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Olynyk leads No. 14 Gonzaga past K-State 68-52

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Olynyk leads No. 14 Gonzaga past K-State 68-52

SEATTLE (AP) Kelly Olynyk dominated inside with 20 points and No. 14 Gonzaga rebounded from its first loss of the season with an impressive 68-52 win over Kansas State on Saturday night.

Making their annual trip to Seattle, Olynyk and the Bulldogs (10-1) controlled the interior and wore down the Wildcats in the second half. Olynyk's highlight was a rattling, one-handed slam with about 9 minutes left that drew a technical foul for screaming, but also gave the Bulldogs a 14-point lead.

Gonzaga outscored Kansas State 38-12 in the paint.

Angel Rodriguez led Kansas State (7-2) with 14 points, but leading scorer Rodney McGruder had a miserable night. McGruder didn't score for the first 30 minutes and finished with four points.

McGruder, who came in averaging 12.9 points, shot 1 for 9 from the floor.

Gary Bell Jr. had 11 points for Gonzaga, which played before its extensive fan base in the Puget Sound region for the 10th straight year and improved to 6-4 in the event. It was a chance for the Bulldogs to erase the disappointment of their last outing a week earlier when defensive lapses and a red-hot Brandon Paul keyed Illinois' 85-74 upset that snapped the best start to a season in Gonzaga history.

There was no lingering hangover from the Illinois loss. Olynyk made 10 of 13 shots, falling just short of matching his career high of 22 points when he fouled out with 4:56 left. Even more impressive for Gonzaga was its domination inside without getting a big game from Elias Harris, who finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Kansas State was trying to pick up an early signature win in Bruce Weber's first season coaching the Wildcats. They fell short in their first attempt when they lost to then-No. 4 Michigan 71-57 last month.

After using Guy Landry Edi on McGruder for most of the first half, the Bulldogs stuck Mike Hart on the Wildcats' scoring leader to start the second half. He was immediately flustered, committing turnovers on Kansas State's first two possessions and Gonzaga started the half on a 9-0 run to take a 36-26 lead with 16:28 left.

Kansas State briefly stemmed the run, but Edi's 3-pointer with 12 minutes left pushed the lead to a dozen and Olynyk's dunk that drew the technical capped another 11-2 spurt by the Bulldogs.

Gonzaga's lead reached 21 in the final minutes.

The 3-point shooting that kept Kansas State hanging around in the first half disappeared during the final 20 minutes. The Wildcats shot 1 of 6 on 3-point attempts in the second half. Rodriguez had only two points after the break.

Gonzaga tried to pull away early with a 10-0 run late in the first half to take a 23-17 lead, but led just 27-26 at the break thanks to the shooting of Rodriguez and Will Spradling. Kansas State sustained a big blow late in the half when forward Nino Williams crashed hard to the floor with an apparent right shoulder injury. He was helped to the locker room and did not return in the second half. Williams had two points and three rebounds in 6 minutes.

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

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Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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