Capitals

Friday's Sports In Brief

Friday's Sports In Brief

NHL

NEW YORK (AP) NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he is out of ideas on how to get negotiations back on track to save the hockey season.

Talks fell apart Thursday night amid back-and-forth accusations, and the fallout was still being felt a day later. The two sides had no contact with each other on the 83rd day of the owners' lockout of players.

The players' most recent proposal was turned down quickly on Thursday by the NHL, which wanted a yes or no answer on three specific conditions the league said were non-negotiable. When the union tried to bargain the points, the meeting ended abruptly, leaving talks in limbo.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Butch Jones agreed to become Tennessee's fourth football coach in six seasons, ending a tumultuous couple of days for both parties.

Jones has a 50-27 record in six seasons as a head coach. He went 27-13 in three seasons at Central Michigan and was 23-14 at Cincinnati the last three years. He now faces the task of rebuilding a former SEC power that has posted three consecutive losing seasons.

During the 19-day search to replace Derek Dooley, who was fired Nov. 18 after going 15-21 in his three-year tenure, the Volunteers also spoke with ESPN analyst and former NFL head coach Jon Gruden, and Louisville coach Charlie Strong.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A lawyer for former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky said his client has gotten his fighting spirit back after his child abuse conviction and sentencing and hopes prison officials will find a way to house him under less restrictive conditions.

Karl Rominger said after spending several hours with Sandusky at Greene State Prison in southwestern Pennsylvania that Sandusky's outlook has improved since he was sentenced two months ago. He said they discussed pending post-sentencing motions and plans for an appeal.

Sandusky, a former assistant to head football coach Joe Paterno, was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys, some on campus. He's serving a 30- to 60-year sentence.

NFL

WASHINGTON (AP) - The New York Jets and their quarterback controversy have turned into Washington's political football.

In August, President Barack Obama questioned the Jets' decision to acquire Tim Tebow when they had quarterback Mark Sanchez, who had led the team to the playoffs two years in a row. Then this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took a swipe at Republicans in the midst of tough fiscal cliff negotiations, comparing them to the Jets and their quarterback uncertainty.

In remarks on the Senate floor, Reid said the Jets have three quarterbacks - Sanchez, Tebow and Greg McElroy. Reid then said Republicans can't decide on their leader either.

BASEBALL

NEW YORK (AP) - Baseball's average salary increased 3.8 percent this year to a record $3.2 million. According to final figures released Friday by the Major League Baseball Players Association, the rise was the steepest since 2007.

The boost was helped by an increase in the minimum salary from $414,000 to $480,000.

The Yankees had the highest average for the 14th consecutive season at $6.88 million, rising after consecutive declines from a peak of $7.66 million when they won the World Series in 2009.

The Dodgers boosted their average from 13th to second at $5.55 million. At $684,940, Houston had the lowest average since the 2006 Florida Marlins at $594,722.

BASKETBALL

NEW YORK (AP) - USA Basketball is expanding its reach into youth basketball, partnering with iHoops, the joint initiative formed by the NBA and NCAA to improve programs for young players.

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said the move is ``an opportunity to make a big impact'' on the development of young players and will help his organization find elite players who could eventually play for U.S. national teams.

iHoops was formed in 2009 and Colangelo said he always believed it would be a part of USA Basketball because his organization has the leadership and business components in place to make it successful. He said specific plans will be announced in early 2013.

SPORTS BETTING

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - The four major pro sports leagues and the NCAA have filed legal papers calling New Jersey's effort to allow sports gambling an ``unlawful scheme'' and a ``blatant violation'' of federal law.

The leagues sued Gov. Chris Christie in August after he announced plans to allow gambling on pro and college games at casinos and racetracks. New Jersey's legislature passed a sports betting law earlier in the year. In the brief, the leagues reject New Jersey's argument that a 1992 federal law restricting sports gambling to a handful of states is unconstitutional.

The NCAA has already pulled some events from New Jersey over the dispute.

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Tom Wilson does the little things in Capitals’ 3-2 overtime win at Colorado

Tom Wilson does the little things in Capitals’ 3-2 overtime win at Colorado

To call it a hit is generous. To call it a huge play is accurate. 

Capitals forward Tom Wilson backed into a loose puck along the boards in the defensive zone of Friday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. He waited for a hit sure to come from behind. 

Colin Wilson, the Avalanche center, moved in to dislodge the puck. Instead he got dislodged from gravity. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Tom Wilson, barely moving and braced for contact, used his own leverage to launch Colin Wilson into the air, arms and legs akimbo. 

By the time Colin Wilson crashed to the ice, Tom Wilson had chipped a blind backhand pass to center ice, where Alex Ovechkin stopped it with his skate, dropped it to teammate Nicklas Backstrom, who gave it back as they entered the offensive zone. Ovechkin crossed from left to right and ripped a shot past former teammate Philipp Grubauer in goal for Colorado. 

It was a wonderful pass from Backstrom, who put the Avalanche on their heels. Ovechkin’s shot was a bullet that left little chance for Grubauer. But make no mistake – it all started with Wilson, who was prepared to take a hit to make a play. It is those little things that the Capitals missed during Wilson’s 16-game suspension by the NHL. It was the little things that helped them to a 3-2 overtime victory.  

“[Wilson] brings so much energy to this group,” Backstrom said. “He’s everywhere out there. That’s what we need. He’s playing PK, he’s playing power plays, he’s doing everything. He’s a valuable guy in this group so we’re happy to have him back.”

The game-winning goal in overtime by Backstrom was a perfect example. Wilson took a drop pass from defenseman John Carlson 12 seconds into overtime with Washington on a 4-on-3 power play. That’s when he went to work. 

For six seconds Wilson and Avalanche center Carl Soderberg did battle along the right boards high in the offensive zone. Just as Wilson was knocked to the ice, he slipped a pass back to Backstrom alone at the point. 

With Soderberg on top of him and both out of the play, Wilson watched Backstrom take advantage of the extra space in what effectively became a 3-on-2. He passed to Carlson in the right faceoff circle and then got the puck back in the high slot and beat Grubauer blocker side for the win. That doesn’t happen without Wilson. 

“When you’re playing with good players, you just try and keep it simple, win your battles and they’ll do the rest,” Wilson said. “And that’s exactly what happened on both those plays. At the end there, I thought about throwing it across the ice a couple times, but I’m not that comfortable out there yet so just kind of ragged on the wall and waited. Nicky got open for me and made it easy, I just threw it over to him and it was in the back of the net.”  

The Ovechkin goal put Washington ahead 2-1 at 18:29 of the second period. The Backstrom winner came 22 seconds into overtime. Wilson, in his third game back after his original 20-game suspension was reduced by a neutral arbitrator, played a career-high 24 minutes, 24 seconds. He moved to the power play for 4:19 with T.J. Oshie out with an upper-body injury and contributed 1:35 on the penalty kill – a little less than usual. 

Wilson played on the PK for 5:23 in his first game back Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild. He scored a goal in that game, too, by driving the net hard and has been a jolt of energy for a team that was scuffling coming into a difficult four-game road trip. The Capitals are 2-1-0 with one game left Monday at the Montreal Canadiens. 
 
“Tom is one of those guys that was vocal in our room, vocal on the bench that we’re fully in control of that game still even though we gave up the late goal,” Washington coach Todd Reirden said. “But that’s a tough start [after the suspension], three in four, and then add in the altitude and the minutes that we’re counting on him playing because they aren’t easy minutes. And then obviously having to chase around that top line tonight from Colorado is no easy task. Just really happy with the fact that we got him back a little earlier than was originally set up for us. It’s been a good bounce for our team.” 

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Avalanche

5 reasons the Caps beat the Avalanche

A shorthanded Capitals team marched into Colorado and took a 3-2 overtime win over the Avalanche on Friday.

Here are five reasons the Caps won.

A big glove save

With no T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov or Braden Holtby, the Caps were a bit shorthanded heading into the game. After the Avalanche took a 1-0 lead just 68 seconds in, it felt like it could be a very long night for Washington.

It could have been if not for an early breakaway save by Pheonix Copley.

Soon after the goal, Nathan MacKinnon grabbed the puck on a breakaway. MacKinnon is one of the best offensive players in the league and not the guy you want to see going in alone on Copley on a breakaway.

Copley, however, flashed the glove and made the save to keep the game at 1-0.

One year ago to the day, the Caps lost 6-2 in Colorado. With the injuries Washington was dealing with, it’s not a stretch to think this game could have gone off the rails quickly had the Avalanche jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

Tic-Tac-Toe

The Caps struggled through the first period to get any real penetration on Colorado’s defense and were kept largely on the perimeter with very few high-danger opportunities. The Avalanche defense got a bit more porous in the second and Washington took advantage.

Travis Boyd collected the puck in the offensive zone below the goal line. As he skated along the wall, he found himself face-to-face with four Colorado players who were all just following the puck. As far as defense goes, that’s not an ideal situation. Boyd found a wide-open Chandler Stephenson on the cross-ice pass, Stephenson goes back left to Devante Smith-Pelly who had an empty net to shoot on to get the Caps on the board and tie the game at one.


Game speed

After six seasons in Washington, Philipp Grubauer has faced literally thousands of shots from Alex Ovechkin in practice. But he never faced one of those shots in a game until Friday. Those shots come off the stick a bit faster when it counts as Grubauer learned.

Nicklas Backstrom entered the offensive zone with the puck and backhanded it to Ovechkin. Backstrom kept driving to the net drawing the defense with him except for Tyson Barrie. Backstrom’s passed to the left, but Ovechkin collected it going right which caught Barrie flatfooted. Ovehckin easily skated around Barrie to find an open shooting lane, then snapped a shot past Grubauer to put the Caps up 2-1. Ovechkin’s celebration was almost instantaneous, he knew he had Grubauer beat.


A late penalty

The referees really put away the whistles in the third period. They even missed a clear high-stick to Dmitry Orlov that drew blood and should have been a double-minor. Colorado came back to tie the game, but Smith-Pelly finally drew a blatant holding penalty from Ian Cole with just over a minute left to go in regulation.

The Avalanche survived to force overtime, but Nicklas Backstrom scored the game-winner on the power play just 22 seconds in for the win.

Tom Wilson making a Tom Wilson play

Space is important in hockey. That’s what makes a four-on-three power play harder to cover than a five-on-four power play. You know what’s even better? A three-on-two.

The Caps entered overtime on a power play which gave them a four-on-three to start. Tom Wilson had the puck on the wall and took a hit from Carl Soderberg. He saw the hit coming and took it so he could make the pass to Backstrom. He won the board battle and the hit took Soderberg out of the play, giving the Caps a three-on-two in the offensive zone to work with. Backstrom passed to John Carlson who passed back to Backstrom. He had all day to fire the game-winner and it was all thanks to a tremendous play from Wilson that most people would not have noticed.

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