Sports News

Blues beat Blackhawks 4-3 in 3 OTsExternal Link

ST. LOUIS (AP) In the first period, Ryan Miller looked like the goalie who limped home 0-5. For the final 80 minutes, 26 seconds, the St. Louis Blues saw the cool, confident backstop they acquired to make the deep playoff run they've long sought.

Miller allowed three goals on seven shots in the first period, then shut the door on the Chicago Blackhawks to pave the way for Alexander Steen's deciding goal in an epic 4-3, triple-overtime Game 1 victory on Thursday night.

"It's not all about one period," Miller said. "I tried not to change my approach and it's nice to come out on the right side."

Steen scored 26 seconds into the third overtime to cap the longest playoff game in franchise history, beating Corey Crawford off a pair of short passes from Steve Ott and David Backes to end the marathon.

"I didn't know how open he was, obviously," Ott said. "He obviously buried it and the game's over. We stuck with it and we found a way to win it."

The Blues got most of their injured front-line players back for Game 1, then put a six-game losing streak to end the regular season behind them.

"Win, lose or draw, what happened in the third period was we finally saw our team," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said.

The next challenge is finding a way to recover on short rest, with Game 2 on Saturday afternoon. Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo logged 44 minutes, 8 seconds of ice time and two Blackhawks, Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson, played more than 40 minutes.

Miller made 39 saves for the Blues and Crawford had 48 for Chicago.

"I think the big thing for us is we have to realize it's only one game and we've got a quick turnaround coming back," Chicago's Patrick Kane said. "That's the best part about it, we get right back at it."

Kane scored on a breakaway to put Chicago up 3-2 late in the first period. Jaden Schwartz stole the puck to set up his tying goal with 1:45 to go in regulation.

The Blues' previous longest overtime game was a 4-3 loss at Detroit in 1984 that extended 37 minutes, 7 seconds. The home record for a playoff overtime game was 33:49 of extra time in a 5-4 win over Chicago on April 20, 1989.

St. Louis had to kill off delay-of-game penalties for shooting the puck into the stands in the first two overtimes and Chicago coach Joel Quenneville argued vehemently for a second delay of game that would have given Chicago a 5-on-3 advantage in the first OT. The Blackhawks killed off a holding penalty in the second overtime.

Jonathan Toews, like Kane back from a lengthy injury absence, had two assists for Chicago.

Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko and Adam Cracknell all scored their first playoff goal for the Blues.

The Blackhawks kept the Blues pinned in their own zone for 2:10 during the first overtime, and Maxim Lapierre made the save of the session by getting in front of a drive by Kris Versteeg with less than two minutes remaining.

"Guys like me take pride in blocking shots and doing little details," Lapierre said.

Tarasenko was among the best players coming off a 15-game absence because of a broken thumb, tying for the team lead with seven shots.

Cracknell tapped in a rebound early in the first to end a scoring drought of 148 minutes, 39 seconds for a team that got shut out the last two games of the regular season.

Kane scored his 30th career playoff goal after catching the defense napping at the end of a St. Louis power play, beating Miller off a long lead pass from Toews for a 3-2 lead at 18:24 of the first.

Miller allowed three goals on just seven shots in the first with defensemen Johnny Oduya and Brent Seabrook also scoring for Chicago.

"They had a couple of nice shots in the first, but I had to come out and battle," Miller said. "Luckily I got ahold of a few of them."

St. Louis' top line of David Backes, Steen and Ott was a combined minus-5 in the first. Ott was a bit of surprise, considering he was minus-7 during the Blues' six-game losing streak to end the regular season, but was solid the rest of the way.

"He played the way we thought he could play," Hitchcock said. "With that type of energy, that type of focus, he's a good player."

Crawford faced just three shots in the second, but needed big saves to thwart Tarasenko and Ott. He made glove saves on drives by Steen and Tarasenko not long before Schwartz got the equalizer.

NOTES: Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who has the longest consecutive game streak in major sports at 717 games, left in the first overtime and did not return. Hitchcock said Bouwmeester was dehydrated but was fine after the game. ... Oduya and Seabrook combined for 10 goals in the regular season. Oduya's goal was first credited to Versteeg on a deflection. ... The Blues scratched a pair of top forwards, T.J. Oshie (head) and Patrik Burglund (shoulder). ... Kane had two goals and four assists against St. Louis in the regular season and Toews had a goal and three assists.


MSNBC.com | Fri, 18 Apr 2014 07:48:00 +0000
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Stastny leads Avs to 5-4 OT win over WildExternal Link

DENVER (AP) Paul Stastny sweated out the trade deadline, wondering if his big, expiring contract and Colorado's desire to beef up its blue line might lead to his departure from Denver.

Instead, he stuck around to help the Avalanche end a four-year playoff drought.

That decision by executive vice president Joe Sakic to keep him in the Mile High City paid huge dividends Thursday night when Stastny sparked Colorado's 5-4 win in overtime against the Minnesota Wild in their Western Conference playoff series opener.

"He's obviously a really good player," said Wild defenseman and fellow Olympian Ryan Suter. "He's a really good player. He's good in the faceoff circle, good on the power play. He's just the total package, he plays hard on both ends of the ice."

Stastny tied it with 13.4 seconds left in regulation, then beat Ilya Bryzgalov with another close-in wrist shot 7:27 into overtime, capping Colorado's comeback from a two-goal deficit after two periods.

Those were the only two shots on goal that Stastny, who made $6.6 million this season, took all night.

Stastny is the first player in Stanley Cup Playoff history to score the game-tying goal in the last 15 seconds of regulation and then score the winning goal in OT, the Avs said based on information from the Elias Sports Bureau.

But Stastny, who also had an assist, credited his coach's bold moves and teammate Erik Johnson's hustle after his first career three-point playoff performance.

The frenetic finish included a daring roll of the dice by Patrick Roy is his playoff coaching debut: pulling goaltender Semyon Varlamov with 3:01 remaining for an extra skater.

"It's the team we've got," Stastny said. "We're confident in ourselves. It starts with our coach. Three minutes left and he pulls the goalie, he has the confidence in us scoring and always playing to win. He never sits back. If he thinks it's the best chance, then we believe in it, too."

Pulling Varlamov, who led the NHL with a franchise record 41 wins, one more than Roy had when Colorado won its last Stanley Cup in 2000-01, nearly backfired when Erik Haula slapped a shot across the ice that headed for the empty net as the Pepsi Center crowd grew silent.

Johnson caught up to the skittering puck and slapped it away just before it crossed the goal line with 1:32 left in regulation.

"It's 3 inches from losing the game," Stastny said. "If that doesn't happen, that hustle out of E.J., we're not here in this moment."

Haula was still shaking his head after the game.

"Obviously, that's the game if it goes in and it didn't," Haula said. "And then they tie it up at 13 seconds. Like I said, that's playoff hockey and now we've just got to bounce back."

Game 2 is Saturday night.

Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn also added goals for Colorado, the Central Division champs. Haula, Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Kyle Brodziak scored for the Wild, who took a 4-2 lead after a three-goal second period.

The Wild spent the final period trying to play a prevent defense, not allowing the Avalanche to take advantage of their quickness. O'Reilly stole the puck from Brodziak and slid it over to McGinn, who batted it past Bryzgalov to make it a one-goal game at 12:47.

Then Stastny tied it and he won it.

"What a comeback," Johnson said. "That's the kind of stuff you dream about when you're a kid, winning playoff games like that."

The Wild knew they let this one slip away.

"They obviously had some luck with them and then in OT we hit a pipe and I think it was pretty close to going into the empty net, as well," Haula said. "So, give credit to them. They never quit. They played a full game and I think they just got the bounces in the end."

Johnson won't dispute that notion.

"I think any time you come back like that in a playoff game, luck's on your side a little bit," he said. "I thought we played a good game toward the end. We'll take it, but we realize we have a lot more to give and they outplayed us."

NOTES: Parise had two assists. ... The Avs were without F John Mitchell (head) and D Cory Sarich (back). They were already missing leading scorer Matt Duchene (knee). ... Avs rookie Nathan MacKinnon had three assists.

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Follow AP Sports Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton


MSNBC.com | Fri, 18 Apr 2014 07:05:00 +0000
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Sharks beat Kings 6-3 in Game 1External Link

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Tomas Hertl and Raffi Torres both scored in their first game together as teammates and the San Jose Sharks jumped on top of Jonathan Quick and the rival Los Angeles Kings with a 6-3 victory in their playoff opener Thursday night.

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Marc-Edouard Vlasic also scored for the Sharks, who managed just 10 goals against Quick in losing a seven-game series to Los Angeles in the second round last year. Antti Niemi made 31 saves.

Quick allowed three goals in the first period for the first time in his playoff career, including two in the final minute as the Kings were completely outclassed.

Game 2 is Sunday in San Jose.

Quick was replaced by Martin Jones after allowing five goals on 28 shots in two periods and only watched as the Kings showed life in the third period with goals from Jake Muzzin, Slava Voynov and Trevor Lewis.

But Brent Burns sealed it with an empty-net goal as the home team won for the 17th time in the past 18 meetings between these teams.

The Sharks were the healthiest they have been all season with Torres back after missing all but five games in the regular season and Hertl playing for just the third time since Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown injured him with an illegal knee-on-knee hit on Dec. 19 in a play that still riles the Sharks.

They got payback in the best way possible with a dominating victory that showed off their much-improved depth when they are healthy. They got goals from all four lines and their defense to beat the Kings by more than one in their most lopsided win over the Kings since Nov. 7, 2011.

The game had even added meaning for Hertl and Torres. Hertl talked before the series of his dislike for the Kings and said this series would be personal because of the injury.

Torres was suspended for the final six games of last year's series for a hit to the head of Jarret Stoll in a punishment the Sharks and Torres felt was unjust.

The Sharks had nothing to complain about after this game as they jumped out to a 5-0 lead and held on for the victory.

The third playoff series in four years between these heated California rivals got off to an odd start as there was a power outage at SAP Center just minutes before the start of pregame warmups. The lights came back on about five minutes later and the players warmed up without the usual blaring music.

But by the time the puck dropped, the towel-waving crowd was at its usual fever pitch chanting "Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.!" right from the start.

The cheers only got louder during a dominant first period that featured a combined 55 hits from the two teams, three goals from the Sharks and a scrum after Mike Brown pushed Voynov into Quick after the whistle.

Thornton's deflection of Joe Pavelski's shot from the slot on a chance created by Burns' hustle to negate an icing gave San Jose the early lead.

San Jose broke things open with two goals in the final minute off broken plays. James Sheppard miss-hit a one-timer that slid right to Hertl, who tapped it in to make it 2-0 with 51.7 seconds to play.

Marleau then made it 3-0 with 3.2 seconds to play to cap a 2-on-1 with Matt Nieto, who failed to get off a one-timer but instead slid the puck back to Marleau for his 58th career playoff goal.

NOTES: Brown played a night after his wife, Kati, gave birth to their second son, Zane Michael. ... Jones made four saves in his first career playoff game.


MSNBC.com | Fri, 18 Apr 2014 05:23:00 +0000
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Duke freshman Jabari Parker declares for NBA draftExternal Link

Jabari Parker is hoping to become Duke's latest one-and-done star to become the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.

The 6-foot-8 All-American forward said Thursday he'll enter the NBA draft after being the highest-scoring freshman in Duke history. He was also the first freshman to lead the Blue Devils in scoring and rebounding, and the first freshman in three decades to be selected team MVP.

Now he has the chance to do what Kyrie Irving did in 2011: follow a one-year stay at Duke by being the first name called in the June draft.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement Thursday it was "an honor for us to have him in our program." In an essay posted on SI.com, Parker said the NBA offers him the best chance to develop both as a player and off the court.

"I realize how much of a privilege and an honor it is to join the ranks of the NBA," Parker wrote. "I will do everything in my power to help deliver championships to the franchise that drafts me. At the same time, I recognize the obligation to represent the league in an admirable way off the court."

Parker played in high school at Chicago's Simeon Career Academy and was frequently mentioned along with Kansas' Andrew Wiggins as possible No. 1 picks before ever playing a college game.

Parker led the Atlantic Coast Conference with an average of 8.7 rebounds while his 19.1 points were second only to North Carolina State's T.J. Warren, who entered the NBA draft last week.

"Jabari could not have been better," Krzyzewski said. "He is the epitome of what you would want a basketball player to be - outstanding every day on the practice court and in the classroom and a very humble young man.

"He had a fantastic freshman year and is so deserving of the opportunity to play in the NBA and follow his dream."

Parker is listed as the No. 2 draft prospect on Chad Ford's Top 100 on ESPN.com, the No. 2 pick in a mock draft on NBAdraft.net and No. 3 on DraftExpress.com.

It had long been believed that Duke would be a one-year pit stop for Parker on his way to the pros. But even late into the season, he insisted he was undecided, saying he wanted to play at the level that would best help him grow.

When he received the USBWA's Tisdale Award as the nation's top freshman this week, he said he planned to meet with Krzyzewski and reach a decision Wednesday.

In his SI.com essay, Parker said he had "gotten pretty attached to life at Duke and I don't want to utter the word goodbye." He also noted that the careers of professional basketball players - his father, Sonny, played six seasons in the NBA - last only so long.

"The lucky ones play until their mid-30s," Parker said. "With that perspective, I shrink my professional career with each year that I remain in college. It's ironic, but true."

Parker - the fifth Duke player to enter the draft as a freshman - said he planned to continue working toward a college degree. He is Mormon and said he would put a two-year mission on hold.

From Day 1, he and Rodney Hood - a redshirt sophomore transfer from Mississippi State - were the focal points for a Duke team that spent much of the season in the top 10 and looked like a Final Four contender. But Duke (26-9) ended the season with a loss to Virginia in the ACC tournament final and a shocking loss to Mercer in its NCAA tournament opener.

Hood hasn't announced whether he will enter the draft, though Krzyzewski said "I wish we had him for more than one year" after Duke's ACC tournament win against Clemson last month.

Regardless, Duke is bolstered by the nation's No. 1 recruiting class, led by top overall recruit Jahlil Okafor along with top-10 prospects Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow.

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AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary contributed to this report.

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap


MSNBC.com | Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:12:00 +0000
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Dodgers' Puig focuses on baseball despite issuesExternal Link

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Yasiel Puig believes he has the support from his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates and the club to help him keep his focus on baseball despite challenges off the field.

Puig returned to the starting lineup in right field for Thursday's series finale against the Giants amid reports that smugglers who helped him defect from Cuba had threatened his life.

"I'm only concentrating on the season and being the best teammate and helping my teammates," Puig said, speaking in Spanish during an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday morning at his locker in AT&T Park.

While Puig won't address the details specifically because of a pending legal case, he said he will focus on baseball and on helping the defending NL West champion Dodgers keep winning. He went 1 for 4 with a strikeout in Thursday's 2-1 victory. While he dropped a routine fly to right, he also made two nice catches on the run.

"I have great teammates who are helping support me so much this season and to focus on the season when I get to the stadium so I am comfortable," Puig said. "That way I don't start thinking about anything negative in the stadium. I'm only thinking about working on the things that are going to make me a better ballplayer."

The 23-year-old, scratched from the starting lineup after arriving late for his team's home opener April 4, is hitting .250 with one home run and five RBIs in his second major league season.

He said after the game he is committed to baseball "so those things that are happening don't torment me."

"We're at the field right now. We've just got to be thinking about baseball," teammate Hanley Ramirez said. "What I've seen is he's been learning and he's just happy to be here. He's playing today and he told me he's going to do everything it takes to win today's game."

Manager Don Mattingly said he has read articles about Puig's journey and will offer support. He has spoken briefly with the outfielder, but not regarding specifics of his journey to the United States - saying if Puig wants to keep those details private, he will respect that wish.

Mattingly is committed to helping Puig, who signed a $42 million, seven-year contract.

Court documents, part of a federal lawsuit in Miami, say smugglers who helped Puig leave Cuba on a speedboat have made death threats against him and against a Cuban boxer who says he defected with Puig. Boxer Yunior Despaigne says in an affidavit he is afraid of being harmed by the smugglers or their associates if Puig hasn't paid them money he owes.

"He hasn't talked about his background. Nobody's told me about his background. Nobody's told me about his story," Mattingly said. "If it's true, it's a wild story."

Other Cuban big leaguers have shared similar experiences. In Oakland, Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes discussed in February 2013 how he worried constantly about his family members the previous season as they made their way to the U.S. He wasn't sure whether they might be targeted because of his legal issues stemming from a former agent who claimed the outfielder owed him money.

"If you care about Yasiel, you worry about some serious stuff there that he has to deal with," Mattingly said. "If you care about him as a person, you worry about what he's going through."

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AP Legal Affairs Writer Curt Anderson in Miami contributed to this report.


MSNBC.com | Fri, 18 Apr 2014 02:26:00 +0000
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