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Pats rout Colts 59-24 but Gronkowski injures arm

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Pats rout Colts 59-24 but Gronkowski injures arm

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The New England Patriots defense came alive just in time. It may have to make an even bigger contribution with Rob Gronkowski likely out for a while with an arm injury.

The touchdown catches and powerful blocks the tight end is known for will be missing after he was hurt late in the fourth quarter of Sunday' 59-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Gronkowski scored on completions of 4 and 24 yards from Tom Brady, giving him 10 touchdowns and making him the first tight end in NFL history with at least 10 touchdowns in three straight seasons. He finished the game with seven catches for 137 yards and is second on the team with 53 receptions.

``Rob does a great job for us,'' coach Bill Belichick said after the game, ``blocking, receiving, third down, red area. He's a good player.''

Belichick didn't mention the injury, which the Patriots identified as affecting his arm without saying which one. Comcast SportsNet New England said Gronkowski broke his forearm while blocking on the extra point after the final touchdown.

The Patriots gave no timetable for his return. They have six games left, starting Thursday night at the New York Jets.

They didn't need Gronkowski's touchdowns on Sunday, not when one of the NFL's worst pass defenses scored on interception returns of 59 yards by newcomer Aqib Talib and 87 yards by rookie Alfonzo Dennard.

Dennard watched himself on the video board as he raced to the end zone. He wanted to see if Andrew Luck, who threw the pass, might catch him.

``I went to the sideline and (safety Devin McCourty) was like, `If the quarterback would've caught you, you know we would've given you stuff about it,'' he said.

The Patriots lead the NFL with 35.8 points a game and tied their single-game scoring record on Sunday.

``The coaches want us to play aggressive,'' said Dennard, whose touchdown made it 45-17. ``So that's what I was doing out there.''

The first matchup between three-time Super Bowl winner Brady and star rookie Luck was no match. Brady threw three touchdown passes. Luck threw three interceptions.

``They're good enough,'' Luck said. ``They don't need those gifts, but to their credit, they created those and we didn't.''

The loss of Gronkowski could be costly. The Patriots other tight end, Aaron Hernandez, has missed the last three games and six overall, after spraining his ankle. That leaves three healthy tight ends - Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui and Visanthe Shiancoe - and they've totaled just four catches.

The Patriots forced four turnovers. Rob Ninkovich's fifth forced fumble of the season - knocking the ball out of Luck's hand - set up Gronkowski's second scoring grab on the next play.

``We knew we couldn't come here and turn the football over and have a chance to win,'' Colts interim coach Bruce Arians said. ``We've got a lot of rookies out there so every week is a learning experience. It was a bad learning experience.''

The Colts (6-4) had their four-game winning streak stopped. The Patriots (7-3) won their fourth straight game and extended their lead in the AFC East to three games.

Even so, Brady doesn't want the Patriots to start patting themselves on the back.

``I don't think we're anywhere (near) where we need to be at this point,'' he said.

Julian Edelman scored on a 68-yard punt return three plays before Talib's interception put the Patriots ahead to stay, 21-14.

``I don't think guys panicked'' after that one-two punch, Luck said. ``Playing hard is not enough, as evidenced tonight.''

Brady completed 24 of 35 passes for 331 yards and no interceptions. Luck was 27 for 50 for two touchdowns and 334 yards and set an NFL record as the first rookie with five 300-yard games.

The Colts were competitive for one half. The Patriots led 24-17 heading into the third quarter.

Then the Patriots scored on passes of 2 yards to Edelman and 24 yards to Gronkowski and Dennard's interception return.

Luck followed with a 43-yard scoring pass to T.Y. Hilton, the second of the game to the fellow rookie, but the Patriots responded with touchdown runs of 3 yards by Stevan Ridley and 4 yards by Shane Vereen.

The game began with touchdowns on the first three series: a 1-yard run by Delone Carter of the Colts, a 4-yard pass from Brady to Gronkowski, and a 14-yard pass from Luck to Hilton.

``A lot of plays motivated the defense,'' said Talib, playing his first game since being obtained from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. ``About that third or fourth (Colts) series, we kind of got into it. It was kind of quiet out there early (then) we started talking.''

The Patriots obtained him before last Sunday's 37-31 win over Buffalo. But he sat that one out to complete a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Notes: The Colts outgained the Patriots 448 yards to 446. ... The 59 points equals the Patriots record set in a 59-0 win over the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 18, 2009. ... The Patriots are 18-0 in the second half of the season starting in 2010. ... Welker stretched his streak to 104 games with at least one reception. ... Reggie Wayne tied Cris Carter's NFL mark with 58 consecutive games with at least three catches.

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Wilson's return sparks Capitals to a 5-2 win at Minnesota

Wilson's return sparks Capitals to a 5-2 win at Minnesota

Tom Wilson stayed on brand in his return from a long suspension.

The Capitals’ big man scored a goal and took a penalty on the same play in his first game of the season, a 5-2 win against the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night. 

Wilson won’t get the 16 games back he missed for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist. But he tried to make up for it in his debut. 

Wilson scored Washington’s second goal at 19:32 of the first period when he drove the net hard and deflected a pass from teammate Dmitry Orlov past Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk. But this being Wilson, nothing is totally uncontroversial.  

The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder was moving fast. There was no stopping him. Wilson, with some help from Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, collided with Dubnyk. The puck was already in the net, but the referee decided Wilson needed to go think about what he’d done after Dubnyk got clocked in the head. It was a two-minute goalie interference call. 

That’s an odd play rarely called. Either the goal counts or it doesn’t, but maybe because Wilson had already scored before running into Dubnyk both calls could stand. 

“It was a first for me to score and get a penalty on the same play,” Wilson told reporters in St. Paul. “I was just going hard to the net and Snarls [Orlov] put it right on my tape. It was a great pass at full speed. I was trying to do everything I could to get out of the way. I’ll take the goal and the kill went out there and got it done. It was good to see.”

It was far from Wilson’s only contribution in his first game back. He also fought Marcus Foligno at 11:58 of the second period on the faceoff after Minnesota cut a Washington lead to 3-1. He didn’t back down when asked to go by Foligno. 

“He’s a key player for our team, brings so much energy both on the ice and off the ice,” forward Andre Burakovsky said. “Huge lift for the team to get him back earlier. Didn’t expect that and I think he had a really strong game today. Obviously, he got the goal in his first game back and then some dirty works. Obviously, I think he’s a huge guy for us in PK and it showed today.”

Wilson didn’t get the assist on the goal that put the game away. Alex Ovechkin found Orlov for a one-timer on a pass from the left faceoff circle to the right. But it was Wilson driving hard toward the goal that kept a Wild defenseman with him and allowed Orlov the space to finish Ovechkin’s pass. Those little things have been missed in the 16 games Wilson was suspended. He was relentless. 

One big issue for the Capitals: The penalty kill. Wilson has been a big part of that group in recent years and without him – and, to be fair the departed Jay Beagle and the injured Brooks Orpik – Washington entered the game 29thin the NHL in penalty kill percentage (71.7 percent). Wilson wasn’t eased into anything. He played 5:23 on the penalty kill and the Capitals killed five of six Wild power plays. 

[Wilson] does a lot not just on the ice, but in our room. Adds a ton of energy. Well respected player for how he trains,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden. “Going through a tough time and obviously kind of a surprise for us to get him back today. We were hoping to at any point here and we were able to take advantage of a fortunate bounce for our team before even the game started. But I didn’t expect him to have as strong a game as he did." 

"Obviously able to convert on a great play on a line rush, but just the other things he did. Our penalty kill, the opposition scores a goal and, you talk about shifts after goals, not giving the team any more momentum than they’ve already gotten and he gets in a fight there. There’s a lot to like about Tom Wilson and I thought he had a strong game. It was great to have him back.”

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Wild

4 reasons the Caps beat the Wild

Think the Caps missed Tom Wilson? It sure looked like it.

Washington looked like a completely different team with Wilson back in the lineup Tuesday in a dominant 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild.

Here are four reasons the Caps won:

Tom Wilson

Wilson made his season debut Tuesday after his suspension was reduced by a neutral arbitrator earlier in the day. Wilson’s addition to the lineup had two effects. One, it made the lineup a lot deeper. Without Wilson, Todd Reirden was having trouble putting together the right lineup. Several players cycled on the top line and every line behind the top had to shuffle. Wilson came back onto the top line and immediately the rest of the lineup fell into place.

The top line looked better, the second line looked better and the third line looked better with their regular lineups back intact.

Wilson’s return also brought a lot of energy to the team and that was evident from the very start of the game. The Caps outshot Minnesota 12-6 and took the 2-0 lead in the first period of the game. Compare that to the rather lethargic game we saw on Sunday, clearly, Wilson brought a spark.

Oh, yeah, Wilson has also had a pretty darn good game too. He scored in the first period of the game in a typical Wilson play. He completely blew past Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter and tipped in a pass from Dmitry Orlov as he crashed the net on goalie Devan Dubnyk.

Somehow Wilson was also given a goalie interference penalty… but the goal still counted? Regardless of what was an obvious reputation penalty, it was a good return for Wilson, who also had a fight with Marcus Foligno and helped set up Orlov’s second goal by crashing again and drawing the defense over to him.

Dmitry Orlov

Orlov broke a 19-game goal drought with a goal just 7:23 into the game.

Lars Eller had the puck and cut to the blue line in the offensive zone turning to the middle. Minnesota got caught puck watching as the defense shifted with Eller, leaving Orlov open on the left. Eller found him and Orlov took advantage of the extra space to score his first goal of the season.

Orlov would add an assist on Wilson’s goal and a second goal in the third period off a beautiful pass from Alex Ovechkin.

The typically reliable defensive pairing of Orlov and Matt Niskanen struggled at the start of the season prompting Todd Reirden to switch up the pairs and place Orlov with John Carlson. Clearly, the move had the desired effect in Tuesday’s game.

The schedule

Tuesday’s game was the Wild’s first at home since Oct. 27. Minnesota was coming off a seven-game road swing and they looked a bit weary at the start of the game. As mentioned above, the Wild were outshot 12-6 in the first period and then 15-8 in the second.

Really, this game was a perfect storm. Not only were the Wild tired from a lengthy road trip, but they also were dealing with a Caps team that was pumped up by the return of Wilson.

Part of what made Sunday’s loss to Arizona so disappointing was the fact that the Coyotes were on the second leg of a back-to-back with their starting goalie on IR. The Caps were not able to take advantage, but they certainly took it to a vulnerable, road-weary team on Tuesday.

The penalty kill

Washington’s porous penalty kill was the reason the Caps lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday and a major reason they fell to Arizona. The PK finally stood tall on Tuesday as the Caps were able to kill off four out of five penalties on the night. The lone power play goal the team gave up came in the third period when the Caps were already up 5-1 and the game was no longer in doubt.

You can add the penalty kill to the long list of things that Wilson instantly improved in his return. Wilson logged 16:47 of total ice time on Tuesday and 5:23 of that came on the penalty kill.

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