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Marleau leads Sharks past Avalanche 4-0

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Marleau leads Sharks past Avalanche 4-0

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Patrick Marleau became the second player in NHL history to open a season with four straight multigoal games, striking twice on the power play in the first period in the San Jose Sharks' 4-0 victory against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.

Marleau has scored exactly two goals in each game this season, joining Ottawa's Cy Denneny in 1917-18 as the only players to open a campaign with four multigoal games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Both of Marleau's goals came after Ryan O'Byrne took two additional minor penalties for retaliating after San Jose's Brad Stuart flattened Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog with a vicious hit.

Joe Thornton added a power-play goal in the second period, giving San Jose 10 power-play goals in four games and a franchise record 19 overall.

Thomas Greiss made 24 saves for his first career shutout and Matt Irwin got his first career goal as the Sharks are off to their best start since also winning the first four games in 2008-09.

The Avalanche lost their seventh straight game in San Jose since winning Game 1 of their first-round playoff series in 2010. After killing off 16 straight penalties coming into this game, Colorado allowed goals on San Jose's first three power plays and another just 11 seconds after killing the Sharks' fourth man advantage.

San Jose's power play is in midseason form in this lockout-shortened season, with 10 goals in 24 chances. Marleau has four of those goals as he is off to a scintillating start. He is the first Sharks player ever with four straight multigoal games and has outscored the Sharks' opponents, who have seven goals in four games.

He has Thornton to thank as the Sharks captain has nine assists and two goals already this season. The third member of San Jose's top line, Joe Pavelski, has eight assists so far.

The Sharks took more than 12 minutes to get their first shot on goal in the game but managed to take a 2-0 lead after the first period because of stellar special teams play and a big hit by Stuart that changed the complexion of the game.

San Jose's troubled penalty-kill unit was up to the task early, allowing no shots on two power plays for Colorado. Then San Jose's dangerous power-play took over late in the period after Stuart's big hit.

O'Byrne took offense and challenged Stuart to a fight. The Sharks came out of the scrum with two power plays after O'Byrne got hit with an instigator penalty and one for fighting with a facemask. Landeskog left the game briefly before returning for the second period.

Marleau and the Sharks made Colorado pay. Just 28 seconds into the first power play, Marleau whacked at a rebound and knocked it past Semyon Varlamov to give San Jose the lead.

He delivered again on the second power play after a nifty passing display from Dan Boyle to Joe Thornton to Marleau, who tapped the puck in by the side of the net for his fourth straight two-goal game.

NOTES: Marleau is the first NHL player with fourth consecutive multigoal games since Alexander Mogilny had five straight in 1992-93 for Buffalo. ... Recently signed Scott Gomez made his Sharks debut on the fourth line in place of James Sheppard and also got time on the second power-play unit. ... O'Byrne got 19 minutes of penalties for his scuffle with Stuart as both players were sent off for fighting and O'Byrne got an additional 10-minute misconduct.

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Redskins need a winning streak to convince legion of skeptics

Redskins need a winning streak to convince legion of skeptics

If you want to, you can find plenty of things wrong with the Redskins’ 23-17 win over the Panthers. The home team was up 17-0 in the second quarter and yet had to hang on as the Panthers reached the red zone with a chance to win in the last minute. The game got tight because the Redskins continued their second-half scoring problems, putting up just six points. Alex Smith passed for just 153 yards. 

But you can’t poke holes in the fact that the Redskins are 3-2 and in first place in the NFC East. Sure, there is a long way to go. But consider this—a Redskins schedule that looked rough at the beginning of the season doesn’t look quite as tough. In fact, right now the Redskins have a better winning percentage than any team they will play in their remaining 11 games. 

Yes, that’s right. They have six games to play in the division, two each against the Cowboys and Eagles, both now 3-3, and the 1-5 Giants. Their two remaining games against the NFC South are against the 2-3 Bucs and the 2-4 Falcons. The schedule is rounded out with games against three AFC South teams, the Titans, Texans, and Jaguars. All three of those teams are tied atop the division at 3-3. 

Of course, you can’t expect all of these teams to still be wallowing around .500 when they face the Redskins. It looks like the Eagles and Falcons are on the upswing and in today’s NFL any team can get hot at any time. 

And, as the Redskins demonstrated in their Week 2 loss to the Colts, they are capable of losing to a weak team. They still have plenty of issues they have to correct if they plan on maintaining their winning record and staying in contention for the division title. They won’t survive if they continue to have difficulty scoring in the second half (their only second-half TD this season came in garbage time against the Saints). They need to get more sacks from Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith, who have one combined. Plenty of details need to be ironed out. 

But the fact that they are a flawed team doesn’t take away from the fact that they got a quality win over the Panthers. Carolina was 3-1, coming off of an 11-5 playoff season. On top of that, the Redskins had not beaten the Panthers since 2006, a stretch that included an 0-4 record against Cam Newton. They didn’t commit a turnover for the first time this year and they got a season-high three takeaways. Christian McCaffrey came into the game averaging 83 yards per game and left it averaging 70 after picking up 20 yards on eight carries. 

With all of that said, the Redskins still have to overcome their inconsistency. They have won two games in a row just twice since the beginning of the 2017 season. Nobody is going to believe that anything is different about the Redskins until they can string together three or four wins in a row. Until then, skepticism will abound. 

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler is locked into the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

With Tom Wilson still serving a 20-game suspension, Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden has the difficult task of finding a wing to complement his top line of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. For the first four games of the season, that player was Brett Connolly.

On Saturday, however, he changed things up and went with Chandler Stephenson instead.

Just 18 seconds into the game, Stephenson made his head coach look very smart as he finished off a 2-on-1 with Kuznetsov to score his first goal of the season.

“Obviously, the start was great,” Reirden said after the game.

Stephenson is an incredibly fast skater and the extra speed seemed to add another dimension to that line that opponents had to contend with, and it led to both of the Caps’ goals on the night.

In addition to Stephenson’s goal, Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty in the second period, and Washington scored on the resulting power play.

“Those guys are a lot of fun to play with,” Stephenson said. “They just know where to be and can find each other. I've just got to get the puck to them and just go to the net with your stick on the ice, and they'll find you.”

The top line’s success was a matter of finding instant chemistry as Stephenson had very little time to adjust. The Caps were off on Friday following back-to-back games, and Reirden did not make the switch of putting Stephenson on the top until Saturday’s morning skate.

Putting a new top line together with little time to practice does not seem like an ideal scenario, but according to Kuznetsov, the level of familiarity between all the players made the adjustment quick and easy.

“It doesn't matter with who you play,” he said. “In this locker room, we can communicate with anybody. We don't have a first line, we don't have a fourth line. We try and roll all lines.”

Reirden seemed pleased with the new trio after the game saying, “They did a number of good things during the game as well, so they I thought accomplished a lot. I thought [Stephenson] brought the speed on the forecheck and was able to at least go after their defense a little bit and force some turnovers that Kuznetsov and [Ovechkin] were able to at least get some opportunities from. So I think that's important to have him in that situation.”

Reirden was happy enough with the top line’s performance to keep them together. The team is off Monday, but Stephenson remained on the top line during Sunday’s practice.

But so long as Wilson remains out, finding the right match for the top line will remain a work in progress.

Said Reirden, “We’ll continue to try to put together our four lines that give us the best chance.”

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