Capitals

Packers beat Lions 27-20, take NFC North lead

201212092111762649940-p2.jpeg

Packers beat Lions 27-20, take NFC North lead

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) While other teams face complicated playoff scenarios and confusing tiebreakers, the task is quite simple for the Green Bay Packers.

Beat the Bears at Soldier Field next weekend and the NFC North title is theirs.

The Packers opened a one-game lead over Chicago with their 27-20 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday night. The Bears had lost at Minnesota a few hours earlier, ceding control of the division to a team that began the year 2-3.

``I kind of did some foreshadowing the last couple weeks about this is how some of these games are going to go,'' Aaron Rodgers said. ``It's going to be ugly at times, but the main thing is the wins. We're 9-4 right now, we're first in the division by a game, putting ourselves in good position, not only for the division but potentially maybe for a first-round bye.

``The division is the first goal,'' he added. ``We can wrap things up next week. It's a tough opponent, a tough place to play, a lot on the line.''

There's little on the line for the Lions except pride.

Calvin Johnson had 118 yards receiving to put him over 1,500 for the year, but it wasn't enough to keep the Lions (4-9) from dropping their fifth straight. After touchdowns on their first two drives gave them a 14-0 lead, the Lions crossed midfield six times but could only manage a pair of field goals by Jason Hanson.

Detroit tied an NFL record by losing its third straight game in which it blew a lead of 10-plus points, according to STATS Inc.

``We're probably the best three-quarter football team in the league,'' Stephen Tulloch said. ``And then in the fourth quarter we don't find a way to win games. Unfortunately, that's the way football is, sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don't. This season, that hasn't gone our way. We haven't had a break and we just haven't finished.''

Actually, the Lions started unraveling in the second quarter and Green Bay made the most of the switch in momentum.

The season's first significant storm dumped almost 3.5 inches of snow on Green Bay, making Lambeau Field look like a snow globe for most of the night and the football glisten with moisture. As Matthew Stafford drew his arm back to throw midway through the second quarter and with the Lions up 14-0, the ball slipped out of his hands.

``I don't really have much of an explanation for it,'' Stafford said. ``I wish I could have gotten on top of it. It squirted away from me again.''

And Packers rookie Mike Daniels was right there to scoop it up, rumbling 43 yards for the score that pulled Green Bay within 14-10. He is Green Bay's first rookie defensive lineman to return a fumble for a TD since 1941.

``Mike Daniels' play was the momentum shift for us that we needed,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. ``That was a big play.''

His Lambeau Leap needs some work, however. Daniels only managed to get about halfway up the wall, hanging there as fans pounded him on the back.

``I was too tired,'' Daniels said.

The Packers forced another turnover on the next drive when Sam Shields picked off Stafford. But they couldn't do anything with the ball, and went into halftime still trailing.

``It didn't start the way we wanted it to ... (but) our guys just keep playing, keep punching,'' McCarthy said. ``The impressive part of our football team is it's just not a couple of guys making a play. We had a lot of different guys make plays tonight.''

Rodgers gave the Packers their first lead of the day, scrambling away from Lions defensive end Willie Young and running 27 yards for the score. It the longest scoring run of Rodgers' career, and also was Green Bay's longest rushing touchdown of the season.

The Lions tied it at 17 on Hanson's 46-yard field goal. But the Packers got another boost from a most unlikely source: their running game.

Plagued by inconsistency and injuries all year, Green Bay's running game had accounted for just three scores coming into Sunday. But the Packers kept the ball on the ground for all seven plays in the game-winning drive, running over the Lions on one carry after another.

They used all three of their running backs - Alex Green, recent returnee Ryan Grant and DaJuan Harris - and picked up at least two yards on each play. They had double-digit gains on three carries, including Harris' 14-yard scoring run.

``That's what your linemen want, that's what the backs want. That's the way we play football here in December,'' McCarthy said. ``At that point in the game, you could feel it was starting to tilt. That was a big series for us.''

The Lions pulled within a score on Hanson's 34-yard field goal with 7 seconds left. But the onside kick went out of bounds, and the countdown to the Packers-Bears game was on.

``I'm focused on going to Chicago and winning the division,'' McCarthy said.

NOTES: The Packers scored twice on the ground for the first time since Dec. 11, 2011. ... Rodgers failed to throw a TD pass at Lambeau, ending a 35-game streak. ... Lions DT Nick Fairley sacked Rodgers for the third time this season. ... Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew did not return for the second half after injuring his ankle.

---

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

Quick Links

Capitals playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly ready for his second chance in Game 5

dsp-usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Capitals playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly ready for his second chance in Game 5

ARLINGTON — Devante Smith-Pelly will skate onto the ice at Capital One Arena tonight and the crowd will roar. They will chant “D-S-P!” and give him an ovation and he will try to keep a stone-faced focus, though it will be hard.

Not bad for a player who was cut in February, passed on by 30 other NHL teams and banished to the minors after a disappointing season and a salary-cap crunch. But that is life as a Stanley Cup playoff folk hero. After scoring seven goals with 19 points during last year’s postseason, including the game-tying goal in the decisive Game 5 of the final series against the Vegas Golden Knights, Smith-Pelly bought himself a lifetime of good will. 

Now, an injury to T.J. Oshie gets him another chance with the Capitals. Smith-Pelly will be in the lineup tonight when Washington hosts the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series (8 p.m., NBC). 

“I don’t know if weird is the word. It’s a business,” Smith-Pelly said. “It’s hard to go through something like that. I missed the guys a lot. I still kept in touch with pretty much everyone. It was just going there and doing what I had to do and waiting for a shot. It’s unfortunate that [Oshie] had to get hurt.”

Smith Pelly had just four goals and four assists in 54 games this season and was held out of several preseason games to get his conditioning where it needed to be. When the Capitals traded for forward Carl Hagelin on Feb. 21 they needed salary-cap space to make the move, according to general manager Brian MacLellan. He chose waiving Smith-Pelly over Dmitrij Jaskin. 

When Smith-Pelly cleared waivers, Washington sent him to AHL Hershey so he could play and be ready if needed again. That didn’t seem likely when the playoffs began and the salary cap was no longer an issue. MacLellan said the team had no immediate plans to recall Smith-Pelly just so he could sit. 

But the Capitals wanted him to stay in game shape in case injuries struck – and they finally did on Monday in Game 4. T.J. Oshie is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Smith-Pelly got the recall and is in the lineup tonight at right wing on the fourth line. It is another chance for a player who was once a second-round draft pick, but has been let go by three previous organizations (Anaheim, Montreal, New Jersey) and found himself on tenuous ground with the Capitals. This isn’t how he wanted it to be. But now he’s back. 

“I wasn’t really thinking too much about it. I was watching the games and cheering the guys on,” Smith-Pelly said. “I wasn’t really sure. I definitely didn’t want to get a chance by someone else getting hurt. That’s for sure. So I don’t know. It’s kind of a weird spot. I’m focused on playing the playoffs there and helping the team there. I wasn’t really thinking about too much about what would happen.”

News and notes

Still no update on Oshie other than he’s out indefinitely, according to coach Todd Reirden. He will obviously not play in Game 5 after crashing into the boards following a nudge from behind by Carolina forward Warren Foegele. … Reirden’s lineup changes include Carl Hagelin moving to right wing on the second line and Chandler Stephenson joining Smith-Pelly and Nic Dowd on the fourth line. … After a nice first playoff game, rookie Jonas Siegenthaler will start with John Carlson, who moves to his natural right side. He'd been starting games on the left with Nick Jensen.  

Game 5 lineup

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Carl Hagelin

Andre Burakovsky – Lars Eller – Brett Connolly

Chandler Stephenson – Nic Dowd – Devante Smith-Pelly

 

Jonas Siegenthaler – John Carlson 

Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik – Nick Jensen 

 

Braden Holtby 

 

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Maple Leafs pull ahead of Bruins, Avalanche eliminate Flames

april19playoffroundup.jpg
USA TODAY sports images

NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Maple Leafs pull ahead of Bruins, Avalanche eliminate Flames

Thursday's games gave us another tied series with the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes, a slugfest between the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets, and the San Jose Sharks avoiding elimination at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Friday's games pushed the Boston Bruins to the brink of elimination, and the Colorado Avalanche eliminated the Calgary Flames in the Saddledome.

Here are all of Friday's results.

Maple Leafs take 3-2 series lead with 2-1 win over Bruins

Frederik Andersen and Tuukka Rask were sharp for the first two periods, but Auston Matthews broke the scoreless tie with a controversial goal 10 minutes into the third period. Boston challenged for goaltender interference, but the goal stood. Matthews now has four goals in the last three games of the series.

Kasperi Kapanen gave the Leafs the game winner on a 3-on-2 just two minutes later.

The Bruins battled back to make it 2-1 with a backdoor feed for David Krejci, but they couldn't force a tie to send the game to overtime. Should the Leafs hold on to win, not only would they reverse their two-year trend of losing in the first round of the playoffs, they would win a series for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

Avalanche extinguish Flames, win series with 5-1 victory

The upstart Avalanche had four players hit three points in their Friday night upset over the Flames. Mikko Rantanen continued his punishing pace with two goals in the game, including the opening and closing goals.

Colin Wilson also notched a two-goal night, and Philipp Grubauer held steady with 28 saves.

This is Colorado's first series win since the 2007-08 season, and the Flames became the second first seed to be knocked out of these playoffs, as the Tampa Bay Lightning were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier this week.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: