and can eliminate Winnipeg in Game 6 Saturday.

Sharks stay alive with statement 5-2 win over Golden Knights

Thursday's game was a must-win for the Sharks, and thanks mainly to the effort of Tomas Hertl, they were able to dominate on home ice with an impressive win over Vegas.

A little over a minute in, Tomas Hertl jumped on a pass from Erik Karlsson and scored his third of the playoffs to make it 1-0 early. Later in the period, Logan Couture would beat Marc-Andre Fleury to put the Sharks up by two, but with 30 seconds to go in the opening frame, Reilly Smith was able to pull Vegas within one with his first of the postseason.

While it looked like Vegas would be able to shift the momentum with their end to the first, Barclay Goodrow redirected a Justin Braun shot past Fleury and the Sharks regained their two-goal lead.

Jonathan Marchessault would strike for the Golden Knights on the power play over halfway into the third to cut the lead to one, but Hertl soon after scored his second of the night on the rebound of a Joe Pavelski shot to make it 4-2. With less than two minutes to go in regulation, Pavelski scored on the empty net for his second point of the game, which ultimately sealed the deal for the Sharks.

Martin Jones, who had been struggling but was given the start regardless, proved his worth with 30 saves on 32 shots, and Erik Karlsson also put up a multi-point performance for San Jose in the win.

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In need of a right wing and a spark, the Capitals recall playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly

In need of a right wing and a spark, the Capitals recall playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly

Down a right wing and in need of a spark, the Capitals recalled forward and 2018 playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly from the Hershey Bears on Friday.

The news comes in the wake of a serious looking injury to T.J. Oshie suffered in Game 4 Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes. Following the game, head coach Todd Reirden told the media that Oshie “will not be with our team for a while.

Now a Capitals team that has been held to a single goal by Carolina in the past two games will enter what is essentially a must-win scenario in Game 5 without one of its top forwards. Washington is in need of some serious help.

Enter Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly, 26, was tremendous in Washington’s Stanley Cup run, scoring seven goals in 24 games including the game-tying goal in the decisive Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. That success earned him a new contract for the 2018-19 season, but his offensive touch did not carry over into the new campaign. After a rocky season with only four goals and four assists in 54 games, Smith-Pelly was waived by the Caps in order to clear cap space for the trade deadline. When a player is placed on waivers, every team in the NHL has a chance to claim him. Smith-Pelly was exposed to every team in the NHL and every team passed on him, allowing Washington to re-assign him to the Hershey Bears in the AHL.

Despite the surprise of clearing waivers, Smith-Pelly has made the most of his time in Hershey. In 20 games with the Bears, he recorded six goals and eight assists, including one hat trick performance on March 9 against the Hartford Wolfpack.

Washington already had two extra forwards on the roster as both Chandler Stephenson and Dmitrij Jaskin were healthy scratches for Game 4. Yet, the team still felt the need to recall Smith-Pelly. This does not seem like a move the team would make just to scratch him as an extra forward.

Smith-Pelly is back in Washington and fans should expect him back in the lineup for Game 5 on Saturday. Whether they will see the Smith-Pelly from the 2018 playoffs or from the 2018-19 regular season remains to be seen, but the answer to that question could decide if Washington advances or soon joins the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins as teams upset in the first round.

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