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Seattle has perfect offensive finish to beat Bears

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Seattle has perfect offensive finish to beat Bears

RENTON, Wash. (AP) The distances the Seattle Seahawks offense needed to cover late in regulation and then again in overtime left plenty of opportunity, as Pete Carroll put it, to ``really screw it up.''

Not with Russell Wilson at the controls. Not with the way this rookie is playing.

``There's really nothing to hold us back with what we can do and ask the quarterback to do with the system and all of that now. He can really handle the package,'' Carroll said. ``We're trying to benefit from that.''

With two drives on Sunday - one at the end of regulation and the other in overtime - Wilson kept Seattle firmly in control of the final playoff spot in the NFC with a 23-17 overtime win over Chicago. He led the Seahawks to touchdowns the final two times they touched the ball.

And they weren't short drives. Seattle went 97 yards on its final possession of regulation to take the lead, then another 80 yards in overtime to pull out the victory. Wilson accounted for 56 of Seattle's 80 yards on its overtime touchdown drive, including 28 yards rushing. Three times he converted third downs and capped Seattle's victory by hitting Sidney Rice on a 13-yard TD.

Combined over Seattle's final two possessions, the first of which was capped by Golden Tate sliding off tacklers for a 14-yard TD with 24 seconds left in regulation, Wilson accounted for 115 yards passing and 47 yards rushing.

His 71 total yards rushing turned out to be the most in Seahawks history for a quarterback. Most of those running yards came on designed zone-read plays where Wilson would fake the handoff to Marshawn Lynch, then dash around end for gains that gashed the Bears defense.

``He just has a tremendous level of awareness and poise and it's just surprising that anybody could be like that, not just a rookie or a young guy in his first shot playing in Chicago or what not,'' Carroll said. ``He just continues to be impressive in all of those ways.''

Closing out games has lingered as a significant problem for the Seahawks on the road. And lately because of their defense.

It started in Detroit, when the Lions scored with 20 seconds left after driving 80 yards to pull out a 28-24 win. Last week in Miami, the Seahawks gave up 17 fourth-quarter points and Dan Carpenter's field goal on the final play gave the Dolphins a 24-21 win.

And on Sunday, the Seahawks defense again let down when Jay Cutler scrambled free from pressure to find Brandon Marshall for 56 yards, setting up Robbie Gould's 46-yard field goal on the final play of regulation to force overtime. Carroll said when Cutler scrambled, Seattle's secondary briefly lost contain on Marshall and allowed him to come back toward the ball and make the play.

``We got a little out of whack. That's like playing in the park then, everything goes and Jay, that was a marvelous move to get free, a great throw, a great adjustment on the catch to get that done and it took all of that. That was a shocking play that it occurred like that. We thought we had it nailed,'' Carroll said. ``That gave them a great chance to come back in it, which just happened to set up a great chance for overtime and see a young kid win it all.''

For all the excitement about the Seahawks victory, there are injury concerns going forward. Rice was hammered on the game-winning touchdown at the goal line by Major Wright and was down on the field for a few minutes. He tweeted Sunday night that he was cleared by doctors but Carroll said Monday that Rice was going through concussion protocols in part because of his history with head injuries.

``It's based off the occurrence of it and his history, so it's a little bit of everything I guess,'' Carroll said. ``He feels good, he's not in bad shape at this point so we think he has a chance.''

Seattle is also unsure of the status of offensive lineman James Carpenter, who felt a sharp pain in his surgically reconstructed left knee and didn't play after the first quarter. Carroll said Carpenter was getting X-rays and an MRI, but was unsure of the results. He was also pessimistic about nickel cornerback Marcus Trufant, who has a hamstring pull.

Defensive end Red Bryant was in on 33 defensive plays despite a foot injury, but Carroll said he was sore Monday. He's also hopeful of getting back linebacker Leroy Hill, who did not play after being unable to make it through pregame warm ups with an ankle injury.

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

The wait is finally over. 

After two decades, the Capitals are back in the Stanley Cup Final. 

After a convincing 4-0 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Capitals are in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights. They'll be facing off against a handful of familiar names, with former Caps GM George McPhee, fan favorite Nate Schmidt, and ex-Penguins goalie Marc Andre-Fluery are just a few of the names that'll be suiting up for Vegas. 

What will the X-factors in the series be? Who will be the unexpected heroes of Game 1? The action is almost underway, and here are all the details you need to know.

Game 1 Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV.
TV Channel: NBCSN 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 FM)

WHEN IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES?

Game 1 of the Capitals-Golden Knights 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

WHAT TV CHANNEL IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 1 between the Capitals and Golden Knights is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

5:00 p.m. — Caps Cup Preview
6:00 p.m. — Caps GameDay Live
6:30 p.m. — Caps Face Off
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 1 Capitals vs. Golden Knights
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1?

Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights is available for online stream on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the NBC Sports live stream page.

CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals digital producer JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.