Capitals

Flames-Red Wings Preview

Flames-Red Wings Preview

The Calgary Flames insist they are a better team than their record indicates.

They can prove it by ending their recent road struggles and prevent the Detroit Red Wings from notching a fourth consecutive home victory Tuesday night.

Calgary (1-3-2) took a 2-1 lead over Chicago on Jay Bouwmeester's goal with 35 seconds left Saturday before the Blackhawks tied it with 2.3 seconds to go, then handed the Flames at 3-2 shootout loss.

Despite an NHL-low four points and losses in both shootout appearances, the Flames remain positive.

"We've said it all along that we're a better team," said forward Alex Tanguay, the team points leader with three goals and three assists. "For some reason, when you don't win you find ways to lose, and certainly that was one of those cases."

Calgary had a season-high 47 shots, including 24 in its two-goal third period, and limited the Blackhawks to six shots in each period of regulation.

"I see many positive signs all over our game, and it's just a matter of collecting a couple of wins and growing a little confidence," coach Bob Hartley said. "If we play every game like we played (Saturday), we're going to turn our season around, that's for sure."

Hartley remains optimistic even though the Flames are allowing 4.0 goals per contest and have one victory while playing five of six at home. They must try to get on track with the next three games coming on the road, where they're in the midst of an 0-2-4 stretch going back to last season.

Calgary, which last went winless in seven straight road games Jan. 26-Feb. 22, 2007, has dropped seven of nine overall against the Red Wings (4-3-1) and three of four at Detroit.

Star winger Jarome Iginla has yet to record a goal in 2013, but he has five with two assists in Calgary's last three visits to Detroit.

Flames forward Jiri Hudler has two goals and three assists in three games after missing the first three contests while on bereavement leave. The veteran now makes his return to Detroit, where he spent his first seven NHL seasons and posted at least 37 points in each of the last four before signing a four-year deal with Calgary over the summer.

The Red Wings have totaled 14 goals, including five on 19 power-play chances, during a three-game winning streak at Joe Louis Arena that followed a 2-1 home-opening loss to Dallas on Jan. 22. However, they are looking to rebound after Saturday's 4-2 defeat at Columbus.

Detroit has been outscored 15-7 in four road games (1-2-1), going 0 for 22 on the power play.

Rookie Damien Brunner scored his fourth goal in six games Saturday and Johan Franzen added his second, but the Red Wings allowed more than three goals for the first time since a season-opening 6-0 loss at St. Louis.

"They had more energy, they played better and they got better and better as the game went on, and we got worse and worse," said coach Mike Babcock, whose team was coming off a 5-3 win over the Blues a night earlier.

Jimmy Howard had his worst performance since the season opener but has a 2.35 goals-against average while winning seven of eight against the Flames. The lone defeat during that span came at home, 4-1 on Nov. 3, 2011.

While Detroit could be without injured defenseman Brendan Smith (shoulder), it might get some help along the blue line if former Flame Ian White returns after missing the last five games with a leg injury.

Two of White's seven goals last season came against Calgary.

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The goal that no one wanted: Alex Ovechkin gives up hat trick to set up T.J. Oshie

The goal that no one wanted: Alex Ovechkin gives up hat trick to set up T.J. Oshie

Alex Ovechkin had two goals, the puck on his stick and an empty-net yawning. The Caps held a 4-2 lead on Monday against the Vancouver Canucks late in the third period and the win looked all but secured. The only thing still up for grabs was the exclamation point empty-net goal.

Ovechkin took the puck in the defensive zone and weaved his way through the neutral zone. Once he hit center ice, there was only one player between him and the net. The hat trick looked all but certain…until he passed the puck away.

He easily could have taken the puck himself and fired it into the empty yet, but instead he chose to pass it off to T.J. Oshie on the wing.

Oshie delayed, but with the trailing Vancouver players skating into the passing lane, there was no way for Oshie to try to pass it back to Ovechkin and he very reluctantly shot the puck into the net.

When the players returned to the bench, the disappointment on Oshie’s face was clear to see. He wanted Ovechkin to get the hat trick, but Ovechkin wasn’t having it.

After the game, head coach Todd Reirden praised Ovechkin for his leadership.

“He could have easily got in the red and tried to score himself and it wasn’t even a thought,” Reirden said. “He passed right to Osh and Osh couldn’t go back to him and that’s the way it worked out. It doesn’t bother him one bit and I think that’s where you see a different player than maybe you saw three or four years ago that is not focused on individual stuff. He’s doing the right thing and he feels if you do the right thing for long enough, you’re going to get rewarded.

“We were benefactors of that last season with being able to win out at the end. He’s really got a lot of buy-in right now for doing the right thing. I think his leadership is really in the last probably year, year and a half has really gone to a new level.”
 
Reirden saw leadership on the play. Oshie saw disappointment.
 
Ovechkin offered his own explanation for giving up the shot as he said, “Save it for next time.”

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Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. show how they can change everything for Wizards in win over Blazers

Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. show how they can change everything for Wizards in win over Blazers

Most nights, with little variance, the Wizards know what they are going to get from John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. They are consistently what they are, both good and bad, and mostly good.

The same cannot always be said about Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. Both are capable of brilliance, it's just those moments come and go and sometimes with mysterious timing. Both players help the team more often than not, but can be unpredictable and enigmatic.

Monday night saw both Morris and Oubre at their best as the Wizards topped the Blazers 125-124 in overtime at the Moda Center. It was a worthy reminder of how much the two of them can change the outlook for the Wizards as a team on any given night.

Let's begin with Morris because this may have been the best game he's played with the Wizards since joining them in a Feb. 2016 trade. On both ends of the floor, he  was a force, but particularly on offense.

Morris erupted for 28 points in 25 minutes on 9-for-15 from the field and 6-for-10 from three. His six threes were a career-high. He also had 10 rebounds, a block and a steal.

It was the most efficient night in Morris' career and, by one measure, one of the most efficient in franchise history. His 28 points were the most by a Wizards or Bullets player in 25 minutes or less since A.J. English dropped 30 points in 23 minutes in 1990.

Morris' threes were well-timed. He hit two in the extra period, including one with 38.5 seconds remaining to put the Wizards up four. He also made one with 1:04 left in regulation and another right before that with 1:39 to go, both to give the Wizards a lead at the time. 

The clutch threes invoked memories of a game-winner Morris hit in the very same building two seasons ago. That also happened to be his best year with the Wizards.

Morris has improved his three-point shooting in recent years with a career-best 36.7 percent last season. When he's knocking them down, the Wizards can be uniquely good at spacing the floor, as Wall and especially Beal and Porter can be dangerous from three.

What Morris did against Portland was a major departure from a pair of uninspired games to begin the season. He had 21 points and 12 rebounds total in his first two games, both losses, as he failed to compensate for Dwight Howard's absence. On Monday, he stepped up and helped lead the Wizards to victory.

Like Morris, Oubre had been scuffling through two games. A different version of him showed up in Portland.

Oubre amassed only 17 points in his first two games and shot just 5-for-16 from the field and 1-for-7 from three. Against the Blazers, Oubre scored 22 points and shot 9-for-13 overall and 3-for-3 from long range.

Oubre added six rebounds, a block and a steal and a host of winning plays that didn't show up in traditional stats. He drew a loose ball foul on Mo Harkless early in the fourth quarter and took a charge on C.J. McCollum with under two minutes in overtime.

Oubre played pretty much exactly how head coach Scott Brooks often says he should. He ran the floor in transition and attacked the rim when the ball swung his way. He was more selective with his three-point attempts than usual. He wreaked havoc on defense with deflections, didn't gamble for steals and he hustled for rebounds. 

Monday night showed the perfect version of both Morris and Oubre. The Wizards need that to be the model for how they aspire to play every single night. If they do, this team's ceiling is significantly higher.

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