One NHL team is off to its best start ever

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One NHL team is off to its best start ever

From Comcast SportsNetCHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago Blackhawks are off to the best start in their 85-year history, despite not being in charge for much of their game against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night.Thanks to Nick Leddy's goal at 2:45 of overtime and a zoned-in, 29-save effort from Corey Crawford, the Blackhawks defeated the Red Wings 2-1 and improved to 6-0.After taking a cross-ice pass from Viktor Stalberg, Leddy fired from the left circle and beat Detroit's Jimmy Howard with a shot that slipped just under his glove. Leddy, a defenseman, said it was his first overtime goal at any level."It's an unbelievable feeling, one I'll never forget," he said. "I heard that stat (best start) before the game. If we stick to doing the little things, we'll be great."The Blackhawks started 5-0 in 1971-72 -- Hall of Famer Bobby Hull's final season in Chicago -- and matched it on Saturday night with a 3-2 win in Columbus.On Sunday, however, they were anything but assertive for much of the second and third period. Part of that was penalty-related.Still, Chicago killed all six of Detroit's power plays, improving to 22 of 23 this season.Detroit's Johan Franzen finally connected at even-strength early in the third to tie the game at 1 and set up overtime. Duncan Keith scored a power-play goal in the first period for Chicago."We could have been on our heels a little bit," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Detroit was pressing (being) down a goal. You know everything's coming. They were pinching."We could have been better, but at the same time, six (games) in nine (days) could have been a factor."Quenneville couldn't really fault his club, one of two undefeated NHL teams along with San Jose."I think everybody deserves credit," Quenneville said. "Everybody's contributing. Everybody was where we wanted them to be. Everybody had good conditioning to start with. Special teams, Crow (Crawford) in net, the team game. I'm pleased."Crawford, who made his fifth start in six games, was sharp again. Last season, the Blackhawks' 28-year-old No. 1 goalie was criticized for allowing soft and untimely goals. That hasn't happened so far this season."Focus has been a huge part of it so far," Crawford said. "I thought I was focused last year, but I wasn't quite there."This year, I've paid a little bit more attention to that, especially throughout the game. Every play around the net, I'm ready and getting low for little things around the net so I don't give up those little goals."Crawford needed to be sharp when his teammates sagged on Sunday."I thought we really carried the play in the last 30 minutes of the game," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "They were better than us early. They outskated us, and then we really dug in and got playing a while. We had every opportunity to win the game."Injury-depleted Detroit has gone just 2 for 26 with the man advantage so far."We've got to shoot the puck a little more and maybe things will be a little different," Franzen said. "It think it's just a matter of getting the shots and getting the traffic."Howard, who has started all five of Detroit's games, made 25 saves.Chicago has won four straight against Detroit, dating to Feb. 21, 2012. The Blackhawks and Red Wings met for the 722th time, the most of any two NHL opponents.Sunday's game was only the Blackhawks' second at home, and they begin a six-game road trip Wednesday in Minnesota. The Blackhawks don't skate at home again until Feb. 12 as they play 10 of their first 12 games away from the United Center.Keith scored the only goal of the first period, during a power play 2:24 in.Crawford had to be sharp to preserve the lead in second. Early in the period, he made close-in saves on Todd Bertuzzi and Henrik Zetterberg. And the Blackhawks needed Crawford as they ran into penalty trouble in the second. Detroit was unable to convert any of four straight power plays beginning midway through the second, including a 43-second 5-on-3 advantage."The D were blocking the shots," Quenneville said. "Key saves by Crow (Crawford). It was a group effort, with spectacular kills."We dodged a bullet. It was the key to the game."The Blackhawks started the third sluggishly, and Franzen finally tied it at 1 with an even-strength goal at 4:30 of the period. After Zetterberg's shot was blocked, Franzen picked up the loose puck and closed in from the right circle. He got by Keith and beat Crawford with a shot between the legs.Crawford made a point-blank stop on Cory Emmerton midway through the third to preserve the tie.Howard then made sprawling saves on Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews during a Chicago power play with just under 5 minutes left in the third. Keith's shot a minute-and-a-half later hit the post.Crawford stopped Franzen's prime chance 1:30 into overtime.Notes: Red Wings D Jonathan Ericsson returned after missing three games with an injured hip. ... Detroit C Darren Helm (back) and D Jakub Kindl (healthy scratch) sat out after playing on Friday against Minnesota. Both have missed four of five games so far. ... Red Wings D Ian White (leg), D Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) and LW Jan Mursak (shoulder) and G Jonas Gustavsson (groin) remain sidelined. ... Out for Chicago were LW Daniel Carcillo (knee) and D Steve Montador (concussion, from last season) ... The 1971-72 Blackhawks won nine of its first 11 games en route to a 46-17-15 record and first place in the NHL's old Western Division.

Thomas excited for reunion with Green

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Thomas excited for reunion with Green

WALTHAM, Mass. -- When the phone rang this summer, Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas had to do a double-take when he saw the name on the caller ID.

It was Gerald Green, his ex-teammate in Phoenix.

Although they only shared a locker room for 45 games in Phoenix, the two became quick friends.

On the court they developed instant chemistry while coming off the Suns bench. And that bond spilled off the court as Green would later spend time with Thomas in the Seattle-Tacoma, Wash. area in the summer months.

They were cool with each other, cool enough to where Thomas knew it wasn’t in Green’s nature to pick up the phone and call just to say hi.

“Gerald doesn’t call anybody,” Thomas said. “When he called I knew something was up.”

Green said Boston, the team that drafted him in 2006 straight out of high school, was interested in bringing him back for a second stint with the club.

“I tried to put my two cents in and he got here,” Thomas said.

There were several factors that led Green back to Boston, with a chance to reunite with Thomas being high on that list.

Green, already in Phoenix at the time the Suns signed Thomas in 2014, was impressed with the way the 5-9 guard carried himself.

“He was a genuine guy, came in really humble,” Green said. “I saw the talent was there. I knew he had the potential to be one of the best point guards in this league.”

Thomas certainly made a case for such lofty praise with how he performed last season, good enough to earn his first all-star selection.

What really stuck out to Green was that Thomas’ mentality and approach to the game was almost a carbon copy of his own.

“When we stepped on the court we had the same mentality,” Green said. “By any means necessary, get a bucket and play harder than the next team; just try and push the first team, make the first team better every day.”

Thomas was coming off the bench, showing lots of potential and promise that he could carry a heavier load if given an opportunity to do so.

He averaged 15.2 points, 3.7 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 25.7 minutes off the Suns bench in 46 games. Even more significant was that when Thomas did play for the Suns, they were 26-20.

In the games without him, they were just 13-23.

Green was admittedly disappointed they traded away Thomas, believing that season would have had a very different outcome had they not sent him to Boston.

And just like Green recognized Thomas’ skills and how much his team could have benefited from keeping him around, Thomas speaks in glowing terms about Green and what his return to Boston means for the team.

“We needed someone like him; a guy that could shoot the ball, a guy that could space the floor; instant scorer whether he starts or comes off the bench,” Thomas said. “Where the he starts or come off the bench. He’s going to really help us.”

Green has big game as Bengals dominate Dolphins 22-7

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Green has big game as Bengals dominate Dolphins 22-7

CINCINNATI -- For most of the game, A.J. Green piled up more yards than the entire Miami Dolphins offense in a virtuoso performance. As an encore, he thrilled the crowd by juggling some Florida citrus.

The Bengals receiver followed his disappointing game with a dominating one - 173 yards and a touchdown - and a Cincinnati defense that was inspired by Vontaze Burfict's return clamped down on the Dolphins for a 22-7 victory Thursday night.

The Bengals (2-2) rebounded from a 29-17 home loss to Denver on Sunday with a solid all-around game against a depleted team.

Green led the way, beating the Dolphins (1-3) on every type of route . He was upset with himself after he dropped a pivotal third-down pass and failed to make an impact against the Broncos.

"I hold myself to a very high standard," said Green, who had 10 catches. "I know what I'm capable of. Last week I didn't perform to that level. I had to refocus on a short week."

During the first three quarters, Green had 166 yards on catches while Miami had 152 total yards. The Bengals' season-long problem of stalling out near the goal line forced them to settle for Mike Nugent's season-high five field goals.

Afterward, Green and Andy Dalton appeared on the postgame show, and the receiver entertained the dozens of Bengals fans who stayed around by smoothly juggling three oranges at the interview desk.

"Any time he was one-on-one, he was able to make the play," Dalton said.

The Dolphins were missing four starting offensive linemen, two linebackers, running back Arian Foster and tight end Jordan Cameron. They had one big play - Ryan Tannehill threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills - but couldn't do anything else on offense.

"We've got to get it fixed and quick, and by that I mean Monday," Tannehill said. "We're kind of in a dark spot right now. It's squarely on our shoulders."

The Bengals' defense expected to get a lift from Burfict's return. The volatile linebacker was suspended by the NFL for the first three games because of his illegal hits. He got a loud ovation when he ran onto the field during introductions wearing a baseball cap. Burfict knocked down a pass and had three tackles.

"He's amazing," end Carlos Dunlap said. "Did you see the plays he made? Those aren't plays you can coach. He came off his couch and played great. It's good to have him back."

Mostly, it was Green's show. He caught a 51-yard pass off Dalton's scramble in the first half, and had a 43-yard catch that set up another field goal in the third quarter for a 19-7 lead.

REMEMBERING FERNANDEZ

A large fan banner in the upper deck at Paul Brown Stadium honored Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died with two friends in a boat crash early Sunday near Miami Beach. The banner read: "Jose 16 Heaven's Bright."

STILL CAN'T RUN

The Bengals rushed for 77 yards and only a 2.1-yard average against the second-worst run defense in the league, one missing two starting linebackers.

SLOPPY DOLPHINS

Miami had seven penalties for 68 yards. The most egregious was by Terrence Fede, who pushed Kevin Huber to the ground after he punted in the third quarter. The penalty gave Cincinnati the ball, and the Bengals got a field goal out of it.

INJURIES

Dolphins: LT Branden Albert and C Anthony Steen were inactive with sprained ankles. Also missing were LBs Koa Misi (neck) and Jelani Jenkins (groin). C Mike Pouncey has missed all four games with a hip injury.

Bengals: TE Tyler Eifert was inactive again, contributing to the Bengals' trouble close to the goal line. He's recovering from offseason ankle surgery and returned to practice on a limited basis last week. CB Dre Kirkpatrick was inactive with a hamstring injury suffered Sunday. G Clint Boling sat out most of the fourth quarter with an injured left shoulder.

ANTHEM STATEMENTS

Stills and Dolphins safety Michael Thomas knelt with their hands over their hearts during the anthem.

FANTASY IMPACT

Tannehill was 15 of 25 for 189 yards with a touchdown, an interception, a fumble and five sacks. Dalton was 22 of 31 for 296 yards with a touchdown and a sack.

UP NEXT

The Dolphins begin a stretch of four straight home games against Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and the New York Jets.

The Bengals have a tough two-game stretch, playing Dallas and New England on the road. They're 1-5 in Dallas, dropping their last three. They've dropped their last six at New England, last winning in 1986.