Capitals

Steelers DB Victorian, Van Dyke ready for more

Steelers DB Victorian, Van Dyke ready for more

PITTSBURGH (AP) As the veteran member of the Pittsburgh Steelers' otherwise-youthful cornerbacks, Ike Taylor enjoys being among the first- and second-year players at his position meetings.

``I feel like they keep my young,'' Taylor said. ``Especially with the new young music coming up, the clothes, shoes, all that kind of stuff.''

This week, it's much more than music or fashion trends that have Taylor appreciating players such as Josh Victorian, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Curtis Brown and Robert Golden.

With Taylor sidelined with a fractured right ankle and top reserve Cortez Allen likely out with a groin injury, the likes of Victorian and Van Dyke are thrust into prominent roles.

Picked up late in training camp, neither was even active for games as recently as two weeks ago. But as the Steelers (7-6) head into Dallas (7-6), they'll be counting on the inexperienced cornerbacks to deal with the Cowboys' talented receivers.

``We tried to teach these young players like they are going to be starting because we know someday, they will be starting,'' Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. ``Unfortunately, we got a couple hits at the same spot. Generally speaking, throughout the course of a season, this happens every year. It's not a surprise that some of these guys are going to be starting and taking a significant amount of snaps. Hopefully they will be prepared and answer the challenge.''

The results were mixed in this past Sunday's game, the first without Taylor for the Steelers since 2006. Allen made his first career start, and fellow second-year pro Brown also was bumped up the depth chart to play in nickel packages.

Repeatedly picking on Brown and Allen, Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes and was 12-for-18 when passing on third down with eight of those completions going to receivers that either Brown or Allen was covering.

That led to coach Mike Tomlin benching Brown in favor of Victorian, who had been cut off the practice squad the week prior.

While acknowledging that was ``a big step,'' Victorian said he never doubted his abilities - not when he was cut five times by four teams in a 14-month span, and not when he was beat by Danario Alexander for a touchdown on one of his first plays in his first NFL regular-season game Sunday.

``To play corner not only on this team but in this league, you have to have confidence,'' the 5-foot-10 Victorian said. ``Coming up I wasn't always as big as everybody, so confidence is something that has been building in me since I was a young kid. I think I'm pretty confident now.''

Van Dyke was confident he was going to be drafted by the Steelers in 2011 after speaking multiple times with Tomlin. Instead, Oakland plucked him in the third round with the 81st pick, leaving Pittsburgh with Brown at No. 95 and Allen at No. 128.

Van Dyke started four of 14 games for the Raiders as a rookie last season but was cut at the end of this past training camp. The Steelers were happy to scoop him up but limited him to special teams during the first half of the season.

But multiple penalties that negated returns led to Tomlin deactivating Van Dyke five times in a six-game span before he was needed against the Chargers because of Taylor's injury.

``It's always good to put your hand in the pile, as coach Tomlin always says,'' Van Dyke said. ``I just have to go out and make plays and help my team win this game, do what coach LeBeau and coach Tomlin want me to do.''

During practice Friday, Victorian and Brown were the top two corners to play after Keenan Lewis, a first-year starter who himself fought through a minor hip injury this week. Golden, an undrafted rookie safety, also was given reps in nickel packages.

The Steelers secondary will depend upon to help deal with Dallas' Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten, who all are on pace to have 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Between them, Victorian, Van Dyke, Brown and Golden have combined for four NFL starts.

``We will need every one of them, without a doubt,'' LeBeau said. ``They will all be playing.

``Hopefully, we have some quality depth. It's a challenge for us.''

Notes: LB LaMarr Woodley made it through an entire week of practice without setback or incident after missing the past two-and-a-half games due to an ankle injury. He is listed as probable to play Sunday. ... An apparent stomach virus is making its way through the Steelers locker room. LB James Harrison missed practice Wednesday and Thursday due to illness, and WR Antonio Brown, WR Plaxico Burress, reserve LB Stevenon Sylvester and LS Greg Warren were among those who were affected by it Friday.

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Hurricanes tie series with Caps, Blues take series lead, Sharks avoid elimination

NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Hurricanes tie series with Caps, Blues take series lead, Sharks avoid elimination

As the first-round starts to head into the final games, each matchup is getting more and more critical, as was evident Thursday. Not only did the Carolina Hurricanes have the chance to even up the series with the Washington Capitals in Game 4, but the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets were playing for the 3-2 series lead and the San Jose Sharks found themselves in a must-win situation in order to avoid elimination against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Thursday's slate of games proved to be crucial and ultimately, played out well for the Hurricanes, Blues and Sharks. Here's how each series stacked up Thursday.

Hurricanes tie series against Caps with narrow 2-1 win

It was a close matchup between Washington and Carolina Thursday, but thanks to a couple of key goals and a big night for Petr Mrazek between the pipes, the Hurricanes were able to take Game 4 with a 2-1 victory.

Warren Foegele opened the scoring for Carolina just 17 seconds in, crashing the net and scoring on a lay-up that beat Braden Holtby. It was his third goal of the playoffs and the fastest playoff goal for Carolina in franchise history.

Alex Ovechkin was able to even the score in the second period with a one-timer on the man advantage, putting an end to 11 straight penalty kills for the Canes. The goal was Ovechkin's second of the playoffs, with both tallies coming on the power play. However, just before the second period came to a close, Teuvo Teravainen returned the lead for Carolina to make it 2-1.

Petr Mrazek made 30 saves on the night, including eight in the third period to guarantee the victory for the Hurricanes, while Holtby made 22 saves on 24 shots. Washington also lost T.J. Oshie to injury late in the game after he was hit from behind by Warren Foegele. The series is now tied 2-2.

Blues edge Jets with comeback victory, take series lead

Although the Jets were up 2-0 over the Blues heading into the third period, Winnipeg surrendered three unanswered goals as St. Louis took a 3-2 victory.

Adam Lowry scored just 12 seconds into the opening frame for the Jets' fastest playoff goal in franchise history to make it 1-0, and Kevin Hayes added a goal a little over halfway through the first to make it 2-0.

The lead would carry over until the final 20 minutes of regulation, where the Blues kicked it into full gear. Ryan O'Reilly beat Connor Hellebuyck on the power play a little over a minute into the third to pull the Blues within one. With about seven minutes to go, Brayden Schenn would tie the game at 2 with his first goal of the playoffs.

With the final minute winding down, it appeared that the game would be headed to overtime; however, Tyler Bozak was able to knock the puck loose and find a wide-open Jaden Schwartz in front, who fired the puck past Hellebuyck with just 15 seconds remaining to make it 3-2.

With the victory, the Blues now hold a 3-2 series lead and can eliminate Winnipeg in Game 6 Saturday.

Sharks stay alive with statement 5-2 win over Golden Knights

Thursday's game was a must-win for the Sharks, and thanks mainly to the effort of Tomas Hertl, they were able to dominate on home ice with an impressive win over Vegas.

A little over a minute in, Tomas Hertl jumped on a pass from Erik Karlsson and scored his third of the playoffs to make it 1-0 early. Later in the period, Logan Couture would beat Marc-Andre Fleury to put the Sharks up by two, but with 30 seconds to go in the opening frame, Reilly Smith was able to pull Vegas within one with his first of the postseason.

While it looked like Vegas would be able to shift the momentum with their end to the first, Barclay Goodrow redirected a Justin Braun shot past Fleury and the Sharks regained their two-goal lead.

Jonathan Marchessault would strike for the Golden Knights on the power play over halfway into the third to cut the lead to one, but Hertl soon after scored his second of the night on the rebound of a Joe Pavelski shot to make it 4-2. With less than two minutes to go in regulation, Pavelski scored on the empty net for his second point of the game, which ultimately sealed the deal for the Sharks.

Martin Jones, who had been struggling but was given the start regardless, proved his worth with 30 saves on 32 shots, and Erik Karlsson also put up a multi-point performance for San Jose in the win.

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In need of a right wing and a spark, the Capitals recall playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly

In need of a right wing and a spark, the Capitals recall playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly

Down a right wing and in need of a spark, the Capitals recalled forward and 2018 playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly from the Hershey Bears on Friday.

The news comes in the wake of a serious looking injury to T.J. Oshie suffered in Game 4 Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes. Following the game, head coach Todd Reirden told the media that Oshie “will not be with our team for a while.

Now a Capitals team that has been held to a single goal by Carolina in the past two games will enter what is essentially a must-win scenario in Game 5 without one of its top forwards. Washington is in need of some serious help.

Enter Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly, 26, was tremendous in Washington’s Stanley Cup run, scoring seven goals in 24 games including the game-tying goal in the decisive Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. That success earned him a new contract for the 2018-19 season, but his offensive touch did not carry over into the new campaign. After a rocky season with only four goals and four assists in 54 games, Smith-Pelly was waived by the Caps in order to clear cap space for the trade deadline. When a player is placed on waivers, every team in the NHL has a chance to claim him. Smith-Pelly was exposed to every team in the NHL and every team passed on him, allowing Washington to re-assign him to the Hershey Bears in the AHL.

Despite the surprise of clearing waivers, Smith-Pelly has made the most of his time in Hershey. In 20 games with the Bears, he recorded six goals and eight assists, including one hat trick performance on March 9 against the Hartford Wolfpack.

Washington already had two extra forwards on the roster as both Chandler Stephenson and Dmitrij Jaskin were healthy scratches for Game 4. Yet, the team still felt the need to recall Smith-Pelly. This does not seem like a move the team would make just to scratch him as an extra forward.

Smith-Pelly is back in Washington and fans should expect him back in the lineup for Game 5 on Saturday. Whether they will see the Smith-Pelly from the 2018 playoffs or from the 2018-19 regular season remains to be seen, but the answer to that question could decide if Washington advances or soon joins the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins as teams upset in the first round.

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