From Comcast SportsNetBALTIMORE (AP) -- The Baltimore Ravens wanted one long final ride for Ray Lewis.They also wanted Denver. They got it.Having disposed of Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, they now face a far more imposing challenge -- Peyton Manning and the streaking Broncos.Anquan Boldin set a franchise record with 145 yards receiving, including the clinching touchdown in the Ravens' 24-9 victory Sunday over the Colts in an AFC wild-card game. The win delays star linebacker Lewis' retirement for at least another week as Baltimore (11-6) heads to top-seeded Denver (13-3) next Saturday.The Broncos beat the Ravens 34-17 three weeks ago."I wanted Denver," Boldin said, "because they beat us."We'll make it different."And he wanted the Broncos because it prolongs the Ravens' pursuit of their first NFL title since the 2000 season, when Lewis won the first of two Defensive Player of the Year awards."I came to Baltimore to win a championship," Boldin added. "We all did."Lewis, who made 13 tackles Sunday, ended his last home game in Baltimore at fullback, of all things, for the final kneel-down. He then went into a short version of his trademark dance before being mobbed by teammates.He followed with a victory lap, his right arm, covered by a brace, held high in salute to the fans after playing for the first time since tearing his right triceps on Oct. 14 against Dallas."My only focus was to come in and get my team a win. Nothing else was planned," the 37-year-old Lewis said. "It's one of those things, when you recap it all and try to say what is one of your greatest moments."I knew how it started but I never knew how it would end here in Baltimore. To go the way it did today, I wouldn't change nothing."He would like nothing more than to change past results against Manning, who was 2-0 in the postseason against Baltimore while with the Colts."It's on to the next one," the 17-year veteran said. "We saw them earlier in the year and now we get them back again, but with all of our guns back."The loss ended the Colts' turnaround season in which they went from 2-14 to the playoffs in coach Chuck Pagano's first year in Indianapolis (11-6). Pagano missed 12 weeks while undergoing treatment for leukemia and returned last week.He was upbeat following the defeat to the team he served as an assistant coach for four years."The foundation is set, and we said we were going to build one on rock and not on sand," Pagano said. "You weather storms like this and you learn from times like this."Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who went 9-3 as interim coach, was absent Sunday after being hospitalized with an undisclosed illness. Pagano said Arians "is fine" and would stay overnight for observation before rejoining the Colts on Monday.Quarterback coach Clyde Christensen called the plays, but Baltimore's suddenly revitalized defense -- inspired by Lewis' pending retirement, no doubt -- never let standout rookie QB Luck get comfortable."It's great making the playoffs, but you can't make mistakes and expect to beat a playoff team like we did," said Luck, who was sacked three times, Paul Kruger getting 2 of those. "We'll have to look back at those and hopefully fix them."Sunday's victory enhanced the Ravens' success rate in opening playoff games. Flacco now has won at least one postseason game in all five of his pro seasons, the only quarterback to do it in the Super Bowl era.His main target Sunday was Boldin, who had receptions of 50 and 46 yards, plus his 18-yard TD on a floater from Flacco in the corner of the end zone with 9:14 to go."I told (Flacco) before the game I was going to get 200 yards," Boldin said with a chuckle."It's huge for us. It's huge for this city, they've supported us this entire year and they expect a lot from us. In return, we want to give it to them."Baltimore overcame the first two lost fumbles of the season by Ray Rice, too, as John Harbaugh became the only head coach in the Super Bowl era with wins in his first five playoff campaigns.Backup halfback Bernard Pierce rescued Rice with a 43-yard burst that led to Boldin's touchdown, and ran for 103 yards.Flacco also connected with Dennis Pitta for a 20-yard TD and rookie Justin Tucker made a 23-yard field goal.Indy's only points came on three field goals by Adam Vinatieri, from 47, 52 and 26 yards. Luck completed 28 of 54 passes for 288 yards. It was the most attempts by a rookie in a playoff game.Reggie Wayne had 114 yards on nine receptions and moved into second in career playoff catches with 92 -- 59 behind leader Jerry Rice. But the Colts, who moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984 -- they still are despised here -- became the second NFL team to improve to 11 wins following a two-win season and then lose in the opening round of the playoffs.The Ravens also beat the 2008 Dolphins in a similar scenario.Both teams were sloppy early on, with Rice losing a fumble, Lewis dropping a potential interception, and Luck being stripped of the ball on a sack.But Rice atoned with a 47-yard gain on a screen pass, leading to Vonta Leach's 2-yard touchdown.That Pro Bowl backfield was bolstered by the kick returns of another Pro Bowl player, Jacoby Jones. He gained 60 yards on kickoff runbacks and 57 on punt returns.Vinatieri, familiar with big kicks in the playoffs after winning two Super Bowls for New England with field goals, made a 47-yarder in the second quarter, a 52-yarder as the first half expired, and a 26-yarder near the end of the third period. But he also missed a 40-yarder wide right, his first miss against Baltimore after 18 successes.NOTES:Ravens LB Dannell Ellerbe sprained an ankle late in the game. The Ravens didn't specify which ankle. ... Harbaugh is 6-4 in playoff games, as is Flacco. ... Rice finished with 70 yards rushing and Flacco threw for 282. ... Rookie Vick Ballard rushed for 91 yards for Indy. ... Colts T Winston Justice injured his arm.
BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.
But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.
The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.
“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.
“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”
Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that.
BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.
Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.
But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.
“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.
“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”
But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.
But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.
Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.
Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.
“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”
The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.
Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.