Was this the best finish of 2012?

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Was this the best finish of 2012?

From Comcast SportsNetDETROIT (AP) -- Andrew Luck was down to his last shot and his final option to lead the Indianapolis Colts to victory.Luck dropped back, then moved up to avoid pressure and buy time for a teammate to get open, tossed a short pass to Donnie Avery, and the receiver did the rest -- racing untouched for a 14-yard touchdown and giving the Colts a 35-33 comeback win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday."You always hesitate throwing the ball not in the end zone, for fear of the clock running out with a guy in bounds," Luck said. "Took the calculated risk that Donnie could get there in the end zone, and he did."Luck made all the right moves when it mattered most, making his transition from Stanford to the NFL look relatively smooth to help Indy win a game in a way it hasn't since just after his 1st birthday.The last time the Colts scored a game-winning TD with no time remaining on the clock was Sept. 30, 1990, according to STATS LLC, to beat Philadelphia 24-23.Luck has won more games (eight) than any rookie quarterback drafted No. 1 overall in the Super Bowl era. He broke the mark by Sam Bradford, who helped St. Louis win seven games two years ago, and also surpassed Jim Plunkett in New England during the 1971 season.The Colts (8-4) stayed in control of the AFC wild-card race by winning for the sixth time in seven games. Luck helped them move a step closer toward being in the playoffs for the 10th time in 11 seasons, only this time without Peyton Manning."Some teams find ways to win," Indy interim coach Bruce Arian said. "Others don't."The Lions (4-8) lost for the fourth straight time, including three in a row at home after leading in the final quarter.They're the first team to lose three straight games when leading with 2 minutes left in regulation since San Diego did it in 2000, according to STATS LLC, and the first since at least 1983 to blow leads that late in three home games in a row."This is a tough league for tough people, and we'll find out now who is tough," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said.Luck is -- that's for sure.Ndamukong Suh, who was fined 30,000 for kicking Houston quarterback Matt Schaub last week, sacked Luck on his first snap and he was hit and hurried many more times by a hard-rushing frontOn the game-winning play, though, Detroit let Luck run through a slowly collapsing pocket as the final seconds ticked away and he took advantage."If the pass rush does their job, he doesn't get free the scramble and he never finds that receiver," Schwartz said. "All game, we focused on taking away his step-up lanes, and then on the last play, we don't do it."Luck, who was 24 of 54 for 391 yards with four TD passes, made up for matching a season-high three interceptions by doubling his previous season high with his final TD on the winning, fourth-down play that started with 3 seconds left.He had two interceptions in the first half and threw a third in the fourth quarter. He has thrown 13 of his 16 interceptions on the road.Fellow rookie T.Y. Hilton had six receptions for 100 yards and Avery had five catches for 91 yards and two scores, the first of which gave the Colts their only lead -- until his second one won the game."I had no choice but to score," Avery said. "It was the slowest 11 yards that I ever felt like I ran."Calvin Johnson had a career-high 13 receptions for 171 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown that gave Detroit a 30-21 lead late in the third quarter. Johnson made a one-handed grab that set up Mikel Leshoure's TD in the second quarter. Johnson had at least 125 yards receiving for the fifth straight game, matching an NFL record set in 1966 by Pat Studstill with the Lions."Calvin Johnson is always a bright spot," Schwartz said. "Maybe I should have had him on defense for the last play."Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick overall in 2009, was 27 of 46 for 313 yards with two TDs and an interception late in the first half that hurt his team's chances of adding to its 24-13 lead.Stafford also missed Johnson at times late in the game, including on the Lions' last scoring drive when he threw behind him in the end zone and that led to Jason Hanson's fourth field goal that gave them a 33-21 lead with 8:41 left.Luck threw his third TD pass to LaVon Brazill to make it 33-28 with 2:39 left. Then, Nick Harris' poor punt from the 50 gave Luck the ball at his 25 with 1:07 left and no timeouts and the quarterback pulled off another dramatic finish.NOTES:Lions WR Ryan Broyles (right knee) left the game, leaving the team thin at the position because it left Titus Young inactive because of his behavior and previously lost Nate Burleson to a season-ending knee injury. ... Colts OL Joe Reitz left in the first quarter and didn't return after undergoing a concussion evaluation. ... Indy rookie TE Coby Fleener, who missed the previous four games with a shoulder injury, made a twisting, 26-yard TD catch in the second quarter. ... Tigers star Miguel Cabrera was wearing a Suh jersey, as one of his guests at the game.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

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.