All posts by The Associated Press

Karlsson feeling ‘anxious’ ahead of return to Ottawa

OTTAWA -- The most anticipated game of the season at Canadian Tire Centre arrives Saturday afternoon when the Ottawa Senators host the San Jose Sharks.

It will mark the first return of former Senators captain Erik Karlsson, a two-time Norris Trophy winner and the most talented player in franchise history. He was traded to the Sharks in September, almost 10 months before he's eligible to become an unrestricted free agent. The Senators couldn't risk allowing him to walk and get nothing in return.

"I feel fairly calm, a little anxious, and obviously it feels a little different," Karlsson, the Senators' first-round draft choice in 2008, said after the Sharks practiced at the University of Ottawa on Friday. "I'm going to try to enjoy it. I've had nothing but great memories here and I'm looking forward to creating more. Saturday afternoon is going to be another one of those great memories."

Despite the controversial divorce between the team and its superstar defenseman, Senators players expect Karlsson will get the loudest cheers of the afternoon.

"Ultimately, he's a friend of ours and one of the best players to every play here," Ottawa's Mark Stone said. "The things he did in my time here were nothing short of spectacular. You remember the good times we had and the playoff run that he carried us on. Those are the things he should get remembered for."

Karlsson hype aside, the Senators (11-12-3) will be trying to match a season-high three-game winning streak. Owners of the worst defensive numbers in the league, they'll be coming off a 3-0 win over the New York Rangers that not only marked Craig Anderson's first shutout since December but also tied a season low in shots allowed with 27.

"Arguably, it was one of our best games, if not our best all year, top to bottom," said center Matt Duchene, who had 21 points in 15 November games. "(Anderson) has seen more rubber than the Michelin Man this year. He deserved this one."

Thus far, at least, the Sharks (12-9-5) are not living up to the high expectations placed on them after the Karlsson trade. Three games into a five-stop road trip, they are 0-2-1 and coming off a 5-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs that came with some stark realisms. Namely, that they are not yet at the same level as the best teams in the league.

"In my personal opinion, I don't think we're close," center Logan Couture told the San Jose Mercury News. "We show spurts and signs that we're capable of it, but we haven't put it together against a top quality team. We've got to figure it out soon."

Coach Pete DeBoer can use the 2015-16 season as an example of how things can come together quickly. That season, the Sharks were .500 as late as January, and they went on to reach the Stanley Cup final.

"I'm a believer that it takes time," DeBoer told the Mercury News. "I'm a believer that it doesn't take 26 games."

The Sharks are expected to be without winger Timo Meier, who is dealing with an upper-body injury. Senators rookie defenseman Max Lajoie is doubtful with an undisclosed injury.

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Blues’ Johnson blanks Sharks for 32-save shutout

ST. LOUIS (AP) Chad Johnson made 32 saves for his first shutout with St. Louis, helping the Blues beat the San Jose Sharks 4-0 on Friday night.

Alex Pietrangelo, Ryan O'Reilly, Jaden Schwartz, and Alexander Steen scored. The Blues have won four of five games after winning just two of their first eight to start the season.

Johnson started just his third game of the season, but his second straight. He improved to 2-2-0 with his first shutout since November 2016 with the Calgary Flames.

Pietrangelo roofed a shot past goalie Aaron Dell with both teams down a man to open the scoring in the first period. Dell allowed four goals on 30 shots to fall to 1-2-2.

San Jose lost its second consecutive game and was shutout for the second time this season.

In the second period, O'Reilly buried a feed from Jaden Schwartz for his team-leading eighth goal of the season to give him points in a career-best nine consecutive games. He is the first St. Louis player to register a nine-game point streak in his first season with the team since Doug Weight accomplished the feat Oct. 4-25, 2001.

Later in the second, Schwartz snapped a four-game scoring drought when he beat Dell on a pass from Tyler Bozak for his second goal of the season.

Steen scored his fourth of the season 12:21 into the third period to push the St. Louis lead to 4-0.

NOTES:

Blues RW Vladimir Tarasenko extended his points streak to a season-best six games (four goals, four assists). ... LW Nikita Soshnikov made his season debut after being sidelined with post-concussion syndrome to start the season. ... San Jose has allowed at least three goals in nine consecutive games. ... Sharks D Brent Burns played in 406th consecutive game, the longest streak among active players.

UP NEXT:

Sharks: Host Calgary on Sunday to open a six-game homestand

Blues: Host Minnesota on Sunday.

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Draisaitl, Caggiuila help Oilers end a 13-game skid vs. Preds

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Leon Draisaitl and Drake Caggiuila each scored twice and the Edmonton Oilers ended a 13-game losing streak against Nashville with a 5-3 victory Saturday.

Connor McDavid also scored and Mika Koskinen made 24 saves in his first start of the season and first for the Oilers. Edmonton was 0-11-2 in its previous 13 games against the Predators.

Filip Forsberg had a hat trick for Nashville, and Juuse Saros stopped 31 shots.

Nashville cut it to 4-3 with 4:06 left on Forsberg's final goal. He connected on a power play, with Saros off for an extra attacker. Caggiuila capped the scoring with an empty-netter.

The Oilers' last two wins have come against the reigning Presidents' Trophy winner (Nashville) and the defending Staley Cup champion (Washington). The Predators are 5-0-0 on the road, but only 3-3-0 at home.

Edmonton struck first when Caggiula batted home a rebound at 11:41 of the first period. Edmonton made it 2-0 when Draisaitl scored a tic-tac-toe goal on passes from Milan Lucic and McDavid on a power play at 4:14 of the second.

Shortly after that, Nashville prevented the Oilers from adding to the lead by killing a four-minute penalty when Ryan Johansen was called for high-sticking.

Forsberg made it 2-1 on a power play late in the second. Seven seconds later, McDavid broke loose on a breakaway off the faceoff for his team-best seventh goal. Draisaitl scored at 4:19 of the third, and Forsberg answered 24 seconds later.

NOTES: Edmonton D Matt Benning (upper body) and RW Zack Kassian (neck) returned to the lineup after missing games. ... Nashville got was 22-8 in the first 30 minutes. ... The Predators will play their third and final game against the Oilers in Nashville on Feb. 25.

UP NEXT

Oilers: At Chicago on Sunday night.

Predators: Host Vegas on Tuesday night.

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Shark’s Pavelski finishes 3rd at Lake Tahoe behind winner Tony Romo

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. (AP) Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.

''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''

Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.

The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.

Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.

''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''

Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.

Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.

Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.

Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.

The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.

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Sharks’ Pavelski leads after 2nd round in Lake Tahoe

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. (AP) San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski held off a charge from three-time defending champion Mark Mulder to maintain a one-point lead after the second round of the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe on Saturday.

Mulder began the day nine points behind Pavelski in the modified Stableford scoring system, which awards six points for eagle, three for birdie, one for par, zero for bogey and minus-two for double bogey or worse. He had 31 points in the round for a total of 47.

Pavelski had 23 points on the day for a two-round total of 48. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (44), former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer (43), two-time winner and former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien and former tennis standout Mardy Fish (39) followed. Former NBA star Ray Allen (38), MLB Hall of Famer John Smoltz (35) and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (33) were also in the hunt. Steph Curry, among the leaders after an 18 in the first round, fell back and was at 28 points.

Mulder, a former major league pitcher, had just four points after 15 holes on Friday, but since then he has tallied 43 is now in position to win the tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course for the fourth straight year.

''So I couldn't hit it worse than I did for the first 15 holes yesterday,'' said Mulder, who last year became the first player in the tournament's 28-year history to win three straight times. ''So I was kind of excited to get this day going and luckily made a few putts and got that ball in the hole.''

Pavelski's best finish in two previous appearances was 10th. He knows he's going to have to hold off Mulder if he's going to win his first celebrity golf tournament.

''I hung in there in a good position,'' Pavelski said. ''I'm excited to play with the guys tomorrow. There's some good golfers. And they've proven themselves. And Mulder's the guy to beat right now.''

Sunday's final round will be televised live on NBC at 3 p.m. ET.

Romo, who has competed in U.S. Open qualifier tournaments, said there was no magic to his strong round Saturday.

''It's probably because I'm just actually a better golfer, to be honest,'' said Romo, who is an NFL analyst now. ''I wish it was, I'm more comfortable or mentally stronger or something. No, I've had more time. I've put more time in.''

Former NBA great and crowd favorite Charles Barkley was alone in last place in the 92-player field with minus-63 points.

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Sharks’ Pavelski leads after 1st round in Lake Tahoe

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski took the lead with 25 points, and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer was at 24 points after the first round of the American Century Championship on Friday.

Twelve players were within seven points of Pavelski in the modified Stableford scoring event, including baseball Hall of Famer John Smoltz (21), Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry (18), former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (18), Denver Broncos quarterback Case Keenum (18) and actor Alfonso Ribeiro (18).

The scoring system awards six points for eagle, three for birdie, one for par, zero for bogey and minus-two for double bogey or worse.

Pavelski, who has spent his entire 12-year NHL career with San Jose, is making his third appearance in the event. He finished 10th in 2016 and tied for 12th in 2017.

Three-time defending champion Mark Mulder finished eagle-birdie-birdie, worth 12 points, and was in a group at 16 along with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Charles Barkley, a fan favorite, was in his usual spot, alone in last place among the field of 92 with minus-34 points.

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Golden Knights look to ‘prove people wrong’ yet again in Game 5

LAS VEGAS -- In a perfect world, the ideal ending to the storybook season of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights ends with the Stanley Cup being the main attraction during a victory parade down the famed Las Vegas Strip.

That may still happen but it will take another pinch-me moment in a season full of them for the self-proclaimed "Golden Misfits."

Vegas enters Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final with the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena trailing the best-of-seven series 3-1 and will need to win three games in a row to hoist hockey's most coveted piece of silverware.

But Vegas, which has already put together two five-game win streaks in the playoffs, has thrived in the underdog role in its debut season.

"It shows that you can do it," Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. "We've done it against good hockey teams. Play our game, you get some breaks, and you keep working hard and hopefully it turns for us."

"A lot of people didn't think we would win that many games this year or make it to the playoffs, and we find ourselves here," forward James Neal said after practice on Wednesday. "So I think for sure we have the ability to prove people wrong. We've done that all year."

The Golden Knights have lost three in a row to Alex Ovechkin and company, including an ugly 6-2 loss on Monday night at Capital One Arena. Vegas has never lost four games in a row in its brief history.

"I think we have great character in this room and we've shown it all season long," Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "We'll be ready for Game 5."

Vegas is 7-2 on its home ice during the playoffs but lost 3-2 on May 30 in its last game there. That contest featured a remarkable game-saving, diving stick save by Washington goalie Braden Holtby on Alex Tuch in front of a wide-open net that ranks as the turning point of the series so far.

Washington is 9-3 on the road in the playoffs, just one off the NHL record of 10 road wins accomplished four times, most recently by the Los Angeles Kings in 2012. Over 70,000 people tried to get tickets to attend a Game 5 watch party at Capital One Arena with the hopes that they'll see the Capitals clinch their first Stanley Cup.

"It feels nice but it's not over yet," Ovechkin, who has 14 goals and 12 assists in the playoffs, said of needing just one more victory to win the Stanley Cup. "I don't think it's pressure on us. I think it's pressure on both teams the same way. We just have to manage it. We have to concentrate, and we have to play our best to get it done."

Washington coach Barry Trotz agreed.

"You just focus on the next game," he said. "I can't tell you what's going to happen (Thursday night) but I can tell you that you're going to need your best game if you want to get it done."

Neal made it clear the Golden Knights still believe that they can win the series.

"We know we haven't played our game (in) the first four games," Neal said. "We have a lot more to give for sure. We've got to take it one game at a time. We can't win all three games in Game 5. We've got to come out strong, take it period by period, and just focus on it one minute at a time."

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Capitals within a win of Stanley Cup after victory in Game 4

WASHINGTON (AP) The Washington Capitals are one win away from the first championship in their 43-year history after routing the Vegas Golden Knights 6-2 on Monday night to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Final.

T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson and Devante Smith-Pelly all scored in the first period to get the Capitals rolling against a determined Vegas team that had no answers early against Braden Holtby, who stopped 28 shots in another strong showing. The desperate Golden Knights outchanced the Capitals by a wide margin but fell apart after James Neal clanked a shot off the post instead of hitting a wide-open net early, and the expansion team's Cinderella run could be over in a matter of days.

Evgeny Kuznetsov dished out four assists and John Carlson, Michal Kempny and Brett Connolly also scored as thunderous chants of ''We want the Cup! We want the Cup!'' rang out from the crowd.

Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals will get their first chance to hoist the Cup in Game 5 on Thursday night back in Las Vegas. No team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1942 has blown a 3-1 lead in the Cup Final.

The Capitals seem to be getting enough bounces to make up for nine previous first- or second-round playoff exits in the Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom era - and plenty more disappointments in the previous decades, too.

While Vegas rang several shots off the posts, the Capitals seized just about every opportunity as they have throughout this surprising run. Kuznetsov padded his lead as the playoffs' leading scorer with primary assists on Oshie's power-play goal that made it 1-0 and Wilson's that doubled the lead.

Smith-Pelly, who scored the insurance goal to ice Game 3, kicked the puck from his left skate to his stick and roofed a shot on Marc-Andre Fleury with 20.5 seconds left in the first period. Fleury came into the final as the Conn Smythe front-runner for playoff MVP honors but looked human again by allowing six goals on 23 shots at a defense that has often left him vulnerable.

Kuznetsov leads all playoff scorers with 31 points, Ovechkin is tied for the goal lead with 14 and Holtby showed again Monday his ability to alter the course of a game.

Holtby got some good fortune from the post on shots by Alex Tuch, Neal and Brayden McNabb. But he also made a handful of big saves early when the Golden Knights came out with a furious approach.

By the time Vegas got third-period goals from Neal and Reilly Smith it was too late.

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Capitals dominate Golden Knights in Game 3, take 2-1 series lead

WASHINGTON (AP) Alex Ovechkin went airborne, Evgeny Kuznetsov flapped his arms like a bird of prey and the Washington Capitals are flying high, just two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup.

Ovechkin dived to score his 14th goal of the playoffs and raised his arms in joy when Kuznetsov beat Marc-Andre Fleury and broke out his signature bird celebration in a second period the two Russians will long remember. Led by their two best players, the Capitals beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-1 Saturday night to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final.

Fired up in the first Cup Final game in Washington since 1998, the Capitals unloaded chance after chance on Fleury, who made 23 saves but couldn't backstop a frazzled, disjointed team that lost two games in a row for the first time in the playoffs. At the other end, Braden Holtby gifted Tomas Nosek a goal by giving the puck away but stopped the other 21 shots he faced from the Golden Knights, who looked nothing like the winners of 13 of their first 16 playoff games through the first three rounds.

The Golden Knights' historic run in its inaugural season is now in danger of coming to an end with Game 4 back in Washington on Monday night. The Capitals are seeking their first title in their 43-year history.

Holtby was there when the Capitals needed him, but they didn't need him much because they were on the attack for much of the game. Fleury stopped Ovechkin on a 2-on-1 rush early and the superstar captain was at his best early.

In his first home Cup Final game, Ovechkin attempted eight shots in the first period and scored a goal that seemed inevitable. It came 1:10 into the second period when Ovechkin went full-extension over Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb to reach the rebound and backhanded the puck past Fleury.

Ovechkin's 14th goal of the playoffs matched John Druce's franchise record set in 1990 and tied him for the league lead in these playoffs.

His joy overflowed on the bench when Kuznetsov showed his injured left arm is just fine by scoring on a perfect wrist shot on an odd-man rush. Ovechkin looked to the ceiling with his arms extended as he was hugged by Lars Eller.

''He's so emotional about playing for the Cup,'' coach Barry Trotz said of Ovechkin. ''You can tell by the expressions on his face all the time, his emotion. One thing you can see is Alex keeps his emotions on his sleeve. It's on the outside. It's not on the inside. You know exactly what he's thinking.''

Capitals fans who have watched heartbreak after playoff heartbreak easily could've been thinking the worst when Vegas scored early in the third period. Holtby - well-aware of the Golden Knights' ability to cross up opposing goaltenders - had his puck-handling attempt intercepted by Bellemare. The puck skittered to Nosek for an easy goal.

Vegas built some momentum, but Devante Smith-Pelly gave the Capitals an insurance goal with 6:07 left - his fourth of the playoffs - after Jay Beagle took the puck away from Shea Theodore on the forecheck and found his teammate skating in alone on Fleury.

''I've always loved the playoffs,'' Smith-Pelly said. ''I love scoring the big goals. I don't know what it is, but these kinds of games are the most fun to play in.''

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Capitals, Golden Knights seek edge as Cup Final shifts to Washington

WASHINGTON -- If fans in Las Vegas seem a bit spoiled by the rapid success of the Golden Knights, rest assured that the Washington, D.C. area has paid its dues.

The Capitals, who host Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night, are carrying the hopes of a city that hasn't seen a Big Four sports team play for a championship since, well, the Capitals way back in 1998 when they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings.

"I think everybody (is) excited in Washington," Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin told NHL.com. "It's going to be fun. It's going to be interesting. It's going to be hard. That's why we worked so hard to be in this spot and be in this moment."

With the series tied 1-1, Washington carries the momentum into Game 3 and got a boost Friday when center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who left Game 2 with an upper-body injury in the first period, took part in an optional practice.

"He wanted to come back out there in the game, I think, but it just wasn't in the best interest, and I think him and the medical staff made the right call," Washington's Jay Beagle told The Washington Post on Friday. "He says he's feeling better today, and that's a great sign."

Kuznetsov, who regularly centers a line with Ovechkin and Tom Wilson, is the NHL's top postseason scorer with 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points in 21 games.

Washington is 4-5 at home in the playoffs but did win a huge Game 6 at Capital One Arena against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Final.

"I love playing at home," Capitals center Lars Eller told NHL.com. "There's no reason we can't play our best game (Saturday) night."

Vegas enters Game 3 looking to overcome the frustration of "The Save" as it's being referred to. Goaltender Braden Holtby's amazing stick save on Alex Tuch's potential game-tying one-timer with two minutes remaining in Game 2 is already being compared locally to Washington's greatest sports moments.

Holtby, who also stoned Vegas during a five-on-three advantage in Game 2, is 13-7 with a 2.19 GAA and .921 save percentage since replacing Philipp Grubauer in the second game of the first round, but the save on Tuch dominated the conversation after Game 2.

"We know it's never going to be easy to win a Stanley Cup," Vegas coach Gerard Gallant told the team's website. "So you've just got to focus on the next game. You don't worry about the last game ... "

Vegas is 3-0 after a loss in the playoffs and 3-0 in Game 3s. They bring an 8-2 road playoff record into Washington.

"I think we try to play the same game no matter what building we're playing in," Gallant said. "It worked very well in the postseason. Try to play the same game, play a quick, fast game, an up-tempo game."

Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has a 3.56 goals-against average and an .870 save percentage in the two games. He posted a 1.68 GAA and .947 save percentage in the first three rounds of the playoffs.

"There were maybe a few unfortunate goals throughout this series," Fleury told NHL.com. "I don't think I've sweat it too much so far."

Knights defenseman Shea Theodore said his team needs to be more aware of Washington's physicality, which helped it swing the Tampa Bay series and has carried over into the final.

"They're a fast group and their physical," Theodore told the team's website. "They finish all their checks and I think that's something we have to be a bit more aware of. We have to use our speed and we have to turn over less pucks definitely."

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