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Steelers-Giants provide relief in Sandy aftermath

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Steelers-Giants provide relief in Sandy aftermath

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) The Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants gave a region left reeling by Superstorm Sandy just what it needed after days of dealing with devastation, power outages, no heat and long gas lines.

For a few hours Sunday, people in the New York metro area could watch two good football teams play a hard-fought game. It was chance to cheer and yell and scream and forget about the past six days.

The Steelers' 24-20 victory probably didn't please the majority of fans at MetLife Stadium, but this game was about more than football. It was about life and helping people cope with it.

It was sports at its best.

``There are so many bigger things going on around here that what we do is not as important as real life,'' Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said after throwing for two touchdowns. ``My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone else who are going through so much. There were so many emotions going on, I didn't know what to expect from it. But maybe we were able to take their minds off their problems just a little.''

The Giants (6-3) had come into the game hoping to use it as a platform to raise the spirits of the millions of people in New York and New Jersey who lost their homes, been displaced and had a lifetime of dreams shattered by the worst storm to hit the area in decades.

For three quarters they gave them hope, building a 20-10 lead on the play of its defense, highlighted by a 70-yard fumble return for a touchdown by linebacker Michael Boley.

The Steelers (5-3), however, dominated the final quarter. A 51-yard pass and run by Mike Wallace got them within a field goal and Issac Redman capped a career-best 147-yard rushing performance with a game-winning 1-yard touchdown run with 4:02 to go.

New York's final attempt to win one for the region ended with a three-and-out, and the Steelers ran out the clock.

``We had a lot riding on the game,'' Giants defensive captain Justin Tuck said. ``Everybody knows what has taken place this past week in this area. A lot of us have been affected ourselves. We wanted to come out and give this region a reason to put some smiles on people's faces. That's frustrating in itself and knowing you had the opportunity to beat a great football team at home, and let that slip through your hands.

``We've been a team known for finishing and when we take the lead into the fourth quarter and we don't sustain that, that's frustrating,'' Tuck added. ``That's not us. We have to look at this thing tomorrow and come back next week and try to get to 7-3.''

The Steelers had a lot to do with the Giants problems. Their defense limited Eli Manning to 125 yard passing, held the running game to 68 yards and did not allow New York to gain a first down in the final quarter.

Pittsburgh accomplished that despite traveling to New Jersey on Sunday - with the league's blessing - so those displaced by the storm would not be kicked out of their rooms.

Outside, folks tailgated and tried to blunt some of the devastation from the week's superstorm. As Giants fan Courtney Davis, whose town of Sea Bright was washed away by Hurricane Sandy, said in response to holding the game: ``We need this.''

``Coming in the day of the game was tough and we had to deal with that adversity,'' Redman said. ``But the Giants had to deal with adversity all week. We just had to come in here and be ready to play.

When Pittsburgh came on relentlessly, the one-quarter of the 80,991 seats occupied by Terrible Towel-waving Steelers faithful could celebrate an impressive comeback victory, coach Mike Tomlin's 60th win.

``''We didn't talk much about the travel,'' Tomlin insisted, although Roethlisberger said teammates were in the hallways of the hotel sleeping after morning meetings.

``This is a game,'' Tomlin added. ``What happened here is life and reality.''

Giants coach Tom Coughlin called the loss as disappointing as any in recent years.

``Not to be overly reactionary or emotional, to play against a very good football team like that ... we wanted emotionally to win the game so badly for obvious reasons, for our neighbors who are struggling, who needed some type of inspiration and we didn't provide it,'' Coughlin said.

The Steelers weren't perfect. Roethlisberger's fumble after being sacked by Osi Umenyiora resulted in Boley's TD and an interception by Corey Webster led to the second of Lawrence Tynes' two field goals and penalties led to the other 10 points for the Super Bowl champions.

Another gaffe was a fake field goal from the New York 3 early in the fourth quarter on which kicker Shaun Suisham lost a yard. That wasted a 63-yard punt return by Sanders on his first such runback all season.

However, the Steelers still found a way to win.

Giants tight end Martellus Bennett was philosophical about the loss.

``You always want to win and it was great as to how many people showed up with what was going on in the city and it was a hard-fought game,'' Bennett said. ``I don't think they were let down. We did the same thing the city has been doing, which is fighting, fighting, fighting. Everybody has come back and we have to continue to fight. People in the city are continuing to fight and you can't win every battle, but you live to fight again.''

NOTES: Pittsburgh lost leading receiver Antonio Brown in the first half with a left ankle sprain and kick returner Chris Rainey in the third quarter with a rib injury. Rainey had 173 yards on five runbacks ... The Steelers held the ball for more than 35 minutes ... Boley led the Giants with 10 tackles. ... New York had four sacks, with Tuck getting two.

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A special night for Barry Trotz on his return to Washington

A special night for Barry Trotz on his return to Washington

WASHINGTON — Barry Trotz stood on an the unfamiliar visitors’ bench and scanned the rafters at Capital One Arena as the national anthem played. 

It had to be around here somewhere. He looked to one side of the scoreboard and then the other. Finally his eyes locked on the 2018 Stanley Cup banner hanging in the south end of the arena, a testament to a season he will remember the rest of his life. 

"I was just focused on the game. Until the national anthem, I didn’t even know where it was,” Trotz said. “I was looking on the other side, around the clock, and then I turn around and there it is. That’s a proud moment for everybody involved: ownership, Ted Leonsis, and [Brian MacLellan] in management, and the players and everybody, the fans. That’s the one you want.” 

Trotz could afford a reflective mood as he spoke after a 2-0 win against the Capitals in his first game back in Washington since leading the franchise to its first Stanley Cup last June. The Islanders broke a scoreless tie with two goals in the third period just 2:26 apart. They are the surprise of the NHL after losing star center John Tavares to free agency last summer. They are all alone in first place in the Metropolitan Division now well past the halfway point of the season. 

Trotz stayed focused before the game. He arrived hours before game time and holed up in his office trying to figure a way the Islanders could win the second of a back-to-back against the rested Capitals.

At the first television timeout of the first period, Trotz steadied himself for the video tribute the Capitals put together. There, on the giant scoreboard, the indelible images flashed: Trotz at his opening press conference in 2014, promising his new team had what it took to win a championship, winning the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year, laughing with his players, skating the hot laps during last year’s playoffs, lifting the Stanley Cup. The Capital One Arena crowd stood and roared for the entire break in the action.  

“My heart got full of all the good memories,” Trotz said. “I was looking up there. I was trying not to look too much because I was getting pretty close to that sensitive side of myself. But it was extremely well done and it was just great memories. Everybody was a part of something special.”

Afterward they had another mini reunion outside the Washington locker room, his home for four years. Trotz and Lane Lambert, his assistant for all four years with the Caps, chatted with players as they came out. It wasn’t as emotional as the championship ring ceremony when the two teams first met on Nov. 26 in Brooklyn. Trotz’s voice wavered as he addressed his former players before that game. This time was all laughs. 

Capitals assistant Blaine Forsythe was there and head coach Todd Reirden briefly stopped by. Tom Wilson and Matt Niskanen and Devante Smith-Pelly came over to say hello. Brooks Orpik, who had a memorable night of his own with a ceremony for playing in his 1,000th NHL game earlier in the week, leaned against a wall and chatted with Trotz and Lambert, who jabbed Caps goalie coach Scott Murray and said he better have a “hotter suit” the next time they meet, which will be in New York on March 1.

Maybe then the Islanders will have come down to earth or maybe Trotz is in the midst of another magical season. Maybe these two teams, with so much shared history, are destined to meet again in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

“They’ve got the same team. They’re a good hockey team. There’s no question,” Trotz said. “They’ve got lots of mettle and it starts with their leadership and [Nicklas Backstrom] and [Alex Ovechkin] and that core group….That whole group, Johnny Carlson, all the guys that have here for a long time, they’ve got lots of mettle. I’m fortunate to have another great group to work with on the Island. As I said to them, I hope we can have the same experience down the road. It’s special doing that.”

 

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Barry Trotz returns to DC and hands the Capitals a fourth straight loss

Barry Trotz returns to DC and hands the Capitals a fourth straight loss

The New York Islanders outlasted the Capitals in a defensive battle Friday with two third period goals to hand Washington a 2-0 loss in Barry Trotz's return to Capital One Arena. The loss is now the Caps' fourth straight and knocks them down to third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Here are three reasons Washington lost.

Defense

You could definitely see the effect Barry Trotz has had on this Islanders team in this one. Last year, the Islanders were laughably terrible on defense. On Friday, they frustrated the Caps offense all night long.

New York was positionally sound all game long, forcing the Caps to the outside and limiting all of their offensive opportunities. Every time it looked like Washington had a rush developing, the Islanders got back and got in front of the puck. Every time the Caps tried to set up their offense, New York forced them to the perimeter and kept them from the high-danger areas. Thomas Greiss was there to clean up the rest as he recorded his second shutout of the season.

Washington was limited to just 19 shots on goal on the night, 15 through the first two periods.

A third period breakthrough

Braden Holtby looked very sharp for the Caps all night long in his first game since he suffered an eye injury on Jan. 12. He was finally beaten in the third period thanks to a great deflection by Josh Bailey.

Mathew Barzal showed some great puck control as he entered the offensive zone, wheeled around away from the initial defensive pressure, carried it to the high slot and fired a shot. By wheeling around, that allowed Bailey the chance to park himself in front of Holtby for the deflection.

In such a tight defensive game, you knew it was going to be an ugly goal like Bailey’s that would finally break through.

A third-period 2-on-0

John Carlson pinched into the offensive zone. When that happens, that means it’s Michal Kempny’s job to hightail it back on defense if the puck gets past Carlson.

Instead, Kempny tried to step up and to try to keep the puck in at the blue line. Cal Clutterbuck got the puck past him, and it was off to the races with him and Matt Martin on a 2-on-0. Clutterbuck called his own number and finished off the play with the goal to put the Islanders up 2-0.

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