Redskins' WR Gaffney explains No. 3 role on Pats

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Redskins' WR Gaffney explains No. 3 role on Pats

FOXBORO -- Jabar Gaffney spent three seasons in New England. Since, he's spent two seasons in Denver, and is currently in his first season with the Washington Redskins.

And his presence on the field, Sunday, against the Patriots, may remind those in New England that it's not an easy task to try and find the right fit for a No. 3 wide receiver on the depth chart.

That's what Gaffney was when he was with the Patriots. There was Randy Moss. There was Wes Welker. And then there were guys like Gaffney.

He was part of the 2007 powerhouse offense, along with Moss, Welker, and wide receiver Donte Stallworth. Gaffney finished that season with a career-high five touchdown receptions and 449 receiving yards.

These days in New England, the Patriots are still searching for that No. 3 wide receiver on the depth chart. Technically, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez own that role, but still, they're listed as tight ends.

Gaffney offered some insight, during a conference call on Wednesday, as to why he was able to click with Tom Brady right away.

"Just all the attention to detail and his attention to detail," said Gaffney about Brady. "He pretty much lets you know what he expects and he puts in a lot of work. I was always a guy that didnt mind putting in work, so we got on the same page real quick."

In order to succeed as the No. 3 wide receiver in New England, Gaffney said, one has to "look at himself as the number one, because on any play, Brady really does probably the best job of any quarterback of reading the play and he will get it to you. You want to be reliable on that side because if he comes to you, you have to make plays."

That's something that guys like Chad Ochocinco and the recently cut Taylor Price have been unable to do.

"Its a pretty tough offense, and if youre not really used to it, it can be a little overwhelming," said Gaffney. "And with Bill Belichick, if you dont know your stuff, hes not going to put you out there and trust you in those situations.

"You have to be smart out there and you have to know everything. You can have four or five different routes on each play and you just need to be on the same page with the quarterback and reading the defense at the same time."

Brady and Belichick praised Gaffney on Wednesday for being able to come in and do the things he was supposed to.

"We know Jabar is an excellent route runner, hes a good receiver, very disciplined and dependable guy," said Belichick. "The Redskins change their passing game around from week to week. Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan do a good job of that. They have a lot of core concepts but they build them from different formations, different personnel groups. And then they usually have a few patterns each week that really attack that particular team that theyre playing, whether its the individual personnel or the scheme that they're using and they do a good job of that."

"He could do it all," said Brady. He plays every position. I think thats the thing makes him such a good receiver, is his versatility. There are times when you're in the slot and then you have to go outside and now you're in a bunch of receivers or you're in a combination route with another receiver. Whatever it was, hed always figure out a way to understand what he had to do and then get open."

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

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STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

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Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.