Capitals

Pats deal with second straight subpar performance

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Pats deal with second straight subpar performance

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The New England Patriots have picked a bad time for some mediocre performances.

Now they have just one regular-season game left to gain momentum going into the playoffs.

New England got off to a slow start for the second straight week and trailed the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars 10-0 before getting a 23-16 win on Sunday.

That victory followed a 41-34 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in which the Patriots had an even worse start to the game, falling behind 31-3.

That's how quickly the Patriots (11-4) went from a dominant team with seven straight wins after a 42-14 rout of the Houston Texans to a disappointed one.

``We always talk about how we throw out the stats and throw out the records because it doesn't mean anything,'' defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said Monday. ``We never really know what we're going to get or what we're going to run up into.''

They ran into numerous problems on Sunday, some caused by the Jaguars (2-13) and others they brought upon themselves.

Jacksonville had more first downs on its opening possession (six) than New England totaled on its first four (five).

Tom Brady threw interceptions on two of the Patriots first three series. And they punted on their last two, allowing the Jaguars to move to the Patriots 12-yard line before Patrick Chung intercepted Chad Henne's pass on the final play.

``Certainly, (we) never really got into the game where we felt like we were going to string together a bunch of drives,'' offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said.

The biggest problem was ``self-inflicted errors,'' Brady said Monday during his weekly appearance on WEEI radio.

``We've got to do a better job,'' he said. ``We've got some pretty important weeks of football ahead, and that's when we really need to play our best.''

The first chance to get rolling again comes Sunday at home against the Miami Dolphins (7-8).

The Patriots beat the Dolphins 23-16 in Miami one week before rolling over the Texans, who had the NFL's best record at the time.

``What matters is that we finish out the season the right way and then try to prepare and have a great week of preparation, whomever we play (in the playoffs),'' McDaniels said.

Despite their recent problems, the Patriots still can be the AFC's top-seeded team. They'd achieve that with a win over the Dolphins while the Texans lose to the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos lose to the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Patriots would finish second, and still get a first-round bye, with a win and a loss by the Texans or Broncos.

They would be seeded third if all three win, or fourth if they lose and the Baltimore Ravens beat the Cincinnati Bengals.

With all that uncertainty, the Patriots still are thinking ahead even though they usually say the only game they focus on is the next one.

``You can't be totally oblivious to the possibilities that exist out there,'' coach Bill Belichick said. ``It's really hard to be specific on something like that when there are so many possibilities. You're working on a 25 percent chance of something; whatever you're working on, there's probably a 75 percent chance that you're wrong.''

If they don't get a bye, they'll play Indianapolis or Cincinnati. If they do, they won't know their opponent until the wild-card round is over.

So many possibilities.

``The most immediate one, that's the one that we'll take first and that would be the wild-card weekend if we're playing that weekend,'' Belichick said. ``We'll definitely do as much preparation as we can on those teams this week to make sure that we're ready to go on Sunday night or Monday morning if that's the way it goes.''

More immediately, the Patriots must analyze what went wrong against the Jaguars - execution, effort, emotion - and try to make sure it doesn't happen against the Dolphins.

Brady's passer rating of 73.9 was his lowest of the season. Henne's 348 yards passing were the third most the Patriots have allowed.

Sure, the Patriots won.

But beating a team that had just one win in three months since beating the Colts 22-17 on Sept. 23 - and doing it by just seven points - left them thankful but dissatisfied.

``I'm proud of the way we responded,'' defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said, ``but, at the same time, at the end of the day it won't be good enough.''

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

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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 

 

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

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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.

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