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Predators beat Sharks 2-1 in shootout

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Predators beat Sharks 2-1 in shootout

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Craig Smith scored the lone goal in the shootout and Pekka Rinne stopped all three San Jose attempts to help the Nashville Predators hand the Sharks their first loss of the season, 2-1 on Saturday night.

Sergei Kostitsyn scored his first goal of the season to break a scoreless tie in the opening minute of the third period. Rinne made 26 saves through overtime and led the Predators to their second straight shootout win after they lost their first three this season.

Marty Havlat made up for a premature celebration that cost San Jose a goal by scoring the equalizer on the power play with 6:21 remaining in regulation.

But the Sharks were unable to get the next goal and missed a chance at their eighth straight victory to tie for the third longest season-opening winning streak in NHL history.

Smith beat Antti Niemi with a backhand in the second round of the shootout, ending a stretch of six straight shootout stops by Niemi. The Predators got the win when Rinne stopped Joe Pavelski on the next attempt.

The Predators got on the board after Colin Wilson intercepted Brad Stuart's soft clearing attempt up the boards. With two Sharks closing in on him, Wilson slid a pass to Kostitsyn, who beat Niemi with a wrister on just his fifth shot this season.

But Havlat made up for his earlier mistake after the Predators took a penalty for too many men on the ice. Scott Gomez got Havlat the puck after a turnover, and Havlat beat Rinne off the backhand for his third goal. That ended a drought of 14 power plays without a goal for San Jose.

The first two periods featured 32 shots, eight power plays, and one goal celebration but no goals as Havlat's blunder cost the Sharks one.

The mistake came midway through the second period after Ryane Clowe's shot from the circle trickled past Rinne and hit the post before settling near the goal line. Havlat came in alone and easily could have tapped the puck into the empty net had he not raised his arms in celebration. By the time Havlat realized his mistake, he was not in position to tap in the puck, much to his disappointment.

That was by far the best scoring chance for either team as the power plays for the most part failed to generate quality chances. San Jose had one strong flurry with the man advantage, shortly before Havlat's mistake, but Rinne stopped Patrick Marleau and Pavelski from in close on rebound attempts.

Each team failed on four power-play chances in the first two periods, with the Predators extending their drought with the man advantage to 16 straight chances. The Sharks, who had 12 power-play goals in the first five games, missed on their first four chances before striking in the third period.

NOTES: The Sharks failed to score first for the first time since the season opener in Calgary. ... Predators F Martin Erat didn't play after leaving practice on Friday when he was hit in the skate with a puck. ... D Jonathon Blum made his first appearance of the season for Nashville. ... D Jason Demers made his season debut for the Sharks after missing seven games because of a wrist injury sustained during the lockout. Rookie D Matt Irwin was scratched.

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Redskins need a winning streak to convince legion of skeptics

Redskins need a winning streak to convince legion of skeptics

If you want to, you can find plenty of things wrong with the Redskins’ 23-17 win over the Panthers. The home team was up 17-0 in the second quarter and yet had to hang on as the Panthers reached the red zone with a chance to win in the last minute. The game got tight because the Redskins continued their second-half scoring problems, putting up just six points. Alex Smith passed for just 153 yards. 

But you can’t poke holes in the fact that the Redskins are 3-2 and in first place in the NFC East. Sure, there is a long way to go. But consider this—a Redskins schedule that looked rough at the beginning of the season doesn’t look quite as tough. In fact, right now the Redskins have a better winning percentage than any team they will play in their remaining 11 games. 

Yes, that’s right. They have six games to play in the division, two each against the Cowboys and Eagles, both now 3-3, and the 1-5 Giants. Their two remaining games against the NFC South are against the 2-3 Bucs and the 2-4 Falcons. The schedule is rounded out with games against three AFC South teams, the Titans, Texans, and Jaguars. All three of those teams are tied atop the division at 3-3. 

Of course, you can’t expect all of these teams to still be wallowing around .500 when they face the Redskins. It looks like the Eagles and Falcons are on the upswing and in today’s NFL any team can get hot at any time. 

And, as the Redskins demonstrated in their Week 2 loss to the Colts, they are capable of losing to a weak team. They still have plenty of issues they have to correct if they plan on maintaining their winning record and staying in contention for the division title. They won’t survive if they continue to have difficulty scoring in the second half (their only second-half TD this season came in garbage time against the Saints). They need to get more sacks from Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith, who have one combined. Plenty of details need to be ironed out. 

But the fact that they are a flawed team doesn’t take away from the fact that they got a quality win over the Panthers. Carolina was 3-1, coming off of an 11-5 playoff season. On top of that, the Redskins had not beaten the Panthers since 2006, a stretch that included an 0-4 record against Cam Newton. They didn’t commit a turnover for the first time this year and they got a season-high three takeaways. Christian McCaffrey came into the game averaging 83 yards per game and left it averaging 70 after picking up 20 yards on eight carries. 

With all of that said, the Redskins still have to overcome their inconsistency. They have won two games in a row just twice since the beginning of the 2017 season. Nobody is going to believe that anything is different about the Redskins until they can string together three or four wins in a row. Until then, skepticism will abound. 

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler is locked into the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

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Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

With Tom Wilson still serving a 20-game suspension, Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden has the difficult task of finding a wing to complement his top line of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. For the first four games of the season, that player was Brett Connolly.

On Saturday, however, he changed things up and went with Chandler Stephenson instead.

Just 18 seconds into the game, Stephenson made his head coach look very smart as he finished off a 2-on-1 with Kuznetsov to score his first goal of the season.

“Obviously, the start was great,” Reirden said after the game.

Stephenson is an incredibly fast skater and the extra speed seemed to add another dimension to that line that opponents had to contend with, and it led to both of the Caps’ goals on the night.

In addition to Stephenson’s goal, Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty in the second period, and Washington scored on the resulting power play.

“Those guys are a lot of fun to play with,” Stephenson said. “They just know where to be and can find each other. I've just got to get the puck to them and just go to the net with your stick on the ice, and they'll find you.”

The top line’s success was a matter of finding instant chemistry as Stephenson had very little time to adjust. The Caps were off on Friday following back-to-back games, and Reirden did not make the switch of putting Stephenson on the top until Saturday’s morning skate.

Putting a new top line together with little time to practice does not seem like an ideal scenario, but according to Kuznetsov, the level of familiarity between all the players made the adjustment quick and easy.

“It doesn't matter with who you play,” he said. “In this locker room, we can communicate with anybody. We don't have a first line, we don't have a fourth line. We try and roll all lines.”

Reirden seemed pleased with the new trio after the game saying, “They did a number of good things during the game as well, so they I thought accomplished a lot. I thought [Stephenson] brought the speed on the forecheck and was able to at least go after their defense a little bit and force some turnovers that Kuznetsov and [Ovechkin] were able to at least get some opportunities from. So I think that's important to have him in that situation.”

Reirden was happy enough with the top line’s performance to keep them together. The team is off Monday, but Stephenson remained on the top line during Sunday’s practice.

But so long as Wilson remains out, finding the right match for the top line will remain a work in progress.

Said Reirden, “We’ll continue to try to put together our four lines that give us the best chance.”

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