Kucherov reaches 80-point mark, Lightning down Senators 4-3

Nikita Kucherov and the Tampa Bay Lightning are back atop the NHL.

“You’d be foolish to say that it’s not playing a bit of a role. I’ve been here four years now and this is the most rumors I’ve seen for a lot of guys, a lot of core guys in here, and you really do your best to cut it out, but we’re all humans. At some point it’s going to creep in a little bit.”

Brassard made it a one-goal game by scoring on the power play with just more than two minutes remaining, but the Senators were unable to complete the comeback.

Brassard is one of a handful of Ottawa players who has been mentioned in trade speculation and he said it’s hard to ignore the talk.

“We have a couple of days before the deadline, but we have to play, we have to do our job and we have to play for each other and the rest will take care of itself,” Brassard said.

And general manager Jim Rutherford was just as busy as his players were, pulling off a mid-game trade in which Pittsburgh picked up center Derick Brassard from the Ottawa Senators as part of a push for a third straight Stanley Cup.

“Obviously, we’re going for it,” forward Patric Hornqvist said. “And that’s the kind of organization you want to play for, who always tries to get better, and that’s what we try to do every day we’re on the ice, too.”

As part of the complicated three-team deal, the Penguins sent defenseman Ian Cole to Ottawa and forward Ryan Reaves to the Vegas Golden Knights.

“It was interesting leading up to the pre-game meeting, for obvious reasons,” coach Mike Sullivan said.

Jake Guentzel had a goal and two assists, Sidney Crosby scored a late goal and Olli Maatta also scored. The Penguins took control with three goals — two by Kessel — in a 7:39 span in the second period.jays_399_68da45c41db97c22-180x180

Antetokounmpo scores 26, Bucks beat Raptors 122-119 in OT

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks felt extra good about getting a rare win against the Toronto Raptors.

Antetokounmpo had 26 points and 12 rebounds, and Milwaukee snapped Toronto’s seven-game win streak with a 122-119 overtime victory Friday night.

“We haven’t beaten them in a while so the win feels a lot better, to be honest with you,” Antetokounmpo said. “They’re a great team, too.”

Jonas Valanciunas’ buzzer-beating dunk for Toronto sent the game to overtime. He finished with 10 points.

Toronto suffered its first home loss since Jan. 26 against Utah. The Raptors are an NBA-best 24-5 at home.

“It’s good to have a tough loss like this,” Lowry said. “It kind of re-focuses us. We can get beat on any given night and we’ve got to come out there and play hard every night.”

Frank Kaminsky added 23 points as the Hornets (26-33) improved to 3-0 against the Wizards this season. Charlotte jumped out to a 20-point lead in the first half and matched its season high with 17 3-pointers in its third consecutive win. Marvin Williams had 15 points and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 14.

Washington returned from the All-Star break with a rousing 110-103 win at Cleveland on Thursday, but could not keep the momentum going despite All-Star Bradley Beal scoring 33 points.

The first two head-to-head meetings took place in Charlotte, including a 133-109 rout on Jan. 17 as the Hornets set a franchise record with 77 first-half points.

Only by comparison did their first half on Friday appear unimpressive. The Hornets made nine 3-pointers on their way to a 67-55 halftime lead even though Walker was scoreless until sinking a free throw following a Beal technical with 57.8 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

Washington closed to 75-69 in the third quarter when one of Beal’s three 3-pointers capped a 9-0 run, but the rally fizzled from there. Charlotte entered the fourth quarter up 12 and held its largest lead at 122-100.bears_097-223x223

Bell received the franchise tag last year and is threatening to retire if he gets it again this time around.

Alex Shibutani and Maia Shibutani of the United States are in the third group, as are Evan Bates and Madison Chock, also of the U.S. First up for the third group is Marco Fabbri and Charlene Guignard of Italy, who have a season best of 71.78. They scored a 68.16 to move into second place, thanks to a 34.19 technical score.

Up next is Paul Poirier and Piper Gilles of Canada, who have a season best of 69.67. They finished just short of that best, with a score of 69.60, placing them in first with Andrew Poje and Kaitlyn Weaver, also from Canada, up next. They have a season best of 77.47, and scored a 74.33, to take over first place and setting up a 1-2 for Canada. The Shib sibs are up next.

Maybe it’ll come to that, but if he chooses to return, Bell will be due to receive $14.5 million — a gigantic salary for a running back. He’s more than just a runner for the Steelers, though, finishing the 2017 season with 85 receptions as well as 1,291 rushing yards. Pittsburgh can’t let him go, and Bell wants a ton of money. The tag may end up being the only option to bridge that gap once again, no matter how messy it makes things.

There are a few free agents the Titans will want to bring back, but the only real candidate to receive the franchise tag is kicker Ryan Succop. He’s spent four seasons as Tennessee’s kicker and has been relatively reliable the whole time. It’d be easier to just extend Succop, but the franchise tag isn’t expensive for kickers so it could make sense if no deal is in place by the time March rolls around.

Team president Bruce Allen has reportedly floated the idea of using the tag on Kirk Cousins to facilitate a trade. That’s a wild idea but also a risky one that could — and probably would — blow up in Washington’s face. If the team is able to recognize that, it’ll steer clear.

Still, manager Dave Roberts couldn’t ignore it in his address to the Dodgers before they went to work on a windy day in the Arizona desert.

I told them to be aware of what happened and to be resilient, Roberts said. I also told them to be focused on each day and to work at putting ourselves in the same position this season that we were in last season.

It’s pretty clear that the mood is good among the guys — 26 guys from last year’s club and 26 guys who weren’t here last year.

Roberts expressed confidence the Dodgers could get back to the World Series and perhaps win one more game for the championship that eluded them last fall. The key pieces — pitcher Clayton Kershaw, closer Kenley Jansen, shortstop Corey Seager, infielder and 2017 NL Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger, outfielder Yasiel Puig and Turner — are back.bears_143

Kiermaier, 27, is one of Tampa Bay’s most popular players and is entering the second year of a six-year, $53.5 million contract.

He said last week that he wants to be a more vocal leader in the Rays’ clubhouse, and acknowledged Monday that he has a responsibility to get over the weekend moves.

It’s over with. It’s done. Got to move on from it, Kiermaier told the Times. We cannot sit here and dwell on it. We can sit here and feel sorry for ourselves — chatter amongst each other. But it’s over with, it happened. We still have a really good team in here, got a lot of good guys. I believe in these guys.

We lost two great players. It’s terrible. At the same time, life goes on. We still have to do what we have to do to go out there and get as many wins as possible.

A regular-season championship would be nice, but both teams (especially Belmont) know what it’s like to claim that title and get nothing from it other than an NIT bid. The big prize will be up for grabs two weeks from now in Evansville.

I think back a couple of years ago to spring training and everything was kind of overwhelming. You’re meeting so many people, trying to remember so many names, trying to fit in with the organization and [teammates]. I’d go home at the end of the day and be exhausted. Now, I feel like I belong. I feel confident, on and off the field.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle says Taillon has already emerged as a leader.

It’s not so much his words, but his actions, Hurdle said. The way he goes about things. The way he handles himself. The work he puts in. The adversity he has overcome. Those kinds of things make the other guys take notice.

Last year, Busch won a crash-marred Daytona 500 with a car that appeared destined for the scrapheap; the Talladega playoff race featured 11 cautions where only 14 of 40 starters finished.

And yet, while luck is unquestionably intertwined into the fabric of plate races, that six guys have won the 80 percent of the plate races since 2013 is a strong counterargument why skill matters at Daytona and Talladega.bears_084

Each week, national NFL writer Mark Maske will provide his ranking of the league’s 32 teams.

This week, the Kansas City Chiefs solidify their spot at the top of the list as the NFL’s lone unbeaten team after a dramatic Monday Night Football win over the Redskins. Meanwhile, Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Denver, all 3-1 after Week 4 victories, jostle for position below.

New York started hot this season, but its lack of depth and high-end talent across the roster limited its ability to stay successful. Quarterback could be an option, but finding offensive skill players and defensive impact players makes sense for the Jets. Chubb is likely to be the first defender drafted.

The Bucs really want to find some offensive line support this offseason, and after spending big last year and having more contracts to work on offense, using the draft may be their best move. Williams wasn’t great in 2017, but he has great left tackle upside.

Fitzpatrick is not a lock to be a top-10 pick, but Chicago would be a great landing spot for him. With veterans across the Bears’ defense, Fitzpatrick can give them a young playmaker to utilize multiple ways. Historically, teams that hire offensive head coaches generally go for defense early in their first drafts.

The “Jets are in midseason form” jokes are already tired but, well, the Jets, who look to be the NFL’s worst team on paper, really to look to be in midseason form based on the first few series of Saturday’s Week 3 preseason matchup with the Giants.

Not-so-fun fact: The Giants’ offensive line gave up nine sacks in the first two preseason games.

Meanwhile, Christian Hackenberg got the start for the Jets, and while the embattled second-year quarterback appears destined for backup duty in a few weeks, it’s hard to blame him for this safety. Running back Matt Forte never had a chance, which is typically what happens to ball carriers when Jason Pierre-Paul goes unblocked.jaguars_243

It remains to be seen what other teams and players will do at this weekend’s games.

Jones wrote Thursday to Goodell seeking to have a special owners’ meeting scheduled for Nov. 28 in New York. Jones cited “a significant decline in television ratings, increased advertiser discontent, high-profile litigation concerning player suspensions, and decreasing ticket sales,” and wrote: “This is not the time for the League to undertake massive contractual obligations which are inconsistent with the League’s performance.” His request was rejected by owners on the compensation committee, according to a person close to the situation.

Young: Fiction. Both Durant and Curry have missed a chunk of games because of injuries, but unlike my current front-runner James Harden, who has missed a handful of time himself, the Warriors mostly didn’t miss a beat. It can be a strong MVP bullet point to note how your team performed with you out, and the Rockets are clearly not the same kind of team with Harden sitting, while the Warriors, obviously dominant in large part because of the excellence of Durant and Curry, can weather a superstar’s absence better than any other team.

Herring: Fact. They have enough, but that doesn’t mean they’ll fully realize that potential, or that Golden State won’t find a way to hold them down. The Rockets are damn good, but they need to be healthy to get back to what they were on defense for the first month and a half, and for everything else to go right to dethrone the champs.

There is no way of knowing where all this goes from here. But it seems clear that the goal of separating football and politics probably is not within immediate reach.

“Do we want to get back to focusing primarily on football?” Lockhart said. “You bet we do.”

Elliott case. … About those good feelings between NFL players and owners: They could end soon, with the Ezekiel Elliott case back in court Monday. A federal appeals court is to hear oral arguments on the NFL’s request for an emergency stay of the injunction that is keeping Elliott’s six-game suspension on hold. Elliott is ensured of playing Sunday for the Cowboys against the Los Angeles Rams.jaguars_084

Eason is the only starting quarterback in Super Bowl history who failed to complete a pass in the big game.

He had a miserable outing against the daunting бо85 Bears, who sacked him three times for a loss of 28 yards and caused him to fumble. He was only on the field for six offensive possessions (15 plays total), which resulted in four three-and-outs and two turnovers.

The Pats benched him midway through the second quarter for Steve Grogan, who finished the game completing 17 of 30 passes for 177 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

Elway had a disastrous performance in his third attempt at a Super Bowl victory. The then-future Hall of Famer’s three turnovers all led to 49ers touchdowns, and he was sacked four times for a loss of 30 yards.

Matt Forte, RB, Jets: Forte was limited in practice Thursday. He returned from a knee injury in Week 12, but failed to produce much as the New York backfield has been a frustrating committee.

DeVonta Freeman, RB, Falcons: Freeman has been fully participating in practice this week, having recovered from a concussion. Tevin Coleman has played well in his absence, plus it’s not a great matchup against a stout Minnesota defense. That said, while Freeman owners have had to fill the void the past couple weeks, they’ll be hard-pressed to do it again, given Freeman’s ability to produce.

By the time the Philadelphia Eagles next take the field, they will be three weeks removed from the last time their entire team played a competitive game. More than a month will have passed since Carson Wentz was hurt and six full weeks since the team’s offense and defense both played well in the same game. All of that inaction and mediocre play is a recipe for a slow start in the Divisional Round, a grumbling home crowd and a situation that no one in Philadelphia relishes: Nick Foles needing to come from behind to win in the playoffs.

Sunday’s shutout loss to Dallas only confirmed the worst fears of Eagles fans. Foles looked skittish again, throwing for only 39 yards (with an interception) on 11 attempts in the frigid cold. Philadelphia might be the rare No. 1 seed that is an underdog in its first playoff game, no matter which team it plays.jaguars_034

The Warriors went scoreless in the final three minutes of the game and were held to 17 points in the final quarter.

“We were trying to hit home runs all night, and we can’t do that against these guys,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “On the bright side, we know we can play a lot better and we will.”

With the defending champs down three with 2:25 left, Klay Thompson took a tough, contested and ill-advised 14-foot jumper that missed the rim altogether. Green was livid, and his frustration spilled into the timeout huddle seconds later.

While sitting on the bench, an animated Green continued voicing his displeasure with the shot selections, and Shaun Livingston stood in front of him, attempting to calm down the power forward.

Then how do I describe you? I can’t really say you’re done. Trial separation?

Young stepped up his attack to lead the Sooners’ comeback in the second half, finishing with 26 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field, including 2-of-3 on 3-pointers, and playing all 40 minutes. He also made 10 of his 12 free throw attempts and had 9 assists, 4 rebounds and 5 turnovers.

Warner believes he became a better quarterback as he aged, much for the same reason Brady has maintained elite performance. Both men relied not on physical dominance, but intellect and accuracy. Brady keeps a famously strict and intense physical maintenance regimen, but his mind has always been his primary weapon. Warner said as long as he kept a baseline of fitness, age never bothered him physically: He believes he would have the physical capability to make throws in an NFL game today, at 46.

“But if you suffer an injury, now that’s a whole different deal,” Warner said. “Especially if it’s a nagging injury where you got to fight through. That wears on anybody mentally, especially as you get older.”jaguars_019