Capitals

Falcons trying to build momentum for playoffs

201212161313476041472-p2.jpeg

Falcons trying to build momentum for playoffs

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Falcons coach Mike Smith has learned that little credit is given for regular-season success when it is followed by postseason flops.

Smith is hoping the Falcons' impressive 34-0 shutout of the New York Giants on Sunday generates momentum to end the streak of disappointments in the playoffs.

The Falcons (12-2) need one win to secure home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs. Atlanta has five straight winning seasons but is 0-3 in the playoffs under Smith.

The Falcons have had better regular-season records than the Super Bowl winner in two straight seasons. That meant little as they lost to the eventual champion each year in the playoffs.

The Falcons were 10-6 last season before losing to the 9-7 Giants in the playoffs. The 2010 Falcons were 13-3 before losing to 10-6 Green Bay. The Giants and Packers were the hot teams that went all the way.

The lesson for Atlanta is obvious: Late-season momentum matters the most.

``I think it's important that you're playing efficiently and effectively in December and January, and I think that's what every team is striving for,'' Smith said Monday. ``I think over the last two seasons, the teams that were playing well in December and got really rolling were the teams that had the most success and the teams that ultimately were the world champions. So I think momentum is very important.''

Impressive regular-season records can be quickly forgotten.

``People don't remember what you do in September and October,'' he said. ``It's all about December and January.''

Atlanta plays Saturday night at Detroit before closing its regular season at home against Tampa Bay.

Quarterback Matt Ryan dismissed the notion that the surprising shutout of the Giants was Atlanta's long-awaited statement game to boost public perception of the team.

``That's not something that I think about, or worry about,'' Ryan said. ``We still have some things in front of us, in terms of the regular season, that we want to accomplish and get done. That's what I spend my time thinking about.''

Ryan outplayed New York's Eli Manning, who threw two interceptions. Ryan completed 28 of 33 passes for 270 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions and broke his own franchise records for completions and passing yards in a season.

``I thought Matt had one of his best games since he's been here,'' Smith said. ``He ran the offense extremely well. He exuded a lot of confidence. I think that permeated around the team.''

Ryan threw two touchdown passes to Julio Jones and one to Tony Gonzalez.

The Falcons' running game enjoyed a revival. Running backs Michael Turner, Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling combined for 33 carries for 116 yards. Turner had 52 yards rushing with a touchdown.

``It was nice to get it going,'' Smith said. ``I thought we set the tempo early with our running game. It goes hand in hand. When you're able to start running the football, they have to devote more resources to stopping the run and it opens up the pass game.''

Atlanta gave the Giants their first regular-season shutout loss since 1996. The Falcons held the Giants to 256 total yards.

``Shutouts are very hard to come by in the NFL,'' Smith said. ``They don't come along very often. When you do accomplish it for your football team, it's not just the defense. The offense and special teams were contributing to that outcome as well. It's a sense of accomplishment because they don't happen very often.''

It's difficult to do better than a December shutout against the team that beat Atlanta in last season's playoffs.

``It was an important game for our football team for the next three weeks,'' Smith said. ``We're playing for a whole lot. There are still a lot of things that have to be determined in terms of seeding for the playoffs. That to me was two teams that were playing for a whole lot.''

NOTES: Due to the Saturday game at Detroit, the Falcons will practice on Tuesday, normally an off day. Smith said it will be an important day for S William Moore, who missed Sunday's game with injured ribs. ``We're hoping to get him back out there as quickly as possible,'' Smith said. ``It's going to really be determined how his rehab goes tomorrow.'' ... The Falcons expect the league to review S Chris Hope's third-quarter hit on Giants receiver Victor Cruz that drew an unnecessary roughness penalty.

Quick Links

Caps leave All-Star Game with plenty of highlights, but no wins

Caps leave All-Star Game with plenty of highlights, but no wins

ST. LOUIS -- There was no All-Star championship for the Metropolitan Division All-Stars this year. The Metro was not able to defend its crown in 2020 as it fell 9-5 to the Atlantic Division in the first game of the All-Star Game tournament on Saturday.

Despite the early loss, the Capitals certainly left their mark on the event. Here were the highlights:

An ovation for Oshie

T.J. Oshie began his NHL career in St. Louis and remains a fan favorite there even now in the midst of his fifth season in Washington. That was evident when Oshie was introduced to the crowd to thunderous applause.

“I think it's a pretty cool story,” Oshie said. “It's something that I'm going to enjoy telling the kids and grandkids down the road. But I think the coolest part for me was just the cheers from the fans when my name was called a couple times there. I enjoyed playing here. I love playing in D.C. though, but I had some good experiences here, some heartbreaks, some pretty good teams we played on. Just to get back here, just kind of crazy that my first All-Star Game ended up being in St. Louis. It was a great weekend, it was fun, the fans were awesome as always.”

The starting lineup

Todd Reirden went with what he knew to start the game as Oshie and John Carlson both started the game with Braden Holtby in net. The only non-Cap to start was New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal.

The Barzal, Oshie, Carlson trio seemed to find some chemistry through the game and Oshie had nothing but positive things to say of the speedy forward after the game.

“Obviously his skill level's off the charts, just skating, his stickhandling and vision on the ice,” Oshie said. “Obviously we would've liked to put up some more goals, but it's nice trying to get open and have him find me than chase him around the ice and just try to not get made a fool of. It was awesome. He's a great kid. It was nice kind of getting to know him off the ice here these last couple days.”

While Oshie wished for more production, that line actually acquitted itself nicely. Oshie recorded one goal and one assist, Carlson had one goal and Barzal had two assists.

Carlson scores a milestone

The Atlantic Division jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but Carlson scored the first goal of the game for the Metro.

Holtby broke up a scoring chance for the Atlantic as he blocked a centering pass with his stick which sparked the breakout in the other direction. Carlson and Barzal had a 2-on-1 opportunity and Barzal set up Carlson for the shot past a helpless Frederik Anderson. Oshie recorded a secondary assist on the goal.

That was not just the Caps’ first goal of the game, it was the first goal by a Caps defenseman at the All-Star Game in franchise history, according to the team. Quite the milestone.

“That’s great,” Carlson said. “I guess I had no idea.”

Oshie scores in St. Louis

I mean, he had to, right? His first All-Star game coming in St. Louis, there was no way Oshie was going to walk away from this game without scoring.

The Metro Division cycled in the offensive zone and Seth Jones dropped the puck off to Oshie near the blue line. He cut up the middle then fired a shot to the corner to beat Anderson, making him the eighth player in Caps’ franchise history to score at an All-Star Game.

Coach Osh in the house

Oshie’s family has always been the talk of Washington because of how adorable his daughters are and that was on full display again on Saturday. But it was Oshie’s dad who stole the show.

Oshie’s father suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. That makes traveling very difficult. After Oshie’s goal, however, the broadcast cut to Oshie waving up to his father who had been able to make the trip to St. Louis.

“It's always great to have Coach Osh around,” Oshie said. “He missed our fathers' trip this year, it's kind of hard for him to travel, but we were able to make it work for him to come to St. Louis where a lot of the people you see working down here behind the scenes probably know him better than they know me, so he got to see some old friends. Just special to have him here to witness my first All-Star Game in person.”

Oshie added, “There's certain milestones that I've made in my career that I want him to be a part of if he's able to make it and this was one of them He came to St. Louis quite a bit when I played and he has a lot of friends here, a lot of people that treat him really good as well. This was something that I didn't want him to miss."

Holtby ends on a high-note

Let’s face it, the All-Star Game does not favor the goalies. A 3-on-3 tournament is meant to promote as much scoring as possible. As a result, it is often a tough night for the netminders and that was true for Holtby who made five saves on nine shots in his single period of play. But Holtby was able to end his night on a high note with one of the top saves of the game.

David Pastrnak set up Shea Weber on the far-side for what looked like a lay-up on Holtby, but Holtby was able to stretch the pad for the fantastic toe save to deny Weber.

“It felt good to make a save,” Holtby said.

“It's difficult, but it's fun too,” Holtby said of the 3-on-3 format. “It's challenging. I think guys are starting to figure it out a little bit more with the cross-ice pass and stuff. But it's fun to be a part of.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Oshie gets warm All-Star welcome on St. Louis return, scores with dad in attendance

Oshie gets warm All-Star welcome on St. Louis return, scores with dad in attendance

Former St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie was welcomed back to Enterprise Arena fondly by the NHL All-Star crowd that included his family.

At the end of Oshie's entrance on to the ice, the camera showed plenty of Blues players cheering for him. In seven seasons with St. Louis, Oshie played 443 games and tallied 310 points (110 G, 200 A) and a +71 plus/minus rating. He even served as an alternate captain for his final two seasons before being traded to the Capitals for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley and a 2016 third-round draft pick. 

That wasn't all for Oshie's All-Star performance -- he scored 5:29 into the first period to give the Metropolitan Division team a 3-2 lead.

Oshie is the eighth Capitals player in franchise history to score in the NHL All-Star Game.

Oshie's family, including his dad, Tim, affectionately known as "Coach Osh," was in attendance to witness his first All-Star appearance, making the moment even more special.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: