LeBron and the Cavs too much for Raptors as series ends in sweep

But in those minutes, he suffered a shoe to the groin from Iman Shumpert, and was forced to take that short breather.Cleveland hijacked the momentum. Joseph started for Lowry, alongside DeRozan, Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas.Unlike in Game 3, when it took the Raptors 3 1/2 quarters to hit a three-pointer, this time Tucker hit the very first of the game – and put Toronto up 14-6. “I do think if we’d played the way we played today [the whole series], we would have had a better chance.”Kyle Lowry, who sprained his ankle in Game 2, was too sore to play for a second straight game, so the all-star point guard watched from the bench in a suit on Sunday. But King James was remarkable for a fourth consecutive game, scoring 35 points to lead Cleveland to a 109-102 victory to clinch the series 4-0.It was the 11th consecutive playoff win for the NBA’s reigning champs. Casey said VanVleet provided another three-point shooting outlet.James though, had a 10-point quarter with some easy dunks, and it was tied 28-28 by the time the quarter ended.Rather than sitting DeRozan as usual to start the second, the all-star remained in the game. They created turnovers and then Kyle Korver punished Toronto with his hot three-point shooting. James rolled for more jumpers, Irving for more layups and Cleveland’s comfy lead was built again. Several missed shots kept Toronto from regaining it.Kyrie Irving had 27 points, while Korver added 18, and James’s final stat line was 35 points – including five three-pointers – nine rebounds and six assists.“Give them credit, they’re a hell of a team,” DeRozan said. The Raps chipped to within five. James picked up his 11th best-of-seven-series sweep – the most for any player in the league’s history.“They present so many problems offensively, that you’ve got to score like 117, 118 points a night to beat them,” said Toronto coach Dwane Casey, who described the Cavs as a buzz-saw. With layups from Joseph, jumpers from Ibaka and paint points from Valanciunas, the Raptors built a surprising 11-point lead in what may have been their best quarter of the series.The chemistry Joseph had established with the group, while starting for Lowry in the regular season during his wrist injury, was once again on display.The Raptors then tried something else surprising – bringing in fourth point guard in Fred VanVleet, instead of Delon Wright, to give Joseph a breather. Ibaka got hot – and fiery, too – imploring his teammates and the ACC crowd to get inspired. Tucker made his third of the night and VanVleet hit one, too. The Toronto Raptors tried one last bunch of adjustments and played their best game of the series, but LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were simply too good.Serge Ibaka had 23 points, DeMar DeRozan had 22, Cory Joseph added 20 and P.J. Tucker, in his best game as a Raptor yet, hit four three-pointers and chased James around. The Cavaliers may have been lacklustre during part of the regular season, but they once again fired up that playoff buzz saw. The fans – clad in white “We The North” T-shirts – finally got loud.The in-stadium host bellowed out “how many of you believe in your Raptors, believe in your city?”Then the Raptors – who had struggled so mightily to shoot threes, began hitting handfuls. The team shuffled its starting lineup for the third time in this series, starting Tucker to defend James and to add much-needed three-point shooting. Tucker was manufacturing steals – he had four on the night – and had a big hand in causing James to commit six turnovers.Ibaka hit a dramatic jumper – and was fouled by Kevin Love – and Toronto got its first lead since the first quarter.The lead was short-lived. “They’ve got one of the best players of all time.” By halftime, the Cavs led 61-49.Inside the third quarter, that lead crept up to 16 points, but Toronto kept up the good fight.

Predators reach first Western final in team history, ousting Blues

Ryan Johansen scored the game-winning goal 3:15 into the third period, and the Nashville Predators advanced to their first Western Conference final in franchise history Sunday by beating the St. Goalie Pekka Rinne made 23 saves and had an assist. Louis on the primary assist. And the Blues got back left wing Alexander Steen, who missed Friday night’s 2-1 win with an injury.Nashville had Grammy winners Lady Antebellum sing the national anthem, and forward Kevin Fiala, who broke his left leg in Game 1, wave the towel to rev up the fans who were ready for the puck to drop.The Predators weren’t.St. Louis took the first seven shots and went up 1-0 on Stastny’s goal, a wrister just 2:04 into the game off assists from Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz.Tarasenko’s shot from the right circle hit off Rinne, then Stastny who knocked the puck in for the goal. Louis Blues 3-1 to take the series in six games.The Predators won their ninth straight playoff game in Nashville going back to last post-season. The Blues even took the first two penalties of the game, and Nashville couldn’t take advantage of the man advantage with sloppy puck-handling and too many turnovers.It was the first even-strength goal the Predators had allowed in the first period this post-season.The Predators needed only 35 seconds into the second to tie it up. Louis, which fell short of a second straight conference final.The Predators and Blues were tied through the first 40 minutes for a third straight game and fourth overall in this series when Johansen skated up the slot for a pass from Viktor Arvidsson and beat Jake Allen with a backhand.Allen kept the Blues close as he had all series, stopping Filip Forsberg on a breakaway with 13:31 left. Roman Josi had a goal and an assist, and Calle Jarnkrok added an empty-netter with 60 seconds left.Nashville will play either Anaheim or Edmonton.Paul Stastny scored for St. That gave Nashville defencemen nine goals this post-season, a franchise record.Johansen, Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg came into this game having combined for only three points in this series after getting 15 in sweeping Chicago.Johansen had an assist on Josi’s goal, then scored his first goal of the series and second this post-season with Arvidsson getting his first point against St. But Jarnkrok scored with a minute to go to clinch it, amping up Nashville’s celebration.The Predators got forward Craig Smith back for the first time in this series after he was hurt in Game 3 against Chicago in the first round. Mattias Ekholm found Josi all alone in the right circle for a quick shot past Allen’s glove.

Senators veteran Chris Neil is emerging as the key to the series

“We’ll take that any day. But the work I had to put in to get it is intense.“I think everyone is starting to learn that. The puck glanced off Pyatt’s stick and into the New York net.It was now the Rangers’ turn to play catch-up. “We haven’t won in Ottawa yet.”That would be required if the Rangers are to win the series. He raced toward the New York net just as Karlsson sent a long, cross-ice pass to Clarke MacArthur, who took a shot that rebounded high in the air. The New York Rangers were up 2-1 and Glass was again offering face rubs and cheap shots at every opportunity, particularly on the much smaller Turris. Brassard said when he looked at his e-mail message he got “excited.” As Brassard put it, “I’ve never known a guy so passionate about the game.”At the 3:13 mark of the second period, Neil went to work. “Otherwise, we don’t have a chance.”During two successive losses at Madison Square Garden last week, the Senators were outplayed, outworked and outmuscled – particularly by a gifted agitator called Tanner Glass.Word went out among the Ottawa players late Friday evening that Neil would be in the lineup. The 5-4 overtime win put Ottawa ahead three games-to-two in the Eastern Conference semi-final, with Game 6 scheduled for Tuesday night in New York. If you’re not getting to those nitty-gritty areas, you’re not going to score. “I thought they felt protected.”Glass was given two minutes for interference, Neil two minutes for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct. He was still serving the misconduct when his teammates began their comeback. He went after Glass in what turned out to be little more than a tussle. MacArthur send a perfect pass across to Mike Hoffman, who one-timed a slap shot past Lundqvist.Almost immediately, the Senators moved in front when Smith carried the puck in the Rangers’ zone and sent a bad pass toward Tom Pyatt, who had to turn backward as he hit the slot area in front of the net. Yet it clearly had an effect on his teammates.“It was clear we needed to answer back some of the liberties they were taking with our skill guys,” Boucher said Sunday. They need to win the next two, while Ottawa only needs one victory.Saturday’s most dramatic moment in an exciting game came with time winding down and the Senators down by a goal. “But I’m starting to learn that scoring in the playoffs is tough. “Maybe he has been our most important player.”Kyle Turris, a quiet, humble young man, certainly wasn’t talking about himself, though it was Turris who on Saturday afternoon, 8:28 into overtime in Game 5 of the Ottawa Senators-New York Rangers series, came over the Rangers blueline and, on his second try, got away a shot that somehow eluded Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. It gives us such a boost. If a Game 7 is required, it will be back in Ottawa on Thursday.Turris was not talking about himself, nor about Marc Stone, who broke out of his mini-slump to score the first goal in the Senators’ dramatic victory – twice coming from behind – nor was he speaking of captain Erik Karlsson, who, playing hurt, still managed three assists. The officials ruled no goal on the ice but video replay showed that the puck had indeed crossed the goal line.“I knew when they didn’t show it on the Jumbotron that it was in,” Anderson said.It was then Brassard’s time to shine, as the former Ranger tied the match at the 18:34 mark of regulation, forcing the overtime.The Rangers believed they had won the game but a seeming goal by Grabner was disallowed when it was ruled he had hit the puck out of the air with a high stick.That left Turris to win the game with his shot.And left the players still praising Neil.“He has played over 1,000 games and playoff games, playing the toughest role in hockey,” Stone said. “He is so respected by his teammates. All our goals are just about getting pucks through, banging it in.”With Neil watching from the penalty box, the Senators tied the game at two goals apiece early in the second period when Karlsson shot up the ice with the puck, crossed the Rangers’ blueline and left a drop pass for MacArthur. Nor even about Derick Brassard, the former Ranger who jumped on the ice as an extra Ottawa attacker in the game’s dying moments and scored the oddball goal that forced the overtime period.No, Turris’s “most important player” was a 37-year-old veteran who had been a healthy scratch for most of the previous two months, a player who scored no goals on Saturday, tallied no assists, didn’t even get a shot on net and spent five times as much time in the penalty box as the minuscule 2:26 he was on the ice.That would be Chris Neil of Flesherton, Ont., a sixth-round draft pick back in 1998 who has played all his 15 NHL seasons with the Ottawa Senators, this one widely believed to be his last – at least until Saturday afternoon at Canadian Tire Centre.Ottawa head coach Guy Boucher made it pretty clear on Sunday that Neil will dress again on Tuesday.“We obviously can’t look like we did for the first two games in New York,” Boucher said. As for the Rangers, they seemed grateful to be returning to the Garden.“We’ve always been a real good home team in front of our fans,” New York head coach Alain Vigneault said in a Sunday conference call. Late in the middle period, Michael Grabner snared a puck in front of the Senators net, spun to his forehand and sent the puck through to Ryan McDonagh, who simply tucked the puck in behind Anderson.In the third period, Anderson made what appeared to be a sensational, diving glove save on young forward Jimmy Vessey. As the puck fell back toward the ice, Brassard swatted it out of the air, the puck hitting two Rangers before slipping in behind Lundqvist.The Rangers scored first only 4:07 into the match when, on a three-on-two rush, Brendan Smith took the puck to the outside and then hit the trailer, Jesper Fast, who had the empty side of the Ottawa net awaiting him.Barely a minute later they scored again, when Nick Holden took a wrist shot that ticked a defenceman’s stick and floated past Anderson’s glove.It seemed a rout might be on, but Ottawa was able to get one back a couple of minutes later when Stone managed to poke a puck into the Rangers’ net on a goalmouth scramble.“I haven’t played the offensive game that I have liked,” Stone said. It gets the crowd going.”The Senators will not, of course, have the crowd with them on Tuesday. If you look at that goal, it barely crossed the line. It just added a spark.“He just makes everyone feel a little more comfortable on the ice.” Boucher pulled goaltender Craig Anderson and sent Brassard over the boards. When he came out of the box, the Senators were ahead 3-2; the Ottawa players saluted him with stick taps as he made his way back across the ice.“That’s the best penalty I’ve seen anybody take in a long time,” Turris said. Neil had had enough.

Kelly: Once again, Raptors find themselves wanting

‘Enjoy commuting on parade-free streets. Fifty-win seasons are great. – isn’t changing over the next few years. An hour before Sunday’s game, LeBron James was laid out on his back in the main hallway leading to the Air Canada Centre court.James has an elaborate pregame stretch routine. Not a whole lot, but enough to notice. The real insult was delivered after the four-game sweep by Cleveland’s erratic human catapult, Kyrie Irving.“We want to thank the Toronto organization for coming out and competing. He was once again the star in Sunday’s 109-102 coup de grace. They’re in it to entertain.In order to appreciate the difference, take a look over at LeBron James. You aren’t. A couple of rounds in the playoffs can be vivifying for a bit. It was the applause you’d hear after the keynote of an especially dreary insurance conference – ‘Please, just leave.’ This was the Toronto audience losing patience with good-enough’ism. I wish we had a little bit more time for them to gel together.” (Answer: Anthropologists could lock this group up in a biodome for five years and they might come out better human beings, but they will not be a team gelled well enough to beat Cleveland. That’s why no one answered.)Casey: “I like our team. More of this?At this point, re-signing Lowry is both prudent and profoundly cynical.Prudent in that there is no one better out there and that you know what you’re getting – an intermittently brilliant and often brittle player who’s never proved the ability to rise when it counts. THAT IS CRAAAAZZZZY.”Even on this stage, with this guy, at this moment, it was a bit much. Having seen up close what just happened, suggesting otherwise is delusional.)Maybe the players have some radical ideas for change that might help them take the next step?DeMar DeRozan: “It’s on us to let this sink in … We’ve got to play extremely better … We just got to figure it out.”So, no.In fairness to Casey, what else is he supposed to say? God love him, he was serious. They’d prefer he prevaricate. Then they returned to the bench to recommence their losing.Casey talked earlier about dealing out “a couple below the belt” when you’re fighting the champ. But if it’s not headed anywhere, it gets boring fast.Right now, the Toronto Raptors are as talented as they’ve ever been. On Sunday, the repeated slights were taken to absurd new levels when Iman Shumpert kicked DeRozan in the crotch, putting the Toronto talisman briefly out of the game.Toronto’s response? That’s probably because after injury claimed their biggest name, Toronto got better. It has no guarantee of working.So the Raptors will go the other way. Wherever the Toronto Raptors go, James is in their way. He pretended to be oblivious, laughing too loud at something on his phone and screaming, “OH MY GAWWWD! They aren’t. They’re also incredibly tedious – settled, complacent, unwilling to take offence at even the most obvious insults, lacking urgency or purpose. The scoreboard.)Casey: “We’re knocking on the door.” (Answer: The funeral home isn’t open on Sundays. You know how I know? Everyone wandered out onto the court to take a sympathetic look at DeRozan as he writhed around on the ground. Crickets. And so the Raptors now have to make some hard decisions about their short-term goals – are they in it to win; or in it to be profitably mediocre?Asked to evaluate his team while standing amid the rubble of the season, coach Dwane Casey pointed emphatically at Option Two.(Imagine me staring at you. We needed that,” Irving said. In order to pass by, dozens of people had to step around or over James. Forever!’ The coach has to lie and say the team is close because it isn’t getting any better.In fairness to DeRozan, there is no palatable way of explaining, ‘We’re not good enough.’ People don’t want to hear that from a guy making $28-million (U.S.) a year. If it wasn’t basketball played at the very highest level, then it was something so close as to be indistinguishable.Apparently, the crowd has finally learned the difference. At a guess, it’d involve a two-year demo and a three-year rebuild. But he wanted to be seen this time, so he brought out his yoga mat and made himself comfy in the high-traffic zone. The team gave the fans something more. He usually does it with his physio in a locker room. They weren’t even really cheers. There’s no shame in it. That’s been a trend going back a couple of years.And they’re going to give this guy $150-million in the off-season for what exactly? At the outset, it wasn’t a high bar.If you’d been there for the whole Raptors gong show, simple competence was new and thrilling. He’s awfully hard to miss. It’d mean temporarily giving back all the public relations ground you’ve gained, and perhaps more. He’s a safe bet, and not a winning one.Cynical in that committing this team’s future to the Lowry/DeRozan nexus is admitting you cannot win, and that you’d rather not try.Trying would be very hard. For a long time.)Casey: “I don’t know if we’re there yet.” (Answer: I know. However, it was thematically consistent. I’ve known some very cute dogs who have not been patted on the head that hard.The problem – James & Co. It is a business.But once they do, it’d be best if they’d lay off the “we’re in it to win above all else” clichés. This Toronto team was too timid to punch you in the face.It was telling that after it ended, no one pushed the excuse of losing Kyle Lowry for Games 3 and 4. When it ended on Sunday, the cheers that sent the team off the court were tepid and grudging. So DeRozan gives them what they want.For four mostly fun years, that’s what the Raptors were best at – giving Toronto the thing it had been wanting. This is a team whose spirit animal is a shoulder-shrug emoji.The Cavaliers didn’t just beat the Raptors, they slapped them around.

Oilers stun Ducks with blowout win to force Game 7

We got the better of them.“We are still in a good spot. In 1994, with the Rangers trailing in the Eastern Conference semi-final, a fellow named Mark Messier did something quite similar.Draisaitl, who finished eighth in the NHL in scoring in the regular season, netted two goals in the first seven minutes.Hats rained down when he added his third with 4 minutes 33 seconds left in the second period. To hear them, just about everybody not dressed in Edmonton orange and blue sucked.They cheered at one point when Perry, who scored the winning goal on Friday, limped off the ice. Twelve Edmonton players made the scoresheet – and oddly enough, McDavid was not among them. They were thrilled when Drake Caggiula, a 5-foot-9 centre, dropped his gloves to take on the gritty Kesler.It was like a Chihuahua fighting a pit bull, but Caggiula landed a handful of punches, at the end with Kesler laying beneath him.McDavid even got into the act, at one point shoving his glove into Jakob Silfverberg’s face. “I honestly felt it was our best game in the series until those three minutes. It was 7-1 by then, and the Ducks had come unravelled.It was Draisaitl’s sixth multipoint game against Anaheim this season. The 21-year-old German centre, whose accomplishments have been overshadowed by McDavid’s this season, scored three times and had two assists as the Oilers steamrolled Anaheim, 7-1.The victory tied the Stanley Cup playoff series at three wins each, with the deciding game to be played at Honda Center on Wednesday.In the gloom of the Oilers dressing room on Friday, a tight-faced McDavid predicted as much, and now they doing it emphatically. We have all year. “We knew were going to respond. Game 7 is Wednesday night.“We got the start we needed,” Lucic said. Even after Jonathan Bernier replaced him, the sellout crowd in Edmonton’s downtown arena continued to taunt Gibson.The rout turned the Oilers’ ardent supporters into a pulsating, jubilant mass. During the melee, Darnell Nurse knocked Kesler into the crease, but once he got there it looked like Kesler held Talbot’s pad, preventing him from making a save.Talbot ended up with 60 on the night, a franchise record in postseason, but the Oilers lost in double overtime. The loss was hardly his fault, but the young centre blamed himself because the first goal in the Ducks’ stunning rally from three back caromed off him and into the net.As he sat on the bench staring glumly, Connor McDavid came up behind him, gave him a pat and said, “Come on, let’s go.”

Draisaitl was feeling a heck of a lot better on Sunday night. We can find ways to win.”As it turns out, McDavid and the Oilers were right. At the end of Friday night’s heartbreaking overtime defeat in Anaheim, Leon Draisaitl was disconsolate. He now has 10 goals and 20 points against them in 10 games, and four of his goals have been game-winners.Mark Letestu also scored twice and had two assists for the Oilers. At various times, they directed loud chants at the refs, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler. “Getting the first goal was huge. Heading into Game 6, there was nothing untrue about what the Oilers’ players were saying. The Oilers won the first two games of the series there and Anaheim is weighted down a bit by its past. Three times the Ducks have lost after leading a best-of-seven series.After taking a 2-0 series lead, the Oilers had suffered three successive losses, including back-to-back overtime defeats in Games 4 and 5.In those games, Edmonton blew two- and three-goal leads, and in each a pivotal score by Anaheim was upheld after the Oilers requested a video review for goaltender interference.In Game 4, the Ducks trailed 2-0 in the second period before Ryan Getzlaf scored on a play where it appeared Perry cut through the crease and made contact with Cam Talbot.In Game 5, Anaheim became the first team in NHL playoff history to force an overtime when trailing by three goals with less than four minutes left in regulation.Rickard Rakell had the tying goal with 15 seconds left during a scramble in front of the net. And from what we experienced in Games 4 and 5 with them coming back, we knew we had to keep our foot on the pedal.” He had 34 on Sunday night, and the outcome was much different. But in the face of the results, their truisms began to sound like clichés.“We have to forget what happened,” Patrick Maroon, the brawny forward, said. The third-line centre has five goals and 11 points in 12 postseason games.“It was an awesome night,” Letestu said. We believe we are a great team and can play with anybody.”The other goals were scored by Zack Kassian and Anton Slepyshev. “Eventually, tempers are going to flare.”The series now returns to Southern California, and the Ducks’ home ice. He was happy to simply quarterback his team’s offence and watch the fireworks around him.The game was so lopsided that John Gibson, the Anaheim netminder, was yanked after giving up three goals on six shots early in the game. Milan Lucic took some bows late in the third when he, too, fought Kesler.“It has been a pretty emotional series,” Lucic said.