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|TAMPA Jordan Howard Jersey , Fla. — The Washington Capitals beat the Tampa Bay Lightning at their own game to open the Eastern Conference final.
Now Tampa Bay has to find a way to rediscover itself in Sunday’s Game 2 to avoid falling into a hole that might be too deep to climb out of in the quest to return to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in four seasons.
Washington, meanwhile, looked like a team in control despite participating in the Eastern Conference final for the first time in the Alex Ovechkin era. The Capitals set the tone in the opening game of the best-of-seven series, which they will look to continue Sunday while once again expecting to be withou center Nicklas Backstrom. He has missed the past two games and remains day to day with a hand injury.
“I just think it’s been a real good commitment, attention to detail,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “All of those things. Just a team-wide commitment. I think we’re playing the full 200 feet that you need to play at playoff time and you’re getting the goaltending you need and you’re getting the commitment and you’re getting the work ethic and you’re getting the discipline and detail.
“All of those things combined, you have a chance every night if you do that.”
The Capitals, who haven’t been to a conference final since winning the Eastern Conference title in 1998, held the Lightning to 10 shots on goal through the first two periods as they controlled the game while building a four-goal lead.
“I think we just realized we just have to play our way,” said Ovechkin, who had a goal and an assist in Friday’s 4-2 victory. “It doesn’t matter which position we are, which round it is and you can see the effort in the guys. Everybody was all in and everybody was paying the price. … We tried to create a moment on our side and not give them life.”
The Capitals took the Lightning out of the game by not allowing Tampa Bay to utilize its speed on the forecheck, an area the Lightning were oftentimes dominant in the first two rounds against New Jersey and Boston. Instead Roger Staubach Jersey , Washington slowed down the Tampa Bay attack through the neutral zone and when pucks got in deep the Capitals quickly transitioned the play up the ice.
“They turned pucks up quick, put pucks behind us and dictated the way the game was going to be played,” Lightning forward Chris Kunitz said. “That’s something that we had success doing to other teams. We have to raise our elevation of what we can do out there. But give them a lot of credit, they took Game 1 to us and we have to be better if we are going to be in the series.”
Tampa Bay has been in this situation before as recently as the last series, when it dropped Game 1 at home to Boston before winning four consecutive games to capture the series in five games. And since Jon Cooper has served as Lightning coach, Tampa Bay has dropped the first game of a series seven times in 11 tries. The Lightning went on to win four of those series, only losing the 2014 opening round series to Montreal and the 2015 Stanley Cup Final to Chicago.
In addition, the Lightning have won five consecutive Game 2s when losing the opening game.
“There’s no situation that we probably haven’t been in in the last couple years,” Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said. “This is one we’ve been in before, so we just need to play better. There’s really nothing that we’re going to throw at them that they’re going to be surprised about. We just have to play better and we’re looking forward to that challenge.”
Case Keenum is joining his fifth team in five years and the Denver Broncos are turning to their fifth quarterback since Peyton Manning retired 24 months ago.General manager John Elway called Keenum ”a great fit for us” after the sixth-year pro parlayed a breakout year in Minnesota into a two-year, $36 million deal with Denver.
”Along with that experience,” Elway said, ”his leadership and competitiveness are what you look for in a quarterback.”
Elway Devin Funchess Jersey , by the way, isn’t done looking at quarterbacks.
Elway and coach Vance Joseph were in Norman, Oklahoma, checking out Baker Mayfield’s pro day when free agency opened Wednesday. Then they were headed for Los Angeles to watch Josh Rosen’s pro day at UCLA on Thursday.
Also, a person with knowledge of the talks told The Associated Press the Broncos were in negotiations Wednesday to trade QB Trevor Siemian to Minnesota, where the Vikings are pursuing free agent Kirk Cousins to be their starter.
The Broncos were busy when free agency opened, keeping linebacker Todd Davis (three years, $15 million); adding cornerback Tramaine Brock (one year, $4 million); finalizing Aqib Talib’s trade to the Los Angeles Rams; and trying to move Siemian, who won the starting QB job in Denver each of the last two years.
Keenum is expected to sign his deal Thursday, giving the 30-year-old journeyman the big payday that’s long eluded him and taking the pressure off Elway to use the fifth overall pick in the draft next month on a quarterback.
It’s no guarantee, however, that Elway won’t still use that pick on a QB.
Besides Mayfield and Rosen Daryl Johnston Jersey , other high-profile fixes for franchises with quarterback quandaries such as Denver’s include Wyoming’s Josh Allen, USC’s Sam Darnold, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph.
Coming off a career-changing season, Keenum was widely considered the second-most attractive veteran QB on the market behind Cousins. And he is a player the Broncos know well because Gary Kubiak, now the Broncos’ senior personnel adviser, had him for two seasons while Kubiak was head coach of the Houston Texans.
”Case is perfect for our team, both as a player and as a person,” said Joseph, who also worked for the Texans. ”He’s playing the best football of his career right now and has gotten better with every opportunity he’s had. Being around him in Houston, Case is a tremendous person and teammate with strong leadership skills and a terrific work ethic. He’ll be great in our locker room.”
Keenum, who made $2 million last year, went 11-3 in place of an injured Sam Bradford, leading the Vikings to the NFC championship game.
He threw for more than 3 Michael Palardy Jersey ,500 yards with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His signature moment was that last-second 61-yard touchdown toss to Stefon Diggs that stunned the Saints 29-24 in the playoffs.
The Broncos haven’t been back to the playoffs since Manning retired following Denver’s 24-10 triumph over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 two years ago.
They’ve cycled through Mark Sanchez, Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch, while going a combined 14-18.
The Broncos, coming off a 5-11 season, were considered an early front-runner to land Cousins. Minnesota, however, had a sparkling stadium, new state-of-the-art training facility, stacked roster and coaching stability to offer him, while the Broncos’ main magnet was Von Miller.
Even though he issued a public plea for Cousins to join him in Denver, Miller is welcoming Keenum to town .
”Looks/Feels right to me!” Miller said in an Instagram post on Tuesday. ”We got what we were looking for! Franchise QB that’s the perfect fit for DENVER! (at)johnelway with the deep 3 pointer! Like always! Leeettttss Goooo!!! (at)casekeenum7 (at)casekeenum7 Time for me to hold up my end of the deal now!”
Notes: The Broncos placed second-round tenders on two restricted free agents: C Matt Paradis and OLB Shaq Barrett. They declined to offer a tender to WR Bennie Fowler III.
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