Tavares helps Islanders get past Pens in shootout

Mar 24, 2017 23

John Tavares and Anthony Beauvillier scored in the shootout to lead the New York Islanders over the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Friday night.

Beauvillier opened the shootout with a goal, and Tavares snapped a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury in the next round. Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout for Pittsburgh, but Jaroslav Halak, making his first start since Dec. 29, stopped Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino.

Anders Lee scored his 28th goal of the season, while Brock Nelson got his 17th and Casey Cizikas his eighth for the Islanders, who moved into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. New York is tied with Boston at 82 points, but the Islanders have a game in hand on the Bruins. The Islanders have 18 wins in 31 games since Doug Weight was named interim coach on Jan. 17, replacing Jack Capuano.

Halak, a former All-Star, made 37 saves. He got the nod one day after he was recalled from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League. Halak, who has seven wins in 20 games, allowed four goals on 24 shots during a loss at Minnesota in his most recent start.

Crosby extended his NHL lead with his 42nd goal. He is five points behind Edmonton forward Connor McDavid for the NHL scoring lead. Cameron Gaunce scored his first with the Penguins and second of his career. Matt Cullen also scored his 11th for the Penguins, who missed out on an opportunity to pull even with the Washington Capitals atop the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh, with eight wins in its last 12 games, is one point behind the Capitals and two ahead of Columbus for third place. Fleury made 43 saves.

Cullen tied the game with 6:10 to play. He converted the rebound past Halak after Gaunce’s drive to the net.

The Penguins have remained in contention despite playing without a host of regular contributors.

Former NHL MVP Evgeni Malkin missed his fifth straight game with an upper-body injury, but forward Bryan Rust, who was also out with an upper-body injury, returned on Friday after missing 20 games.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Malkin is making progress, in addition to other injured regulars who are also skating. The list includes Kris Letang (upper body), Trevor Daley (knee), Olli Maatta (hand) and Ron Hainsey (upper body). Maatta has missed 17 games, while Letang and Daley have both been sidelined 14 games.

The Islanders hit three posts in the first period and had a goal waived off as time expired.

Nelson scored for the Islanders, but the goal was disallowed following Pittsburgh’s challenge for goaltender interference.

Nelson scored again in the second period and this one counted. Nelson tied the game after Gaunce opened the scoring early in the period for Pittsburgh.

Lee gave the Islanders the lead later in the period, a goal that was upheld after Pittsburgh challenged for offsides. Tavares recorded his 300th NHL assist and Josh Bailey his 300th point on the goal.

Crosby’s goal tied it, but Cizikas gave the Islanders the lead, scoring with 4.5 seconds left in the second period. Tavares stripped Chad Ruhwedel of the puck in the defensive zone and set up Cizikas for the goal.

NOTES: Penguins F Nick Bonino played in his 400th NHL game. … Islanders F Ryan Strome is out three to six weeks with an upper-body injury. Strome, who left Wednesday’s win against the New York Rangers, has 13 goals and 30 points in 69 games. … Islanders D Johnny Boychuk missed his 10th straight game with a lower-body injury.

UP NEXT

Islanders: Host Boston on Saturday.

Penguins: Welcome Philadelphia on Sunday.

DeChambeau, Points tied in Puerto Rico

Mar 24, 2017 16

Bryson DeChambeau ran off four straight birdies in a stop-and-start round and finished with a 7-under 65 to share the lead with D.A. Points in the rain-delayed Puerto Rico Open on Friday.

A rain delay kept the second round from being completed.

Points closed with a birdie for a 69 and joined DeChambeau at 11-under 133. Bill Lunde also was at 11 under and still had three holes left to play.

DeChambeau has shown spells of great golf since turning pro. He said six three-putts held him back at Bay Hill last week, and he worked to eliminate those at Coco Beach Golf and Country Club.

The tournament is opposite a World Golf Championships event, meaning the winner will not get an automatic spot in the Masters.

A day of dominance and survival at Match Play

Mar 24, 2017 36

Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson had another easy time and advanced to the knockout stage of the Dell Technologies Match Play.

Bill Haas delivered another great escape in the longest day at Austin Country Club.

Group play ended Friday with five sudden-death playoffs, and the final match felt like one. Zach Johnson needed to win the 18th hole to advance, and he did that when Brendan Steele made bogey from behind the green.

Now it’s onto single-elimination, with two rounds each of the next two days to find a winner — more like a survivor — in Match Play.

Johnson has been so dominant that he has led all 46 holes he has played. Mickelson is right behind, leading in 41 of the 42 holes he has played.

A lost week for McIlroy at Match Play

Mar 24, 2017 18

Call it a lost week in Texas in an already unusual year for Rory McIlroy.

The four-time major champion from Northern Ireland lost his opening round at the Dell Technologies Match Play, then lost any chance of advancing when Gary Woodland withdrew from the group a day later for what was described as a personal family matter. That move guaranteed Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen would win the group and McIlroy would be shut out of the knockout stages.

So what’s the world No. 2 to do? Time to look ahead to the Masters.

On Friday morning, McIlroy teed off against Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo and they splashed their way around a soggy Austin Country Club for a meaningless 18 holes. Even that was a dull affair as they halved the match before making their getaway for the weekend. McIlroy had played no fewer than seven matches in this tournament the previous two years and won it in 2015.

“Emiliano and I were just like, ‘What do we do?’ Walking up 18, we could have just called it a half and not even bothered,” McIlroy said. “It is odd whenever you have nothing to play for. I guess that’s both our faults. We didn’t win our matches on the first day. If it had been the old format, I would have already been home.”

The weird week in Austin was just another odd chapter for him in 2017.

He’s played only 14 official rounds of golf this year because a hairline fracture in a rib sidelined him for seven weeks. After Woodland withdrew, McIlroy sat out Thursday’s matches and watched the rest of the field battle winds that saw gusts top 30 mph.

McIlroy was glad to not be facing the same conditions, but it was one less round of golf with the Masters just two weeks away. McIlroy won’t change his plan to skip the Houston Open just to get in some extra play.

Georgia beckons.

“The injury hasn’t been ideal to start the year, but I’ve played Houston before and I never felt like it did anything for me,” McIlroy said. “I’d rather go up to Augusta, play a couple of quiet practice rounds, and then prepare at home and great ready to play.”

McIlroy said he’s felt good about his game the few times he’s been in competition this year.

“Every time I’ve played, I played well,” he said. “I think I was 7-under for the two rounds I played here. Speaking to Sergio (Garcia) after the first day, if I had played Sergio I would have beat him 6 and 5 and Soren beat me 2 and 1. So it is what it is.”

Significant injuries derail playoff hopes around NHL

Mar 24, 2017 20

There’s plenty of knocking on wood this time of year around the NHL as teams hope to avoid injuries that could damage their playoff hopes.

For some, it’s already too late.

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost Steven Stamkos for four months — and counting — and now Tyler Johnson. The Florida Panthers went without Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov for much of the year. The Los Angeles Kings tried to stay afloat without goaltender Jonathan Quick until late February but will likely miss the playoffs.

While the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins have withstood a barrage of injuries and the league-leading Washington Capitals have largely avoided them, they’re keenly aware of how quickly even one injury can make a difference.

“There’s other teams that are good teams that have just had some bad luck,” Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said. “Tampa Bay just couldn’t overcome the injuries. If Tampa Bay has Stamkos all the way through the season, they’d certainly be in a different place.”

Considered Cup contenders at the start of the season, the Lightning had to make a run just to get within three points of a playoff spot with nine games remaining.

The Panthers got Barkov and Huberdeau back and dug out of an early hole, but a lower-body injury to goaltender Roberto Luongo contributed to a 3-7-1 tailspin that might ultimately cost them the chance to make the postseason for a second consecutive year.

“Sometimes just your body breaks up because of the games and stuff like that,” said Barkov, who missed 15 games with a back injury. “Some teams just get more injuries, and some teams just get lucky not to get injuries.”

Injuries have again been the story of the year for the Penguins, who are currently without half their regular defense in Kris Letang, Trevor Daley and Olli Maatta, and also lost trade acquisition Ron Hainsey. But they haven’t missed a beat.

“The guys that have come in just understanding whatever role that they get, they have to be accepting of it,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “They have a lot of responsibility in most cases, too, because they’re filling in for some guys who play a lot of key minutes.”

Injuries were a severe blow to the Dallas Stars, with 292 man games lost, and 265 man games lost has put the Detroit Red Wings’ 25-season playoff streak in serious jeopardy. The Edmonton Oilers have around 300 man games lost, but unlike last year’s stumble when Connor McDavid broke his collarbone they are poised to end a 10-year playoff drought.

“This organization seems to have a way of getting beat up and having injuries and needing others to support the group, and this year I think we’ve done a better job,” coach Todd McLellan said. “We haven’t lost those key forwards, knock on wood, like we did last year.”

Tampa Bay did when Stamkos tore the meniscus in his right knee Nov. 15 after putting up 20 points in his first 17 games. Friday night marked his 57th consecutive game out of the lineup.

Yet in Washington, the Capitals have a grand total of 42 man games lost all season and have only dealt with a hand injury that sidelined forward Andre Burakovsky 15 games and upper-body ailments that cost T.J. Oshie 13. Defenseman Brooks Orpik believes the Capitals’ fortunes are a combination of off-ice injury prevention techniques and luck, while the team’s brass thinks it’s also about taxing players less each game.

“The team philosophy of going four lines and spreading the ice time out and spreading the ice time out on defense and spreading the ice time out among your goalies, I think it puts less stress on your lineup,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “Having a deep team, I think, results in less injuries.”

Depth up front helped the Chicago Blackhawks withstand captain Jonathan Toews’ nine-game absence with back problems, and having backup Antti Raanta kept the New York Rangers on track when goaltender Henrik Lundqvist went out for two weeks this month with a lower-body injury. Lundqvist is expected back this weekend.

The Columbus Blue Jackets feel fortunate not to need to test their depth again this season after injuries ravaged them to the count of 510 man games lost two years ago. They’ve overcome defenseman Seth Jones’ broken foot and Ryan Murray’s broken hand to make the playoffs for the third time in franchise history, so it doesn’t feel at all like 2014-15 in Columbus.

“It’s just too good of a league to be able to survive that type of season,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said. “This year we’ve been lucky and hopefully done some things right as well where we haven’t been injured as much and knock on wood hopefully stay healthy for the rest of the year.”

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AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow in Buffalo contributed.

Rahm routs Garcia in Spanish matchup

Mar 24, 2017 16

The Spanish duel in the Texas rain turned into a rout.

Jon Rahm ran countryman Sergio Garcia out of the Dell Technologies Match Play with a 6-and-4 victory Friday in a pairing that put the young bull of Spanish golf against its elder statesman. No contest, not on this day.

The victory put Rahm at 3-0 in group play and moved him on to Saturday’s quarterfinals against Charles Howell III.

Beating a childhood idol made for a sweet victory for the 22-year-old Rahm, but it also felt like a hit to the Spanish flag. Garcia, 37, failed to advance past the third round for the sixth consecutive year.

“I’d rather not play a fellow Spaniard. Obviously, representing Spain, we want as many Spaniards to make it as far as possible,” Rahm said. “We knew we were going to have fun. And just the emotion, sentiment of being friends and being out here in the World Golf Championship, it really is something that (made us want) to beat each other a little more.”

The match was set on Monday when the tournament draw put Garcia and Rahm in the same four-player group. The Friday pairing only raised the stakes, with a winner-take-all setup that sent the victor into the weekend and the loser home.

“He congratulated me and wished me the best of luck,” Rahm said. “I know that he’s bitter that he lost, but being a friend, he wanted to go as far as possible.”

Their round began with a hug at the first tee box and they were joined by a gallery that shouted “Vamos!” at their good shots and carried several large cutouts of Garcia’s smiling face. One young male fan wore the Spanish flag draped around his waist.

Rahm, perhaps a bit nervous, sent his first drive whizzing behind a spectator. He halved the hole when Garcia, in a generous mood early, let him pick up from just outside of 2 feet instead of forcing the putt for par. Rahm then won two of the next three as his game got sharper and as Garcia’s problems started.

Garcia missed the green on No. 4 as his ball tumbled into a rocky ravine and he had to avoid smashing his club on a large stone. His big miss came on the par-3 No. 11 when the tucked his tee shot inside of Rahm, then had a short birdie attempt to win the hole shave the right side of the cup.

Garcia’s round fell apart at the riverside tee box at No. 13. The golfers were already slogging through a soggy round when a brief shower pelted them as they left the No. 12 green. Garcia’s driver slipped in his hands and the ball snap hooked into the tall grass to his left, barely making it a few feet off the ground.

“I still had a chance and the heavens just opened on me and I almost lost the club. First, I thought I missed the ball. Second, I thought the club was gone and somehow I held onto it with the left hand. It was pretty much unplayable. But anyway, the match was already in bad shape there,” Garcia said.

Rahm finished it off when he nearly holed out from the fairway on No. 14.

Rahm was just 4 years old when Garcia turned professional in 1999 and earned the nickname “El Nino” with his boyish grin and his joyous runs up the fairway to watch big shots. Growing up in tiny Barrika, a town in the northern Basque country about 400 miles (645 km) from Garcia’s hometown of Borriol in the Valencia region, Rahm watched highlights of Garcia’s career and sometimes copied his fairway dashes.

“I’ve done it a few times. Not the same stage or pressure, but I’ve done it before,” Rahm said.

Rahm’s been on a rocket ride since turning pro out of Arizona State last year. It took him just four tournaments to earn his PGA tour card, and 12 events to earn his first victory in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. He came into the Match Play seeded No. 21 among the world’s top golfers.

The victory at Torrey Pines, with a last-day charge of 30 on the back nine, put all his potential on display.

“The main thing is not winning, it’s the way I won where I won,” Rahm said. “It’s not a place where rookies usually win for the first time.”

Rahm said the match play tournament format suits him well as he pursues his second victory.

“I feel like all of us Spaniards really play good at match play because of our aggressive mindset,” he said.

US star Lloyd quick to make her mark at Manchester City

Mar 24, 2017 13

U.S. captain Carli Lloyd did not need long to make an impact in the Women’s Champions League with Manchester City.

The two-time world player of the year scored the only goal on her competition debut as City edged Danish side Fortuna Hjorring 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal late Thursday.

Midfielder Lloyd powered a bullet header past the Fortuna goalkeeper in the 36th minute.

Lloyd, twice an Olympic champion and scorer a hat trick in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final victory, tweeted afterward: “Loved it!! Feels great to be a part of a special team. Onto the next match.”

The 34-year-old Lloyd joined City last month on a three-month deal from the Houston Dash.

The Latest: Mickelson heads into weekend at Match Play

Mar 24, 2017 18

The Latest on the Dell Technologies Match Play (all times local):

10:45 p.m.

Phil Mickelson has made it past the third round of the Dell Technologies Match Play for the first time since 2004.

J.B. Holmes didn’t make a birdie until the 12th hole, and all that did was extend the match. Mickelson closed him out on the next hole, 6 and 5, and won his group with a 3-0 record.

Mickelson last made it past the third round when the Match Play was single elimination. He lost to Davis Love III in the quarterfinals. That was so long ago that Nick Price, Colin Montgomerie, Jeff Sluman and Fred Couples were among those in the field, and Tiger Woods had just begun work with a new swing coach, Hank Haney.

Lefty now advances to the knockout stage this weekend at Austin Country Club.

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10:15 a.m.

Phil Mickelson is off to a strong start in his bid to get beyond the third round of the Dell Technologies Match Play for the first time in 13 years.

Mickelson won the opening three holes in his match against J.B. Holmes. He needs only to halve the match to advance out of group play. Eight other players, including No. 1 seed Dustin Johnson, face the same scenario Friday at Austin Country Club.

Because of three players withdrawing throughout the week, Soren Kjeldsen and Alex Noren already won their group and did not have to deal with the rain. Neither did Marc Leishman, who was to play Jason Day.

Leishman lost Thursday to Pat Perez. If Perez loses his third-round match, he would play Leishman in a sudden-death playoff.

Avalanche, Senators to play 2 regular-season games in Sweden

Mar 24, 2017 13

The Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators will play two games in Sweden next season, the NHL’s first regular-season games in Europe since 2011.

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association on Friday announced their new Global Series games Nov. 10 and 11 in Stockholm. This is the NHL’s sixth trip to Europe and the seventh and eighth games played in Sweden.

Colorado’s captain is 24-year-old Swedish forward Gabriel Landeskog. Ottawa’s captain is 26-year-old Swedish defenseman Erik Karlsson, winner of the 2012 and 2015 Norris Trophy.

“It’s going to be fun,” Karlsson said. “It’s good for the game. It’s good for the fans over there. Especially with the time difference, they don’t really have the opportunity to stay up and watch every game.”

The teams also have Swedish heritage in some of the best players in franchise history, notably Colorado’s Peter Forsberg and Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson.

“I think that’s going to bring maybe a few more people just for that sake,” Karlsson said. “I think having Gabe there who’s also a big character in Sweden, who’s played a lot of games for the national team, people can relate to him. He’s a great guy and he’s from Stockholm, so it’s going to be a great experience to share with him.”

Commissioner Gary Bettman says with more Swedish players than ever, this is a good chance to showcase the game in the country.

Eighty-four Swedes have played in the NHL this season, roughly 9 percent of the league. Landeskog and Karlsson are two of four Swedish-born captains, along with the Detroit Red Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg and Vancouver Canucks’ Henrik Sedin.

NHLPA executive director Don Fehr says the league and players are focused on “continued international growth,” with these games furthering that effort.

The league will make an announcement in Beijing next week, with Bettman and Chinese officials on hand. The NHL has expressed interest in playing in China, whose capital will host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

“We believe and I believe that China is the next great market for hockey,” Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said recently. “I’m sure one day you’ll see teams playing in China preseason games and maybe at some point games in the middle of the season. The league understands how important China is as a market, as a media market.”

Mickelson off to good start at Match Play in Texas

Mar 24, 2017 18

Phil Mickelson is off to a strong start in his bid to get beyond the third round of the Dell Technologies Match Play for the first time in 13 years.

Mickelson won the opening three holes in his match against J.B. Holmes. He needs only to halve the match to advance out of group play. Eight other players, including No. 1 seed Dustin Johnson, face the same scenario Friday at Austin Country Club.

Because of three players withdrawing throughout the week, Soren Kjeldsen and Alex Noren already won their group and did not have to deal with the rain. Neither did Marc Leishman, who was to play Jason Day.

Leishman lost Thursday to Pat Perez. If Perez loses his third-round match, he would play Leishman in a sudden-death playoff.