Ex-NFL star Aaron Hernandez acquitted in Boston double murder

He was not charged in the 2012 killings until 2014.In his first trial, jurors deliberated for 36 hours over seven days before convicting him of murder.Jurors in the trial that concluded Friday deliberated for about 37 hours. It convicted him of a single charge: unlawful possession of a gun. A defence attorney hugged him. He said Hernandez later opened fire on the men’s car as they waited at a stoplight.Hernandez’s lawyers said it was Bradley — an admitted drug dealer — who shot the men over a drug deal. He was cut from the team shortly after he was arrested in Lloyd’s killed in June 2013. Prosecutors in the double-murder trial weren’t allowed to mention his conviction in Lloyd’s case.Bradley claimed Hernandez became enraged after de Abreu bumped into him while dancing. Ex-NFL star Aaron Hernandez, who is already serving a life sentence for a 2013 murder, was acquitted Friday in a 2012 double slaying prosecutors said was fueled by his anger over a spilled drink.The former tight end for the New England Patriots wept quietly as the verdicts were read in Boston. Bradley is serving a five-year prison term in Connecticut for firing shots at a Hartford nightclub in 2014.Hernandez grew up in Bristol, Connecticut, and played for the Patriots from 2010 to 2012. After six days of deliberations, the jury found Hernandez not guilty of first-degree murder in the killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. A few moments later, he looked back at his fiancee and nodded somberly as relatives of the victims sobbed loudly. About six weeks after Furtado and de Abreu were killed, Hernandez signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the Patriots and went on to play another season before Lloyd was killed. The judge sentenced him to an additional four to five years in prison, separate from his existing life sentence.Prosecutors said Hernandez opened fire on their car because he felt disrespected when one of the men bumped into him and spilled his drink at a Boston nightclub.The defence team pointed the finger at Alexander Bradley, a close friend of Hernandez who was with him the night of the shootings.Hernandez was also acquitted Friday of shooting Bradley in the face months later to try to silence him as a witness. The defence hammered at Bradley’s credibility, citing his immunity deal with prosecutors to testify against Hernandez, his role as the driver of the car the night of the shootings and his criminal record. Bradley lost his right eye.Hernandez, 27, is already serving a life sentence for the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee.

Senators’ Methot could return from mangled finger injury on Saturday

To what extent the Senators are not about to say.Karlsson, who missed the last three games of the regular season after taking a shot off his skate, took a regular shift in the playoff opener. “I think at the end of the day, I just want to be able to be an effective player and help the team when I am coming back in and not hurting anybody by coming back prematurely.“So I think when I get to that point, whether it be tomorrow or the next game or whenever, we’ll deal with it.”Methot is not the only health concern for the Senators.Karlsson, their star defenceman, is obviously still bothered by a sore right ankle. Talk about an upper-body injury.It took about 12 stitches to reattach and Methot has yet to return to his role as a steady defender along the blueline with the Ottawa Senators as his pinky continues to heal.Methot missed the last nine games of the NHL’s regular season and then the first game of Ottawa’s Eastern Conference quarter-final playoff on Wednesday against the visiting Boston Bruins.Despite being outplayed by a wide margin, the Bruins scored twice in the final period to carve out a 2-1 victory. Really. The only evidence of the damage was a black bandage that wrapped the pinky.Methot practised on Friday and is obviously close to returning. The second game, with a 3 p.m. “And again, I think it was good enough last game. I think that’s where it’s at. (ET) start time, is Saturday at the Canadian Tire Centre.“We looked like, scared to lose instead of hungry to win,” Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said after the loss, chalking it all up as a valuable learning experience for his team.All signs are pointing to Methot’s return for Saturday’s game.“He was ready to go last game, so we’re obviously getting closer and closer,” Boucher said on Friday after the Senators practised. He takes my guy, I take your guy. Marc Methot is the owner of quite likely the most famous pinky finger in sports.Specifically, we’re speaking of the one on his left hand, the one that Sidney Crosby nearly amputated with a swift, not to mention painful, swipe with his hockey stick about three weeks ago.That whack sent Methot scurrying off the ice, but not before removing his glove to reveal the gruesome sight of the top portion of his bloodied, mangled digit just sort of hanging there by a strand. And hopefully next game we can play a little bit better.”“We just want to make sure that things don’t flare up,” Boucher said, trying to explain the captain’s limited practice time. That’s my attitude.”Melnyk went on to describe Crosby as a “whiner beyond belief.”You sense that Methot just wants to move on from the widely publicized chop and get back in the game as the primary defensive sidekick of Erik Karlsson, the Ottawa captain.When speaking with the media on Friday, Methot diligently tried to keep his left hand hidden from view. He played well and assisted on Ottawa’s only goal by Bobby Ryan, but he was hardly his explosive self and the ankle is obviously still affecting his mobility.He practised Friday, but left the ice early.“It feels good enough to play,” Karlsson said. He can do everything else. Now it’s a question of can he, under pressure, can he give us a good shot when he’s going to need to? “And for me it’s about, can he shoot? I think that we played a decent game, myself and everybody else. “How about a season for a few of these guys? But we’re getting really, really close, that’s for sure.”Other than provide regular updates on his healing process, Methot has said little about Crosby’s slash on March 23, which did not draw a penalty.He left that to Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk, who reacted scornfully toward the Pittsburgh Penguins star, who said he was only trying to strike the stick of the Senators defenceman.Crosby obviously missed.“You do anything that’s almost a certain injury and I think the only way to do it is you wipe the guy off the map for not one or two games, [but] 10,” Melyk sounded off to an Ottawa radio station at the time. But if he knows if he’s playing Saturday, he’s not saying.“There’s a whole bunch of stuff going on,”Methot said.

Maple Leafs learned playoff lessons the hard way in Game 1

He became the latest instant big story in the NHL playoffs a little more than five minutes into overtime when he threw the puck at the net and caught Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen, who had been flashing his glove all night like Troy Tulowitzki, thinking he was going to pass. The Leafs did well without him but substitute Martin Marincin often looked overwhelmed and it was his failed clearing attempt that led to Wilson’s goal.But at least the Leafs are still talking a good game.“I think some guys getting their first game under their belt, I think you’ll see a little bit more confidence out of us,” forward James van Riemsdyk said. And then they gave us some opportunities, we earned some opportunities and we were able to capitalize on a couple.“I think from our standpoint, we’re looking at it as we didn’t play our best game. Ditto for the Caps’ fourth line of Wilson, Jay Beagle and Daniel Winnik, which not only provided the big goal but first kept Auston Matthews’s line tied up and then switched to Kadri’s line when Ovechkin needed a break.Now the Leafs have to go into Game 2 facing a deep, veteran opponent that got a wake-up call in the first game. “At playoff time, there’s no better play. More food for thought heading into Saturday night’s second game of their first-round NHL playoff series is that even one mistake in a playoff game will kill you, let alone two. Capitals head coach Barry Trotz made it clear his team knows it dodged a bullet in Game 1.“There’s a saying in the coaching fraternity, ‘It’s not always what you get it’s what you leave,’” Trotz said Friday. Louis Blues and Melker Karlsson of the San Jose Sharks in scoring the winners. The result was a 3-2 comeback win after the Leafs had a 2-0 lead in the first period.Now Wilson has a chance to join unsung playoff heroes such as John Druce, one of his Caps predecessors who went from fringe player to scoring 14 goals in 15 playoff games in 1990 including four game-winners. I thought early in the game we left them lots of opportunities, and we were fortunate that they didn’t capitalize on as many as we did. They will also have the same short-handed defence corps, as the injured Nikita Zaitsev is still unable to play. The reason so many of them come from the ranks of the third and fourth lines or third defence pair is that the stars as often as not are smothered because everyone checks like a maniac, particularly in the first round.Nazem Kadri and linemates Leo Komarov and Connor Brown did such a good job containing Alexander Ovechkin’s line in the first period on Thursday that Trotz quickly used his home advantage of last line change to keep them away from his big scorer. “What you leave sometimes are opportunities for the other team. You also have to be careful of everyone on the ice because NHL history is full of unlikely heroes, such as Caps fourth-liner Tom Wilson, who scored the winning goal in overtime in the series opener. It’ll be another hard-fought game, and we’ll see what happens.” Just get to the net and get people to the net without it and shoot the pill.”That is exactly what happened with Wilson. Even better, Wilson is a Toronto native who grew up as a Leafs fan and then was dismissed by Babcock on the eve of the playoffs.“Nothing against [Wilson] because he works hard and all that, but he’s not as big a concern as a lot of people on their team,” Babcock said.It was a valid point and even Wilson agreed with it: “Honestly, it’s a pretty true quote.”Babcock overlooked the old saw about NHL playoff heroes. Or there is Chris Kontos, who scored nine goals in 11 playoff games with the Los Angeles Kings in 1989, although some guy named Gretzky was setting him up.There is also more recent history, such as this week when Wilson was joined by fellow worker bees Joel Edmundson of the St. “I think there are some things we can clean up. The Toronto Maple Leafs came out flying and hitting in their first playoff game but wound up learning the hardest lesson in the ultimate school of hard knocks, the Stanley Cup playoffs.Now, instead of the Washington Capitals having to spend two nights fretting about blowing a playoff game and the franchise’s reputation for postseason flops, it is the young Maple Leafs who have to think about a missed opportunity. That helped take the Capitals to the conference final. That was far from our best game and we got a victory.”Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock was thinking the same thing.“I really thought we passed up a ton of opportunities to shoot the puck , trying to make a better play, a better play,” he said.

Flames need one win at Honda Horror Show

We’ve got to do a better job of that throughout the series.”In all, Getzlaf played a whopping 23 minutes 57 seconds, tops on the team and big minutes for a forward. By contrast, the best Flames’ player was third-liner Kris Versteeg, who produced a two-assist night.“It was the first playoff game for a lot of our guys in a long time,” Versteeg said. You’ve got to move on, even if you won.”Over all, the mood in the Calgary camp was – if not light exactly – still relatively optimistic. Instead, the Ducks kept winning draws cleanly; clearing the puck out of the zone, and taking precious seconds off the clock.And while discipline and line changes are two areas of the game that can theoretically be fixed quickly, getting better results in the faceoff circle could prove more problematic.Getzlaf, especially, was an absolute force for the Ducks, easily the best player on the ice, with a goal, an assist, a monster hit on Flames’ defenceman Mark Giordano and a 12-8 record in the faceoff circle.“If you’re not winning faceoffs, obviously the other team’s going to have the puck more often,” said Flames’ centre Sean Monahan, who scored the team’s first goal and saw a lot of Getzlaf head-to-head on the night. If nothing else, at some point the law of averages suggests the results will have to go their way some day. The Ducks were particularly good when it mattered most, during a 74-second, two-man Flames’ advantage in the final minutes of play, where a goal could have squared the game and forced overtime. It’s just that, so far, whatever the Flames try, the Ducks do a little better. You’ve got to compete in the circle, but everyone’s got to buy in, with wingers coming in and helping. “The guys were excited about it, but now we can settle in and just play hockey in Game 2. “But the bottom line is, streaks are going to get broken at some point. But they’re definitely correctable and we’ll correct them tomorrow.”Over all, the Ducks held a49-29 edge in the faceoff circle, which was not unexpected, given how effective their trio of centres – Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Antoine Vermette – are in between the dots. It’s a seven-game series for a reason. On the final day of March, San Jose Sharks defenceman Brent Burns sat in a locker stall at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, ruminating over how to turn around a season that was quickly going off the rails.After pondering the traditional hockey options, Burns then wondered if the solution wasn’t something more off-beat: “Maybe we need a witch doctor or something.”

Almost from the moment the witch-doctor diagnosis left Burns’s mouth, the Sharks got their act together.Just a coincidence?So on Friday, as the Calgary Flames tried to pick up the pieces from a narrow 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in the opener of their best-of-seven playoff series, you wondered if they needed an otherworldly solution to their continuing Anaheim woes?After all, there appears to be some strange voodoo happening at Honda Center, where the Flames haven’t won a game since 2006, a total of 28 consecutive defeats if you add regular-season failure to playoff futility.Sadly, there wasn’t a single available witch doctor listed in the Orange County Yellow Pages. Helpfully, Yelp supplied a comprehensive offering of psychics, astrologers, tarot-card readers and fortune tellers to reverse the Flames’ fortunes and even a few spin doctors if that failed.Mostly, though, the Flames were looking for more traditional on-ice solutions during a lightly attended Friday practice at Honda Center, in advance of Saturday’s second game of the series.They’ll argue the gap between the teams in the opener was relatively narrow and that the key to the opening-night loss was a couple of momentary lapses, a few too many undisciplined penalties and a bad night in the faceoff circle after the first 20 minutes.Down 2-1, Anaheim turned the game’s momentum by scoring on a three-on-zero second-period rush, the result of a badly timed Calgary line change.Defenceman Deryk Engelland fell on his sword for that miscue, saying that, as the right-side defenceman during the second-period long line change, it was his responsibility to stay put on the play.“Furthest guy from the bench, I can’t come off there,” said Engelland, who suggested the Flames will be more disciplined in all areas next time out, after surrendering two power-play goals on seven chances in the opener.“There were a lot of stick infractions, where we don’t need to take those penalties – and they made us pay. The one thing they know for sure – if they hope to win the series, they’ll need at least one victory at the Honda Horror Show.“The winning streak, it’s a good one for us and a bad one for them,” cautioned Ducks’ coach Randy Carlyle. That’s the dangerous part.”Carlyle is correct, and on paper, it isn’t a wide mismatch between the teams. “I mean, faceoffs start with the centreman.

Armed with bolstered roster, Raptors look to make deep NBA playoff run

Each featured an early afternoon game in Toronto before thunderous crowds inside and outside the Air Canada Centre.Whether the players were inexperienced, overhyped, underwhelmed, or outplayed, an inexplicable Toronto loss resulted each time.The Raptors were relieved to learn this week that the NBA didn’t, for a fourth straight year, give them the earliest start time.“Well we have changed it from a 6 a.m. 6-seeded Milwaukee, especially after taking three of their four meetings this season and going 13-2 against them over the past four seasons. 3 seed in the East, will be heavily favoured against No. Just then, coach Dwane Casey walked by and happily enlightened Ujiri: “Those guys are talking about defence.”Ujiri shared the anecdote to illustrate the increased intensity the Raptors added by trading for Ibaka and Tucker. A host of Raptors – including Tucker, DeMarre Carroll and Patrick Patterson – will try to smother one of the league’s most dynamic talents, Giannis (the Greek Freak) Antetokounmpo.Toronto’s two all-stars both had career bests in scoring this season. It was music to his ears.The team president heard recently added players Serge Ibaka and P.J. While most never gave Toronto the slightest chance in that series last year, the additions of Tucker and Ibaka (not to mention the late-season slide of Cleveland) make it far more intriguing this year.“If you’re looking at a series that goes seven games, you’ll get a couple of those dirty, nasty games where neither team catches a rhythm and makes shots, and the defence catches up to what you’re doing and they take away your top option and it’s like a 92-91 game,” said TNT analyst Kevin McHale on a teleconference with NBA writers this week. DeRozan will try to play through a web of defensive schemes that Bucks coach Jason Kidd always plans for him.“The biggest thing DeMar did this year, I think he’s more composed,” Carroll said. I think two or three years ago he would’ve minded that.”Toronto, the No. They now have so much more versatility on the defensive end.”Chatter about the Cavs will no doubt intensify over the next week, and the Raps will face the challenge of tuning out that noise to focus on Milwaukee and the present. Masai Ujiri could hear a loud, fiery conversation outside his office this week as the Toronto Raptors prepared for the NBA playoffs. It could feature Jonas Valanciunas tangling with Greg Monroe. “Oops, I might get fined for that [comment].”The Raptors-Bucks series certainly won’t be the sexiest matchup in the NBA playoffs, but it will feature plenty worth watching.It will be Tucker’s first NBA playoff appearance, an opportunity to see why many experts describe him with words like “sandpaper.” It’s a chance to see if Ibaka can duplicate the sort of postseason play that helped the Oklahoma City Thunder to the 2012 NBA finals. The only way to prove that is by making the team’s best playoff run.“On paper, it all looks good when you make trades, but you hope they all gel. The Raps are 0-8 in the opening game of first-round playoff series, and 1-10 overall in Game 1s. game,” Ujiri said with a laugh. DeMar DeRozan had his best season and Kyle Lowry had a hot first half before injuring his wrist. Round 2 could feature a Raptors-Cavaliers showdown. “Tucker and Ibaka give Toronto the edge in that kind of game that they didn’t have before. Tucker added veteran leadership, defensive versatility and a knack for aggravating opposing stars.They bolstered an already strong Toronto roster. Tucker in the thick of a heated discussion with assistant coach Rex Kalamian. Game 1 of their opening round against the Indiana Pacers had Raps supporters in a panic as Lowry made 3 of 13 field-goal attempts while DeRozan made 5 of 19. “He understands being a great player sometimes you’re going to draw a lot of attention and sometimes you’ve got to get other guys involved. The last time Toronto won the first game of any series was in 2001, against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round.The postseason began the same way for the Raps the past three years. I think [the trades] were huge for Toronto. He’s not the type of kid now that guys are going to double team and he’s still going to shoot it. The first dragon to slay is that 0-8 opening-game curse.“Game 1 has always – I don’t want to say haunted us – but it is what it is,” Ujiri said. It worked out fine for the regular season, but now the second season starts,” Ujiri said. He’s like ‘let me get this guy involved, that guy involved.’“He doesn’t mind scoring 10 or 12 points and winning the game. Ibaka filled the gaping need for an elite power forward. With Lowry now healthy again and all the pieces assembled, this appears to be the best-built team in franchise history. “Records are made to be broken so hopefully we break this one this time.” game to a 5:30 p.m. The pair went 1 for 10 from three-point range and 8 for 15 at the free-throw line.Now Lowry will try to resume an all-star level of play with just four games under his belt after wrist surgery. But both have had their playoff struggles, particularly early in last year’s playoffs. After making it to the Eastern Conference final last year – where they were outplayed by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers – the Raps wanted to add more defensive toughness before the playoffs.The team landed two focused defenders it had long coveted. “The last 15 games, I think we were 12-3, so you like that momentum.”These Raptors could start by extinguishing a long-standing hex when they open the postseason on Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Crosby, Penguins edge Blue Jackets 4-1 for 2-0 series lead

Evgeni Malkin scored his first goal of the post-season, and Patric Hornqvist pushed in an empty-net goal. The team also held a pregame moment of silence and put together a video tribute that aired in the arena during a first-period stoppage in play. Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists, Marc-Andre Fleury stayed sharp in his second straight playoff start and the Pittsburgh Penguins pulled away for a 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series.Jake Guentzel added a goal and an assist to help the defending Stanley Cup champions take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Patrick’s Day — needed to find some offences if it wanted to make the third playoff berth in franchise history more than a cameo.So far that way has been clogged by both Fleury and the guys in black-and-gold in front of him. … Crosby fed it to Guentzel and the 22-year-old rookie opted not to give it to back to the league’s leading goal scorer and instead sent a shot that Bobrovsky’s outstretched left pad couldn’t reach and suddenly the Penguins were back in front.Columbus coach John Tortorella stressed his team — which has only scored more than three goals just twice since St. Columbus’ best chance to draw even came late in the second when Pittsburgh defenceman Brian Dumolin went off for holding. Sheary did the hard part: poke-checking the puck away from Bobrovsky behind the Columbus net and getting it to Guentzel in front. Pittsburgh blocked 23 shots before they even got to Fleury.Brandon Saad scored for Columbus, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 28 shots.Game 3 is Sunday night in Columbus.Fleury admitted to some jitters when he was suddenly thrust into the lineup with barely 20 minutes to prepare after Murray was a late scratch before Game 1 with a lower-body injury — and responded with a 31-save masterpiece. … The Blue Jackets produced a handful of chances only to see Cole or another of the Penguins’ penalty killers drop to their knees to block shots.Pittsburgh held steady and when Malkin buried a pass from Crosby a second after a Columbus penalty expired 2:01 into the third, the Penguins were in firmly control.NOTES: The Penguins wore a decal on their helmets that featured the logo of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers to honour longtime Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who passed away on Thursday at age 84. The Blue Jackets have not led at any point during their four games at PPG Paints Arena this season. Murray is out indefinitely, returning Fleury to the spot he held for a decade while becoming the winningest goaltender in franchise history.His club-record 102nd playoff appearance looked an awful lot like his 101st, when he held the Blue Jackets in check during an early push then waited for NHL’s best offence to find its footing.The awakening came earlier than in the series opener. Fleury finished with 39 saves while filling in for the injured Matt Murray, and received plenty of help. Fleury’s 55 playoff wins are one behind Tom Barrasso for the most in team history. Guentzel then slid it to Crosby and the Penguins were in control.Saad gave the Blue Jackets a jolt when his wrist shot from the left circle zipped over Fleury’s glove 7 minutes into the second.The momentum lasted all of 51 seconds, or as along as it took for Crosby and Guentzel to break in 2-on-1. Crosby turned Pittsburgh’s first shot of the game into the 50th playoff goal of his career, though he had the easy part: settling the puck at the doorstep then flipping it into a wide-open net.

Toronto Blue Jays extend losing skid to seven games with 6-4 loss to Orioles

Hardy went deep off Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez as the Blue Jays dropped their seventh game in a row. Steve Pearce worked a full count on the side-armer before popping up to end the frame.Smith’s blast was his second homer of the season. The Baltimore Orioles belted four home runs in a 6-4 victory over the sagging Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night at Rogers Centre.Chris Davis, Jonathan Schoop and J.J. He had eight strikeouts and gave up five hits and three earned runs.Announced attendance was 39,547 and the game took three hours 18 minutes to play. His first homer of the year came on the first pitch from southpaw Wade Miley (1-0).Baltimore reclaimed the lead by belting a pair of homers in the next frame.Schoop led off with his second homer of the season. He worked a full count before striking out to end the game.The losing streak is Toronto’s longest since a seven-game skid in August 2013. Right-hander Dominic Leone came on and recorded two quick outs.Toronto threatened in the seventh as Ryan Goins and Kevin Pillar singled off reliever Darren O’Day. It’s the worst start in franchise history.Davis scored the game’s first run in the second inning. Hyun Soo Kim followed with a double and scored on Hardy’s blast, his first dinger of the year.Davis tacked on a run in the sixth inning with a solo shot to deep centre field. Seth Smith tacked on an insurance run with a solo shot in the ninth inning to help the American League East division leaders improve to 7-2. It’s the first time the Blue Jays have dropped seven straight in the month of April.Sanchez’s effort was pedestrian by his lofty standards. Kendrys Morales reached on a broken-bat single and moved to third when Troy Tulowitzki doubled down the left-field line.Justin Smoak drove in Morales with a single and Darwin Barney — filling in for injured third baseman Josh Donaldson — brought home Tulowitzki with a grounder booted by third baseman Manny Machado.A solo shot by Smoak in the fourth inning gave Toronto a 3-1 lead. In the bottom half of the ninth, Britton gave up a leadoff single to Russell Martin, who scored on a two-out single by Devon Travis.Pillar singled to bring Pearce to the plate with the potential winning run. The 2016 American League earned-run average leader allowed five earned runs, seven hits and a walk while striking out three.Miley, meanwhile, worked six innings. He doubled, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch.The Blue Jays responded with a pair in the bottom half of the frame. Orioles closer Zach Britton worked the ninth for his fifth save.Toronto fell to 1-9 on the season. It was his third homer of the season.A one-out single by Schoop spelled the end for Sanchez (0-1).

Canadiens tie series against Rangers with win in OT thriller

“We just keep going.”As coach Claude Julien watched the minutes fall away in the third, he remained resolutely positive.“We kept encouraging the guys right to the end, in my mind you’re just hoping you’re going to get that break because you feel you deserve it,” he said.Julien and Plekanec first became acquainted in the former’s first professional coaching gig with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, more than anyone he understands – and also appreciates – the drudge work done by defensive specialists.“For him to get rewarded like that makes everybody feel good,” Julien said.How good?Even the famously stoic Weber, who was on the ice for the equalizing goal, got a kick out of Plekanec’s unbridled joy.“He didn’t know where to go after he scored, he was zig-zagging in the corner there,” Weber smiled.Plekanec, whose offence has largely deserted him this season, is one of the longest-serving Habs, he is also relied upon to kill penalties (the Montreal PK was perfect again this night) and play hard minutes against the opposing team’s top line – it’s harder to do against a club like the Rangers, who arguably have three second lines.For those reasons and more the 34-year-old Czech wears an ‘A’ on his jersey, and is only one of the lettermen who put in an improved performance in game two (he won 63 per cent of his faceoffs, played 2:36 short-handed, and contributed an assist).Weber and Brendan Gallagher, who are also alternate captains, had monster nights.Gallagher tormented the Rangers defence, driving them to distraction and occasional thuggery – after taking three penalties in game one, he drew one in game two when Brady Skjei hurled him to the ice at the side of the net.On the first goal, he’s the one whose net drive resulted in a broken stick for Lundqvist; on the second, his zone entry and puck recovery set up Paul Byron’s first career playoff goal.Weber merely played 32:21 – and spent another six minutes in the penalty box after a one-sided fight with New York’s J.T.  “We don’t give up,” Plekanec said afterward. When defenceman Shea Weber’s third period snap-shot caught the cross-bar it was a case of yet another bounce going New York’s way.And then, at the death, they scored.That the man to tip an Alex Radulov pass beyond Henrik Lundqvist with just 17.3 seconds to play was Tomas Plekanec – reduced essentially to fourth-line minutes in a miserable game one – made it all the more surprising.In retrospect, none of it should have been. In the final 30 or so minutes of play, Lundqvist was forced into multiple heroics – Weber also cannoned a slap shot off the post.A big night, then, for the leadership group.Pacioretty said afterward his team learned a little more about itself on Friday.Because of it, we now have a series. The simple fact is the Montreal Canadiens were going to lose.Never mind that they were the NHL’s regular season comeback kings, or that the New York Rangers were reeling from about the middle of the third period onward.They were going to go down 0-2 in the Eastern Conference quarter-final because the visitors were up 3-2, the guy in the other nets was playing out of his mind, and this is a team that has trouble scoring goals. Miller, who had nailed him with a dubious hit in the early going – and shut down the Rangers’ most dangerous players (it is instructive that Rick Nash’s perfect shot past Carey Price came when Weber was still in the box).That’s to say nothing of Max Pacioretty, who wears the ‘C’ and assisted on Radulov’s overtime winner with 90 seconds to play in the extra period (Andrei Markov, the other alternate captain, had a hand in setting up the play).“Wow, it was looooud,” the gap-toothed winger smiled a few minutes after the 4-3 goal.By the time the burly Russian, another of GM Marc Bergevin’s off-season acquisitions in the Summer of Character (Weber, Radulov, Andrew Shaw), poked the puck beyond Lundqvist, the Habs were firmly in control.In the final analysis, they dominated the Rangers with 103 attempts at the net to 69.

Late Schwartz goal gives Blues 3-2 win for 2-0 lead on Wild

Louis Blues beat the Wild 2-1 on Friday night to leave Minnesota with a 2-0 lead in the first-round series.Joel Edmundson had the first goal for the Blues after winning Game 1 in overtime, Jake Allen was as steady as ever in the net again with 23 saves and coach Mike Yeo devised another shrewd plan against his former team. Louis for Game 3 on Sunday. Screened by David Perron, Dubnyk didn’t track Schwartz’s deep shot from the slot. Jaden Schwartz scored with 2:27 remaining during a 4-on-4 situation and the St. Zach Parise scored again for the Wild, on a 5-on-3 late in the second period, but goalie Devan Dubnyk simply hasn’t been as dominant as Allen at the other end. He made 20 saves.The best-of-seven shifts to St.

Oilers earn long-awaited playoff win to even series against Sharks

Zack Kassian was the star of the night, scoring the game’s first goal on a short-handed breakaway in the second period. We knew we could be better. Kassian, Matt Benning and Leon Draisaitl all drew roars from the crowd with checks that left Sharks players reeling.Kassian had the best chance in the period, barely missing a backhand on a breakaway with Jones out of position.He broke the scoreless deadlock 42 seconds into the second period, breaking loose for the breakaway after getting a nice pass from Mark Letetsu.“I was just trying to stay onside,” Kassian said.The Oilers had beaten the Sharks twice in the last week of the regular season before losing to them on Wednesday night. This was a big win for us. But a playoff series goes game by game.” San Jose outshot Edmonton 44-19 in Game 1, but then got outshot 36-16 on Friday night. Although they jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in Game 1, they couldn’t sustain the effort and got steamrolled the rest of the way.“I think guys might have been nervous in that first game,” McDavid said. “The last time the Oilers made the playoffs in 2006, I was in Grade 12.”He remembers partying in the city’s entertainment district when the Oilers reached the Stanley Cup finals but says, “Hopefully, I could do it legally this year.”The Oilers had let their emotions get the best of them on Wednesday night, with eight of their players getting their first taste of postseason in the NHL. A veteran team that lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to Pittsburgh last year, San Jose is in the playoffs for the 12th time in 13 seasons.Edmonton finished 29th last year, but this season finished second in the Pacific Division and won 47 games – their most since 1986-87.“We got ourselves to this point this year by playing the right way,” Darnell Nurse, the Oilers’ strapping defenceman, said earlier Friday. At one point, they were able only to generate two shots in three power-plays in the second period.“We wanted a good bounce-back,” Kassian said. Fans wanted to savour every minute. They lost in Game 7 in Raleigh that year two days later – their most recent playoff game prior to Wednesday night.The series now moves to the SAP Center in San Jose for games on Sunday and Tuesday, before returning to Edmonton on Thursday for Game 5.A raucous sellout crowd filled the city’s new downtown arena in each of the first two games, with thousands of fans who were unable to get tickets watching on television in a beer garden set up in the rink’s entrance hall.Before the game on Friday, fans walked the concourses in orange construction helmets and orange wigs and hung out in the Molson Canadian Hockey House washing down $8 brats with $11 beers.Dressed in an orange jumpsuit and wearing a No. It took nearly 11 years, but hockey fans were finally able to celebrate a playoff victory in Edmonton on Friday night.The upstart Oilers, who clinched home advantage in the first round by winning 10 of their last 12 regular-season games, beat the San Jose Sharks, 2-0, to even their best-of-seven Stanley Cup quarterfinal series at one game apiece. 97 jersey, Matthew Heimbeckner of Edmonton stood in the arena entrance hall holding a home-made sign. They did not get their first shot until more than five minutes into the game, but put pressure on Jones after that, with Patrick Maroon and Jordan Eberle both stopped on scoring chances close to the net.The Oilers were throwing their bodies around at the same time. “We were more comfortable tonight. It was his show tonight.”McDavid, who captured the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s scoring leader with 100 points, added an insurance goal, also short-handed, when he fired a wrist shot through goalie Martin Jones’ legs with 9:29 remaining in the third period.The victory was the Oilers’ first in the postseason since they won Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals over the Carolina Hurricanes on June 17, 2006. “He dominated the game. I think we came out firing tonight.”Friday night’s first period ended scoreless, but the Oilers controlled the tempo. “All in all, it was a much better effort. The big forward, who was given a chance by the Oilers last year after he dealt with substance-abuse problems in Montreal, also delivered one crushing body check after another, leaving Sharks sprawled all over the ice.Edmonton rocked San Jose all game long, outhitting them 22-4 in the first period, 34-7 through two and 41-21 overall.“Zack was unbelievable,” Connor McDavid, the Oilers’ ascendant young superstar, said. Everyone in here knows what they need to do.”Earlier in the day, Todd McLellan, the Edmonton coach, said a pattern had emerged in the first games of the playoffs: several young teams took early leads before relinquishing.“Every win, tie or loss teaches you a lesson,” McLellan said.” I believe our group can come back with a better game.”Late Friday night, fans were chanting in the streets outside Rogers Place. On one side it said, “McDavid for Premier.” On the other, “Shark Fins For Sale.”“I have been an Oilers fan ever since I can remember,” Heimbeckner, accompanied by buddy Brent Toews, said. It would be several hours before the crowd in the arena’s beer garden would head home. “You park the last game and move on.“We have all been through playoffs at some point whether it was in the NHL or not.