Capitals

Monday's Sports in Brief

Monday's Sports in Brief

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Doctors say Colts coach Chuck Pagano is winning his battle with leukemia.

On Monday, Dr. Larry Cripe, Pagano's physician, told The Associated Press that the illness that has sidelined Indy's head coach for more than a month was in ``complete remission.'' Cripe said a morning exam showed Pagano's white blood cell count and bone marrow tests were normal as he prepares to start a second round of chemotherapy.

The doctor explained patients typically undergo three rounds of treatment to wipe out any potentially lingering cancer cells. The second round of chemo is scheduled to start later this week and will last four to six weeks.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Former Saints safety Steve Gleason was taken to a New Orleans hospital after becoming unresponsive at the Superdome while watching Monday night's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Gleason suffers from the ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He underwent treatment in the emergency room at Ochsner Hospital. His wife reports through the Saints that Gleason is alert and ``doing well.''

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Dismissing speculation that Sean Payton may leave New Orleans because of a glitch in his contract, Drew Brees has no doubt he'll be reunited with the suspended Saints coach in 2013.

``I absolutely believe he'll be back,'' Brees said after guiding the Saints to a 28-13 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Payton was suspended for the season by the NFL for his role in the bounty scandal. The league has taken issue with a clause in the contract extension he agreed to more than a year ago, which was to have kept him in New Orleans through 2015.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Sunday he does not know if Payton might become a coaching free agent after the season.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - The Jacksonville Jaguars will be without running back Maurice Jones-Drew for Thursday night's game against Indianapolis.

Coach Mike Mularkey ruled Jones-Drew out, no surprise since he's wearing a walking boot on his sprained left foot and using a push cart to get around the facility.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Chiefs made another round of sweeping changes in an attempt to lift themselves out of a season-long funk.

Coach Romeo Crennel sacked himself as defensive coordinator, and plans to spend more time with the team's inept offense, while cornerback Stanford Routt was waived and defensive tackle Shaun Smith was signed.

BASEBALL

BOSTON (AP) - David Ortiz, the face of the Red Sox since helping Boston end an 86-year World Series drought in 2004, completed a $26 million, two-year contract, a deal that could be worth up to $30 million if he avoids another significant Achilles tendon injury next year.

The soon-to-be 37-year old had expressed his preference for a two-year deal the past two seasons.

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Pitcher Bartolo Colon's new $3 million contract with the Oakland Athletics could pay him an additional $1.2 million as a starter.

The AL West champion A's announced Saturday they had reached agreement on a one-year deal with the right-hander, who still must sit out the final five games of his 50-game suspension for a positive testosterone test.

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The Cardinals promoted John Mabry to hitting coach as the replacement for Mark McGwire, who told St. Louis he won't return after three seasons and appears headed to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The 42-year-old Mabry, whose 14 major league seasons included three stints with St. Louis, and was assistant hitting coach last season.

PRO HOCKEY

NEW YORK (AP) - The NHL and the players' association stuck to their word and made quick plans to get back to the bargaining table.

After all-day negotiations Saturday, the sides agreed Monday to resume talks on Tuesday in New York. Both sides said the discussions over the weekend were good, creating some optimism that perhaps a deal could soon be reached to save the already truncated hockey season.

The NHL and union hadn't met since Oct. 18 when each side turned down offers.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is hopeful injured quarterback Collin Klein will be available for Saturday's game at TCU.

The Heisman Trophy candidate was hurt during the third quarter of the No. 3 Wildcats' 44-30 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday. Snyder did not discuss the nature or severity of the injury, but all indications point toward a possible concussion.

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Washington State star receiver Marquess Wilson was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules, and will miss Saturday's game against No. 17 UCLA.

Cougars coach Mike Leach declined to say why Wilson was suspended, although he said the punishment would last at least a week.

PRO BASKETBALL

NEW YORK (AP) - The NBA issued flopping warnings to Minnesota's JJ Barea and Cleveland's Donald Sloan, the first two under a new policy designed to end the act.

Barea threw his upper body backward after contact while defending Sacramento's Jimmer Fredette in the fourth quarter Friday. Sloan tumbled wildly to the court a few feet from contact after a pick set against him by Chicago's Nazr Mohammed on Friday.

TENNIS

LONDON (AP) - Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray won their opening matches at the ATP finals, setting up a showdown between two of the top three players in the world.

The top-ranked Djokovic beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (4), 6-3 in Group A, hours after third-ranked Murray rallied to defeat Tomas Berdych 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Djokovic and Murray will play Wednesday.

CYCLING

GENEVA (AP) - Olympic road race champion Alexandre Vinokourov is being investigated for allegedly bribing a rival to fix a race, becoming the latest of cycling's big names to be threatened by the ongoing fallout from the Lance Armstrong doping affair.

The International Cycling Union pledged to open a probe into revived allegations that the London Games gold medalist from Kazakhstan paid off his opponent in a two-man breakaway to ensure he won the 2010 Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic.

OBITUARIES

BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) - ESPN radio announcer Jim Durham, who called NBA games for the network, died. He was 65.

ESPN said that Durham died over the weekend at his home in Tomball, Texas. A cause of death was not announced.

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) - Jim Flick, a golf instructor for more than 50 years whose clients included Tom Lehman and Jack Nicklaus upon joining the Champions Tour, died of pancreatic cancer, his family said. He was 82.

HORSE RACING

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Havre de Grace sold for $10 million at the Fasig-Tipton November sale, fetching the highest price for a horse since 2008.

The 2011 Horse of the Year was bought by Mandy Pope of Whisper Hill Farm. The 5-year-old mare was from Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farm.

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Ovechkin’s hat trick keeps Capitals rolling in 6-2 win against Red Wings

Ovechkin’s hat trick keeps Capitals rolling in 6-2 win against Red Wings

Capital One Arena — The stars came out for the Capitals on Tuesday night. 

There was Alex Ovechkin continuing his marvelous age-33 season with a hat trick, his first since Nov. 25, 2017. Nicklas Backstrom had four more assists. That’s his second four-point game in six games. T.J. Oshie returned from an 11-game absence (concussion) and scored on the power play. Evgeny Kuznetsov set up two goals. 

Anything else?

It all added up to a 6-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings and Washington is rolling. With that kind of firepower why wouldn’t it be? The Caps have won 11 of their past 14 games. At 18-9-3 and with 39 points, Washington is in first place in the Metropolitan Division and has a chance to build on that lead with five of its final eight games of 2018 at home. 

It didn’t hurt that the second-place Columbus Blue Jackets coughed up a 2-1 lead to the Vancouver Canucks at home Tuesday, allowing two goals in the final five minutes to lose 3-2 in regulation. The Blue Jackets are stuck on 34 points and suddenly the Capitals have a five-point lead in the division. 

“The season is all progress,” Backstrom said. “You keep building your team getting all the roles intact. Lately the last couple of games we’ve been playing good hockey, we’ve been playing with a lot of speed, we’ve been playing quick. That’s when we’re hard to play against, I think.”

The recent hot streak starts with Ovechkin, in the midst of one of the best stretches of his career. It was his 126th multi-goal game and he passed former Washington forward Dino Ciccarelli (125) for the 11th-most in league history.

“I’ll take it,” Ovechkin said. “Couple lucky goals.”

Ovechkin has points in 12 straight games (13 goals, six assists) and 18 of his 19 points during that stretch have come at even strength – with admittedly a few empty-net tallies tossed in for good measure. He extended his NHL lead to 25 goals – four ahead of Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine and Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point (21).  

If Ovechkin records a point against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday he will tie his career best of 13 games set between Dec. 30, 2006 and Feb. 1, 2007. That was the year before this incredible run of sustained success began with Washington’s first playoff berth in the Ovechkin era. They didn’t even wear red uniforms back then. Ovechkin ranks eighth in points (38) in the NHL through 30 games. 

“I don’t watch much hockey so I can only go off the years I’ve been here but he’s playing outstanding,” Oshie said.

“At that level that he got himself to last year right at the start of the year … he’s really just kept building off that. It’s fun being on this side of that when Big O is going like that. It’s a privilege to play with him out there and you think maybe there are not other ways he can kind of amaze you and wow you but there was another example tonight.”

Last year, he didn’t get to 39 points until Dec. 30, which was game No. 40. He had three assists that night against the New Jersey Devils and ended that game at 41 points. He didn’t get to 25 goals until a Jan. 2 game against Carolina, which was Game No. 41. Ovechkin finished with 87 points (49 goals, 38 assists) and is well ahead of that pace and halfway to his magic number of 50.   

“The age he's at to still continue to not only want to get better, but to be able to,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said.

“After just the way he's played the game with such a physical presence and the energy he has and the size he is, it's not easy. He's been great in our room, the leadership is really stepped up for me, the best I've seen him lead in our room during the regular season. And then his overall play is following right along with it. I know some other years statistically have been better, but for me it's his best two-way hockey that he's played.” 

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The anatomy of Kelly Oubre Jr.'s follow-dunk and pose

The anatomy of Kelly Oubre Jr.'s follow-dunk and pose

Kelly Oubre Jr. didn’t know precisely what the moment required. The hops and charisma are always on standby regardless.

In one of his more controlled performances of the season, the Wizards’ forward managed to stand out in Monday’s road loss at Indiana. Not solely for his 23 points, even though it established a new season-high. Not just for a rim-rattling follow dunk, though props for the aerial work.

What came after the slam is what got social media jumping. It’s why his popularity surpasses his production. It’s why his critics sometimes cannot help but smile.

Two days after turning 23, the birthday boy explained how the jam and viral video pose went down.

It started with two aspects not always associated with Oubre’s game: Passing and court awareness.

Washington already trimmed Indiana’s 25-point lead to eight as the clock moved closer to the nine-minute mark of the fourth quarter, and the Wizards executed a play.

Teammates Bradley Beal and Markieff Morris ran interference for Oubre as he dribbled toward the right elbow.  Despite openings for a drive or shot, the player who passes with the frequency of a wishbone quarterback stuck with the plan. He looked for Morris rolling toward the basket.

“I just looked at the situation. The play was for Keef to roll and be open. He was open,” recalled Oubre.

Enter Myles Turner. The Pacers’ center dominated the paint throughout, finishing with 12 rebounds and five blocks. Oubre’s dribble brought Turner his way, but on the pass, the mobile big man quickly shifted across the paint. Morris created space and lofted a half-hook. Turner’s wingspan, on display with ferocity all night, altered the shot.

Oubre thought it might. Standing alone and with a clear path to the basket, the sleek forward made his move. Quick and light steps positioned out front if a miss bounced his way. It did.

“Myles is a great rim protector," said Oubre. "I just figured that since he’s been altering shots all game. I’d at least jump to give myself a chance to follow it up.”

Morris’s banked shot went short off the glass, sending the ball off the front of the rim. Oubre read the carom’s angle like geometry major. He rose with ease and hammered dunk the miss with two hands.

“Perfect timing, the stars aligned.”

Then the personality popped.

Before Oubre touched back down, the smile began to form. He stuck the landing like a 6-foot-7 Kerri Strug, though with two good ankles. As the grin enveloped his face and Oubre looked out into the crowd of non-well-wishers, both hands attached to his hips, forming a perfect pair of isosceles triangles. 

Oubre: “The pose was just me having fun. Their fans was talking crazy [expletive] though. I was just smiling at them the whole game.”

Just posing would have put a nice capper on the high-rising moment. Ever the showman, Oubre added a final flourish.

As the megawatt smiled remained, he went with a full head nod toward the crowd. He knew what they witnessed and that they didn’t love it. Regardless, they had to appreciate the style and let them know he felt the same.

“I don’t really look around when I’m playing," said Oubre. "It was really just because the fans didn’t want us to do good.

“I just have a lot of personality, you know? It was a good time, man.”

Oubre’s highlight reel includes a new entry. Such moments wow fans and keep scouts intrigued. If only Oubre could hone the rest of his game, they think. He’s shooting under 30 percent on 3-pointers since January. His shot selection and struggles with team defensive concepts cause exasperation.

Some team might fall in lust regardless and offer the 2015 first-round pick a hefty contract when he hits restricted free agency this coming summer. The Wizards can match any offer. Considering their salary cap concerns and Oubre’s uncertain trajectory, they might not.

Oubre wants more and says he works to improve his game daily while pushing free agency thoughts aside.

“Just getting better every day. Just taking it one day at a time, trying to live in the moment,” Oubre said. “Not necessarily looking at the future because the future will happen if I take care of now. Today I got better. Tomorrow is a new game, a new opportunity.”

Tomorrow comes Wednesday when the Wizards host the rival Boston Celtics.

“The Celtics have a lot of guys who are talented basketball players, and I’m a competitor,” Oubre said. “I’m looking forward to going to play against them.”

When it comes to the entertaining Oubre, even those head-scratching doubters probably feel the same.

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