Nationals

No. 19 Butler holds off pesky Evansville 75-67

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No. 19 Butler holds off pesky Evansville 75-67

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Rotnei Clarke and Andrew Smith each scored 20 points to lead No. 19 Butler past pesky Evansville 75-67 on Saturday.

The Bulldogs (9-2) have won six straight and completed a five-game sweep of Indiana schools - including last weekend's stunning overtime victory against the top-ranked Hoosiers.

Evansville (7-5) was led by Colt Ryan with 25 points and Ned Cox with 12 as the Aces lost for the first time in three games.

Butler, playing its first game since last week's win over then-No. 1 Indiana, was sluggish early but regrouped with a 22-8 run that gave the Bulldogs a 25-17 lead with 6:34 left in the first half.

Evansville spent the rest of the game playing catch-up.

Butler finally put it away with a quick 8-1 scoring flurry that made it 64-50 with 4:26 left in the game. The Bulldogs closed it out at the free throw line.

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Wild-card tracker: Nationals lose, but so does Milwaukee and Chicago

Wild-card tracker: Nationals lose, but so does Milwaukee and Chicago

The Nationals led off the day with a loss Wednesday afternoon which positioned both Chicago and Milwaukee to gain a game in the evening.

Instead, San Diego held Milwaukee to a run in a 2-1 win and Cincinnati beat Chicago in extra innings, 3-2.

Washington remains 1 ½ games ahead of both Milwaukee and Chicago, which are tied with each other in the second wild-card spot. Both have 10 games to play. The Nationals have 11 games to play.

Philadelphia and New York are each 4 ½ games behind Washington. Both are three games behind Milwaukee and Chicago.

Fivethirtyeight.com gives the Nationals a 92 percent chance of making the postseason.

Coming up Tuesday:

Nationals are off

Mets off

Philadelphia at Atlanta, 12:10 p.m. Nola (12-5, 3.62 ERA) vs. Soroka (12-4, 2.57)

San Diego at Milwaukee, 4:10 p.m.. Luchessi (10-8, 4.22 ERA) vs. Lyles (11-8, 4.25)

St. Louis at Chicago, 7:15 p.m.. Flaherty (10-8, 3.05) vs. Hendricks (11-9, 3.26)

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3 Caps who impressed against the Blues in preview of the season opener

3 Caps who impressed against the Blues in preview of the season opener

Nicklas Backstrom scored with less than seven seconds remaining to give the Capitals the 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday in a preseason preview of the regular-season opener. Radko Gudas and Richard Panik also scored.

Here are three players who impressed for the Caps.

1. Richard Panik

Panik got plenty of practice on the penalty kill with 4:16 of shorthanded ice time shorthanded. In that time he gave a glimpse of why he was so coveted by the Caps as a free agent.

In the first period, Panik pounced on a loose puck at the top of the faceoff circle in the defensive zone. Seeing he had room to work with, he did not just clear it down the ice and instead elected to skate up with it. He fought off the backcheck from Tyler Bozak through the neutral zone, drew an additional two Blues players to him, then drew a holding call from Bozak because he would not give up the puck.

Panik's 4:16 of penalty kill time was more than top penalty killer Carl Hagelin's 2:26, though the fact that Hagelin took two minors on the night probably had something to do with it.

Late in the game, Panik was also added to the power play as a sixth attacker with the goalie pulled. He would score the game-tying goal with just 1:09 left in regulation.

2. The goalies

Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov both played about a half of the game. It is really hard to evaluate a goalie on just 30 minutes of work, so I will give a shoutout to both as both played very well.

Vanecek got the start. He looked a little awkward at first, but settled in as the game went along for a solid performance. He stopped 13 of the 14 shots he faced with the only goal he allowed a weird deflection off of Brett Leason’s skate.

Samsonov took over about halfway through the second period and within minutes found himself defending the net on a 5-on-3 penalty kill. The penalty killers helped out their young netminder allowing only one shot on goal, but it was a good one. Colton Parayko one-timed a slap shot, but Samsonov was there to stop with no rebound. Soon after the penalty was over, Vladimir Tarasenko was all alone in front of the net, but was denied by Samsonov’s who stretched the blocker to deny the high shot.

Sanford scores on the PP. Samsonov wasn't tight against the post. Showed him too much daylight and Sanford made him pay.

Samsonov finished with 11 saves on 12 shots.

3. Connor McMichael

Boy, somebody got a confidence boost from Monday’s game. 

McMichael was given a second preseason game as a reward for his solid performance on Monday and he definitely showed off the confidence that comes along with being a first-round draft pick.

In the first period, McMichael found himself all alone with the puck on a mini-breakaway on Jordan Binnington. Just a reminder, this is the Binnington who was the starting goalie for the Stanley Cup champions.

So what did McMichael do? He skated to the front and tried the stick between the legs shot. It may not have worked, but you have to respect the confidence this kid had just to try, though no doubt the coaches probably had a few words for him in the locker room about it.

There was one area in which McMichael struggled, however, and that was on the faceoff where he lost all five draws he took on the night.

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