Oilers prove they are more than McDavid in playoff win

Apr 23, 2017 14

Winning the Connor McDavid lottery two years ago was the key moment in the turnaround for an Edmonton Oilers team that had spent most of a decade at the bottom of the standings.

But after McDavid put together an NHL-leading 100-point season to lead Edmonton back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Oilers showed they have a lot more than just the league’s next great superstar.

McDavid scored his only even-strength point of the series with an empty-netter in the final second of Edmonton’s 3-1 series-clinching victory in Game 6 on Saturday night. He contributed plenty in other ways and got lots of help to send the Oilers into the second round against Anaheim.

“It’s not about winning the scoring title in the playoffs,” coach Todd McLellan said. “Connor was tremendous. His line was excellent. They played with tenacity and they wore the other team down so the other lines could go out and create some offense. I don’t see it that way at all. I know there’s a big story there and everybody loves to write about the leading scorer is not scoring this or that. I just don’t see it that way.”

McDavid ended the series with one short-handed goal, two secondary assists on the power play and the empty-netter as his production was a far cry from his prolific regular season numbers.

“I know the media makes a big deal about points and that stuff and goals and whatever. That’s my job obviously. I’m the guy that’s supposed to produce and do that,” he said. “But there’s different ways you can contribute in a hockey game, especially in a playoff game where there’s tight checking. You’ve got to play within the system as well. It’s a good learning experience for me.”

The Sharks spent almost the entire series shadowing McDavid with shutdown defensive pair Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun. While they were mostly effective at the job, the Oilers were content exploiting other matchups.

That led to production from some lesser-known players. Zack Kassian delivered game-winning goals in Games 2 and 3, David Desharnais had the assist on the game-tying goal late in regulation in Game 5 and then scored the overtime-winner in that game and Anton Slepyshev scored the game-winner in the clincher.

The three players who scored the game-winners had just 13 goals during the entire regular season.

But the biggest difference for the Oilers this season from their decade-long drought was on the defensive end. Outside of a 7-0 loss in Game 4 that featured four power-play goals, Edmonton played a strong game in its own zone.

The young defense limited San Jose’s chances as McLellan’s system takes shape in his second year as coach.

“It’s been a long road, but enjoyable,” forward Jordan Eberle said. “It’s funny how you think about when you came to the league and this style of play we’re playing now. We’ve really changed our game as far as defensively and tried to work on making the right plays. I think we did that for the most part in the series. Hopefully we continue that.”

Next for the Oilers is another veteran, playoff-tested team in the Ducks. Anaheim swept Calgary in the first round and has posted a 15-0-3 record over its last 18 games.

Edmonton will have a few days to heal up some wounds and get healthy from a flu bug that slowed Leon Draisaitl early in the series and forced defenseman Oscar Klefbom to miss the third period of the finale before facing Anaheim.

“In my opinion we’re playing with house money and sometimes that’s not a bad thing,” McLellan said.

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More AP NHL: apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Tomas, Peralta power D-backs to another rout of Dodgers

Apr 23, 2017 15

PHOENIX — David Peralta’s base hit to right-center field in the eighth inning, with his team already up by four runs, could have been a routine single. Instead, Peralta decided to go hard for second base.

He made it safely for his fourth double of the game, a Diamondbacks record, and Arizona rolled to an 11-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night.

“That is exactly who we are as a ballclub,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “That described what the Arizona Diamondbacks are all about. We believe in hard work. We believe in taking advantage of the moment.”

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A franchise-record fourth double for David Peralta. pic.twitter.com/TZvTmjqpdH

FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) April 23, 2017

Peralta had no idea he’d set a franchise mark.

“It’s just the way that I play. I like to play hard for the team,” Peralta said. “We’re a new team, we’re a big family, we’re having a good time.”

Yasmany Tomas homered twice, and Chris Herrmann and Jake Lamb each hit a two-run homer for Arizona, which feasted on Dodgers pitching for the second straight night. Peralta scored three times and Tomas drove in his third run by drawing a bases-loaded walk as part of a three-run seventh inning.

Arizona improved to 8-1 at home and 12-7 overall, with wins in five of its last seven games. The Diamondbacks’ home record is the best after nine games in club history.

Kike Hernandez hit a leadoff home run for the Dodgers (8-10), who have lost five of six.

Herrmann homered off starter Kenta Maeda (1-2) in the fourth, giving the Diamondbacks a 5-2 lead on the way to their fourth straight win over Los Angeles this month.

“I threw a lot of pitches at the heart of the plate and a lot of hitters took advantage of that,” Maeda said through a translator. “My wish was to go deep in the game knowing the bullpen was taxed. I just didn’t execute at all.”

Robbie Ray (2-0) labored through 5 1/3 innings but got enough run support to win. J.J. Hoover struck out Justin Turner on a full-count pitch with the bases loaded to preserve a 6-5 lead and end Los Angeles’ three-run rally in the sixth.

The Diamondbacks scored three times in the seventh off reliever Chris Hatcher, with Chris Owings delivering a two-run single.

Maeda has not lasted more than five innings in any of his four starts. He pitched five innings in this one and was tagged for six runs on nine hits.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts indicated a roster decision involving Maeda, whose ERA is up to 8.05, could be made soon.

“We are going to talk through some things and see what is best for Kenta,” Roberts said.

Arizona hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning to take a 3-1 lead. Lamb hit his two-run shot, and Tomas followed with an opposite-field line drive to right.

Tomas’ second home run went to left field in the fifth, giving him four this season.

The Diamondbacks entered the game with a .320 batting average at home. They are averaging a major league-best eight runs per game at Chase Field.

No replay review needed here. Jake Lamb takes Maeda deep and the #Dbacks lead 2-1 in the first.

Stream the game: https://t.co/aLb4vYXbIn pic.twitter.com/erUQP2Q2Kt

FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) April 23, 2017

“As simple as it is, it’s fun playing baseball,” Lamb said. “If it’s not me, it’s the next guy. If it’s not him, it’s the guy after that.”

BAT MEN

The Diamondbacks’ 24 runs the past two days were the most scored in back-to-back games against the Dodgers since Arizona scored 26 in May 2000 at Chase Field.

MAKING A DAY OF IT

After Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy makes his scheduled start Sunday against Arizona, he’ll zip over to nearby Scottsdale to see Phoenix Rising FC play a night game. McCarthy has a minority ownership stake in the soccer team and it’s a big night for the second-division club, which welcomes former international and English Premier League star Didier Drogba as player-owner for his first game. McCarthy will later join the Dodgers in San Francisco.

Lovullo: Good baseball is contagious; “this group is uniting.” pic.twitter.com/fQRWRECz0Y

FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) April 23, 2017

TRAINER’S ROOM

Arizona pitchers Jake Barrett and Steve Hathaway, both on the 10-day disabled list, will throw in extended spring training Tuesday. Rubby De La Rosa is scheduled for a Monday outing. … OF Gregor Blanco played seven innings and got five rehab at-bats as he moves toward a return from an oblique injury.

UP NEXT

Dodgers: McCarthy (2-0, 2.12 ERA) faces his former team for the second time this season.

Diamondbacks: RHP Shelby Miller (2-1, 3.50) can match his win total from 2016 with a victory, but he’s 1-3 with a 6.95 career ERA against the Dodgers.

Andrus' RBI single in 9th pushes Rangers past Royals 2-1

Apr 23, 2017 11

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Elvis Andrus hit an RBI single with one out in the ninth inning and the Texas Rangers beat the Kansas City Royals 2-1 on Saturday night.

It was the second time in three games that the Rangers won in their final at-bat against Kansas City.

Rougned Odor led off the ninth with a sharp single off Travis Wood (0-2), who didn’t face another batter before Peter Moylan took over. After Odor stole second base, Andrus hit a sharp single to left field.

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Matt Bush (1-0) threw a scoreless ninth with a strikeout.

Mike Napoli homered for the Rangers, who have won three straight games for the first time this season. They go for a four-game sweep on Sunday.

Wood was also the loser in the series opener Thursday night when the Rangers won 1-0 in 13 innings. Up until then, Wood had made 105 consecutive appearances without a loss and was tied with Moylan for the longest active streak in the majors. Moylan is now at 107 consecutive appearances without being charged with a loss.

Both starting pitchers, Ian Kennedy for Kansas City and Nick Martinez for the Rangers, allowed one run on four hits over seven innings.

Martinez was called up from Triple-A Round Rock for a spot start after A.J. Griffin was put on the 10-day disabled list because of gout in his left ankle. Martinez matched his longest appearance in 51 major league starts, and took a no-hitter into the sixth.

Kansas City’s first hit was on No. 9 hitter Drew Butera’s single through the left side of the infield with one out in the sixth. The ball ricocheted off the glove of diving third baseman Joey Gallo and then a diving Andrus at shortstop. That was the first of three singles in a four-batter stretch, including Mike Moustakas driving home Butera .

Napoli led off the second with his third homer of the season, an opposite-field shot that barely cleared the wall in the right-field corner.

Andrus had a defensive gem in the fifth inning. He went way to his right to backhand a grounder, then made the throw with his body falling away from first base to get Whit Merrifield by a step.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Royals: C Salvador Perez was scratched from the starting lineup because of neck stiffness. … OF Jorge Soler (strained left oblique) hit a three-run homer in the first game of his injury rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha on Friday. Manager Ned Yost said there is no timetable for Soler’s return.

Rangers: RHP Sam Dyson (bruised right hand) threw live batting practice and is expected to make a couple of rehab appearances in the minors next week. “His slider was sharper, his sinker was late,” pitching coach Doug Brocail said. Dyson lost his closer role with three blown saves and a 27.00 ERA this season. “I’ve really allowed the last few weeks to overwhelm me in the sense of sitting trying to overanalyze everything,” he said.

UP NEXT

Royals: RHP Jason Hammel (0-1), who pitched in the NL for the Chicago Cubs the last 2 1/2 seasons, is winless in his last 16 road starts against AL teams. His last road win against the AL was May 5, 2013, when pitching for the Orioles at the Angels. He got a no-decision April 6 at Minnesota in his only road start since joining Kansas City as a free agent last winter.

Rangers: RHP Yu Darvish (1-2) is 1-3 with a 5.93 ERA in his last five home starts.

Tied at 2: Gasol lifts Grizzlies past Spurs 110-108 in OT

Apr 23, 2017 10

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Marc Gasol hit a 12-foot floater with 0.7 seconds left in overtime, and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the San Antonio Spurs 110-108 Saturday night to even up their Western Conference first-round series at 2-2.

The Grizzlies won despite blowing a 10-point lead with 7:38 left in regulation and 23 turnovers that San Antonio turned into 31 points.

Mike Conley set a franchise postseason record with 35 points, and Gasol finished with 16 points after shooting 5 of 12 for the game. He also had 12 rebounds.

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The Grizzlies overcame another postseason personal best from Kawhi Leonard, who had 43 points. He rallied the Spurs by scoring the last 16 points of regulation, but missed a 21-footer short of the rim with James Ennis defending him just before the buzzer. Leonard also tied it at 108 with 17 seconds left with a 3 from the left corner.

Game 5 is Tuesday night in San Antonio.

Conley also had eight assists and nine rebounds. Zach Randolph added 12 points and 11 rebounds, but was 4 of 12 from the field.

Tony Parker scored 22 points after being shut out in Game 3, and LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting.

The Spurs made all 17 of their free throws, a tremendous improvement from Game 3 when they were 16 of 28 from the line. Unlike Game 2, Memphis also got to the line more than San Antonio and was 22 of 24.

Leonard finished with 24 points combined in the fourth quarter and overtime in a thrilling game that also featured six lead changes and seven ties in the fourth quarter and overtime.

In overtime, the Spurs led 102-100 when Parker intercepted a pass by Conley and pushed the ball up-court. But rookie Andrew Harrison raced down to block Mills’ shot, and Gasol was fouled when he scored inside to tie it up. His free throw with 1:32 left put the Grizzlies up 103-102, then Conley hit a floater with 47.3 seconds left.

With Ennis defending Leonard, the MVP candidate committed a turnover when he lost the ball out of bounds with 43.7 seconds left. But Leonard’s final 3 tied it up one last time before Gasol’s big bucket.

TIP-INS

Spurs: Danny Green finished with five points on 2-of-9 shooting. Manu Ginobili was 0 of 5 himself and finished without a point.

Grizzlies: Vince Carter became the first 40-year-old to make three or more 3-pointers in a playoff game. He hit three in the first half and finished 3 of 5 outside the arc. … Randolph previously had the franchise record scoring 34 points in the postseason twice.

LEONARD’S STREAK

When Leonard hit a free throw with 1:20 left in the second quarter for 10 points, that marked his 24th straight playoff game in double figures. That ties him with Tim Duncan for the second-longest stretch in franchise history behind only Parker’s streak of 25 straight such games between May 17, 2012 and June 9, 2013.

Rangers advance to 2nd round for 5th time in 6 years

Apr 23, 2017 11

After pulling out a tough first-round series with three straight wins, the New York Rangers get a couple days to regroup for the next round.

It’s a routine they know well.

Mats Zuccarello scored twice and the Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6 on Saturday night to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals. New York will face the winner of the Ottawa-Boston series, which the Senators lead 3-2.

A year ago, the Rangers were bounced out of the first round by Pittsburgh, which went on to win the Stanley Cup. Now, they’re on to the second round for the fifth time in six years.

Getting there this time wasn’t easy.

The Rangers were on the verge of taking a 2-0 series lead before Tomas Plekanec tied it for the Canadiens with less than 18 seconds left in Game 2 and Alexander Radulov won it midway through overtime. Then, New York struggled to generate many chances in Game 3, and a 3-1 loss put Montreal up 2-1.

That was the Rangers’ sixth straight home loss in the postseason, and critics questioned if their struggles at Madison Square Garden — they lost eight straight (0-5-3) on home ice down the stretch in the regular season before winning the final two home games — would doom them.

Instead, they responded with three wins in five days, including Games 4 and 6 at home.

“It’s been pretty intense the last few days but it’s all worth it,” said goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who had 27 saves in Game 6 and stopped 194 of 205 shots in the series. “The message going into this game was it’s not going to be handed to us in any way. We had to work really hard until the end to get it done.”

The Rangers had balanced scoring with eight players scoring a goal and 18 getting at least a point. Mika Zibanejad, who had the overtime winner in Game 5 at Montreal on Thursday night, led with four points, and Rick Nash, Jesper Fast and Zuccarello had three each.

In the clincher, the Rangers trailed 1-0 after a lackluster first period before Zuccarello came through with two big goals in the second for his first career multigoal game in the playoffs. Derek Stepan also scored as New York beat Montreal for the ninth time in 16 postseason series.

“It was a real similar, tight-checking series,” Stepan said. “There were some timely goals by us and I also thought there were some timely saves by Hank. It was small details that probably were the difference, but a timely goal and timely save here and there.”

After going 0 for 14 on the power play during the first five games, the Rangers finally broke through on their lone chance in Game 6 as Zuccarello got a pass from Zibanejad and sent it past goalie Carey Price from the right circle at 2:26 of the second to tie the score.

It fired up the Madison Square Garden crowd that was raucous during the national anthems but had been silenced by the Rangers slow start in the first period.

Zuccarello put the Rangers ahead with his second of the game and third of the postseason with 6:29 left in the middle period to send the home crowd into a frenzy.

Stepan added an empty-netter with 17.8 seconds remaining.

Asked what he saw from his team in the last three games, coach Alain Vigneault said: “Without a doubt, a lot of focus and a lot of character. … Our guys responded. They responded by playing hard and playing the right way. You have to give credit to Montreal, they came at us hard and they competed real hard.”

___

Follow Vin Cherwoo at www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP

___

More AP hockey: https://www.apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Conor McGregor reacts to Artem Lobovs performance at UFC Nashville

Apr 23, 2017 11

UFC featherweight Artem Lobov wasnt able to back up his big talk at UFC Nashville on Saturday night but he still managed to make his good friend Conor McGregor proud of his performance.

Lobov lost a unanimous decision to Cub Swanson in front of a raucous crowd in Nashville but was able to hang around with the fourth-ranked featherweight in the world for the full five rounds despite entering the bout unranked and with a near-.500 professional record.

McGregor took to Instagram immediately after the decision was read to post a photo of the two Straight Blast Gym fighters and to congratulate his good friend and training partner.

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That was a great fight. Proud of my brother Artem! What a ride it’s been for the Russian Hammer. In a career filled with ups and downs he has never backed down from anything. Nothing but love and respect always my brother

A post shared by Conor McGregor Official (@thenotoriousmma) on Apr 22, 2017 at 10:23pm PDT

The Russian may have taken the L on fight night but he absolutely took a step forward in his career and made his camp proud to call him a teammate.

Yeo, Blues prep for Predators after five-game win over Wild

Apr 23, 2017 13

The St. Louis Blues were reveling in their Game 5 win at Minnesota to clinch the first-round series when coach Mike Yeo was greeted by a familiar face in the office inside the visiting team locker room.

Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher, who fired him just down the hall a little more than a year ago, stepped in to congratulate him on the 4-3 overtime victory .

“It’s a first-class group,” Yeo said on Saturday, “and I’m sure that we’ll be seeing more of each other down the road.”

Not for a while, though. Now the Blues will face Nashville.

The first postseason matchup against his former team and Central Division rival couldn’t have been better for Yeo, who maintained a home in Minnesota so his son could finish his high school career and was hired by the Blues four months after the Wild dismissed him in his fifth year on the job.

Yeo was supposed to spend the season working under Ken Hitchcock before taking over the bench, but with the Blues sputtering at 24-21-5, the switch was made by general manager Doug Armstrong earlier than expected. The Blues have gone 26-9-2 since Yeo took over Feb. 1.

“This was big for him, although he made it clear that it wasn’t about him,” Blues left wing Scottie Upshall said. “I’m sure right now he’s enjoying a cold one thinking that was a hell of a series.”

Hired at age 37 by Fletcher with the Wild after one year coaching their AHL affiliate, Yeo oversaw first-round series victories in 2014 and 2015 when Minnesota was the lower-seeded team. The Wild were mired in a severe slump last winter, though, and his message, voice and style didn’t seem to be resonating with the players anymore. Fletcher felt he had no choice but to fire him.

That’s the way Armstrong saw the situation with Hitchcock, and the move has worked wonders.

“We found a way to just simplify our game, just mentally,” center Kyle Brodziak said. “We’re more aware of what our game feels like when we’re playing well, and I think that’s helped us, especially on the road. We’ve carried that into the playoffs, and hopefully we can keep doing it.”

The Blues will have home-ice advantage against the Predators, who finished eighth in the Western Conference but swept the first-place Chicago Blackhawks. St. Louis goalie Jake Allen, with 174 saves on 182 shots, more than made up for some long stretches of dominance during the series by the Wild.

“Listen, what they do is part of why you’re not at your best,” Yeo said, again bristling a bit about the notion that the Blues were fortunate to win. “So it was a really good team that we played against, and they put you under a lot of pressure.”

Yeo acknowledged he’d like to prod the Blues to be more aggressive with the lead against the Predators, rather than retreating into a conservative, zone-clogging style they used to win Game 1 while being outshot 52-26.

“But when you win a series, you do an awful lot of good things, and we had a lot of real strong performances from players,” Yeo said. “Obviously Jake deserves a huge amount of credit, but it’s a great team win.”

With insider knowledge of Wild players, Yeo had an obvious benefit he used to his advantage in directing the Blues to play a physical style against smaller Minnesota and force as many of their shots to the outside as possible.

Yeo has made some smooth moves beyond that this month, though, working Vladimir Sobotka into the lineup right before the playoffs upon his return from a three-year hiatus in Russia and returning Paul Stastny to the first line on Saturday following a 14-game injury absence.

Then there’s a player like Magnus Paajarvi, who scored the winning goal in overtime in Game 5 and has been back and forth to the AHL over the last three seasons. He’s indicative of the character, grit and coming together the Blues have shown since bottoming out in January.

“It’s stuff like that coming together that pays things off in the long run,” Stastny said. “We don’t even care if we score, we’re so happy for each other. I think we’re rooting for the next guy up every time.”

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More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Oilers eliminate Sharks with 3-1 win in Game 6

Apr 23, 2017 17

Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on breakaways in the opening minutes of the second period and the Edmonton Oilers advanced to the second round of the playoffs with 3-1 victory in Game 6 over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

Draisaitl and Slepyshev each buried their chances for their first career playoff goals and the Oilers held off the Sharks after that to get the win in their first playoff series since getting to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. Connor McDavid iced the game with an empty-net goal with less than a second to play for his first even-strength point of the series.

Patrick Marleau got the Sharks on the board with 7:48 left in the third period, but Cam Talbot didn’t allow anything else on 28 shots to get the win.

Edmonton will take a young roster led by NHL scoring leader McDavid and eight other skaters under the age of 25 into the second round against Anaheim.

Al Iaquinta flattens Diego Sanchez with vicious first round knockout in co-main event

Apr 23, 2017 15

Ladies and gentlemen, Al Iaquinta is back.

Following a two-year layoff due to injuries and a contract dispute with the UFC, Iaquinta returned on Saturday night with a monstrous performance to put away Diego Sanchez with a vicious first round knockout.

Originally scheduled to return last November, Iaquinta opted not to fight in his home state of New York as he looked to renegotiate his contract with the UFC and instead opted to start his own real estate business while he was out of action.

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Iaquinta was eventually offered the matchup with Sanchez and that was the right enticement to bring him back to the table with a chance to compete against someone he respected long before he even decided to become a fighter.

The matchup was immediately pegged as a potential barn burner with “Fight of the Night” written all over it, but Iaquinta wasn’t looked to get paid by the hour in his first bout back in two years.

Following a couple of exchanges on the feet, Iaquinta saw an opening to unleash a hellish right hand that connected flush on Sanchez’s jaw as his legs turned to Jell-O and he folded in half down to the mat.

Sanchez has always been known for his incredible heart and durability so he got back to his feet, but Iaquinta had no plans of allowing the fight to make it to the second round so he threw one more crushing right hand that sent “The Ultimate Fighter” season one winner back to the ground.

It’s over!!

Al Iaquinta knocks out Diego Sanchez in the first round! #UFCNashville https://t.co/xKetEiBfdL

— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) April 23, 2017

Referee John McCarthy saw enough and quickly stepped into stop the carnage at 1:38 into the first round.

Iaquinta may have been away for two years, but the victory over Sanchez actually marked his fifth win in a row overall. As happy as he was to get back in action, Iaquinta still let the UFC know that they need to have a conversation in the near future.

“UFC, the sooner you realize I’m the man, the better off we’ll both be,” Iaquinta said following his victory.

Meanwhile, Sanchez has alternated wins and losses over his last six fights while suffering his second TKO in his past three performances.