Capitals

Panthers' offense has been disappointment in 2012

Panthers' offense has been disappointment in 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Panthers offense was expected to be their strong suit this season and a big reason center Ryan Kalil promised Carolina fans a Super Bowl victory.

Yet it's the offense that has let the Panthers (1-4) down this year.

Second-year quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers enter Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys ranked 23rd in the NFL in offense and 25th in points scored through five games - a far cry from 2011 when they finished seventh in total offense and fifth in points scored.

Wide receiver Steve Smith said the struggling Panthers have ``a long laundry list of things'' they can get better at on offense.

``This team relies heavily on this offense, and that's been different than in years past,'' Smith said. ``And yet we haven't done anything consistently that would help our defense stay off the field. All we've done is kind of been middling around a little bit and been real lethargic and left (the defense) out there on the field longer than they should be.''

The Panthers won't get a break this week.

The Cowboys, despite a 2-3 record, have allowed the second-fewest yards in the league and rank No. 1 against the pass.

The Panthers are hoping the bye week has helped wipe the slate clean and they'll come back on Sunday re-energized.

Newton, for one, said he feels refreshed.

Last year's AP offensive rookie of the year spent the bye weekend visiting a haunted house, go-kart racing, watching movies, playing video games and doing plenty of ``self-evaluation.''

He said after talking with his father Cecil Newton he also has a deeper appreciation for his job.

``God gives only a few people opportunities like this and it's easy for people to take it for granted,'' Newton said Wednesday. ``It gave me time to reflect and appreciate this lovely, wonderful game that I play.''

Newton said ``there's a lot of differences'' between last year's offense and this year's, including his own play. Newton's quarterback rating ranks 23rd in the league and there are 28 QBs who've thrown more touchdown passes than him at this point in the year.

But he said dwelling on the past does no good.

``It's time for us to start taking ownership and taking pride in this game,'' Newton said. ``We know everything we want to achieve is still out there for us to achieve.''

Rivera said Carolina's problems offensively boil down to missed opportunities.

``We've had some situations where we've missed guys that were wide open, or we've missed cuts, or we've missed blocks,'' Rivera said. ``Last year we made more plays and we're working to do that this year.''

Rivera still believes the Panthers are doing some good things on offense.

However, he said his staff made some schematic changes this week, although he wouldn't say specifically what that entails for fear of tipping off the Cowboys.

``We believe we have found some answers,'' Rivera said.

Despite Carolina's struggles, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett views the Panthers as a dangerous team especially now that they're backed into a corner.

``At different times they have done a really, really good job; other times it hasn't been quite as smooth - that's the nature of the NFL,'' Garrett said of the Panthers offense. But ``when have those guys they do and those schemes it's a real challenge for us.''

The Panthers plan to shake things up this week on the offensive line as a result of the season-ending foot injury to Kalil, their three-time Pro Bowl center.

Rivera confirmed last week Geoff Hangartner is moving from right guard to center. Byron Bell said Wednesday he's moving from right tackle to right guard and will start alongside Garry Williams at right tackle.

``I'm OK with it,'' Bell said. ``I've played there before.''

Panthers receiver David Gettis returned to practice, but Rivera said it's unlikely he'll be activated to the 53-man roster this week. The Panthers have three weeks to make a decision on whether to add Gettis from the PUP list.

Rivera sighted conditioning as the major reason why the team will likely wait a week on Gettis.

``He ran well, and he's a big target,'' Rivera said of the 6-3, 220-pound Gettis. ``He seemed pretty good for the wear. He got a lot of good work, so we're pretty excited. We'll see how he reacts (Thursday) morning.''

Notes: Middle linebacker Jon Beason was held out of practice Wednesday after experiencing some soreness in his left knee following Monday's work. His status for the Dallas game remains up in the air. It's the same knee that kept him out of the Seattle week ... The Panthers placed LB Kenny Onatolu, a special teams player, on injured reserve with a torn left triceps and signed CB Ron Parker to the 53-man roster. He'll play mainly on special teams. ... LB Jerry Franklin was signed to the practice squad.

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Online:http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

1. Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

2. T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

3. Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

4. Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

5. Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
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- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.