Redskins

Vokoun shuts out Rangers in Penguins' 3-0 win

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Vokoun shuts out Rangers in Penguins' 3-0 win

NEW YORK (AP) Tomas Vokoun stopped 28 shots for his 49th NHL shutout, and the Pittsburgh Penguins scored on the first shot of the first and third periods in a 3-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night.

Evgeni Malkin gave the Penguins the lead just 1:24 in, James Neal added a power-play goal 28 seconds into the third - after another costly too many men on the ice penalty for the Rangers - and Simon Despres netted his second NHL goal to give Pittsburgh (4-3) its second win in five games.

Malkin added an assist, as did captain Sidney Crosby, on Neal's goal. Despres came out of the penalty box to score at 10:23 of the third right after Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman hit the post at the other end.

Pittsburgh is winless at home but 4-1 on the road. The Penguins have two wins in New York this season, one fewer than the host Rangers, who had won three of four overall.

Vokoun was steady throughout in earning his 289th NHL victory, but wasn't challenged much by the Rangers (3-4), who have scored two goals or fewer in four games. He was bailed out twice in the third by drives that struck posts behind him.

New York struggled to generate offense in its first game without captain Ryan Callahan, expected to be sidelined 10-14 games by a shoulder injury sustained Tuesday in a win against Philadelphia.

Vokoun, who relieved goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in Pittsburgh's 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday, got another start against the Rangers. Vokoun (2-1) has split time with Fleury and has played in four games. His only wins this season have come at Madison Square Garden.

The Penguins jumped on the Rangers early, just as they did in New York's home opener on Jan. 20 when Pittsburgh chased goalie Henrik Lundqvist from the net.

Malkin fired a drive from the lower portion of the right circle that got through a screen and beat the surprised Lundqvist at 1:24. Pittsburgh scored just 1:48 into the previous matchup - the first of three first-period goals en route to a 6-3 victory.

Lundqvist, who has played in every game this season, made 26 saves.

Play was disjointed in the second period and filled with numerous offsides and icing calls along with a variety of penalties on each side. The Rangers were whistled for four penalties, including the too many men call that carried over into the third period.

New York coach John Tortorella fumed Tuesday after Carl Hagelin jumped onto the ice early, a penalty that led directly to Philadelphia's only goal in the Rangers' 2-1 win. Tortorella was no happier after this one.

The call came right after the Rangers managed to keep their deficit at one goal when Lundqvist deflected away a drive by Crosby on a breakaway with 50 seconds left in the middle period.

Crosby was already aggravated in the opening minute of the second when he was knocked down after the whistle by defenseman Dan Girardi, who was called for roughing.

The Rangers showed aggressiveness several times after play was stopped, including in the first when Marc Staal engaged in a scuffle behind the New York net with Malkin. Both players were sent off for roughing, a similar situation to Tuesday when Callahan was injured in a tussle with Max Talbot.

NOTES: Vokoun, a 14-year veteran, is the only NHL goalie with at least four shutouts each season since 2005-06. ... Rangers D Matt Gilroy made his season debut, taking the lineup spot created by Callahan's injury. ... Pittsburgh claimed LW Zach Boychuk off waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes. He is expected to join the team on Friday. ... D Robert Bortuzzo made his season debut for Pittsburgh. D Ben Lovejoy sat out. ... The Rangers were 0 for 4 on the power play and are 3 for 28 this season.

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Pressure turns up on Bruce Allen as another Redskins season ends with no playoffs

Pressure turns up on Bruce Allen as another Redskins season ends with no playoffs

GREEN BAY -- The Redskins officially got knocked out of the playoffs on Sunday with a loss to the Packers, and while the postseason seemed more of a pipe dream than a possibility, it could carry big repercussions for Washington team president Bruce Allen. 

The pressure on Allen has been intense for some time, as NBC Sports Washington and others have reported, but things got much more serious over the weekend in Wisconsin. CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported Sunday that Redskins owner Dan Snyder is "beginning to understand the gravity of his situation and that major changes could be coming to the Skins front office this week."

And that report came out before the Redskins lost 20-15 to the Packers. 

The timing makes sense. The NFL season has just three weeks remaining in the regular season, and Washington will need a new head coach for the 2020 season. While interim head coach Bill Callahan deserves some praise for stabilizing the second half of the 2019 season, the team needs a fresh start next year. 

To hire that coach, the Redskins need stability in the front office, and considering Allen's grip at the top of the organizations seems as volatile ever, it's hard to imagine the best coaching candidates considering the Redskins top job under the current circumstances.

There's also the subtle things that suggest more scrutiny than ever on Allen. 

For years it's become typical for Snyder and Allen to walk down to the playing field together before games. That didn't seem to happen in Green Bay. That could mean nothing, but it could mean plenty.

In fact, Snyder and Allen are often spotted together at FedEx Field before Redskins home games, but that's been much less visible in the past few weeks. At the Redskins training facility in Ashburn. Snyder doesn't always attend practice, but when he does, usually Allen is nearby. While the media only gets to observe a limited portion of practice, in the last month or so, Allen's been seen plenty and Snyder has been seen too, but rarely if at all together. 

These subtle things, only noticeable to observers of every practice and every game, could be nothing. Schedules could change or maybe people get busy. But they also might be something to watch. 

It's important to note that the Redskins hired Bruce Allen on December 17th, 2009 to take over the team's football operations. Why is that important? Normally an NFL team hires a new general manager in late December so that person can hire a new coach in January.

Well, if a major move is going to happen in the front office, the track record suggests it could happen soon. Now that the Redskins are officially eliminated from the playoffs, any reservations about holding off for a miracle 2019 finish have ended. 

This story is obviously not finished. The last chapter, or chapters, aren't written. Allen has withstood significant challenges before in his tenure as Redskins team president. This does feel different though.

Vinny Cerrato once seemed like the football executive that could not be fired. The Redskins struggled for wins during Cerrato's leadership, but he stayed on in his job for years. Until December 17th, 2009, when Snyder explained he felt it was finally "time for a change" after nearly a decade of Cerrato. 

Christmas decorations are up in every DMV neighborhood. December is here. Nothing is certain, but keep in mind, history has a way of repeating itself. 

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Redskins technically have nothing left to play for, but Dwayne Haskins sure does

Redskins technically have nothing left to play for, but Dwayne Haskins sure does

In five starts as a rookie, Dwayne Haskins has led the Redskins to two wins, displayed plenty of toughness and made a handful of throws that hint at his immense talent.

Even considering those factors, though, Haskins hasn't done enough to convince the franchise that he should absolutely, without a doubt, 110-percent be their starting quarterback in Week 1 of the 2020 season.

That means that, while Washington as a whole doesn't technically have anything left to play for this year — their Week 14 loss in Green Bay officially (and mercifully?) took them out of the playoff hunt — Haskins has a ton riding on the final three games on the schedule.

In all likelihood, the Burgundy and Gold will be searching for a new head coach in a few weeks. Perhaps they'll also enter the offseason with an adjusted front office. Yet, regardless of whether the latter happens, the former means that at least one major piece of the team's future won't have any direct ties to 2019's 15th overall draft pick.

You can debate whether moving on from a first-rounder after a small sample of starts is fair, but the reality in the NFL is that new coaches like to begin their tenure with QBs that they really like, and often times, that means QBs that they've drafted.

Now, as mentioned earlier, Haskins has shown off some useful traits. His arm strength will never be debated, and since taking over as the Redskins' signal caller, the rookie has also been brave in the pocket, been way more mobile than expected and made incremental improvements in areas like footwork and at-the-line audibles.

No. 7 has tools to work with, and those tools could become sharper with more time and with a new coach who wants to sharpen them. Plus, those tools very well could be put to better use with a more well-rounded roster than the one he's currently on.

But then there are his numbers, which aren't encouraging and must be considered, regardless of the talent around him. In his five starts, he's completed more than 60-percent of his passes just once and has topped 200 passing yards just once. Those are two basic benchmarks for pro passers to reach and he's just not reaching them.

So, if the Redskins finish with a 3-13 or 4-12 record and find themselves in a position where they can draft another top-notch arm, will they do so? 

That's a question that's difficult to answer as of now. Haskins' performance in Weeks 15, 16 and 17, however, will make it easier. Either he'll start delivering, thus giving the organization confidence in him, or he'll continue to be mediocre, which'll lead to a very intriguing offseason.

When the Redskins selected Haskins last April, they hoped their recent QB rotation would finally stop, and it very well still could. Yet there's also a possibility that the rotation begins again in a few months. The next 12 quarters of football will mean nothing in the standings, but everything for Haskins and the team that picked him.

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