Aston-Reese has 2 goals and assist, Penguins beat Jets 7-2
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) — Injuries to some key players has forced the Pittsburgh Penguins to play a simpler game, and it’s working out quite well for them.
Zach Aston-Reese, Sam Lafferty and Jake Guentzel each had two goals to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 7-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night.
Dominik Simon also scored and Aston-Reese also had an assist for the Penguins. Tristan Jarry stopped 27 shots.
“We talk a lot about being hard to play against,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “It starts with your own puck possession, the decisions you make, the line changes, when you change. You put your teammates in good positions because you change at the right time. The tracking on the puck and the back pressure on the puck so you have numbers back.
“For me this is the definition of being hard to play against and it’s a recipe for success, regardless of who’s in your lineup.”
Forwards Nick Bjugstad, Alex Galchenyuk, Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust are all on Pittsburgh’s injured reserve list but the Penguins improved their record to 4-2-0 with their second win on the road this week.
“We’ve got different guys stepping up and we’ve got guys coming out of the lineup,” Guentzel said. “So it just kind of happens like that and when you lose star power like that you’ve just got to be simple and we’re getting better at it.”
Mathieu Perreault and Mark Scheifele had goals for the Jets, and Laurent Brossoit finished with 21 saves.
Jarry, playing his first game as a starter in three weeks, shook off a lucky goal from Perreault that gave the Jets a 1-0 lead in the first period. Perreault’s centering pass from behind the net bounced off a defender’s stick and in.
“It’s obviously something you can’t control, it’s something that just happens, part of the game, a weird bounce and you just have to get back and focus on what you need to do,” Jarry said.
Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice thought the turning point was a tripping penalty in the first period that gave Pittsburgh it’s second goal, followed just 41 seconds later by a third.
“We take a penalty we don’t like, and then we’re down 3-1,” he said. “We were in a fairly tight game. Not a heavy advantage to either team shot wise or chance wise. That’s where I thought it turned for us.”
He also believes the Jets’ power play needs work after they made good on just one of six chances.
“Well we’re not clicking right,” Maurice said. “We don’t have the zone time and we’re kind of out of sorts a little bit. When we get to positions that pucks get knocked down or we’re not coming up with it, we’re not in a particularly good place to defend it. We’re working on it.”
Both teams were playing back-to-back games and lacked zip in the first period but Jets forward Blake Wheeler didn’t blame it on fatigue.
“It was right there,” he said of their chance to win the game. “The start was good. Through the second period, it was good. We get the power-play goal and we’re down by a goal. Puck bounced the wrong way tonight.”
The home crowd’s celebration after Perreault’s goal was short-lived as Aston-Reese tied it up a few minutes later when, as he was falling to the ice in front of the Winnipeg net, he slipped a loose rebound past Brossoit at 4:09 for his first goal of the season.
Guentzel scored on a power play at 7:50 of the second to give the Penguins the lead and then, just 41 seconds later, a puck bounced behind the net and back out right in front of Lafferty, who slammed it in to make it 3-1.
Scheifele narrowed it by backhanding a rebound past Jarry on a power play at the 10-minute mark but Simon restored the two-goal lead with 3 1/2 minutes left as his shot pinballed through traffic before ending up in the Jets’ net. It was also his first of the season.
The Jets seemed to find more steam at the start of the third after coach Paul Maurice made some line changes but couldn’t turn things around, striking out on their fourth power play.
Instead, Lafferty scored again at 9:32 when his shot glanced off Winnipeg defenseman Anthony Bittetto’s skate. Then Guentzel beat Brossoit for his second of the game and fourth of the season at with 8:20 left to make it 6-2.
Aston-Reese scored his second of the game short-handed on a breakaway just 7 seconds into a Winnipeg power play with 5:14 remaining.
NOTES: Winnipeg finished with a 29-28 advantage on shots on goal. … The Jets had less trouble on their first meeting this season with the Penguins, walking away from PPG Paints Arena with a 4-1 win last Tuesday. … Patrik Laine picked up an assist on Scheifele’s goal but he couldn’t score despite one great chance right in front of Jarry that went high.
Penguins: Host Colorado on Wednesday night.
Jets: Host Arizona in the second game of a six-game homestand.
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Steelers’ Conner scores 2 TDs, Hodges wins first start
By JOE REEDY AP Sports Writer
CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Pittsburgh’s Devlin Hodges walked into the stadium properly attired for his first NFL start. He was wearing a T-shirt with a duck on it that read “I’m The Boss,” befitting his nickname and quiet confidence.
The rookie quarterback directed the Steelers offense like a boss and not a third-string rookie as he led Pittsburgh to a 24-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night.
“I liked his effort. We knew we couldn’t give him a lot of exposure to that defense, so we did some things in other areas,” said coach Mike Tomlin, who nicknamed Hodges “Duck Dynasty” during offseason workouts.
Hodges, who was elevated into the starting spot after Mason Rudolph suffered a concussion last week against Baltimore completed 15 of 20 passes for 132 yards with a touchdown and interception. He benefited from a strong running game and a defense that scored the game’s first touchdown and forced three turnovers.
“It’s nice to get a win in my first start. It’s something I have always dreamed about,” said Hodges, who got the shirt for $5 in Venice Beach on Saturday. “I’ve always had a belief in myself and it’s just amazing.”
It is only the fifth time in 26 games in franchise history that the Steelers have won a road game with a quarterback making his first start.
James Conner had his first game with both a rushing and receiving touchdown and accounted for 119 scrimmage yards (41 rushing, 78 receiving). He suffered a quad injury during the third quarter and did not return.
On defense, Devin Bush recovered a pair of turnovers, including returning a fumble for his first NFL touchdown.
“It was a big win for us on the road in a very fragile state,” Tomlin said. “I think we had a lot of quality efforts tonight from a lot of people.”
The Chargers (2-4) trailed 24-0 after three quarters but rallied to get within seven on a Chase McLaughlin field goal and two TD passes from Philip Rivers to Hunter Henry.
“We dug ourselves in a hole. I still believe in this football team. We dug ourselves in a hole and I believe we’ll dig our way out,” coach Anthony Lynn said.
After Henry’s 11-yard TD catch made it 24-17, Los Angeles tried an onside kick with 1:28 remaining, but it was recovered by Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton. The Chargers forced a three-and-out and got the ball at the 1 after a punt, but Rivers was picked off by Sutton to preserve the Steelers’ win and improve to 2-4.
“It’s pretty tough. I don’t know if we’ve been down by three touchdowns, but we’ve had a comeback like this before,” said Rivers, who was 26 of 44 for 300 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. “It’s tough but our guys believed. You saw we gave ourselves a chance. They pin you down there on the 1 and have to go 99 yards with no timeouts, that’s about as rough as it gets.”
Bush scooped up a backward pass from Rivers that Melvin Gordon was unable to handle and went 9 yards to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead
The rookie got his second turnover four plays later when he intercepted a Rivers’ pass that was deflected by defensive end Tyson Alualu at the line of scrimmage. That would lead to Conner’s first TD, a 12-yard run around left end with 4:39 remaining in the first quarter.
Conner put Pittsburgh up by three touchdowns with 6:34 remaining in the second when he caught a short pass from Hodges and went 26 yards up the right sideline after Chargers linebacker Jatavis Brown was unable to tackle the third-year running back at the 25.
Los Angeles didn’t get on the board until one minute into the fourth quarter on McLaughlin’s 38-yard field goal. Rivers ended the offense’s seven-quarter drought without a touchdown when he found Henry in the back of the end zone from 5 yards out with 7:13 remaining.
HEINZ FIELD WEST?
It felt like a home game for the Steelers as the stadium was dominated by Pittsburgh fans. Hodges said he joked in the huddle on the first drive that he might have to motion for the crowd to quiet down.
The Chargers’ game staff did troll the Steelers fans during the fourth quarter when it started playing Styx’s “Renegade” only to go into a Rickroll with Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
“That was amazing until they made it a joke. It was cool,” Bush said.
STAT OF NOTE
Pittsburgh came into the game converting only 28.3% of its third downs (15 of 53), but was 8 of 13 on Sunday night.
“We were on schedule. More than anything, we were in manageable third downs,” Tomlin said. “We’ve been working hard to be in manageable third downs and haven’t necessarily done what we did tonight.”
Bush has been involved in six of the 14 turnovers the Steelers have forced. He has had an interception two straight weeks and leads the NFL with four fumble recoveries. He is the first Steelers’ linebacker to return a fumble for a touchdown since L.J. Fort last season against Atlanta.
STILL IN NEUTRAL
Los Angeles’ running game struggled again as Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler were held to 13 carries for 32 yards.
“The run game is tough right now. Austin and I can’t get things rolling,” said Gordon, who is averaging 2.5 yards per carry in the two games since he ended his holdout. “How it’s looking right now, the pass is going to have to open up the run.”
Henry, who missed the past four games due to a knee injury, set career highs in receptions (eight) and yards (100).
“Going into the game I wasn’t planning on playing probably 50-60 snaps,” Henry said. “I was feeling really good, so it’s just kind of how it went.”
Steelers: LB Stephon Tuitt (pectoral), LB T.J. Watt (oblique) and CB Joe Haden (groin) were also injured during the game and did not return.
Steelers have their bye week before hosting Miami in a Monday night game on Oct. 28.
Chargers travel to Tennessee next Sunday to start a stretch of three of their next four on the road.
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No. 10 Penn State holds off No. 17 Iowa 17-12
By LUKE MEREDITH AP Sports Writer
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — On the road against one of the best defenses in America, 10th-ranked Penn State won the turnover battle and converted on third downs to survive yet another tough trip to Iowa.
Noah Cain ran for a 5-yard touchdown with 5:17 left and Penn State held off the 17th-ranked Hawkeyes 17-12 on Saturday night, its first win over a ranked opponent this season.
Cain finished with 102 yards for the Nittany Lions (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten), who extended their winning streak over the Hawkeyes (4-2, 1-2) to six games.
“This is a team. You’re going to have to earn it,” Penn State coach James Franklin said about the Hawkeyes. “The defense has been great all year. We leaned on them heavily.”
A matchup between two of the nation’s top defenses turned when Iowa’s Nate Stanley threw an interception near midfield with 9:22 remaining. Penn State drove 35 yards on a gassed Iowa defense, and the last of three straight runs by Cain made it 17-6.
The Nittany Lions gained just 294 yards. But they were 10 of 19 on third downs against a defense ranked fourth in scoring defense entering play, and they scored 10 points off of two Iowa miscues.
“We grinded it out,” Franklin said.
Iowa pulled within 17-12 when Stanley found Brandon Smith for a 33-yard TD pass with 2:31 to go. The Hawkeyes’ two-point try failed though, and Cain converted a crucial third down that ensured that Iowa never saw the ball again.
The Hawkeyes have dropped back-to-back games by just 12 points after its first 4-0 start since 2015.
“We’re doing the right things. We’ve just got to do a little better,” Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa said.
Up 7-6 late in the third quarter, Penn State recovered a fumble at Iowa’s 16 and Sean Clifford connected on an apparent touchdown pass to Pat Freiermuth that was overturned on review. Iowa then held the Nittany Lions at the 1-foot line, and two straight holding calls forced them to settle for a 33-yard field goal.
KJ Hamler caught seven passes, including an acrobatic 22-yarder for a TD, for Penn State.
Stanley threw for 286 yards, but the Hawkeyes ran for just 70 yards on 30 attempts.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions survived their toughest road challenge outside of a trip to Ohio State on Nov. 23. Penn State was on the road against a talented team with a jacked-up crowd, and yet the Nittany Lions were the ones making the plays that made the difference.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes nearly went back-to-back games without a touchdown. Granted, Michigan and Penn State are really good on defense. But Iowa can’t continue to lean on its own defense to keep it in games. At 1-2 in the league and with Wisconsin looking like one of the best teams in America, the Big Ten West doesn’t look so winnable anymore. “We’ve just ended up shooting ourselves in the foot,” Stanley said.
Penn State was facing a third-and-10 at Iowa’s 35 after Stanley’s interception. But Clifford broke right on an option, kept it, burst through a hole and gained 11 yards to extend what proved to be the game’s winning drive. “He didn’t necessarily play his best game. But he was gutsy,” Franklin said. “That was a big-time play.”
Clifford was 12 of 24 for 117 yards, snapping his streak of five straight games with at least 200 yards passing. … Freshman Tyler Goodson led Iowa with 35 yards rushing, though he lost a fumble that won’t help his chances of winning the starting job. Starter Mekhi Sargent had just 18 yards on nine tries. … Penn State punter Blake Gillikin placed five of his seven kicks inside Iowa’s 20-yard line. … Iowa, which at one point this season went three games without a turnover, fumbled three times and lost one. … Penn State has 52 points off of turnovers through six games.
HE SAID IT
“I’ve got confidence in our football team,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We didn’t play good enough this week or last against two really good football teams. I think we have a good team.”
Penn State might move up a few spots. Iowa might struggle to hang onto its spot in the Top 25 after back-to-back losses.
Penn State hosts Michigan on Oct. 19.
Iowa hosts Purdue next Saturday.
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Crosby, short-handed Penguins beat winless Wild 7-4
By BRIAN HALL Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Just four games into the season, injuries have decimated the top lines for the Pittsburgh Penguins as Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bjugstad, Alex Galchenyuk and Bryan Rust have all missed time.
The Penguins still have Sidney Crosby, and a trio of callups helped pick up the load on Saturday.
Crosby had a goal and assist, Adam Johnson and Sam Lafferty each scored his first career goal, and the short-handed Penguins held on to beat the winless Minnesota Wild 7-4 on Saturday night.
Patric Hornqvist, Kris Letang, Joseph Blandisi and Jake Guentzel also scored in Pittsburgh’s first road game of the season. Matt Murray stopped 29 shots for the Penguins, who scored four times in the second period.
“That’s the only way you win is with everyone contributing,” Crosby said. “I think with those guys, just the way they skate and with how fast they are on the forecheck, and what they’re able to do that way, they’re going to create chances just by that. I think with every game they’ll get more and more comfortable and you could see tonight, they got some huge goals for us.”
Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk gave up five goals on 23 shots and was pulled midway through the second period. Alex Stalock made seven saves in relief.
Jason Zucker, Jared Spurgeon, Brad Hunt and Luke Kunin scored for the Wild, who lost their home opener and fell to 0-4-0.
“Yeah, it is frustrating right now, especially start of the season,” Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu said. “I think you always want that first one, obviously, as soon as you can. Things are not going our way right now. We can be here and whine about it, but you got to go forward.”
Crosby continued his success against Minnesota — increasing his total to 23 points in 18 career games against the Wild — but Pittsburgh got support throughout the lineup while playing without four key forwards.
Malkin and Bjugstad each missed his third straight game with a lower-body injury. Malkin was placed on long-term injured reserve. Rust hasn’t played this season with upper-body injury and Galchenyuk missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury.
The four combined for 72 goals and 102 assists last season.
After breaking out for seven goals in the last game played by Malkin and Bjugstad, the Penguins had scored three goals in the previous two games. The injuries forced the callups of Johnson, Lafferty and Blandisi.
The three combined for three goals on Saturday while skating on the fourth line.
“I think these guys, they’ve shown that they can come in and have an impact on the game,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said, noting the fourth line defended well and sustained momentum on the forecheck. “When you can have the trust in those guys that you can put them in those situations, it can give us an opportunity to use Crosby’s line for example, in an advantageous situation offensively.”
Johnson started a Penguins surge later in the period as they scored three times in 2:28.
Guentzel scored on the power-play for a 6-2 lead midway through the third before Minnesota scored twice in 21 seconds on goals from Hunt and Kunin.
“I think the formula has been the same every game,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They score three goals in 2 1/2 minutes … It’s like we get a woe is me attitude. We’re down instead of picking up our shoes like we did the last five minutes and saying let’s go get them. Until we learn how to quit feeling sorry for ourselves, it’s not going to work.”
NOTES: Minnesota fell to 14-1-4 in home openers in franchise history. They entered the game first in league history in point percentage in home openers. … The Wild honored the National Anthem singer for the Minnesota North Stars, Jim Bowers, before the game. Bowers died in the offseason and the team used a video rendition of Bowers signing the anthem on Saturday. Minnesota’s new executive advisor, Mike Modano, did the customary “Let’s play hockey” call before the game. … Murray won his 100th career regular season game, becoming the fourth goaltender in franchise history to reach the mark. Murray is the quickest of the four, hitting the milestone in just his 166th career appearance. Only six goaltenders have reached the mark quicker in the post-expansion era. … The Wild play six of their first seven and 17 of 26 games on the road this season. The nine home games in October and November are the fewest in franchise history.
Penguins: At Winnipeg on Sunday.
Wild: At Ottawa on Monday.
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Robert Morris beats St. Francis (PA) 20-17 in double OT
LORETTO, Pa. (AP) — Caleb Lewis threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Gonzalez with 45 seconds left in regulation, Nick Bisceglia made a 37-yard field goal in the second overtime, and Robert Morris slipped past St. Francis (PA) 20-17 on Saturday.
Lewis finished 9-of-22 passing for 152 yards and two scores. Tim Vecchio had six receptions for 94 yards and a score and Alijah Jackson had 26 carries for 110 yards for Robert Morris (2-4, 1-0 Northeast Conference).
On the first possession of the second OT, Jared Harris’ strip-sack of the Red Flash’s Jason Brown was recovered by Garret Fairman and, four plays later, Bisceglia’s field goal won it.
Chris Wells scored on a 14-yard run to give St. Francis (3-3, 2-1) a 17-10 lead with 5:34 left in the fourth quarter. Amir Jordan returned the ensuing kickoff into Red Flash territory but the RMU drive stalled at the 29 but the Colonials defense forced St. Francis to go three-and-out. Lewis then led a nine-play, 70-yard drive — hitting Deonte White for 9 yards on fourth-and-6 and connected with DeLano Madison for 19 yards on fourth-and-10 — capped by his TD pass to Gonzalez forced overtime.
Bisceglia’s 42-yard attempt was blocked on the first possession of OT and, after St. Francis moved to the 9, Trevor Thompson’s 26-yard attempt was wide right.
Brown completed 27 of 40 for 268 yards and a score and Well finished with 19 carries for 80 yards for the Red Flash.
Saturday, October 12, 2019:
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