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Jenkins returns 2 picks for TDs, Rams win 31-17

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Jenkins returns 2 picks for TDs, Rams win 31-17

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) St. Louis' long takeaway drought ended spectacularly in the desert.

For five games, the Rams failed to force a single opponent turnover. Then on Sunday, they intercepted rookie Ryan Lindley four times in his first NFL start. Janoris Jenkins took two of them back for touchdowns in St. Louis' 31-17 victory over Arizona, the Cardinals' seventh loss in a row.

``I knew eventually they were going to come,'' Rams safety Quintin Mikell said, ``and they came in a big way today.''

No NFL rookie since 1960 and no Rams rookie ever accomplished what Jenkins did with his two TD returns.

``I'm glad I broke it,'' Jenkins said when told of his franchise first. ``I feel good, but I have to keep playing and strive for something better than turnovers.''

Jenkins' returns of 36 and 39 yards emphatically ended the Rams' streak of five straight games without an opponent turnover.

The talented defender had slipped to the second round for the Rams after he was booted from the Florida team following a pair of marijuana-related incidents and finished his career at North Alabama. Then there was his acknowledgment that he fathered four children with three women.

Just two weeks ago, he and fellow rookie Chris Givens were inactive for the game against San Francisco for violating team rules.

All that was mere history on this big day.

``What a great game by Janoris,'' Rams defensive end Chris Long said. ``I'm really proud of him. I'm happy for him. When you get one turnover for a score, your chances of winning go up exponentially, so if you get two, I don't know what the statistic is, but when you do it two times with the same player, it's pretty awesome.''

Sam Bradford had a pair of 37-yard touchdown passes - to Lance Kendricks and Givens - for the Rams (4-6-1), who snapped a five-game winless streak and beat Arizona (4-7) for the second time this season.

The Rams' Steven Jackson rushed for 139 yards in 24 carries.

``That's Steven,'' coach Jeff Fisher said. ``We built this game plan around him today. He took it over.''

St. Louis outscored Arizona 17-0 in the second half.

Lindley, a sixth-round draft pick out of San Diego State and the third quarterback to start for Arizona this season, completed 31 of 52 for 312 yards and no touchdowns. The interceptions, especially the two returned for scores, outweighed anything else he did.

``I think you just have to understand he's a young player and he's got to understand he can't make a couple of those throws, especially the last one that was returned for a touchdown,'' Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ``That was a bad throw because he had Larry (Fitzgerald) down the sidelines. He's just got to step up and put it up.''

Beanie Wells, back after missing seven games with a turf toe injury, had TD runs of 1 and 12 yards for the Cardinals.

Arizona led 17-14 at the half on Jay Feely's 32-yard field goal as the second quarter ended.

The third quarter, though, belonged to the Rams.

With St. Louis pinned at its 8-yard line, Jackson ran 46 yards, doubling his previous longest gain of the season. Two plays later, Givens beat rookie Justin Bethel down the left sideline for a 37-yard scoring reception to give the Rams their first lead, 21-17, with 9:58 left in the quarter.

The Rams threatened to extend the lead when Lindley threw right into the hands of linebacker Craigh Dahl, who returned it 38 yards to the Arizona 12. But after a holding penalty, Greg Zuerlein's 35-yard field goal try was wide left.

The Cardinals weren't so fortunate on Lindley's next bad pass. The rookie underthrew Fitzgerald by 10 yards. Jenkins caught it and in a play almost identical to his earlier TD, raced down the right sideline for the score that made it 28-17.

Dahl's interception also came when Lindley missed Fitzgerald.

``Those two where I was going to Larry, the two picks, were just real mental mistakes,'' Lindley said. ``It was things that, it's unexplainable right now, but I made a bad play. Larry is doing the right thing. I'm just off a little bit on something, rushing something, not trusting what I'm seeing out there.''

Since the retirement of Kurt Warner after the 2009 season, the Cardinals have had losing streaks of seven games, six games and seven games in successive years.

``Seven weeks in a row we've been in the same situation with the long faces,'' Fitzgerald said. ``I don't think there is anything else to be said at this point. We all know what has to be done. We have to find a way to get a win. I am pretty much lost for words now after seven weeks of saying the same thing.''

NOTES: The last rookie to return two picks for a touchdown was Bobby Franklin of the Cleveland Browns in 1960. ... Daryl Washington got his ninth sack, one shy of the Cardinals' record for a linebacker. ... Bradford came out of the game for one play after getting hit by Quentin Groves ... Zuerlein's failure on a 35-yard field goal was his shortest miss of the season.

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

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Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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