Stanley Cup playoffs three stars: Ducks break through on Pekka Rinne, Predators to claim Game 2

Much has been made about the impenetrable force that has been the Predators defensive unit, guiding an unlikely run to the Western Conference finals.

Sunday was a different story. The Ducks enjoyed a timely offensive breakthrough in the middle of Game 2 and held on for a 5-3 win to even their series at one game apiece as it heads to Nashville. Their four goals scored on an unusually flappable Predators goalie Pekka Rinne were the most in a single game all postseason.

In fact, Rinne had gone 21 starts dating to the regular season without allowing four goals.

He allowed more than two goals just three times in 12 playoff games heading into Monday as the dependable failsafe for the Preds’ blue chip blueliners.

That lead held until Bobby Ryan scored on a 5-on-3 power play with 6:45 remaining in the middle frame, ending a brutal 0-for-29 drought with the man advantage that had hung over the Sens’ heads like a dark cloud the last two series. Pittsburgh was winning the shot battle 34-19.

It wasn’t long into the third period before Mike Hoffman gave Ottawa its first lead since Game 4.

Hoffman gathered the puck near the blue line, skated into the high circle and uncorked an absolute beauty of a shot that caromed off the far-side post and into the net.

Pittsburgh applied plenty of pressure as the third period progressed, but Anderson was an immovable force in net. A Penguins too many men penalty with 4:05 to play all but extinguished their hopes at forcing overtime, coughing up a chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final for a fourth time in 10 years. At least for now.

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NHL playoffs 2017: Penguins demolish Senators 7-0 in Game 5

Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals if you call it call it that was nothing short of a senatorial bloodbath.

The Penguins won 7-0, with seven different players each scoring a goal. The game was over by the first period, with Pittsburgh scoring four goals on a shellshocked Craig Anderson. The scored one and two more goals in the second and third periods, respectively, to put a stamp on the win.

When Pegula fired Bylsma and Murray back in April, he made it clear he wanted to instill three characteristics into the organization that had been lacking: discipline, structure and communication.

Botterill’s plan checks all three boxes.

He’s pretty much done everything you can do in hockey, from being a player, being involved in evaluating, drafting, developing and then molding those players between two teams, the AHL and the NHL team, Pegula said. That takes a lot of discipline and a lot of structure.

You can see he’s well prepared. He’s been through the wars with the Pittsburgh organization.

That kind of goal-scoring production could help to fulfill some of those expectations Niedereiter talked about.

I’m not concerned about it at all, Niederreiter said. I’m still very young and I know I have a lot of room to grow. I haven’t had my best season yet.

With the ice time and everything there’s a lot of things I want to get better (at) and can get better. The more money you make the more pressure you will get from the outside perspective, but you have to perform on the ice and you have to do what you can do.

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NBA Finals 2017: Kevin Durant leads late Game 3 rally, brings Warriors one win from perfection

Brooms are being moved out of Cleveland’s closets as we speak.

The Warriors erased a six-point deficit late in the fourth quarter to win Game 3 of the NBA Finals 118-113 in Cleveland. Kevin Durant led Golden State with 31 points, and is now just the third player in history to score at least 25 points in his first eight NBA Finals games.

After outscoring the Cavs 29-19 in the fourth quarter, the Warriors set the record (15 straight victories) for the longest playoff win streak in history among the four major North American pro sports.

Cleveland must be in shock. The Cavaliers looked like the stronger team and had momentum on their side throughout most of the game. However, Durant and the Warriors were poised and dangerous down the stretch.

Whitlock seemed to have the biggest problem with James comparing his situation to Emmett Till, an African-American teenager who was brutality murdered in Mississippi in 1955 at the age of 14.

The people that murdered Emmett Till got off, an all-white jury let them off, there was no real investigation, the whole town was against him. LeBron’s $20 million Brentwood home gets vandalized and I see two or three police cars trying to get to the bottom of it. LeBron’s staff, I’m sure, cleaned up the spray paint within hours. This ain’t Emmett Till, said Whitlock.

When all is said and done, this looks like a win-win for everyone involved. New Orleans turned a good receiver into high picks at the peak of his value, while Cooks gets to play with Tom Brady and contend for Super Bowls.

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NBA playoffs 2017: Kevin Durant’s Finals trip with Warriors easy as 1-2-3-4

Kevin Durant took shots from, essentially, four spots on the floor in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.

He shot within three feet of the rim four times (three makes), took four shots from the elbow (two from each side, making all four), popped one turnaround in the lane and attempted four 3-pointers, two from each wing (converting two).

These are Durant’s heat zones. With a depleted Spurs defense lined up against the Warriors, it wasn’t surprising he had so little trouble getting himself set up in those spots. He earned seven trips to the free-throw line and, in all, finished Golden State’s Game 4 clincher over the Spurs with 29 points on just 13 field-goal attempts in 37 minutes.

After a comeback victory against the Cavs in Game 3, the Warriors are one win away from completing a perfect 16-0 postseason sweep, the first in NBA history. Golden State finished Game 3 on an 11-0 run, including a clutch Kevin Durant 3-pointer in transition to give the Warriors the lead for good.

James threw down a thunderous off an assist from backup point guard Deron Williams to put the Cavaliers up 41-33 with 10:14 left before halftime. Durant, who was defending in transition, clearly smacked James upside the head as he contested the attempt at the rim before the four-time MVP powered through for the ferocious finish.

It was the same kind of incidental contact Cavs forward Kevin Love was whistled for a flagrant foul after Durant complained to refs in Game 3.

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Dexter Fowler gets Cubs World Series ring, promptly homers off John Lackey

Dexter Fowler hit .250 with three home runs, six RBIs and 11 runs for the Cubs in the postseason last year. He helped them win their first World Series title in 108 years. Then the Cubs let him walk, opting to give Albert Almora Jr. a chance in center field.

But the Cubs and their fans embraced the 31-year old outfielder and showed him a lot of respect as he got his World Series ring Friday before the match-up with his new team, the archrival Cardinals.

Fowler was so honored that he decided to give the fans a little taste of how much they pumped him up. On the first pitch of the game Friday he did this:

Dex turns from celebrated hero to villain in just one swing! Flip over to CSN for more of this rivalry.

Why that’s surprising: Look, Santana has been a pretty reliable starting pitcher in the majors for a long time, but what he’s done so far this season is kind of crazy. You see the numbers above, his MLB-leading totals.

RP Chris Young
Age: 38. Status: $8 million mutual option for 2018 ($1.5 million buyout)
Need to know: Young actually turned 38 today, which makes me feel a bit guilty for pointing out what he’s done so far this season. The veteran right-hander was vital to the 2015 World Series title, posting a 2.87 ERA in 15 2/3 postseason innings, but he’s struggled massively this year. In 22 1/3 innings, Young has allowed 46 base runners (34 hits, 11 walks, 1 hit-by-pitch) and has a 6.85 ERA. This, on the heels of a 6.19 ERA in 34 games (13 starts) in 2016. If he doesn’t turn it around, quickly, the only decision looming about Young will be when the club releases him.

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