Capitals

Panthers announce Rivera will be back next season

201212301216441845234-p2.jpeg

Panthers announce Rivera will be back next season

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Ron Rivera will return as coach of the Carolina Panthers next season following his team's strong finish.

Panthers spokesman Charlie Dayton said Rivera met with owner Jerry Richardson Saturday morning and was informed that he will return for a third season. Rivera has two years on his current contract.

``He's going about normal preparations for next season,'' Dayton said.

Rivera's status with the Panthers had been up in the air pending a meeting with Richardson on Saturday morning.

Richardson fired longtime GM Marty Hurney after a 1-5 start and informed Rivera at the time Panthers needed to be ``trending upward'' the rest of the season.

The Panthers went 6-4 from that point out, including four straight wins to close the season.

It's unclear at this point if Rivera, who went 13-19 in two seasons with Carolina, will be forced to make any changes to his staff. The Panthers finished this season 7-9 this season, good for second place in the NFC South.

Rivera did not return phone messages Saturday.

Dayton said neither Rivera nor Richardson would be commenting on the decision. Other members of the organization were asked not to comment on the decision either, per Richardson's request.

However, players were quick to applaud the decision.

``I'm very happy he's back,'' tight end Greg Olsen told The Associated Press. ``Obviously the season wasn't what we were looking for, but I think the way we finished showed that we're heading in the right direction.

``The guys have a lot of faith in coach Rivera and guys didn't want to let him down. I think the way we finished, winning four straight, shows a lot about the direction we're headed and our faith in him as our coach moving forward. I'm glad that things worked out.''

Rivera won a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears in 1985 as a linebacker and broke into the coaching ranks shortly after his nine-year NFL career ended, first serving as an understudy to Dave Wannstedt in Chicago.

He quickly climbed the coaching ladder and was defensive coordinator in Chicago and San Diego before landing his first head coaching position in Carolina in 2011. That came after he was turned down for eight other head coaching jobs.

Offensive lineman Geoff Hangartner was also thrilled with the news.

``That's awesome news,'' Hangartner said. ``I'm excited about it. I think Ron has done a great job and I think he will be the first to admit he's learned a lot since he was hired. He definitely has the respect of the guys in the locker room because he's played the game and he treats guys the right way.''

Richardson is expected to turn his attention to filling the GM spot and interviews will come in the next week.

Richardson hired former New York Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi to serve as a consultant for the GM search and the team has already received permission to interview two members of the New York Giants staff - college scouting director Marc Ross and senior pro personnel analyst Dave Gettleman.

Others potential candidates include Green Bay Packers director of player personnel John Dorsey, Tennessee Titans vice president of player personnel Lake Dawson and Minnesota Vikings assistant GM George Paton.

Panthers interim general manager Brandon Beane is also expected to receive consideration for the position.

---

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

Quick Links

Remembering the other series-clinching goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov

Remembering the other series-clinching goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov

When you think about Evgeny Kuznetsov in the playoffs, most probably think of his overtime-winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018 that ended the series and handed Washington a long-awaited victory over its archrival. But that wasn’t the first series-clinching goal Kuznetsov scored.

Before the Stanley Cup was brought to Washington, before the bird celebration, there was another epic moment of Kuznetsov’s career that now feels overshadowed by the 2018 run.

In 2015, the Caps returned to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus. They entered the postseason as the second-place team in the Metropolitan Division, drawing the third-place New York Islanders in the first round.

A back-and-forth series, it ultimately went the distance with Game 7 being played in Washington. As even as the series had been, the Caps dominated that Game 7, suffocating the Islanders and giving up only 11 shots on goal. Joel Ward put Washington ahead 1-0, but Frans Nielsen tied it early in the third period. Despite the dominant defensive performance, Jaroslav Halak (remember him?) would not allow the Caps to the chance to put the game away.

Just when it began to feel as if Halak was going to steal away another Game 7 from the Caps, a young Russian center in just his first full NHL season took over.

With less than eight minutes remaining in the third period, Kuznetsov took a pass along the half wall, showed Frans Nielsen his back and when Nielsen bit, he spun and cut to the center of the ice. Nielsen was caught a step behind and whacked Kuznetsov in desperation, actually diving to the ice to try to keep him from breaking loose. In one slick move Kuznetsov had cut through the Islanders’ defense and was in alone on net. Halak went down to the butterfly as Kuznetsov cut to center, but Kuznetsov showed incredible patience and did not immediately shoot. Suddenly, Halak was committed and helpless. He dove to his right desperately holding up the glove as Kuznetsov kept gliding across the ice, but Halak had left too much of the net open by going down too soon and Kuznetsov hit the corner.

With 7:18 remaining in the game and the series, Kuznetsov had given the Caps the 2-1 lead.

The series was a breakout performance for Kuznetsov who returned the following season and earned a top-six role, something not all that easy for young players to do under head coach Barry Trotz. It also gave a franchise still bearing the scars of Halak’s 2010 upset a measure of revenge.

And the rest is history.

What heroics does Kuznetsov have in store for the Islanders on Saturday when the two teams meet at 1 p.m.? Tune in to NBC Sports Washington at 12 p.m. for coverage.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Whether it's good or bad, nothing the Wizards do is subtle. 

They'll score a million points and give up two million points. They'll beat the Heat, Nuggets and Celtics without Bradley Beal but also blow an 18-point fourth quarter lead to the Bulls. 

The Wizards had some turnover issues Friday night, but again, they're never subtle. 

Washington committed 28 turnovers on the way to a 29-point loss. Following the first seven minutes of play, the Wizards had seven turnovers and seven points. 

The last time the Wizards turned the ball over that much was April 2, 1994, in a 104-96 win over the Bucks. The last time an NBA team turned it over 28 times? The 2010 Suns. 

Nine Wizards players had multiple turnovers, while five players had at least three. 

Following Bradley Beal's comments criticizing the team's culture and need to develop winning habits, the Wizards' response left more than enough to be desired. Credit the Raptors defense utilizing their length and ball pressure to take advantage of when the Wizards were loose with the ball, but it takes more than good defense to turn it over 28 times. 

The bright side is this was an uncharacteristic performance for the Wizards. They currently average the 10th-fewest turnovers per game in the NBA, so there's a good chance they clean things up on Monday against the Pistons. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: