Capitals

Musial the main focus at Cardinals' fan festival

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Musial the main focus at Cardinals' fan festival

ST. LOUIS (AP) Stan the Man was the dominant topic at the St. Louis Cardinals' annual fan festival. Outside Busch Stadium, it was totally about paying tribute, too.

All day Sunday, fans ignored near-freezing temperatures and gathered around the larger of the two Musial statues at the ballpark, remembering the Hall of Famer and franchise icon who died Saturday at 92. Team flags were at half-staff.

Among the tributes was a statement from President Barack Obama saying he was ``saddened to learn of the passing of baseball legend Stan Musial.''

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called Musial ``a great American hero who - with the utmost humility - inspired us all to aim high and dream big. The world is emptier today without him, but far better to have known him.''

The team was awaiting word from Musial's family on arrangements for a formal tribute. Weather could preclude a home-plate ceremony and casket viewing for fans such as was done when broadcaster Jack Buck died in 2002.

``It's the end of an incredible era,'' team chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. ``We've told them whatever they would like to do, we would certainly be there for them.

``Stan epitomized everything that's great about Cardinal baseball in every way.''

Despite the weather there was a game-day feel at the ballpark. Dozens at a time congregated around the statue, often blocking a lane of traffic to get the perfect photo. Many fans dropped off mementoes, including miniature bats, balls inscribed with messages, hats, flowers and flags at the base.

A tear rolling down one eye, 65-year-old Gene Sandrowski of St. Louis remembered attending a 1954 doubleheader when Musial hit five homers against the New York Giants at Sportsman's Park.

``I snuck in and worked my way down,'' said Sandrowski, who wore a Cardinals jacket and hat, as did many others. ``What a game, what a player. He was a very generous man, too.

``I've got a ball signed by him at home: `To Gene, to a great baseball fan, Stan Musial Hall of Fame.' Try to get an autograph now, they've got them all fenced off.''

The most expensive item in the team store came off the shelf. Richard Dunseth of Jacksonville, Ill., deemed the $900 price tag for an autographed Stan Musial jersey a bargain. For $169, you could purchase an autographed ball in a cube.

``Most of the people here, their memories of him are as a person and not a Hall of Fame player,'' Dunseth said. ``This is just kind of a spontaneous buy. I think it's worth it.''

Inside the fan fest, those who knew Stan the Man best validated the outpouring of emotion.

Longtime former manager Tony La Russa ranks Musial in the upper echelon of players along with Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. Off the field, La Russa has an even greater appreciation.

La Russa, who collected celebrity pals during his 16-year stint as manager, recalled author John Grisham and his father being touched by the chance to meet Musial a few years ago.

``They're sitting in my office and here comes Stan,'' La Russa said. ``Grisham told me later on, as they left the ballpark his dad said `My life is complete. I just met Stan Musial.'''

Musial had been in poor health for several years.

``Anybody who knows him knows the quality of life was not good,'' La Russa said. ``I remember it was like with Jack (Buck), you got so selfish. You knew he was suffering but you definitely didn't want to lose him.''

Again and again, Musial was remembered as a superstar with no sense of entitlement or worries about privacy. Though Musial marketed autographs with a business partner in Stan the Man, Inc., he had no qualms about signing in abundance for free.

``You see players today that are somewhat stingy with autographs, trying to maintain value or for whatever reason,'' DeWitt said. ``Stan could care less about the value of his autograph. Whoever wanted, he would give it because he wanted to make them happy.''

Coming up, Cardinals prospects knew Musial was the one to emulate. Outfielder-first baseman Allen Craig met Musial in La Russa's office a few years ago.

``I think his nickname says it all,'' Craig said. ``We lost an all-time great.''

Center fielder Jon Jay grew up in Miami, a city that he said lacked a ``rich baseball tradition.''

``What Stan stood for, he's a role model for everyone,'' Jay said. ``I know he's resting in peace.''

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How the Caps turned a sure loss into their first home win in under 90 seconds

How the Caps turned a sure loss into their first home win in under 90 seconds

WASHINGTON -- Another sloppy defensive performance looked like it would doom the Capitals, but a furious three-goal rally in the second period turned what looked like a sure defeat into a stunning 4-3 victory, their first at home this season, over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

Toronto took an early lead off a short-handed goal from Kasperi Kapanen. Jonas Siegenthaler then was slow to react to a streaking Ilya Mikheyev who torched him to put the Leafs up 2-0. Jakub Vrana made it 2-1 late in the first, but Toronto looked like they had this game well in hand.

But the Caps rallied and completely turned things around in a stretch of just 1:18 in the second period. Here's how.

Brilliant skating by Kuznetsov

Kuznetsov passed the puck up to the offensive blue line. A skating Carl Hagelin tapped it to John Carlson who entered the zone, pulled back and handed it off to Kuznetsov who took over.

When Kuznetsov gets the puck there are three Maple Leaf players in front of him. He pumps the legs once and then glides in on net and somehow he is behind all three players and in alone on Michael Hutchinson.

Kuznetsov’s speed virtually never changes during the play. There’s no frantic, choppy acceleration, just a smooth glide that allows him to skate in, wait out Hutchinson and tuck the puck around his outstretched pad all in seemingly one fluid motion.

The forecheck pays off 11 seconds later

T.J. Oshie beat out Morgan Rielly in a footrace for the puck in the offensive zone. He circled in the corner to protect the puck with his body from Rielly. He was able to find Nicklas Backstrom in the high slot and Backstrom snapped the puck in.

In a period of just 11 seconds, the Caps had changed the score from 2-1 Leafs to 3-2 Caps.

The flustered Leafs

Momentum is a real thing. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. That was on display in the second period when the Leafs were on their heels after coughing up two quick goals. Just 18 seconds after Backstrom’s goal, Nicholas SHore was called for interference on Oshie.

Do you know how you get two goals and draw an interference penalty in less than a minute? By keeping possession of the puck. Toronto could not get its hands on it at all until Cocy Ceci did on the penalty kill...and promptly threw the puck into the crowd on an attempted clearance from the defensive zone resulting in a delay of game penalty.

A 5-on-3

Ceci’s penalty came just nine seconds after Shore was booked resulting in a two-man advantage for 1:51. The Caps were too hot at that point to not convert. The power play moved the puck very effectively and, critically, managed to retain possession after every shot. The Leafs just could not get there in time to clear it allowing the Caps to take their time, set things up and attack.

The power play shifted with Carlson making his way over to the Ovechkin spot. Ovechkin was fed the puck at the point, faked the slap shot and instead tapped the pass over to Carlson. Carlson did his best Ovechkin impression and fired the one-timer past Hutchinson. That goal made the score 4-2 and capped off an incredible 1:18 stretch in which the Caps turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead, thus ultimately snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Toronto would score a late goal in a comeback attempt but ultimately fell short.

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Capitals score three goals in 90 seconds to take the lead over Toronto

Capitals score three goals in 90 seconds to take the lead over Toronto

The beginning of Wednesday's clash with the Maple Leafs was not pretty for the Capitals.

A pair of goals by Toronto gave them an early lead midway through the first period. But a snipe by Jakub Vrana towards the end of the first frame cut the deficit in half entering the first intermission.

But during the second period, all of a sudden, a switch flipped for the Capitals attack. Washington found the back of the net three times in under 90 seconds, turning a one-goal deficit into a two-goal lead.

The first came from Evgeny Kuznetsov, who finished with a beautiful move to sneak the puck past Maple Leafs' goalie Michael Hutchinson's glove.

Just 11 seconds later, Nicklas Backstrom found the back of the net on a beautiful wrister from T.J. Oshie to put the Capitals ahead.

To complete the trifecta, John Carlson's one-timer from Alex Ovechkin went right in between Hutchinson's legs, giving the Capitals a 4-2 lead. 

At the end of the second period, the Capitals hold the same 4-2 lead. Just 20 minutes separate the Capitals from their fourth victory of the season.

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