Defensive 'sloppiness', not Thomas, at fault for loss

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Defensive 'sloppiness', not Thomas, at fault for loss

BOSTON -- Tim Thomas played in his eighth straight game on Saturday. It was his seventh start in those last eight.

Since Tuukka Rask went down with an abdominalgroin injury, all eyes have been on Thomas to carry most of the load. And with Marty Turco being thrown into the mix, Thomas hasn't, and most likely won't get too much rest time down the stretch. Or, at least, not as much rest time that he'd get it Rask was healthy.

So there will be some who look at the four goals Thomas allowed on Saturday, and blame that on a lack of rest. But on this day, the problem wasn't fatigue.

And it didn't have anything to do with looking forward to Sunday's game in Pittsburgh.

"You shouldn't be, anyways," said Thomas after the loss. "You've got to play this game. If you look at the standings, Washington is the team that you should have a better chance of beating, on a regular basis, based on standings. So, if anything, you should focus on this game, and not worry about tomorrow. Just let tomorrow take care of itself, after you do your job and do your business here."

The goaltender for Sunday hasn't been officially announced, but Julien did say before Saturday's game that they've been working Turco hard the last couple of days, and that, "Hes well rested and ready to go."

So all eyes have been on the Bruins goaltending situation. And for good reason. But Saturday's loss to the Capitals was more about what went on in front of Thomas, rather than what was going on with any potential fatigue.

Washington took a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals that came 25 seconds apart, midway through the first period, both came on rebounds, and Bruins defensemen not picking up bodies out front.

"I'd love to control every rebound, but that's not reality," said Thomas after the game.

Alex Semin made it 1-0 after a Karl Alzner shot from the left point was stopped by Thomas. Semin was wide open out front and put the rebound home. But clearly, if Adam McQuaid could take it back, he would have been covering Semin out front.

"It was hard to control the rebound there, because I didn't know if it was going to hit off somebody," said Thomas. "I had to wait for it to clear people, beforeI could make a move at it. And it happened to hit off my stick, instead of my pad, as far as directing the puck exactly.

"I didn't even know Semin was over there," added Thomas. "I was too focused on the puck, because I didn't know if I was going to get screened."

Matt Hendricks quickly made it 2-0 after Thomas stopped a shot from the point. Hendricks was on the doorstep, and kept digging at the loose puck. But Dennis Seidenberg and Joe Corvo were both there, and still, couldn't clear the loose puck.

"I lost it, after Hendricks' first rebound shot," said Thomas. "A shot from the point I think got tipped by Hendricks in front. I was able to find it to make the first save on Hendricks. But then I never saw the puck again, before it was in the net. I saw people swinging sticks, and tried to react off of where they were swinging sticks. But I never actually found the puck."

The Capitals' third goal came with 8:38 left in the second period, and gave Washington a 3-2 lead. It came as the result of a collision between Seidenberg and McQuaid behind the B's own net. After the collision Semin took the loose puck and sent it hard to Jay Beagle in the slot, who ripped home a one-timer.

"They did collide, but I think everybody had time to recover from it, and get themselves back into position," said Thomas.

The fourth came on a Washington power play, as Dennis Wideman threw a perfect cross-ice pass down low to Brooks Laich on the doorstep, who simply re-directed it into the net at the left post.

Bruins coach Claude Julien admitted afterwards that it's tough to continue to play catch-up hockey in the NHL. It's even tougher if your goaltender is fatigued. Some may point at that to be the reason for Saturday's loss, given the fact that it was the eighth straight game that Thomas has played in.

But that didn't seem to be the reason.

"When the Capitals scored those goals, we lost battles in front of our net," said Julien after the loss. "We talked about that before the game. If they have some loose guys around the net, they're dangerous. The first goal was that, a rebound, and the guy's all by himself. The second one, there's a loose puck right in front of our goaltender, and we've got two defensemen there. The battle, we just lost.

"To me, it's sloppiness, from our part."

Syracuse uses late 99-yard drive to beat UConn, 31-24

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Syracuse uses late 99-yard drive to beat UConn, 31-24

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. - Syracuse receiver Amba Etta-Tawo is making the most of his final year of college eligibility.

The graduate transfer from Maryland caught 12 passes for a school-record 270 yards and two touchdowns and the Orange beat UConn 31-24 on Saturday to snap a two-game losing skid.

Etta-Tawo scored twice in the game's first five minutes on touchdown receptions of 57 and 30 yards. His 59-yard catch from the shadow of his team's goal line highlighted a 12-play 99-yard fourth-quarter drive that put the game away for the Orange (2-2).

It was his fourth straight game with at least 100 yards receiving.

"It goes back to chemistry with the quarterback and the coaches trusting me," Etta-Tawo said. "They trust that I'll make the plays and they keep on giving me opportunities to make the plays."

Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey completed 26 of 40 passes for 407 yards and those two scores. He also scored on a 6-yard run to complete the length-of the field drive.

"We had to do it," said Etta-Tawo. "We had to drive down the field and try to put the game out, and that's exactly what we did. Everybody dug in, dug a little deeper."

Noel Thomas had 14 receptions for 111 yards for UConn (2-2). Huskies running back Arkeel Newsome ran for 81 yards and a touchdown.

It took Syracuse just 51 seconds on its first drive and 92 seconds on its second for Dungey and Etta-Tawo to make it 14-0. Etta-Tawo had five catches for 115 yards in the first quarter.

"I think he's already passed his previous career high as a collegian in the first four games with us, (more than) his whole entire career he had at the other school," coach Dino Babers said. "I think, if you asked him, I think he might have made a good choice (to transfer)."

The Huskies responded by scoring twice in the second quarter and for the second straight week, the Orange couldn't hold the early double-digit lead.

"We can't just go up 14-0, 17-0 in the beginning of the game and then put ourselves back in a dog fight," said linebacker Zaire Franklin, who was in on 14 tackles. "Some of these games we've got to have it over by the beginning of the second quarter."

Cordell Hudson pickup off a tipped pass from UConn quarterback Bryant Shirreffs and ran 22-yards down the left sideline for a touchdown that gave the Orange a 24-17 lead. It was just the second interception for the Orange this season.

The Huskies had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter after holder Tyler Davis, a former high school quarterback, hit tight end Tommy Myers with a 17-yard pass on a fake field goal to set the Huskies up at the Syracuse 8-yard line.

But Syracuse's defense held, and linebacker Franklin stopped Shirreffs on a fourth-and goal from the 2-yard line with just over 6 minutes left. The Orange marched the length of the field to put the game away.

"Going back, I would probably buy some more time and throw it to the back of the end zone," said Shirreffs, who threw a 24-yard touchdown to Davis with 33 seconds left to make the final score close. "I came up short. The linebacker made a good play and I didn't."