Sports News

Embarrassed early, Blackhawks hit their stride just in timeExternal Link

CHICAGO (AP) It smacks of desperation. And it's more a hunch than a real strategy.

But when pressed, most coaches will admit few things motivate pro athletes better than embarrassing them.

Ask the Chicago Blackhawks, who overcame another big first-period deficit and then a goalie swap for the second time against the Nashville Predators. The result was another 4-3 win Saturday night that closed out their first-round playoff series in six games and left Chicago awaiting the winner of the Minnesota-St. Louis matchup.

As they had for most of the series, the Blackhawks started sloppy and paid the price. Predators winger James Neal notched two quick goals, and then teammate Matt Cullen picked defenseman Duncan Keith's pocket along the left boards and put Nashville ahead 3-1 just past the midway mark in the first.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, experiencing something very much like deja vu, had seen enough. In the opening game of the series at Nashville, he pulled Corey Crawford after he gave up three goals on just 12 shots and replaced him with rookie Scott Darling. The Hawks roared back from a 3-0 deficit to win in double overtime.

After Darling started Game 6 by surrendering three goals on the same number of shots, Quenneville pulled the switch again. Chicago didn't need any extra periods to shake the Predators this time. It was 3-3 by the end of the first.

"It's never a situation you want to be in, but you might be right that it's a wake-up call," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "We know we can't hang our goaltenders out to dry the way we have numerous times in this series."

"But when we get that first or second goal, especially at home," he added, "I think there's that feeling across our lineup that we can take control of a game."

Before that could happen, though, Crawford needed a confidence boost of his own. He came in cold with just less than nine minutes left in the first and almost immediately faced a high whistling shot from Neal.

"The first one clipped my glove and went off the post," he recalled. "Then I settled down and started seeing pucks a lot better."

Apparently, so did his teammates. Other than that wrister by Neal, they didn't allow Nashville another shot on net for the next four minutes. Keith, a perennial Norris Trophy candidate, was clearly embarrassed when Cullen, a 38-year-old veteran, went through him like a revolving door for the Predators' third score.

He got his revenge in the third, using some deft stick-handling to end a cat-and-mouse duel with Nashville defenseman Seth Jones near the left boards, freeing up enough space to rip a slap shot that beat netminder Pekka Rinne high on the stick side at 16:12.

"You don't want to have to rely on something like that," Keith said, referring to the goaltender swap. "We're a proud team and any time you get drilled the way we did, you know it's not their fault. ... At the same time, we knew there was lots of time left. So we used it as a kind of reset."

The Predators will have the entire offseason to examine what happened. They earned home-ice advantage in the first round by finishing second - a place ahead of Chicago in the Central Division - but suffered a major blow early in the series when defenseman Shea Weber went down with a lower-body injury. They also played without forward Mike Fisher for a large chunk of time,

Afterward, coach Peter Laviolette wasn't in the mood to look back at his first year with the team.

"It's probably a better question for another day," he said.

"The objective was to get to this point," Laviolette added a moment later, "but that wasn't the whole objective, so disappointing right now."

That was obvious from the mood in the Predators' locker room. Rinne was still replaying some of the tougher chances that beat him, wondering what difference a save or two might have made.

"Throughout the series I felt like some of the games, the puck had eyes," he said. "You look at least three games, the winners ... just find a way through the maze and, obviously, that feels disappointing. ... You feel like maybe you get a break one of these games and it hits something and it doesn't go in."

"It's frustrating," he said finally, "but now I have way too much time on my hands to think about these things."


MSNBC.com | Sun, 26 Apr 2015 06:58:00 +0000
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Curry leads Warriors to 109-98 win and sweep of the PelicansExternal Link

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Stephen Curry had 39 points, eight rebounds and nine assists and Golden State cruised to 109-98 victory over New Orleans on Saturday night, completing a sweep of their first-round playoff series.

Klay Thompson added 25 points for the Warriors, the NBA's top overall seed, who will wait to host Game 1 of their second-round series against the winner of the Portland-Memphis matchup.

Draymond Green added 22 points and 10 rebounds for Golden State, which led 67-54 at halftime and widened the gap to as many as 24 points in the second half before the Pelicans briefly cut the deficit to single digits in the final minutes.

Anthony Davis had 36 points and 11 rebounds for the Pelicans and Eric Gordon had 29 points.

Golden State shot 50.6 percent from the field, including 13 of 24 from 3-point range. Curry was 6 of 8 from deep, while Thompson was 4 of 7 and Green 3 of 6.

BUCKS 92, BULLS 90

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Jerryd Bayless made a layup at the buzzer off an inbounds pass to draw Milwaukee within 3-1 in the Eastern Conference playoff series.

With 1.3 seconds left, Jared Dudley threw a high-arcing pass toward the basket from side court. Bayless caught the ball and quickly threw up the layup for the game-winning basket.

Bulls guard Derrick Rose walked away in frustration after trying to guard Bayless. The Bucks won their first playoff game in five years.

Chicago had a chance to win with the game tied at 90. But Milwaukee's Khris Middleton tipped a dribble away from Rose to force a steal. Bucks coach Jason Kidd called a timeout to set up the final play.

Game 5 is Monday in Chicago.

Jimmy Butler had a playoff career-high 33 points for the Bulls. Rose finished with 14 points, while Pau Gasol had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

O.J. Mayo finished with 18 points, including a 3-pointer with 1:42 left, while Dudley had 13 points and five assists while Bayless had 10 points.

NETS 91, HAWKS 83

NEW YORK (AP) - Brook Lopez had 22 points and 13 rebounds and Thaddeus Young added 18 points and 11 rebounds as Brooklyn cut Atlanta's lead to 2-1 in the Eastern Conference series.

The Nets seized control with an 18-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters after the Hawks grabbed their first lead since the opening basket, then went on to beat the No. 1 seed for the first time in seven meetings this season.

Bojan Bogdanovic added 19 points for the eighth-seeded Nets, who can tie the series with another victory here Monday night in Game 4.

DeMarre Carroll scored a playoff career-high 22 points for the Hawks, who were denied what would have been their second 3-0 lead since moving to Atlanta in 1968. Paul Millsap added 18 points and 17 rebounds.

GRIZZLIES 115, TRAIL BLAZERS 109

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Marc Gasol had 25 points and Memphis took a 3-0 lead in their playoff series with Portland.

Courtney Lee had 20 points and Mike Conley added 14 before leaving the game late in the third quarter with a facial injury. Memphis was already thin at point guard with reserve Beno Udrih sidelined with a sprained right ankle.

Game 4 is Monday night at Portland.

Nicolas Batum's 3-pointer got Portland as close as 94-91 with 2:23 left. But Tony Allen's basket ended Portland's 9-0 run and Randolph added free throws.

Batum finished with 27 points for the Blazers, who have dropped seven straight games, including four to wrap up the regular season, and CJ McCollum added 26.

Zach Randolph had 16 points and the Grizzlies won their seventh straight against Portland, including a sweep of the four-game regular season series.


MSNBC.com | Sun, 26 Apr 2015 05:52:00 +0000
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Calgary Flames advance to 2nd round for 1st time in a decadeExternal Link

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) With a chance to clinch in their grasp, the Calgary Flames stayed determined.

Down 3-0 early and 4-3 midway through the second period, they turned a switch and beat the Vancouver Canucks 7-4 on Saturday to take the series and advance to the second round of NHL playoffs for the first time in over a decade.

Calgary will face the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference semifinal.

Matt Stajan scored the winner at 15:43 of the third period to give the Flames a 4-2 series win.

"Things happen so quickly out there and even when I go home, I'll probably blink my eyes and still have to pinch myself to realize what happened," said Stajan. "That's why we play the games. This is a special moment."

Jiri Hudler and Michael Ferland each had a pair of goals including empty-netters in front of a delirious Scotiabank Saddledome. Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan also scored for Calgary.

The Flames last advanced beyond the opening round in 2004 when they reached the Stanley Cup final and lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"What about the crowd?" Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "The crowd never left us. We were down 3-zip and we felt their support. What a great story."

The Flames' opponent, the Ducks, have had a few days rest already.

They rallied from a deficit to win all four games of their series against the Winnipeg Jets, capped by a 5-2 victory in the clincher on Wednesday night in Winnipeg. Anaheim led for less than 39 total minutes of the four-game series.

Michael Ferland and Jiri Hudler each scored twice, and Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau added goals for Calgary. Hudler tied it at 4 with a power-play goal at 6:14 of the third period.

Canucks coach Willie Desjardins gave the Flames all the credit on their comeback.

"They found ways all year and they found a way again tonight," he said. "I'm proud of our guys. One hundred and one points this year was a good run."

Luca Sbisa, Brandon McMillan, Jannik Hansen and Radim Vrbata scored for Vancouver. The Canucks had a 3-0 lead midway through the first period.

"We looked at this game as a must-win on home ice," Monahan said. "We could knock them out and move onto the second round. We were still excited on the bench being down 3-nothing. We did whatever we could to push back and we found a way."

Flames starting goalie Jonas Hiller was pulled early in the first after allowing two goals on three shots. Karri Ramo stopped 17 of 19 shots in relief. Ryan Miller made 28 saves in the loss.

Calgary's fourth line of Stajan, Ferland and David Jones produced the winner. The Vancouver goalie made an initial save on Ferland, but Stajan banged in the rebound.

Vancouver scored three times on its first four shots. Hiller was replaced by Ramo after Vancouver's second goal at 7:32 and Ramo gave up a goal on the first shot he faced.

Ferland scored late in the first, and Monahan and Gaudreau tied it early in the second.

Sbisa put Vancouver back in front midway through the period.

With McMillan in the box for goalie interference, Hudler pulled the Flames even in the third. He corralled Monahan's deflection at the side of net and went backhand to forehand on Miller.

After Stafan gave the Flames the lead, Hudler and Ferland finished the scoring with empty-net goals.


MSNBC.com | Sun, 26 Apr 2015 06:48:00 +0000
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Baseball fans asked to stay at stadium after violent protestExternal Link

BALTIMORE (AP) Fans at the Baltimore Orioles-Boston Red Sox baseball game were briefly asked to stay inside the stadium toward the end of the game after a small group of Freddie Gray protesters became violent.

The protesters blocked an intersection near Oriole Park at Camden Yards for several hours and had a tense standoff with police Saturday night. The protesters were eventually cleared.

In the middle of the ninth inning, the public address announcer told fans that city officials requested no one leave because of "ongoing public safety issues." They were later allowed to leave but advised to avoid certain areas of the city. The Orioles won 5-4 in 10 innings.

The attendance was 36,757.

Demonstrators are angry Gray, a black man, died in police custody after suffering an unexplained spinal injury.


MSNBC.com | Sun, 26 Apr 2015 02:53:00 +0000
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Eagles personnel chief says Tebow has improvedExternal Link

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Ignore the hype. Tim Tebow is just another guy competing for a roster spot on the Philadelphia Eagles.

"Obviously, we were intrigued with what we saw there," Eagles personnel chief Ed Marynowitz said Thursday. "We saw a player who improved from the last time we saw him live, which was when he was here with New England. We had some conversations and some discussions, and we felt that it was an opportunity to bring in someone who could compete for a spot.

"Look, we've got 68 players who are on our football team right now. And Tim's one of them. He'll have an opportunity to compete for a roster spot. And his role will be determined by his performance and it's as simple as that."

Philadelphia's new vice president of player personnel was the first member of the organization to publicly discuss Tebow since the Eagles signed the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner to a one-year contract on Monday. Neither Tebow nor coach Chip Kelly has been available to the media.

Tebow was 9-7 as a starter for Denver in 2010-11, including playoffs. He threw just eight passes for the New York Jets in 2012 and also lined up as a punt protector.

Marynowitz said Tebow is here to play quarterback, not another position. Still, the innovative Kelly could try various ways to get Tebow involved in the offense. Sam Bradford, acquired in a trade from St. Louis, is penciled in as the starting QB. Mark Sanchez is the backup. Tebow is competing with Matt Barkley for the No. 3 job. G.J. Kinne also is on the roster.

Tebow has worked with former Texas Rangers pitching coach Tom House on his mechanics. The Eagles were impressed with his improvement during a private workout in March. Tebow's career completion percentage is 47.9.


MSNBC.com | Thu, 23 Apr 2015 17:13:00 +0000
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