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Oklahoma State vs. Purdue in Heart of Dallas Bowl

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Oklahoma State vs. Purdue in Heart of Dallas Bowl

DALLAS (AP) There are a couple of games Oklahoma State would like to have back.

Purdue certainly feels the same way, especially with the near-misses the Boilermakers had on the road against two of the nation's undefeated teams.

By losing its last two games by a combined 10 points, Oklahoma State became one of five Big 12 teams that finished 7-5 and slid down the league's bowl pecking order.

The Boilermakers (6-6), who had tight losses at top-ranked Notre Dame and No. 3 Ohio State, recovered from a five-game Big Ten losing streak midway through the season by winning their last three games just to get bowl eligible.

Oklahoma State and Purdue play in the inaugural Heart of Dallas Bowl on Tuesday. It will be the third consecutive New Year's Day game played in the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium since the namesake game that this season features Big 12 co-champion Oklahoma moved to Cowboys Stadium.

``I know they might not be as excited as we are,'' Purdue running back Akeem Shavers said. ``But just coming from where we came from and where our season's went, we're just blessed to be here.''

Last January, the Cowboys capped a Big 12 championship season with a 41-38 victory over Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. Three years ago, they were playing in the first Cotton Bowl at that shiny new NFL stadium.

But after a dominating 59-21 home win against Texas Tech, the Cowboys lost in overtime at Oklahoma after the Sooners scored the tying touchdown with 4 seconds left in regulation. Oklahoma State finished the regular season with a 41-34 loss at Baylor.

``Being part of the team last year and doing so many great things, we're ready to go out and get this eighth win and finish on a good note,'' Cowboys senior defensive end Cooper Bassett said.

When the bowl pairings were announced the day after the loss at Baylor, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said his team went wherever the conference sent them but said he was surprised to be in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Now the focus is just on playing the game, in which the Big 12 Cowboys are more than two-touchdown favorites.

``I feel like our players, we are excited to be around each other for another month and playing a game,'' Gundy said. ``I mentioned this when those questions were asked several weeks ago; that I coached 11 years and never had an opportunity to play in a bowl game, and so I tried to stress the feelings and the opportunity for our players, and certainly our coaches. I feel like that they have handled it very well. I don't think there's any question when we start the season, we all have goals that we would like to reach.''

It's the first game between Purdue and Oklahoma State since 15 years ago in the Alamo Bowl, when the Boilermakers won 33-20 to cap then-coach Joe Tiller's first season.

This was their fourth season under Tiller's hand-picked successor, Danny Hope, who was fired at the end of the regular season with a 22-27 record.

Kent State coach Darrell Hazell was hired to replace Hope, but receivers coach Patrick Higgins is serving as interim coach through the bowl.

Purdue lost 20-17 at Notre Dame the second week of the season when the Irish, who play in next week's BCS national championship game against No. 2 Alabama, kicked a field goal with 7 seconds left.

The five-game losing streak included a 29-22 loss at Ohio State, which scored the tying TD with 3 seconds remaining in regulation. The Boilermakers trailed 34-7 at halftime the next week at Minnesota and lost at Penn State before their consecutive wins over Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.

``We had our backs against the wall, and we've kind of crawled out, and now this is an opportunity for us,'' quarterback Robert Marve said.

Higgins said the players realized after the Penn State loss that every game was like a championship game if they wanted to reach their goal of playing in a bowl. They won at Iowa for the first time in more than 20 years and won consecutive Big Ten road games, another rarity, before the rivalry win over Indiana.

``A lot of people counted us out when we were 3-6, and I think every game we won we weren't supposed to win,'' Marve said. ``So we're trying to keep the trend going in the bowl game.''

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A first period to forget, a strong night for Holtby and hope for the third line

A first period to forget, a strong night for Holtby and hope for the third line

 

WASHINGTON -- The Capitals returned home only to have their six-game winning streak snapped by a Columbus Blue Jackets team that had lost its last four.

Check out the recap of the game here.

Observations from the loss

The first period is in the running for worst of the season

Washington was outshot 20-6, could not get possession and could not get the puck out of the defensive zone. Things were getting comically bad as Michal Kempny accidentally shot the puck on his own net which forced a save from Braden Holtby and then a trip as he tried to keep Pierre-Luc Dubois from getting to the loose puck. Later in the period, Gustav Nyquist got a breakaway chance when Jakub Vrana basically passed the puck right to him.

Why was it so bad? Maybe it was the jet lag, maybe the Caps came into this one thinking they would have an easy time against a bad team or maybe it was just one of those nights. Regardless, it was bad. While Washington played better as the game went along, that first period really set the tone for the entire 60 minutes.

Holtby was the only reason the Caps were in this game

The Caps will likely have to choose between Holtby and Ilya Samsonov in the offseason as their goalie of the future. Because of that, some fans are already drawing lines in the sand and declaring themselves for Team Holtby or Team Samsonov. Those Holtby detractors take every opportunity to declare every bad game as Holtby’s fault, but that was just not the case on Monday.

Holtby was the only thing, the only thing keeping Washington in this game.

Holtby made 33 saves for the game, 19 of which came in just the first period alone. The third goal Holtby allowed was soft as he showed Riley Nash too much daylight off the post allowing Nash to bank the puck off him and in, but besides that, it was a really strong game for the Caps' netminder overall.

The third line showed signs of life but remains a work in progress

Coming into this game, Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller, and Richard Panik had played less than 24 minutes together at 5-on-5 this season. Having a full lineup back, Reirden was able to utilize this line and the results were good. They ultimately did not produce any points, but the line looked very good to start and it looks like there is potential there.

"They did some good things," Reirden said. "I thought early on they were probably one of our better lines to start the game. They were the group that was giving us some offense and giving us some possession time and I thought executing at probably the highest level."

Look, I know many fans out there are done with Panik already, but give him time to actually play on the line he was signed to play with. The Caps have banked a ton of points and sit first in the entire NHL. They have the flexibility to experiment with the third line and see if that trio can build some chemistry together.

Keep an eye on the home record

The loss drops Washington's home record to 8-3-4 for the season. Not terrible, but not great either especially when compared to their 14-2-1 record on the road. I'm not ready to think there is something wrong with theCaps at home yet, but this is something that is worth monitoring.

Turning point

The Caps had nothing going for them through 40 minutes, but it would not be the first time they were able to rally from a multi-goal deficit in the third period to get the win. Heck, I'm not sure people would even be surprised by it anymore. When Alex Ovechkin scored less than a minute into the third, my gut reaction was OK, here we go. Here comes the rally.

Nash's goal put an end to all of that when he was able to bank the puck in off of Holtby from behind the goal line. At that point, you knew the game was over.

Play of the game

On the first period breakaway Nyquist received courtesy of Vrana, Nyquist tried to beat Holtby with the backhand through the 5-hole. The Caps' netminder recovered well and swept out the pads to deny him the goal. Had Washington come back to make a game of this one, this save would have been one of the pivotal moments of the game.

Stat of the game

Congratulations to Craig "Woody" Leydig!

Quote of the game

Reirden on what went wrong in the first period:

"There wasn't a whole lot going right. That was, to me, one of our worst two periods of the year."

Fan predictions

You got the score right, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had one goal and one assist. I'm pretty sure you meant that the Caps were going to win though so you didn't nail this one as much as it looks like you did.

Umm...just a narrow miss there.

Go home Mike, you're drunk.

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Caps finally lay an egg to end six-game winning streak

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Caps finally lay an egg to end six-game winning streak

WASHINGTON - Put it away. 

Honestly, what else can the Capitals say after a 5-2 loss to the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday at Capital One Arena. 

They had won six games in a row. They had just swept a four-game road trip to Detroit and the three California teams (San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim). Things were going great. That's always dangerous in the NHL.  

Use any excuse you want - a trap game before playing the powerhouse Bruins visit in two days, a letdown coming home for the first time since Nov. 29, a sleepy Monday night crowd in early December - but the Capitals were having none of it. 

"Even if you had a winning streak like this, I think it's important - when you lose, there's no easy games in this league, that's for sure,” Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. “You’ve just got to bounce back right away. We have a good test on Wednesday against Boston. I think, right?"

Forgive Backstrom if he wasn’t quite certain that a showdown loomed with the Bruins, who have the second-most points in the NHL behind Washington (22-5-5). It’s a tough time of year for players and the calendar gets away from them.

But after eight games out of the lineup with an upper-body injury, Backstrom was just happy to be back on the ice. He even scored a goal late in the third period to cut the Columbus lead to 4-2 before an empty-netter put things away. 

Up in Ottawa, the Bruins (20-5-6) were also losing a game you wouldn’t expect: 5-2 to Ottawa. Combine the Blue Jackets and Senators have just 55 points. That’s barely more than Washington (49) and Boston (46) on their own, but in the NHL there’s too much parity to take any game for granted.

“You've got to be on top of your game or you're susceptible to ending up on the wrong end of things,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “We’ve been really consistent, obviously, through 30-plus games of doing that. Tonight, we weren't. Had a bad start to the game. It cost us.”

Consider it a humbling lesson. Just like when the New York Islanders won a game at Tampa Bay on Monday night and the lead in the Metropolitan Division is seven points for the Capitals. No reason to panic, no reason to do anything other than start a new streak against a top-level opponent on Wednesday that should give both Washington and Boston a good sense of where their game is.

Take the good and toss the bad: Backstrom is back and scored. The penalty kill, with Lars Eller playing a bigger role, was solid again at 5-for-5 and the third line of Eller. Carl Hagelin and Richard Panik played as a unit for the first time since early October. 

Braden Holtby (33 saves, 37 shots) had a great first period in goal, but gave up an ugly bad-angle shot in the third to Riley Nash just a few minutes after Alex Ovechkin had cut the lead to 2-1 in the first minute of the third period with his 21st goal. But Columbus scored three times in the third - once on an empty net. A game Washington was chasing almost the entire way turned into a deserved Blue Jackets win. Things have gone so well so far in 2019-20. Time to flush it fast. The Bruins await.  

“We were lucky it was only a 1-0 game because of the way [Holtby] played,” Hagelin said. “We started getting better and better as the game went on, but it wasn’t enough. That’s one of those games where you have to forget about it and move on.” 

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