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Falcons falter, then rally past Seahawks 30-28

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Falcons falter, then rally past Seahawks 30-28

ATLANTA (AP) Matt Ryan won't have to answer that question anymore.

Neither will Tony Gonzalez.

They're both playoff winners.

Finally.

Ryan got over the postseason hump in his fifth season, guiding the Atlanta Falcons to an improbable comeback in the final half-minute for a 30-28 victory over the gritty Seattle Seahawks in an NFC divisional game Sunday.

If Ryan was feeling relief, imagine what was going through Gonzalez's mind. The 16-year veteran, in what is likely the final season of a Hall of Fame career, removed the only blotch from his brilliant record with his first playoff win.

No wonder he broke down in tears when it was over.

``I've cried after a loss. But never a win,'' said Gonzalez, who had been 0-5 in the postseason. ``I thought it was over. Sixteen years. Six playoff games. I was like, `Here we go again.' Especially with that big lead. I thought it just wasn't meant to be.''

The Falcons (14-3) led 20-0 at halftime, and were still up 27-7 going to the fourth quarter. No team had ever blown such a daunting lead in the final period of a playoff game. But the Seahawks, led by Russell Wilson, nearly pulled off a historic win.

Wilson passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, then led a drive that looked like the game winner. He completed three passes for 50 yards, the last of them a short throw to Marshawn Lynch that the bruising runner took all the way to the Falcons 3. The rookie quarterback made it all possible with his legs, spinning away from blitzing linebacker Sean Weatherspoon to give himself extra time to throw.

On the next play, after the rattled Falcons were penalized for too many players on the field, Lynch powered over from the 2 to give the Seahawks (12-6) their first lead of the day, 28-27 with 31 seconds remaining.

The Falcons could've packed it in right there, but Ryan and Gonzalez went back to work.

First, Ryan hit a deep pass to Harry Douglas right in front of the Atlanta bench, a 22-yard completion to midfield. Then, with one timeout remaining, Ryan went to Gonzalez on a 19-yard throw over the middle. The Falcons quickly stopped the clock again, and Matt Bryant connected on a 49-yard field goal with 8 seconds left for the victory.

Atlanta will host the NFC championship game for the first time next Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, another team that features a mobile quarterback. The defense hopes that facing Wilson will help prepare for Colin Kaepernick, who passed for 263 yards and rushed for 181 - a playoff record for a quarterback - in a 45-31 victory over Green Bay.

``Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are mobile quarterbacks who throw the ball at extremely accurate levels,'' Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud said. ``We can use this game as a cheat sheet to prepare for next week.''

The Falcons overcame their reputation for choking in the playoffs, winning their first postseason game since the 2004 season.

``Nobody flinched,'' Ryan said. ``We just kept battling, kept doing what we do. That's been the makeup of our team all season.''

Ryan came into the game with an 0-3 mark in the playoffs, including a crushing loss to Green Bay two years ago when the Falcons were in the same position, the NFC's top-seeded team with home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Now, he'll no longer be asked why he can't win in the playoffs.

``That's going to be nice,'' Ryan said with a smile. ``But our goal is not to win one playoff game. Our goals are still in front of us.''

Bryant made his third game-winning kick of the season. But he'd never made one like this, with so much on the line.

``When they scored their touchdown, I walked down (the sideline),'' he said. ``I told the offensive line, I told Matt (Ryan), I told all the receivers, `We've done this before.'''

Wilson finished with 385 yards passing and led the Seahawks in rushing with 60 yards on seven carries, an even better performance than the one that carried Seattle to an opening-round victory over Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins.

Not quite enough this time.

``We had high, high hopes for the rest of the season,'' Wilson said. ``When the game was over, I was very disappointed. But walking back into the tunnel, I got so excited about next year. The resilience we showed was unbelievable.''

A botched squib kick by the Falcons gave Seattle the ball at its own 46 and a chance at one more comeback. But Wilson threw a short pass that only picked up 6 yards, forcing a desperation heave into the end zone on the final play.

Falcons receiver Julio Jones, who had practiced for just such a situation during the week, went in on defense and leaped up to make the interception, leaving Atlanta one win away from the second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

Ryan had a couple of interceptions, but threw three touchdown passes, tying a Falcons playoff record. He completed 24 of 35 for 250 yards - the first time he's eclipsed 200 yards in the postseason.

The scoring passes were 1-yarder to Gonzalez, who made a leaping grab in the back of the end zone; a 47-yarder to Roddy White that stretched the lead to 20-0 late in the second quarter; and a 5-yarder to Jason Snelling, a quick throw after a fake pitch to Jones, gave the Falcons a seemingly comfortable edge late in the third period.

Wilson took over from there, running 1 yard for a touchdown to make it 27-14, then going to Zach Miller on a 3-yard touchdown pass that closed the gap to 27-21. Ryan's second interception, an ill-advised deep throw into double coverage, helped keep the Seahawks alive.

But the Seahawks will likely spend the offseason kicking themselves for that last Falcons' drive, and for squandering two scoring chances in the first half.

On fourth-and-1 at the Atlanta 11, Seattle passed on a field goal and a chance to give the ball to Lynch, their beast of a back. Fullback Michael Robinson was stuffed for a 1-yard loss by safety William Moore.

With the clock winding down before halftime, Seattle used all its timeouts and wound up regretting it when Wilson was sacked by Jonathan Babineaux at the Atlanta 20. Time ran out before the Seahawks could get off another play, sending Atlanta to the locker room still up by 20.

Turns out, the game was just getting started.

NOTES: The Falcons played the second half without defensive end John Abraham, who re-injured his right ankle. No word whether he'll be able to play next week. ... Lynch was held to 46 yards on 16 carries. ... Atlanta rushed for a season-high 167 yards behind Michael Turner (98) and Jacquizz Rodgers (64).

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NHL Stanley Cup Final 2018: Capitals vs. Golden Knights full schedule announced, date, time, TV channel, how to watch

NHL Stanley Cup Final 2018: Capitals vs. Golden Knights full schedule announced, date, time, TV channel, how to watch

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are the only two hockey teams left standing and will meet to decide the 2017-18 NHL Stanley Cup champion.

The Capitals advanced to the Stanley Cup FInal for the first time since 1998, thanks to a 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

The Golden Knights, in their inaugural season, shocked the NHL world, defeating the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets to become the first team in major American professional sports history to reach the championship game in the franchise's first season.

The Capitals and Golden Knights met twice during the regular season, with Vegas coming out on top in both games. The Golden Knights blanked the Caps 3-0 in the Caps' first trip to Sin City, and bested the Caps 4-3 at Capital One Arena on Feb. 4.

Game 1 of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC and is available to be streamed online by using the NBC Sports App.

NBC Sports Washington will broadcast pre- and postgame coverage of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights,  with Caps FaceOff and Caps GameTime preceding Capitals vs. Golden Knights puck drop and Caps Extra and Caps OverTime following the end of each game. 

2018 STANLEY CUP FINAL HOW TO WATCH

Game 1: Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Wednesday, May 30
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBCSN
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 3: Golden Knights at Capitals
Date: Saturday, June 2
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: Capital One Arena. Washington, D.C.
TV Channel: NBCSN
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 4: Golden Knights at Capitals
Date: Monday, June 4
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: Capital One Arena. Washington, D.C.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 5 (If Necessary): Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Thursday, June 7
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 6 (If Necessary): Golden Knights at Capitals
Date: Sunday, June 10
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: Capital One Arena. Washington, D.C.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 7 (If Necessary): Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Wednesday, June 13
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)
 

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Alex Ovechkin scored the goal that sent the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Final

Alex Ovechkin scored the goal that sent the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Final

On June 4, 1998, Joe Juneau scored the biggest goal in the history of the Washington Capitals.

In Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final, Juneau attacked the crease and shot in a rebound past a helpless Dominik Hasek in overtime to defeat the Buffalo Sabres and win the Eastern Conference.

That goal sent the Capitals to its first and, before 2018, only Stanley Cup Final.

Alex Ovechkin’s name was already etched in the history books for the Capitals several times over, but on Wednesday he added it again with the biggest goal of his career. His goal in Game 7 stood as the game-winner meaning it was the goal that sent the Capitals to their second Cup Final.

You can watch it here:

It did not come in overtime and was not quite as dramatic as Juneau’s. In fact, no one knew the significance of the goal at the time. It came just 62 seconds into the contest. It was a significant goal, but no one realized right away that it would be an historic one.

How fitting is it that Ovechkin scored the game-winner? Ovechkin who this team was built around, who reignited the franchise and built Washington into a hockey city. After all the criticism over the years, all the talk about how he can’t win, all talk about how the team should take away the C and all the talk about how the Caps should trade him and start over, this goal was not just a moment of history, but one of vindication.

When we look back on Ovechkin’s career, at all the individual awards and accomplishments, this one single goal will stand above the rest. This was the biggest game of his career and he scored the biggest goal of his career just 62 seconds in.

There’s one way he can top that: lead the Caps past Vegas for their first Stanley Cup.

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