Capitals

NFL Capsule: 49ers at Patriots

NFL Capsule: 49ers at Patriots

SAN FRANCISCO (9-3-1) at NEW ENGLAND (10-3)

Sunday, 8:20 p.m., NBC

OPENING LINE - Patriots by 5 1/2

RECORD VS. SPREAD - San Francisco 8-5; New England 8-5

SERIES RECORD - 49ers lead 7-4

AP PRO32 RANKING - 49ers No. 3; Patriots No. 1

LAST MEETING - Patriots beat 49ers 30-21, Oct. 5, 2008

LAST WEEK - 49ers beat Dolphins 27-13; Patriots beat Texans 42-14

49ers OFFENSE - OVERALL (12), RUSH (2), PASS (26)

49ers DEFENSE - OVERALL (2), RUSH (2T), PASS (2)

PATRIOTS OFFENSE - OVERALL (1), RUSH (7), PASS (5)

PATRIOTS DEFENSE - OVERALL (26), RUSH (8), PASS (29)

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES - Patriots have highest-scoring offense in NFL, while 49ers have allowed fewest points. ... 49ers clinch AFC West with victory combined with Seattle loss. They clinch playoff berth with win even if Seahawks win. Patriots have locked up AFC East title. ... Both teams take care of ball with Patriots having fewest turnovers (10) and 49ers tied for second (12) ... 49ers' Colin Kaepernick first QB in NFL history to throw for 175 yards and run for 50 in consecutive games. ... San Francisco among best against run and pass, allowing second fewest yards against both. ... WR Randy Moss faces team he spent three seasons and part of a fourth with, making 259 catches for 50 TDs before being traded to Minnesota Vikings after fourth game in 2010. ... LB Aldon Smith leads NFL with 19 1/2 sacks. ... Frank Gore needs one rushing TD to pass Joe Perry and Roger Craig with franchise-record 51. ... San Francisco defense second best in league on third down, allowing conversions on 31.4 percent of plays. ... Patriots 21-0 in second half of seasons starting in 2010. ... Patriots won past 20 December home games. ... Tom Brady has thrown TD pass in 45 consecutive games, trailing only Drew Brees (54) and Johnny Unitas (47). ... Devin McCourty had second interception in end zone this season when he picked off Matt Schaub on Houston's first series Monday night. ... Wes Welker needs five catches to become first receiver with five seasons of at least 100. ... Stevan Ridley has rushing TD in each of last 6 games.

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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3 stars of the game: Caps save their season in physical win over Lightning

3 stars of the game: Caps save their season in physical win over Lightning

This one is going to go the distance.

The Washington Capitals staved off elimination on Monday with a 3-0 Game 6 win to force a Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Andrei Vasilevskiy looked unbeatable for much of the game, but T.J. Oshie finally got one past the Lightning netminder on the Caps' first power play since the second period of Game 4. Devante Smith-Pelly finished them off with a third-period tally.

Game 7 will be on Wednesday with a spot in the Stanley Cup Final on the line.

Here are the three stars of Game 6.

1.  T.J. Oshie: Oshie scored the goal that saved Washington's season.

The Caps were doing everything right, but they just could not get one past Vasilevskiy. Finally, Oshie struck with a one-timer from the high-slot that just managed to beat Vasilevskiy.

Oshie also added an empty-netter to ice the game away.

We will never know how close frustration came to really wearing down Washington, but it probably came closer than you think. Just seconds before Oshie's goal, John Carlson rang a blistering slap shot off the inside of the post. It was so close, the horn went off briefly, but play continued. Had Washington not been able to finish off the power play, would they have recovered or would Vasilevskiy officially have Halaked them?

2. Andrei Vasilevskiy: Don't let the score fool you, Vasilevskiy was absolutely brilliant. He really stood out in the first period when he denied great chances again and again to keep the score locked at 0-0. You knew he was on his game when he denied a great chance from Alex Ovechkin from the slot with the blocker. His best save, however, was saved for Evgeny Kuznetsov when he was on the ice and desperately extended the arm just in time to deny Kuznetsov.

Vasilevskity made a total of 32 saves in the losing effort.

3. Braden Holtby: Though he was not tested as much as his counterpart, Holtby was equally as brilliant in his 24 save performance for his fifth career playoff shutout.

The Lightning made a real push in the second and third period and some key saves by Holtby ensured the Caps did not give up the first goal or the game-tying one. The most critical save came on Anthony Cirelli in the second period with the game still tied at 0-0. A Lightning 2-on-1 resulted with Cirelli coming in all alone on Holtby, but the Caps' netminder just managed to extend the toe for the save.

Smith-Pelly had seven goals in the regular season. he has four in the playoffs. Smith-Pelly put the exclamation point on the game with his third period goal to extend the Caps' lead to 2-0.  He was set up by a phenomenal pass by Chandler Stephenson.

It was clear from the outset that the Caps wanted to be very physical in this game and Smith-Pelly really took that message to heart with 

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

Juan Soto, the highly-regarded 19-year-old Nationals' prospect, got his first major league start of his career tonight. 

How did it go, you ask? Surely it would take Soto - who was in Single-A less than two weeks ago - some time to adjust? 

What were you doing at 19??

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.