Stroud takes 1-shot lead in Puerto Rico

Mar 25, 2017 16

Chris Stroud birdied his final hole Saturday to cap off a 5-under 67 and take a one-shot lead in the Puerto Rico Open as he goes for his first PGA Tour victory.

One shot behind was a pair of past PGA Tour winners, Bill Lunde and D.A. Points, who each shot 69.

The Puerto Rico Open is the 277th start of Stroud’s career. The closest he came to winning was a playoff loss in the 2013 Travelers Championship. He lost full status on the PGA Tour last year for the first time since 2008.

Stroud was at 15-under 201 and has more than just Lunde and Points to worry about. Ten players were within three shots of the lead. Andrew “Beef” Johnston was among those two shots behind.

Bobrovsky terrific again as Blue Jackets beat Flyers 1-0

Mar 25, 2017 18

Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 saves in his seventh shutout of the season, helping the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0 on Saturday.

Bobrovsky was terrific in his NHL-leading 40th win, and Alexander Wennberg tipped in the game’s only goal in the second period. The gritty victory in front of a sellout crowd broke a two-game losing streak for the playoff-bound Blue Jackets and moved them into a tie with idle Pittsburgh for second in the Metropolitan Division.

Boucher scores twice, Canucks top slumping Wild

Mar 25, 2017 19

Reid Boucher scored twice in Vancouver’s four-goal second period and the Canucks defeated the slumping Minnesota Wild 4-2 on Saturday.

Brock Boeser and Jack Skille also scored for Vancouver, while Richard Bachman stopped 25 shots in just his third start of the season.

Ryan Suter and Eric Staal scored for Minnesota late in the third period and Darcy Kuemper made 17 saves in his first start since March 12. The Wild have lost seven of their last eight and are now 3-10-0 in March.

The Canucks were 1-5-2 in their last eight games, but they didn’t have any problem with the Wild. Boucher scored a power-play goal 19 seconds into the second period, gathering a rebound in the slot and wrapping it around a crowd of players and past Kuemper. Two Minnesota defenders had a chance to clear the rebound but couldn’t control it, leaving Boucher free to tuck it into the corner of the net.

Pulisic becomes heartbeat of US team at age 18

Mar 25, 2017 21

Christian Pulisic gallops elegantly past defenders like a gazelle, with the enthusiasm of youth and a sense of positioning that belies his inexperience.

At age 18, he’s getting significant playing time at European power Borussia Dortmund.

And he’s American.

“I just think he’s so much further ahead than I was or than any of us were at that age,” Landon Donovan said.

A week after becoming just the seventh American to score in the Champions League — and the youngest — Pulisic got one goal and set up three others Friday in the United States’ 6-0 rout of Honduras in a critical World Cup qualifier.

“He’s a great player. He can beat people one-on-one on the dribble. He creates mismatches because of that,” Clint Dempsey said after Pulisic assisted on two of his three goals. “It’s great to have players like that can win that one-v.-one battle and kind of break teams open.”

Before Pulisic became an American phenom, he was a wunderkind in Germany. He left Hershey, Pennsylvania, to sign with Borussia Dortmund in February 2015 and after an impressive winter-break training camp made his Bundesliga debut on Jan. 30 last year. He had two goals in 12 appearances, becoming the youngest foreigner to score in the Bundesliga.

He has five goals and eight assists in 31 club appearances this season, and has scored this month in the Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League.

“Playing in more big games there, it’s just gaining experience,” he said.

No. 10 jerseys in soccer have a mystique, assigned to the best players on teams like Pele, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, and worn on millions of replica kits around the globe. Donovan was 24 when he took over as the American No. 10 following captain Claudio Reyna’s retirement in 2006. Pulisic was 17 years, 349 days, when he inherited the jersey last Sept. 2 — then coach Jurgen Klinsmann attributed the decision to equipment manager Jesse Bignami. Pulisic scored twice that day at St. Vincent and the Grenadines — the youngest U.S. player with a goal in World Cup qualifying.

Almost daily, Pulisic hears comparisons with Donovan. Back in 2002, Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley were both 20 when they helped the U.S. reach the World Cup quarterfinals in the best American result since the first tournament in 1930.

“He was an idol of mine,” Pulisic said. “It’s obviously an honor, but I’m my own player, as well. So I’m just trying to do it for me.”

Pulisic made his national team debut last March 29 in a qualifier against Guatemala and he scored his first international goal in a May friendly against Bolivia. At an age when many past U.S. players were finishing high school or starting college, he already has four goals in 12 international appearances, and he has become close with national team regulars, mentioning Geoff Cameron and Alejandro Bedoya.

He is used to high-pressure matches, playing home games before the demanding crowd in Dortmund’s 81,360 capacity Signal Iduna Park, where 24,000-plus yellow-and-black-clad supporters cram into the standing room-only south stand, known as the Suedtribuene.

“He has built a platform that is as of this time I think unprecedented for an American player,” former American goalkeeper Kasey Keller said.

Already, Pulisic has earned special treatment. His agent instructed the U.S. Soccer Federation not to allow one-on-one media interviews. When Pulisic speaks in group sessions, he is poised and thoughtful.

“Part of it is a testament to him and part of it is a testament to how far we’ve come, because people are prepared now much better,” Donovan said. “For people who have been in this for a long time, it’s great: Someone can go to Dortmund at 18 and not be overwhelmed by it because he’s been watching it, he’s seen it, he’s been there, he’s seen other players do it, he’s seen Dempsey in the Premier League for years, and it’s not a big deal. So it’s a natural evolution, and I’m glad it’s happening.”

Bruce Arena, who took over from Klinsmann following losses to Mexico and Costa Rica in qualifiers last November, moved Pulisic into central midfield against Honduras, a role that allowed Pulisic to become the heartbeat of the U.S. attack.

“He continues to make progress as a player and a person,” Arena said. “He has very little experience at the international level and he’s going to need to get a taste of it to continue to grow as a player, but he has all the tools to become a very good player.”

Fifteen years ago, Arena decided to make Donovan a central component of his first U.S. World Cup team.

“He does remind of Landon, but he has a long way to go before he gets to stand next to Landon,” Arena said. “Christian is just starting and we don’t know what it’s going to look like 10 years down the road.”

Phil Mickelson heads to Match Play quarterfinals in Texas

Mar 25, 2017 15

Phil Mickelson won three straight holes around the turn and coasted to another victory to reach the quarterfinals of the Dell Technologies Match Play.

Mickelson last reached the quarterfinals in 2004, losing to Davis Love III.

With his 4-and-3 victory over Marc Leishman, Mickelson now has played 57 holes without trailing this week at Austin Country Club. He also has yet to play the 16th, 17th and 18th holes since the second round in 2016.

Next up for Mickelson is Bill Haas, who advanced out of group play by winning a six-hole playoff and then went 18 holes Saturday morning to hold off Kevin Na.

Soren Kjeldsen and Jon Rahm won their fourth-round matches on the 14th hole and face each other in the afternoon.

Devin Booker scores 70 against Celtics, but Suns lose

Mar 25, 2017 23

Devin Booker scored 70 points, becoming the sixth player in N.B.A. history to reach that total, but the Boston Celtics got 34 points from Isaiah Thomas and outlasted the Phoenix Suns by 130-120 on Friday night.

Booker joined Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, David Thompson, David Robinson and Elgin Baylor as the N.B.A.’s 70-point scorers. Baylor also held the previous record against the Celtics with 64 points in Minneapolis for the Lakers on Nov. 8, 1959.

The win was Boston’s third straight, and it avenged its buzzer-beater loss in Phoenix earlier this month.

The rematch was dominated early by the Celtics as they hit eight 3-pointers during a 37-point second quarter to grow their lead as high as 26 points.

Chamberlain had six 70-point games, and his 62 points on Jan. 14, 1962, had been the most in Boston.

Phoenix has already been eliminated from playoff contention, and had only eight available players because of injuries. Younger than some lineups in the N.C.A.A. tournament, the Suns have lost seven straight and nine of their last 10, and they were out of this one early before Booker’s explosive performance made it interesting.

His previous career best was 39, which he had reached three times before Friday. He had 19 points at halftime, then scored 23 in the third quarter to get the Suns back within range.

Boston took advantage of a disastrous shooting start by the Suns to build an early cushion.

The Suns missed their first 13 shots from the floor before Booker finally hit the first field goal for Phoenix on a layup with 4 minutes 40 seconds left in the first quarter.

Cogliano's gift of a goal leads Ducks to 3-1 win over Jets

Mar 25, 2017 39

Andrew Cogliano scored late in the second period, Jonathan Bernier made 17 saves and the Anaheim Ducks beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 on Friday night.

Corey Perry and Jakob Silvferberg also scored for Anaheim, which is now tied with San Jose for the lead in the Pacific Division with eight games remaining for both teams. The Sharks lost 6-1 to Dallas, giving the Ducks renewed hope of winning the division title for the fifth season in a row.

Silfverberg scored an empty-net goal with 1:07 to play.

Bernier’s outstanding play in relief of John Gibson has been a big reason why the Ducks are in contention for another division banner, improving to 7-0-1 in his last eight games. They’ve won three straight overall.

Josh Morrissey scored a power-play goal and Michael Hutchinson made 32 saves for the Jets, who did not pick up a point in eight games this season against Anaheim, San Jose and Edmonton, the top three teams in the Pacific Division.

Dempsey hat trick lifts US over Honduras 6-0 to rebound

Mar 25, 2017 31

Bruce Arena’s return as U.S. coach reignited American confidence, and his players responded with an emphatic rebound in World Cup qualifying.

Clint Dempsey returned from an irregular heartbeat to score his second international hat trick, 18-year-old phenom Christian Pulisic had one goal and set up three others, and the U.S. routed Honduras 6-0 Friday night to get right back in contention for an eighth straight World Cup berth.

Surprise starter Sebastian Lletget got his first international goal in the fifth minute after Pulisic’s shot deflected off the goalkeeper, Michael Bradley doubled the lead in the 27th and Dempsey scored off Pulisic’s perfectly weighted chip in the 32nd.

Finding room to maneuver in a central midfield role, Pulisic made it 4-0 just 12 seconds into the second half with his fourth international goal, Dempsey rounded the keeper to score following a Pulisic feed in the 49th, and Dempsey got another on a 23-yard free kick in the 54th. With 55 international goals, Dempsey moved within two of Landon Donovan’s American record.

In its first competitive match since Arena replaced Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. moved from last to fourth in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, tied at three points with Honduras but ahead on goal difference, Mexico leads with seven points, followed by Costa Rica with six and Panama with four.

The top three nations qualify for next year’s tournament in Russia, and the fourth-place nation advances to a playoff. With a victory at Panama on Tuesday, the Americans could move into the top three.

The U.S. had never before won a hexagonal game by more than three goals.

And oh how the American Outlaws and others among the lively home crowd loved every second of this long-awaited showing, chanting “Michael Bradley!” and “Demp-sey! Demp-sey!” through the Bay Area rain and cool March air.

Then, it was “Bruce Arena! Bruce Arena!”

Gloom descended upon the Americans in November when they opened the hexagonal with a 2-1 home loss to Mexico and a 4-0 wipeout at Costa Rica. The defeats caused the U.S. Soccer Federation to fire Klinsmann, who had coached the Americans since 2011, and bring back Arena, who lead the team from 1998-2006.

Dempsey, 34 and hoping to reach a fourth World Cup, was sidelined from August until this month by an irregular heartbeat and likely was starting only because of injuries to Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris. Tim Howard, the Americans’ 38-year-old goalkeeper, got the shutout after returning only two weeks ago from a leg injury sustained in the loss to Mexico.

Geoff Cameron, back from a knee strain that had sidelined him for fourth months, was shifted to right back from central defense because of injuries to others, and Jorge Villafana was inserted on the left.

But there were yet more injuries. Lletget hurt his left ankle on Ever Alvarado’s tackle and was replaced in the 18th minute, and defender John Brooks was stretchered off the field, hand over his face, in the 69th due to dehydration.

From the opening whistle, the U.S. played more aggressively than in the latter years of Klinsmann’s reign. Arena revamped the midfield, giving a prominent role to Pulisic, who last week became the youngest American to score in the Champions League. He inserted Lletget and Nagbe, who were largely overlooked by Klinsmann last year, on the flanks.

The U.S. went ahead when Jozy Altidore picked up a loose ball and on his second try poked the ball ahead to Pulisic. His left-footed shot that went off goalkeeper Donis Escobar, and Lletget tapped in the ball with his right foot from 2 yards.

Bradley, given his debut by Arena in 2006, doubled the lead when he took a pass from Alejando Bedoya, cut to his left, took four touches and cut the ball back to beat Escobar with one-hopper from about 25 yards.

Showing poise beyond his years, Pulisic created the third goal when he lofted a pass to Dempsey, who allowed the ball of bounce off his right shoulder. Dempsey held off Henry Figueroa and while falling scored with his right foot from 8 yards.

Cracknell gets 1st hat trick, Stars beat reeling Sharks 6-1

Mar 24, 2017 27

Adam Cracknell got his first hat trick in seven NHL seasons and the Dallas Stars handed the San Jose Sharks their fifth straight loss, 6-1 on Friday night.

Cracknell opened the scoring in the first period, capped a three-goal flurry in the second and beat goalie Aaron Dell on a short-handed breakaway in the third for his career-high 10th goal of the season.

The Sharks entered two points ahead of Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division despite their longest losing streak of the season. San Jose has been outscored 16-5 during the stretch.

Brett Ritchie, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg also scored for the Stars.

Joe Thornton scored for San Jose on the power play in the second period. Dell had 23 saves.

Dallas’ Kari Lehtonen made 20 saves four nights after shutting out San Jose.

Kucherov tips in OT winner, Lightning beat Red Wings 2-1

Mar 24, 2017 24

Nikita Kucherov scored 3:28 into overtime to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Friday night.

Situated on the edge of the crease, Kucherov redirected a hard pass from Brayden Point into the net.

The Lightning are one point behind the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild card.

Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring 8:03 into the second period. Taking a backhand pass from Gustav Nyquist, Zetterberg flipped a knuckling wrist shot toward the goal and over the stick-side shoulder of goalie Andrei Vasilievskiy, who struggled to find the puck through the screen of teammate Point.