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There was no dogpile in the dressing room. No champagne celebration. Not even a beer. Nothing.
The Washington Capitals have been here before. Many times Johnthan Banks Jersey , actually. It’s not that they don’t appreciate winning Metropolitan Division title after Metropolitan Division title like the one they wrapped up with a 3-1 victory over rival Pittsburgh on Sunday night.
It’s just that they’re tired of division banners being the only ones raised to the rafters.
Still, star Alex Ovechkin knows not all playoff runs are created equal. The group that skated off the ice at PPG Paints Arena after keeping the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions in check for three taut and occasionally chippy periods is not the juggernaut that rolled into postseason in 2016 and 2017 only to be sent home in the second round by Pittsburgh.
”We lost lots of players,” Ovechkin said after playing in his 1,000th career regular season game. ”Guys in the locker room, experience guys. But different guys step up and they play different. … We play as a team.”
One that hopes following a familiar script will lead – at last – to an unfamiliar ending.
Philipp Grubauer made 36 saves to continue his push to supplant Braden Holtby as Washington’s top goaltender as the Capitals won for the 10th time in 12 games to assure themselves of home-ice advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
”We had a challenge there from the beginning (of the season) on,” Grubauer said. ”We lost a couple experienced guys. We learned from our mistakes and we’re still learning. It’s nice to wrap that up, for sure.”
T.J. Oshie, Dmitry Orlov and Tom Wilson scored for Washington and Grubauer did the rest, including a spectacular glove save on Penguins star Sidney Crosby in the third period that served as an exclamation point on the kind of performance that would fit right in over the next two months.
”Last couple games we played in here weren’t too good, so it’s a momentum builder for us,” Grubauer said. ”We have to make sure we play the right way next couple games. It’s going to be huge.”
The Penguins have the top power play in the league but went 0 for 5 with the man advantage. Patric Hornqvist picked up his 27th of the season late in the third period to avoid a shutout. Matt Murray stopped 31 shots but couldn’t quite match Grubauer.
”I thought that’s probably as good as our power play has looked the last month, we just didn’t score Steve Atwater Jersey ,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said.
A night after earning a playoff berth for a franchise-record 12th straight year, the Penguins lost at home in regulation for just the second time since Jan. 4 to end a late push for a division crown. Not that it matters much to Pittsburgh. The Penguins have ended each of the last two regular seasons as the division runner-up to Washington. And each time the Penguins have used a second-round playoff series victory over the Capitals as a springboard to the Stanley Cup.
”We never win division,” Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin said. ”It’s not first time. It’s not surprise. We’re fine.”
Ovechkin called becoming just the 57th player in NHL history to play at least 1,000 games for one team ”a milestone” but didn’t exactly get caught up in the moment. The 32-year-old knows his career has been equally defined by his 603 goals and his team’s inability to make a deep playoff run.
Despite seven division titles and nine playoff appearances since he made his debut in 2005, Ovechkin has never played on a team that reached the Eastern Conference finals. Postseason success is the only thing that’s eluded him, but Washington appears to be peaking behind Grubauer.
Washington coach Barry Trotz opted to give Grubauer his first career start against Pittsburgh and Grubauer responded brilliantly. He was at his best in the second period, when the Penguins’ lethal power play had four chances to draw even and came up empty each time, including an extended two-man advantage in which Grubauer received a little help from the crossbar when a shot from Malkin clanged off the crossbar.
The lucky bounce preserved a 1-0 lead. Orlov pumped in his career-high 10th just after a Pittsburgh power-play expired later in the period, firing a shot from the slot that went between the legs of Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta and over Murray’s right arm.
When Tom Wilson redirected Matt Niskanen’s shot from the point by Murray 23 seconds into the third period the Capitals had another division title wrapped up but not bragging rights. That will have to come later.
NOTES: Washington went 0 for 4 on the power play. … Malkin was given a 10-minute misconduct with 1:01 left in regulation after mixing it up with Oshie. … Penguins C Derick Brassard missed his third consecutive game with a lower-body injury. … Pittsburgh is 9-7-2 on the second night of back-to-backs this season.
Capitals: Visit St. Louis on Monday. Washington beat the Blues 4-3 on Jan. 7.
Penguins: Get three days off before finishing regular season with a back-to-back starting on Thursday in Columbus.
CLEVELAND — Another day, another roster move involving the Cleveland Indians‘ bullpen. Prior to their 6-3 win over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, the Indians placed reliever Evan Marshall on the 10-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation.
To replace Marshall on the roster, the Indians selected the contract of reliever George Kontos from Triple-A Columbus.
Wednesday afternoon at Progressive Field Dante Fowler Jr Jersey , the Indians and White Sox will play the final game of their three-game series.
Kontos, 33, started this season with Pittsburgh, for whom he made 21 relief appearances this year, going 2-3 with a 5.03 ERA and one save. He was designated for assignment on May 25 and was signed as a free agent by the Indians on May 25. In six appearances with Triple-A Columbus, Kontos pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing seven hits, with six strikeouts and no walks.
When he gets into a game Kontos will become the 17th different relief pitcher used by the Indians this season.
“With the new guys, we want to get them settled, and I want to familiarize myself with them as quickly as I can,” said Indians manager Terry Francona, who admits that it’s a challenge for newly-acquired pitchers to be comfortable.
Many of the relievers the Indians have used were released by other teams.
Francona says he is mindful of the pressure the new relievers face when they join the team.
“When guys are pitching for their baseball life Bruce Smith Jersey , it’s harder on them,” Francona said. “When (closer) Cody Allen has a bad inning, he knows he’s going to be here the next day. The other guys, when they have a bad inning they know they might get sent down or designated for assignment. That makes it hard.”
Fortunately for Francona and those relievers, the Indians’ starting pitcher Wednesday usually makes it an easy day for the bullpen. Reigning Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber (10-3, 2.24 ERA) will be on the mound for Cleveland.
Kluber, however, is coming off his worst start of the season in his last outing, a 6-3 loss to Minnesota on Friday. Kluber lasted just five innings, giving up four runs on four hits, with three strikeouts and one walk.
That one walk was significant because it snapped a streak of six starts, 46 1/3 innings and 169 consecutive batters faced by Kluber without a walk. The four runs allowed by Kluber snapped his streak of 14 consecutive quality starts to begin the season Mike Ditka Jersey , the longest such streak by an Indians pitcher in 100 years.
Kluber’s last start against the White Sox came on May 30 of this year, a 9-1 Cleveland victory in which Kluber got the win by pitching six scoreless innings on three hits, with 10 strikeouts and no walks. In 21 career appearances against the White Sox Kluber is 10-4 with a 3.05 ERA.
Kluber’s mound opponent on Wednesday was his mound opponent in that May 30 game between the two teams — Reynaldo Lopez (2-4, 3.26).
In that loss to Kluber, Lopez pitched 2 2/3 innings, giving up seven runs on eight hits with two strikeouts and one walk.
Lopez’s last start was a 4-3 White Sox loss to Detroit on Friday. Lopez, who did not figure in the decision, pitched six innings, allowing three runs on nine hits with three strikeouts and no walks. In two career starts against Cleveland, Lopez is 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA.
The Indians come into Wednesday’s game having won three in a row while the White Sox have lost six in a row.
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