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linchao Oct 9 '18
TAMPA Pernell McPhee Jersey , Fla. — The way the schedule lined up, the Tampa Bay Lightning knew they’d be facing the Boston Bruins three times in the final 12 games of the regular season. And now, having lost the first two games by a combined score of 7-2 and trailing the Bruins in the standings in the final week of the season, there’s much on the line when the teams meet Tuesday night at Amalie Arena. “It’s going to probably have a big determination of which team comes first, let’s be honest,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of the divisional implications. “We win the game, we’re right back in it. They win it, they’ve probably got it. It’s Game 80, but it’s big Game 80.” Boston (49-17-12) has picked up points in nine straight games and now has a two-point lead in the standings — with a game in hand — over the Lightning (52-23-4), who led the Atlantic Division most of the season. Tampa Bay is reeling, having gone 1-4 in its last five and having star Steven Stamkos questionable with a lower-body injury sustained in Saturday’s loss to Nashville. Boston is 4-0-2 in its last six, and now stands as the only NHL team ranking in the top five in scoring, goals allowed, power-play percentage and penalty-kill percentage. “It’s fun to play together — we have each other’s backs,” Boston’s Torey Krug said after the Bruins rallied from 3-1 down Sunday C.J. Mosley Jersey , getting a tying goal with 3.8 seconds remaining to salvage a point in an overtime loss to Philadelphia. “It doesn’t matter what the time or the score is. It’s good to get that point.” The Atlantic champion will face a wild card from the other division, either Columbus, Philadelphia or New Jersey, all within a point in the standings. The runner-up will likely face third-seeded Toronto — the Lightning are 3-1 against the Maple Leafs this season — but it would still mean a tougher playoff path and losing home-ice advantage should they eventually meet the Bruins again. Boston has won the last two meetings with Tampa Bay on the strength of its special teams. The Bruins have killed off the NHL’s No. 2 power play on six of seven opportunities in the two games, and their power play has converted three of five chances. Cooper said whether to rest Stamkos this week or keep him on the ice to build momentum for the postseason will depend on his health, but the team has a long-term focus as the playoffs approach. Beat Boston on Tuesday and their final two games are against non-playoff opponents Buffalo and Carolina for a shot at four points in the final two days of the regular season. “We need (Stamkos) feeling his best a week and a half from now, and not necessarily right now,” Cooper said. “However, we can help that, we will. We want to get better as a team in the next three games. We want to make sure we’re ready as a group.” Of all the people glued to their TVs rooting for the Buffalo Bills to finally – and mercifully – end their 17-season playoff drought last weekend, one curiously stood out: former Tennessee Titans tight end Frank Wycheck. Wycheck is forever remembered in Buffalo for throwing a lateral on a kickoff return to give Tennessee a 22-16 playoff win over the Bills in a play dubbed the “Music City Miracle,” one of the wildest finishes ever to an NFL postseason game. The much-debated play in the January 2000 wild-card playoff propelled the Titans to the Super Bowl. It’s a memory that still stings in Buffalo 18 years later, enveloped in the lingering pain from what grew into the longest playoff drought in North America’s four major professional sports. ”People were kind of bringing it up that that’s the reason why they haven’t made the playoffs because of that play,” Wycheck told The Associated Press by phone from Nashville, Tennessee. ”I don’t want to put the responsibility on me Earnest Byner Jersey ,” said Wycheck, who now serves as a radio host and is taking a one-season break as a Titans broadcast analyst. ”But it was so long ago, too. I’m just glad they made it and I was happy for them.” He doesn’t feel directly responsible for the Bills’ woes in the bungling years that followed. Still, Wycheck said if there was some kind of curse on the Bills sparked by the ”Music City Miracle,” it’s time it was lifted. Add another member to the Bills bandwagon as Buffalo travels to play AFC South champion Jacksonville in a wild-card playoff on Sunday. The sentiments surprised key players from Buffalo’s storied past, and even some fans didn’t quite know how to react when Wycheck tweeted his congrats to the Bills for making the playoffs. ”Are you kidding?” said Rob Johnson, the Bills quarterback at the time who started the game over Doug Flutie. ”Does he feel bad?” ”Wow. Really?” said Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas. ”Oh, that’s freaking awesome, man. That you could still in a way, even though it hurt us, that you could root for us, that’s great.” Wycheck’s name has been dragged through the mud – and worse – across western New York long enough for a play most refer to as ”The Home Run Throwback .” Everywhere that is, except Buffalo – where it’s always been called ”The Home Run Throw Forward,” and ”The Immaculate Deception.” Johnson, minus a shoe no less Tyler Johnson Jersey , completed a 9-yard pass to Peerless Price to set up Steve Christie hitting a 41-yard field goal to put Buffalo ahead 16-15 with 16 seconds remaining. What followed was pure and utter disappointment for the Bills. Tennessee’s Lorenzo Neal caught the ensuing kickoff and handed the ball to Wycheck, who ran to his right. He then spun around at his own 25 and threw the ball across the field to Kevin Dyson, who sprinted up the left sideline to score with 3 seconds left. The 75-yard touchdown stood up after a lengthy video review, and the stunning loss spawned what became a playoff drought that tied for fifth-longest in NFL history. Just like its start, the Bills’ drought ended in dramatic fashion last weekend. Buffalo did its part with a 22-16 win at Miami . The Bills then clinched the AFC’s sixth and final playoff berth when Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton converted a fourth-and-12 in the final minute to hit Tyler Boyd for a touchdown, beating Baltimore 31-27. Thomas noted that Buffalo’s win over the Dolphins matched the same score as the 2000 loss to Tennessee – the running back’s last game in a Bills uniform. ”It’s been a long, long time,” said Thomas, who wept in joy after the Bills clinched their playoff berth. After spending many of these last 17 years answering questions about the drought, and wondering if the Bills might in fact be cursed, Thomas is relieved everyone can finally put it behind them. ”The fans are living it now. Enjoy,” said Thomas, who was on the Bills teams that reached and lost four consecutive Super Bowl appearances in the early 1990s. ”It’s time to create some other memories.” Even former Bills players who never earned a chance to enjoy a playoff appearance in Buffalo celebrated. ”I’m trying to live vicariously through them because I didn’t get to live it,” said punter Brian Moorman, who played for the Bills from 2001-13. ”I always said that place would go nuts if we got in the playoffs. I would’ve loved to have experienced that.” Johnson Travis Frederick Jersey , who eventually won a Super Bowl as a backup in Tampa Bay in 2003, was excited for the Bills and yet still carries some lingering resentment for what happened against Tennessee. ”They do all that scientific stuff now, I wonder if they ever proved that was a lateral,” he wondered. (Don’t try to convince some Bills fans, but it was studied thoroughly, including with rendered animations that showed the pass was almost perfectly horizontal but going ever so slightly backward.) When reminded that it was ultimately the officials who made the call on Wycheck’s throw being legal, Johnson snorted. ”It wasn’t his fault, heh, it wasn’t his fault,” he said. Wycheck insists his toss didn’t go forward and said the most disappointing development was learning of the Bills decision to fire special teams coach Bruce DeHaven following the season. He called it unfair to lay the blame on one person. T Detroit Lions Jerseys
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