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See how Andrew Luck fared in his second NFL start

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See how Andrew Luck fared in his second NFL start

From Comcast SportsNet
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Unlike his electric preseason debut, Andrew Luck's first pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't result in a touchdown. His eighth one did. Just not for the Indianapolis Colts. Standing on the sideline moments after Pittsburgh's Ike Taylor cut in front of an underthrown pass and raced 50 yards for a score, Luck fumed. But only for a second. Showing the mental toughness the Colts wanted when they tasked him with helping rebuild a franchise on the fly, the rookie rebounded to help Indianapolis take the halftime lead before falling 26-24 on Sunday night. Pittsburgh rookie kicker Danny Hrapmann kicked four second-half field goals, including the 22-yard winner with 23 seconds remaining. By then the top overall pick was in a baseball cap after completing 16 of 25 passes for 175 yards. He added a 1-yard touchdown run and the Colts (1-1) held their own against a perennial Super Bowl contender. "You never want to throw any interceptions, even if they are tipped, bobbled, whatever," Luck said. "I've got to cut down on those, but I think showing we can bounce back from those mistakes and kind of climb out of that hole was a good sign." Luck certainly won over the Steelers (1-1), who let Luck lead the Colts on three second-quarter scoring drives to turn a 14-0 deficit into a 17-14 lead. "He's a tough kid," Pittsburgh defensive end Brett Keisel said. "He's a good quarterback. I think he's going to play a long time. (Colts offensive coordinator) Bruce (Arians) is, I'm sure, a happy man." Even if Luck wasn't particularly thrilled after Taylor sprinted into the end zone to put the Steelers up two touchdowns. Luck didn't expect things to go as easily against the Steelers (No. 7 in the AP Pro32) as they did in a romp over St. Louis last week. He didn't expect to throw a pair of interceptions either. "I knew after last week everything wasn't going to be smooth-sailing, you know?" Luck said. "But I think you can learn a lot from mistakes and hopefully not repeating mistakes." He didn't during a sublime quarter in which he refused to get rattled against the defense that finished No. 1 in the league last fall. Using his mobility to step away from pressure and his vision to find open receivers, Luck didn't look like a guy who won't start his first NFL regular- season game for another three weeks. "(Luck) was able to come back and put it behind him just like he always has," Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said. "We saw the same thing in college. He's able to bring his team back from behind so it was nothing surprising to us to see him come back and put those kind of drives together." The Steelers aren't undergoing the kind of drastic makeover the Colts (No. 32) are enduring. Still, they have issues of their own, namely getting used to new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's complex scheme. The results so far are mixed. Ben Roethlisberger completed 7 of 8 passes during his one drive of work in the opener against Philadelphia last week, all of them quick hitters. His first pass Sunday night ended up in the hands of Indianapolis' Antoine Bethea. Antonio Brown and Roethlisberger atoned the next time the Steelers had the ball, with Brown doing most of the work. He hauled in an 18-yard pass from Roethlisberger on third-and-11 to extend the drive then put together a highlight-reel 57 yard catch-and-run for a touchdown. The play was all Brown. He took a screen pass from Roethlisberger, cut to the middle and used some great downfield blocking by running back Baron Batch to get to the end zone. Brown -- who has become Roethlisberger's favorite target with Mike Wallace in the midst of a holdout -- added some style points by doing a flip as he crossed the goal line. "It'd give it an 8.5," Brown said about the somersault. "I didn't stick the landing." And the Steelers didn't stick with it. The play accounted for more than half of the 112 yards of offense Pittsburgh generated when Roethlisberger was in the huddle. Roethlisberger completed 5 of 9 passes for 81 yards and the touchdown to Brown. "We're making a little bit of progress," Roethlisberger said. "I still think we're leaving a lot out there. We're not playing as good as we could or should, but we're making progress." So are the Colts. On the verge of getting blown out, the Colts responded behind their new leader. Luck led a 10-play, 80-yard drive after Taylor's pick and Donald Brown got Indianapolis on the board with a 1-yard plunge. Luck had it going on Indianapolis' next possession before being undone by a little bad, well, luck. He found rookie wide receiver T.Y. Hilton in stride down the middle only to have the wide-open Hilton throw the ball up in the air. Pittsburgh's Cortez Allen ran underneath it to thwart the drive, but it hardly slowed the Colts. Indianapolis tied it at 14 when Luck deftly slid into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 1, ending a drive in which Luck completed all five of his passes. Luck got one more chance just before the half, and he made it count. Working exclusively out of the shotgun, Luck led the Colts 31 yards in five plays, giving Adam Vinatieri just enough time -- and room -- to sneak a kick between the uprights at the halftime gun. NOTES: Colts DE Robert Mathis left the game in the first quarter with a shoulder strain and did not return. Indianapolis WR Austin Collie underwent a concussion test after taking a blow to the head from Pittsburgh linebacker Larry Foote. ... The Steelers travel to Buffalo on Saturday night while the Colts visit Washington. ... Harrison, Hampton, running backs Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall and linebacker Jason Worilds did not dress for the Steelers. ... Indianapolis backup QB Drew Stanton completed 4 of 13 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown.

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4 keys for the Caps to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

4 keys for the Caps to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

It all starts Monday!

The Vegas Golden Knights will host the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final as both teams look to take early control of the series.

Can the Caps steal one on the road to start? Here are four keys to winning Game 1.

Win the first period

The Golden Knights have not played a game since May 20. While rest can benefit a team at this time of the year, there is such a thing as too much rest and over a week would certainly qualify. If there is absolutely any rust in Vegas’ game to start, the Caps need to take advantage.

T-Mobile Arena and the Vegas crowd have already built a reputation in year one. The atmosphere is going to be electric, but the Caps can combat that with a good start to the game and by scoring first.

Vegas is 10-1 when scoring first this postseason. If they are able to come in and get on the board right off the bat in the first period after seven full days between games, that does not bode well for the Caps’ chances.

Don’t allow Marc-Andre Fleury to pick up where he left off

Fleury is having a postseason for the ages, but it’s hard to believe momentum is simply going to carry over to a new series after such a lengthy break. Players are not simply going to pick up where they left off and play as if there’s no rust to shake off. The need to get to Fleury as early as possible.

What that means is getting traffic in front of the net, making him move, contesting rebounds, making him feel uncomfortable as much as possible and generating quality offensive chances.

The Caps can do is starting flinging pucks at the net and giving him easy saves. Getting 12 shots in the first period would be great, but not if they are all perimeter shots for easy saves that help bring Fleury's confidence back to where it was in the Western Conference Final.

Limit the turnovers

Turnovers are blood in the water for Vegas. The high-effort, high-speed style of play of the Golden Knights has caught several players off guard at points this postseason. No one can afford to be casual with the puck at any point in this game because Vegas has a knack for turning those turnovers into goals.

Winning Game 1 on the road will be hard enough without giving the Golden Knights at any help.

Shut down the top line

Only three players have reached double digits in points for the Golden Knights in the playoffs: Jonathan Marchessault (18), Reilly Smith (16) and William Karlsson (13). What do these three have in common? They all play on Vegas’ top line. To compare, the Caps have seven players in double digits.

Much has been made of Vegas’ offensive depth and their ability to roll four lines, but the play of Fleury in net has really masked how much this team relies on its top line for offense. The Caps need to get Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the ice against them and focus on shutting them down. Force the Golden Knights to win with their other three lines and see if they can.

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MacLellan on facing McPhee in Stanley Cup Final: 'It's a little awkward'

MacLellan on facing McPhee in Stanley Cup Final: 'It's a little awkward'

LAS VEGAS—One of the more intriguing storylines of this year’s Stanley Cup Final centers on a couple of men who make their living behind the scenes: Brian MacLellan of the Caps and his counterpart with the Golden Knights, George McPhee.

They’ve known each other for 40-plus years, dating back to their time as bantam teammates in Canada. And, starting Monday, they’ll be on opposing sides, with hockey’s Holy Grail at stake.  

Caps fans, of course, are familiar with McPhee’s work. He served as GM in Washington from 1997-2014 and drafted 13 players who are currently on the Caps’ roster. McPhee was also the Caps’ rookie GM the last time the franchise appeared in the Final 20 years ago.

But here’s what Caps fans might not know about the connection that MacLellan and McPhee share:

  • They were born in a few months apart in 1958 in Ontario.
  • They captured the Canadian Jr. A championship as members of the 1977-78 Guelph Platers.
  • Both were on scholarship at Bowling Green from 1978-1982.
  • They played together with the New York Rangers in 1985-86.
  • And, finally, they worked side-by-side in Washington from 2000-2014. After working his way up from the scouting ranks, MacLellan replaced his managerial mentor, who had been let go following a disappointing season.

 

“It's kind of a weird experience,” MacLellan said. “We kind of have been texting back and forth how strange it feels to have this line up the way it has. It's a little awkward, but it's going to be a fun experience, I hope.”

At one point, MacLellan got choked up when talking about his relationship with McPhee, who’ll become the first GM in the expansion era to face a former team of which he served as GM.

“We played junior together and then we both went to Bowling Green on scholarships, so we lived together,” he said, fighting back tears. “It was fun.”

MacLellan also acknowledged that the two weren’t as tight—for a time, at least—after he replaced McPhee four years ago. McPhee also hinted at some strain, though he said the two men had dinner at the most recent GM’s meetings.

“Not as close, I don't think,” MacLellan said of his relationship with McPhee following McPhee’s dismissal. “A little bit of communication here and there. But I think it just took a little time for things to evolve. I think he needed a break from the game, needed a break from how it went down for him here and it just took time.”

When the two negotiated during last year’s expansion draft, which saw McPhee pluck promising you blueliner Nate Schmidt from Washington’s roster, MacLellan said the two old friends keep things “businesslike.”

“He was all business,” MacLellan said. “He wasn’t giving in on anything.”

Although McPhee drafted most of the core players who delivered the Caps to this year’s Final, MacLellan also deserves credit for getting this team over the second round hump. Among his first acquisitions were defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, a pair of vets that helped shore up a shaky defense. MacLellan also added forwards T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller via trade in recent seasons and, this year, added defenseman Michal Kempny, a particularly shrewd move that bolstered a blue line that needed a little tightening.

As weird as the next few days will be for MacLellan as he faces his old friend, it figures to even more strange for McPhee, who will look down from the GM’s suite on Monday and see not one, but two teams that he built on the ice. McPhee also pilfered a handful of current and former front office employees from Caps, including Goalie Coach Dave Prior, while building the Golden Knights.

Indeed, the history between MacLellan and McPhee runs deep. But for the next couple of weeks, they’ll put aside their decades-old friendship as their clubs battle for the NHL’s ultimate prize.
 

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