Capitals

Josh Brown makes strong NFL return with Bengals

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Josh Brown makes strong NFL return with Bengals

CINCINNATI (AP) Light rain had just ended when Josh Brown lined up for a 52-yard field goal try in the third quarter, the game on the line. For the last three months, he'd hoped for this test.

Made it with room to spare.

Brown connected on all four of his field goal tries for the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, including that 52-yarder in the third quarter of a 20-19 loss to Dallas. The Cowboys won it with a field goal of their own as time ran out.

For Brown, it was a solid first step in trying to show the rest of the NFL that he's not finished.

``It's a positive note,'' Brown said. ``It just reassures you that you're not done playing yet. To be able to bang out a 52-yarder and to do it with confidence - it's all reassuring that I'm moving on the right path to getting back in the NFL.''

The 4-for-4 performance just might jump-start his career, even if it turns out to be his only game with Cincinnati.

The Bengals needed a kicker on short notice when Mike Nugent hurt his right calf during practice last week. They brought in several kickers for a tryout, and Brown won them over with his consistency.

He'd been trying to get another chance since the Jets released him at the end of training camp, keeping his leg in shape by kicking three times a week on the West Coast. There was a lot of pressure on him Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium - the Bengals (7-6) are in the thick of the AFC wild card chase.

Brown was good from 25, 33, 25 and 52 yards, bailing out an offense that stalled near the goal line. If Cincinnati would have held on at the end, Brown would have been their MVP for the day.

One very good day helped his career outlook.

``In a ton of ways,'' Brown said. ``You get released from one job, you don't make the team with the Jets for certain reasons, then you're just reassuring people that OK, he can still play, he can still kick off. Thirty-three is not old for a kicker. I feel I've still got seven or eight years left in me.''

Brown was Seattle's seventh-round draft pick out of Nebraska in 2003. He played five years with Seattle and four with St. Louis, making 220 field goals in 272 attempts (80.9 percent). When the Jets let him go, he learned what it's like to be a kicker trying to get back into the league.

His wife runs a business in Seattle, so he took care of their three children while kicking as much as he could.

``I went home and just stuck to the plan of kicking three days a week - Friday, Sunday, Tuesday - wherever I could find room,'' Brown said. ``High school fields, parks.''

He'd fly to San Diego and work out with other kickers, trying to stay sharp for when the call finally came. It was a big adjustment.

``I played nine straight years, so I never had to deal with it,'' Brown said. ``Now I do. The more games I get in this year, the more it's going to help me to try to get on a roster in February and keep moving forward.''

It's unclear how long he'll be in Cincinnati. Coach Marvin Lewis was noncommittal about whether Nugent would be healthy enough to kick during a game on Thursday night in Philadelphia. Brown knows that in any case, he won't be around for very long.

By making the most of his chance, he's hoping to get another one next season with some team.

``It's important to me, especially going into next year,'' he said. ``This really helps.''

NOTES: Nugent didn't participate in practice for the second straight day Tuesday. ... DE Michael Johnson (toe) and RB Cedric Peerman (ankle) also sat out for the second day in a row. .. CB Dre Kirkpatrick was held out of practice after going through a full workout on Monday. He missed Sunday's game against the Cowboys while recovering from a concussion. ... LB Rey Maualuga (shoulder, knee) and LB Vontaze Burfict (shoulder) were limited in practice.

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

The wait is finally over. 

After two decades, the Capitals are back in the Stanley Cup Final. 

After a convincing 4-0 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Capitals are in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights. They'll be facing off against a handful of familiar names, with former Caps GM George McPhee, fan favorite Nate Schmidt, and ex-Penguins goalie Marc Andre-Fluery are just a few of the names that'll be suiting up for Vegas. 

What will the X-factors in the series be? Who will be the unexpected heroes of Game 1? The action is almost underway, and here are all the details you need to know.

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

WHEN IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES?

Game 1 of the Capitals-Golden Knights 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

WHAT TV CHANNEL IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 1 between the Capitals and Golden Knights is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

5:00 p.m. — Caps Cup Preview
6:00 p.m. — Caps GameDay Live
6:30 p.m. — Caps Face Off
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 1 Capitals vs. Golden Knights
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1?

Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights is available for online stream on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the NBC Sports live stream page.

CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals digital producer JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.