Penguins’ Kris Letang to have neck surgery, miss playoffs

Kris Letang’s goal in Game 6 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final clinched a fourth championship for the Pittsburgh Penguins.The talented but star-crossed defenceman will have a far different view as the Penguins try to defend their title when the playoffs start next week.The three-time All-Star will undergo surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck and is out 4 to 6 months, rendering him a spectator as Pittsburgh tries to become the first team in nearly 20 years to win back-to-back Cups. It’s just in the last week that it blew up on me.”The 29-year-old is one of the league’s elite defencemen, a blend of speed and skill that make him valuable on both ends of the ice.Yet he’s also struggled staying healthy with a variety of injuries, from a stroke in 2014 to a concussion in 2015 that forced him to sit out during a first-round loss to the New York Rangers. 21, but was working his way toward a return before the post-season begins before symptoms returned last week. It was going really well. His play was interrupted twice earlier this season with lower-body issues that coach Mike Sullivan insisted had nothing to do with the neck injury.“This was an accumulation of events over time,” Sullivan said. Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston in December and put together a remarkable turnaround even with centre Evgeni Malkin missing the final month of the regular season and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury going down with a concussion, opening the door for rookie Matt Murray to backstop the Penguins to a title.“That team went through so much and they learned so much,” Letang said. “It wasn’t any one incident when it occurred.”Letang had five goals and 29 assists in 41 games for Pittsburgh, which is in second place in the Metropolitan Division with three games remaining in the regular season.The team bolstered depth along the blue line at the trade deadline, bringing in Ron Hainsey and Mark Streit with Letang, Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley on injured reserve.The team is hopeful Maatta and Daley will return when the playoffs start and both will travel with the rest of the team for a three-game road trip beginning in New Jersey on Thursday.The Penguins have hung around in the competitive Metropolitan Division despite a slew of injuries to bold-faced names and have the league’s second-best record behind rival Washington. “Like I said, I was going through rehab. “Right now it’s pretty hard to swallow,” Letang said Wednesday.Letang last played on Feb. “It really doesn’t change our players in what their contributions need to be. We’re not asking anybody to replace him.”Letang pointed to his team’s Cup run last year as evidence it can deal with adversity. “So I think they have the experience that we need.” He underwent a second MRI, with team doctors recommending he have surgery to repair the problem.“It was not expected,” Letang said. The silver lining – if there is one – is that Pittsburgh has learned to make do without Letang.“It doesn’t really change our thought process,” Sullivan said.

Augusta National shuts down again because of stormy weather

With severe storms bearing down on Augusta National, the club has been shut down for the second time this week.Masters officials suspended play at 1:25 p.m. EDT Wednesday, cutting short the final afternoon of practice before the start of the tournament as well as the popular Par 3 Contest.Fans were ordered to leave the course as line of dangerous storms swept across the Deep South, sparking tornado warnings in Georgia and neighbouring South Carolina. Augusta National was also forced to close Monday because of heavy rains.The forecast is more promising through the rest of the week, though high winds Thursday and Friday could make the playing conditions challenging. Sunny weather, with highs in the 70s, is expected for the final two rounds Saturday and Sunday.

Late slump in standout rookie season frustrates Jets star sniper Patrik Laine

Louis, Thursday in Columbus and Saturday at home against Nashville.“After the three games and after the season, I’m going to see where we are at and that’s it, that’s the result,” Laine said. Sometimes, that (slump) happens. “I’m just focusing on this team and what are we doing here as a team and how can we improve our game still and just how can I be better every night.”Trying to finish in the Top 3 isn’t on his agenda as the Jets head out for games Tuesday in St. In the previous 11 outings, he notched 16 points, including nine goals.Heading into Monday’s league action, Laine is second in rookie scoring with 34 goals and 62 points in 70 games. Patrik Laine skated to the bench at Monday’s Winnipeg Jets practice and angrily banged his hockey stick on the boards.The team’s rookie sniper is in a scoring slump as the Jets, missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons, wind down to their final three games.“Of course it’s frustrating, you just can’t score,” Laine said. “But you just have to work hard to get those chances and hopefully score maybe a couple of points during these last couple games.”It was only a month ago that the 18-year-old Finnish forward was a front-runner in the NHL rookie-scoring race.But in his last 11 games dating back to March 8, he has three points off two goals and one assist. “I think he’s handled himself well for an 18-year-old.”Laine has had his mom or dad living with him in Winnipeg and it added to his special year.“It was a lot of fun and I’m going to have so many great memories about this season,” he said. “It’s hard right now, to be honest. “Hopefully, I can be better next year and get some more great memories.” It’s almost like the harder you try, the harder it is. “I’m going to be happy anyways.”Linemate Bryan Little predicted Laine will be considered for the Calder Trophy, awarded annually to the player chosen as the league’s top rookie.“He’s been pretty consistent all year in terms of scoring and production,” Little said.“You can tell he’s a bit frustrated and he wants to do well and he wants to help the team. It’s not for lack of chances, though.”In the last 11 games, Laine’s had 33 shots on goal, including two games with six shots and another with seven.Little and linemate Mathieu Perreault are willing to help the right-winger put up as many points as he can as long as it doesn’t change their whole dynamic.“I think that’s in the back of our minds,” Little said. “Maybe he’s slowed down a little bit here at the end of the season, but maybe fatigue sets in.”Laine played in last year’s World Cup, world championship, attended Jets camp and was at the NHL all-star game.“That’s a real grind,” Perreault said. He missed eight games with a concussion and one from illness.He’s surrounded on the stats sheet by players from the Maple Leafs, who take on the Sabres in Buffalo Monday night.Toronto centre Auston Matthews entered the game atop rookie scoring with 38 goals and 66 points in 77 games. William Nylander is third with 22 goals and 59 points in 76 games and Mitchell Marner has 18 goals and 59 points in 72 outings.“They’re playing well so it’s good for them,” Laine said. “We want to help him and see him do well.”Perreault said he tries to get the puck to Laine and has been impressed by the six-foot-five youngster.“I think he had a great season,” Perreault said.

Canada blanks Russia for first win at women’s world hockey championship

Shannon Szabados made 16 saves for her 17th career shutout for Canada.In addition to earning their first win of the tournament, Canada also restored confidence in their game after back-to-back losses to open the tournament.“This was an opportunity to really define ourselves,” head coach Laura Schuler said. Canada made it into the semifinals of the women’s world hockey championship with an assist from their frenemies.Canada’s 8-0 win over Russia and Finland losing 5-3 in regulation to the United States on Monday combined to send the Canadians to the semifinals alongside the Americans.The U.S. The medal games are Friday.Canada and the U.S. It can also be painful for teammates standing in front of the net.“I was lucky I guess today. I had a little chat with her about keeping it lower. The Canadians ranked second in their pool on superior goal differential with Finland third and Russia fourth.Germany and Sweden finished first and second respectively in Pool B at 2-1. I only got hit with one,” Irwin said. We stuck to the keys of the game and we were able to put a few pucks behind her.”It took half a period for the Canadians to get in sync, but Wakefield’s slapshot with Irwin providing the screen got them off to the races at 14:30 of the first period.At five foot 10 and 170 pounds, the velocity Wakefield generates is intimidating for a goalie. Yeah,” Irwin said. Do we have more? They needed to beat Russia by only two goals, but poured the pucks past two Russian goaltenders after scoring just three times in two games.Jennifer Wakefield scored twice with Haley Irwin assisting on both. finished atop Pool A at 3-0 and dropped the Finns into a three-way tie with Canada and Russia at 1-2. have met in the final of all 17 world women’s championship with Canada winning 10 titles and the Americans seven.A 4-3 upset at the hands of Finland earlier in the round robin put Canada in the unusual position of needing help from their archrivals to earn the extra day of rest the bye provides.The Canadians did their part to stay in contention for the bye. “We just kind of need to throw it at the net, crash the net and screen the goalie. “Some days you get hit with more. There’s a lot of great things that we can take away.”After going 0 for 6 on the power play in their first two games, Canada converted three of seven chances Monday.“We were being too picky with our opportunities,” Wakefield said. “Their belief in the game plan is critical.“We talked about scoring goals the right way and the goals that we scored were a result of doing the little details that are important for success.”The Canadians scored more goals in the first period Monday than their first two games combined, got their power-play working, and killed off a Russian two-man advantage early in the second.“Today was a big step for us. “This was a huge step for us. Erin Ambrose and Sarah Potomak scored their first career goals for Canada.Emily Clark, Natalie Spooner, Brianne Jenner and Meghan Agosta each contributed a goal. Germany faces Russia and the Finns take on the Swedes in Tuesday’s quarter-finals. All good though.”

Jays slide into season with a loss in extra-inning opener against Orioles

wild-card playoff game, a 5-2 Toronto win in 11 innings.And that only added to the loathing the Blue Jays face in these parts – the result of a rivalry that has heated up over the past few years.By no means did Kevin Pillar, Toronto’s starting centre fielder, help tame those hard feelings when he twice helicoptered his bat into the third-base stands during the same at bat in the eighth inning.But most of the fans’ venom was heaped on Jose Bautista, the Toronto slugger who was roundly booed when his name was announced as the starting right fielder – and every time he came to bat, for that matter.Bautista did his best to silence his critics, but it wasn’t with his bat. From one knee, Machado then made an accurate one-bounce throw to first to nip Travis by a hair. And that’s where Carrera fits in there.”That reasoning did not exactly pan out in the second inning when Carrera and Pillar got crossed up on a fly ball to left centre by Castillo. It should have been caught but it fell between the two players for a lead-off double.Carrera more than made up for the gaffe with his bat, collecting two hits, including a big double down the right field line in the sixth inning that evened the score at 2-2.The Orioles had led 2-0, both runs coming in the third inning off Estrada, who was clipped for three hits, including doubles by Seth Smith and Trumbo.But Estrada was solid after that, retiring the next 10 batters before departing a tied game after the sixth, having held a pretty good Orioles squad to just five hits while striking out four.After falling behind by two, Toronto started its comeback in the fifth.Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly made a reference to Cleveland fans As the Blue Jays gear up for the 2017 season with expectations running high for a third-straight playoff appearance, Toronto starter Marco Estrada at least lived up to Atkins’s billing.As for the offence, well, it’s still a work in progress – as the Baltimore Orioles scraped out a 3-2 win in 11 innings in the season opener for both American League clubs Monday here at Camden Yards.And the loss reinforced just how much the Blue Jays might miss closer Roberto Osuna, who started the season on the 10-day disabled list with a cervical spasm.Veteran Jason Grilli, who has been anointed Osuna’s primary replacement in the interim, was on the mound in the 11th and served up a fat, 81-mile-an-hour slider to Mark Trumbo.Trumbo, who led the majors last season with 47 home runs, did what he does best – walloping the ball over the wall in left field for the walk-off winner.Trumbo’s “got thump in his bat,” said Toronto newcomer Steve Pearce, who rapped out three of Toronto’s nine hits against his former club. Ezequiel Carrera got the nod in left.Manager John Gibbons said Smoak will get plenty of work at first.“We got Pearce because we want his bat in this lineup,” said Gibbons, explaining the rationale for his opening-day lineup. He then threw to first base to double up on Welington Castillo, who was running on the play.On the other side of the diamond, Baltimore’s Manny Machado made a terrific play at third, diving toward the bag in the top of the 11th to vacuum up a scorched ground ball off the bat of Devon Travis. “He can change the game with one swing. And in the ninth, Bautista made a difficult diving catch running in on a sinking liner off the bat of Joey Rickard. He went 0-5 with a walk, but he shone defensively in right, throwing out Chris Davis, who was trying to stretch a single into a double in the third inning. The woman working the media elevator even had her long, manicured nails painted the same vibrant hue.Former Baltimore great Cal Ripken had a choice seat in the front row behind home plate and was afforded a hearty cheer when the camera zoomed in on him in the top of the third inning.Pearce, one of Toronto’s off-season free-agent signings, is expected to get most of his starts in left field, but he was at first to start the game Monday in place of Justin Smoak. Before the game, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins was remarking how he liked the veteran makeup of his team and the accompanying will to win that he says comes naturally with all that experience.“Pick which one you think is stronger – our offensive production or starting pitching,” Atkins said. ET) start, and the weather, for early April, was overcast but still a scrumptious 18 degrees at first pitch.Many fans were outfitted in the distinctive orange Baltimore jerseys. “I’m thinking today, Marco’s pitching, a fly ball guy … We want our best defence in the outfield to catch those fly balls, run them down. Unfortunately he did it.”The last time these two clubs met was in last October’s emotionally charged A.L. It was the defensive play of the game.The stadium was jumping for the early (3 p.m.

Reaction to NHL’s decision to skip Olympics was predictable, but is it really that bad?

Maybe the IIHF could co-opt the idea and do the same for Olympic hockey.Read more: NHL announces it won’t participate in 2018 OlympicsOnce upon a time, when NHL players first participated in the Olympics – in 1998 in Nagano, Japan – the novelty of a best-on-best tournament sold the event. But really, is it?The IOC upped the negotiating ante last week, threatening that if the NHL skipped the next Olympics, it wouldn’t necessarily be welcome in 2022, when the Games will be held in China – where the NHL is in the early stages of a marketing push.You can only imagine how well that played in NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s world. The cool, methodical way in which Team Canada rolled over the field made the win seem almost anticlimactic.So now here we are, with 11 months to go, and the NHL has finally made its decision: It will give the Olympics in Pyeongchang a pass.The knee-jerk response was predictable: It will be a disaster. hockey history – in 1960 and 1980 – were won by amateurs. If the next wave of players, the Nolan Patricks of the world, want to follow in the footsteps of the James Patricks of a previous generation, good for them. They will threaten to boycott NHL games during the Olympics. Some U.S. hockey fans will naturally be upset by the decision, too, but the greatest Olympic victories in U.S. They should get that chance.One thing you can be sure of: The NHL closely examined the consequences, long and short term, of just saying no to the IOC and calculated that the risks to its business were small and containable.The league fully understands the backlash coming from Canada, where seven of its 30 franchisees operate. It’s another matter to breach that contract and get on a plane to South Korea at the start of February, 2018. Wayne Gretzky was mobbed like a rock star at the Nagano train station. If you clung to the quaint notion that hockey played at its highest levels in 2017 was still primarily a sport, then Monday’s decision should permanently disabuse you of that belief. The fact that it’s not happening this time around will upset many. If IOC president Thomas Bach genuinely believed he could bully Bettman into doing something NHL owners firmly opposed, then he badly miscalculated his opponent.Essentially, the NHL believes the IOC position on China is a bluff – that if the league opts in for 2022, the Chinese organizing committee could change the IOC’s mind in a hurry.The possibility of a player boycott is the more imminent threat and the wild card in the equation.It’s easy for the Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin to say he’s going to the Olympics – NHL contract or not. They will make Bettman the bogeyman.But once it’s March of 2018 and the Olympics are over, they will all be back watching the NHL’s up-and-coming teams in Toronto and Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg, push toward the playoffs and beyond.History shows that short-term anger has never done any lasting, long-term damage to the business of hockey. A few weeks ago, in a conversation with Sean Burke, who played goal for Canada’s men’s Olympic hockey team during the so-called “amateur” era, I had a change of heart about the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and whether NHL pros really need to be there.Burke made a telling point: Even though he twice played Olympic hockey for Canada before the NHLers took over, he’d forgotten how meaningful that experience could be – for Canadian players to pull on the national team jersey and represent their country at a major international event. Olympic soccer is limited to the 23-and-under generation. That’s a lot of earning power to put at risk to play internationally.If a handful of players are so committed to the Olympic ideal that they would run that risk, more power to them.Even in the old days, future pros such as Paul Kariya, Eric Lindros, Joe Juneau and Todd Warriner all delayed the start of their NHL careers for a chance to play Olympic hockey. It was fun to anticipate the roster. When things didn’t go well – Gretzky sitting on the bench for the decisive shootout loss to the Czechs – it created all sorts of opportunities for second-guessing.Four years later, when Canada won gold in Salt Lake City to snap a 50-year championship drought, the country celebrated.Eight years after that, when Canada won again in Vancouver, a hometown Olympics, it was a sight to behold.But the ardour had cooled by the time the Sochi Olympics came around in 2014. It made me wonder if that yesteryear scenario wasn’t such a bad idea – or, more precisely, if the Olympic hockey competition wouldn’t benefit from a little freshening up. The prospect of seeing Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby play for the same Olympic team was appealing. Until and unless that changes, the NHL will continue to make decisions based on its bottom line, which – like it or not – is what business operations do. So the Americans will send an all-star team of college kids – abetted by players from overseas – to wrap themselves in the flag and be lovable underdogs again.Generally speaking, there is a greater appetite for best-on-best hockey among Canadian fans.

Leafs beat up on Sabres to inch up in playoff race

Even though the Leafs resumed smacking their opponents around after that loss, registering just two regulation losses in their last 14 games, trepidation remained about this game because the Leafs’ futility here is historic.But it was not long before these Leafs once again emphasized they are a different animal than almost every Leafs team that came before them. We want to keep playing well and keep winning.”No one is driving the Leafs to keep winning more than star rookie Auston Matthews. He was a key figure in a quick and merciless start by the Leafs against the Sabres and another slew of records followed. The only trouble for the Leafs is that they face a brutal finishing stretch to the regular season, all with difficult opponents. Once Matthews had his rookie records and van Riemsdyk added his goal, Lehner had skated from his crease and went straight to the dressing room with Anders Nilsson taking over.The problem is, the young Leafs are still trying to master the whole take-control-and-stay-in-control thing. It was also a new NHL record for most goals by a U.S.-born rookie at 39, breaking the one set by Neal Broten in 1981-82. It’s a tough week,” said Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen, who turned in another solid effort against the Sabres. The win also put the Leafs back into second place in the Atlantic Division over the idle Boston Bruins and fully in control of their playoff destiny. Wrong. He admitted to keeping an eye on him.“Yeah, of course,” William said. We’re getting better and better each segment.”The Sabres collapsed in the first period and only resurfaced sporadically, the last time when Jack Eichel scored with 55 seconds left in the third period. O’Reilly easily outpaced Gardiner on a rush and put a nice shot over Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen’s shoulder.While the rest of the game remained a touch nasty, the Leafs managed to stay in control. Matthews scored his 39th goal of the season just 32 seconds after Leo Komarov opened the scoring at 4:26. Tell them the Maple Leafs have a dismal 69-26-8 record in Buffalo since the Sabres joined the NHL in 1970 and it’s “Oh yeah?”Just this past March 25, the Leafs were soundly spanked in Buffalo by a 5-2 margin, spoiling a stretch of good hockey that started two weeks earlier. “We knew on this road trip we could get some points and, obviously, the more the better [and] the less we have to force ourselves to get in the last homestand. Tell them they can’t protect third-period leads and all of a sudden they’re locking down games. They swarmed the listless Sabres early and often. The nastiness flared up again when Kadri decided to yap at Sabres defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen, who had objected to some hacking at goaltender Anders Nilsson. I probably had the best seats in the house to watch him play in his first game so it was pretty cool.”This group of Maple Leafs certainly has an I’ll-Show-You attitude. “When you’re on the bench you’re watching every time he’s out there. It’s the Capitals on Tuesday, the Lightning on Thursday and another back-to-back set on the weekend against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets.“This week is going to be huge for us. Any chance that Alexander Nylander, who was drafted eighth overall by the Sabres in 2016, would have a fun NHL debut against his older brother William, disappeared before the first period was six minutes old.Still, William, who met his brother for a hug and a chat in the arena corridor after the game, thought it was fun catching Alexander’s first NHL game. But the record of 39 second, also accomplished in January, 1940, survived.“It’s great. Sabres forward Marcus Foligno showed his unhappiness with how the first period went by cross-checking a Leaf at the buzzer and started the second period with a cross-checking penalty.But the Leafs came out drowsy in the second period. “I think the most important part is the team. I played with some pretty good players, so I give credit to them,” Matthews said. James van Riemsdyk finished off Sabres starting goaltender Robin Lehner with a goal at 5:09.First, the Matthews goal established a new record for most points by a Leafs rookie in one season at 67. If the Maple Leafs win by any means Tuesday night when they finish off their back-to-back set against the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning lose in regulation time, the Leafs will clinch a playoff spot. This set off a scrum and saw a series of penalties issued. The Toronto Maple Leafs are certainly helping themselves in the NHL playoff race.They beat back a long-standing hex Monday night to take a 4-2 win from the Buffalo Sabres that gave the Leafs a sweep of their three-game road trip that started last Thursday in Nashville. Especially defenceman Jake Gardiner, who figured he could float too far up the ice on the power play and still get back in time to cover Sabres centre Ryan O’Reilly. The final blow came at 5:50 of the third period when Kadri scored a power-play goal. Gaye Stewart did it first in January, 1940.Oh, and the whole works of them almost set another record with the three goals in 43 seconds. Finally, with a goal in five consecutive games, Matthews tied a Leafs record for longest goal streak by a rookie.

Svechnikov’s shootout goal pushes Red Wings past Senators

Ottawa is technically ahead at the moment with a game in hand on the Bruins.Erik Karlsson had a goal and an assist, Alexandre Burows also scored and Turris also had two assists for the Senators.After a scoreless opening period, the goals came quickly in the second. Evgeni Svechnikov scored the only goal of the shootout in his NHL debut, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a 5-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.In the seventh round of the tiebreaker, Svechnikov went to his backhand and slid the puck between the pads of Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson. Tomas Tatar had a goal and an assist, and Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist and Dylan Larkin scored in regulation for Detroit, Nick Jensen had two assists and Petr Mrazek stopped 41 shots.Kyle Turris and Fredrik Claesson scored 4:09 apart in the third period to tie the score for the Senators, who pulled into a tie with Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division. It hit the back of Mrazek’s stick as he dropped to play it and skidded in through his legs.The Wings struck on a power play of their own at 5:53 as Nyquist lifted the puck over a diving Anderson, who came up short in his attempt at a poke check.Detroit added another power play goal at the eight-minute mark to take a 4-2 lead. Nielsen tried to pass the puck to teammate Riley Sheahan from behind the Ottawa net but it hit the skate of Senators defenceman Ben Harper and bounced through Anderson’s legs to give Nielsen his 16th of the season at the 40-second mark.The Senators tied it 1:46 as Burrows’ seemingly harmless wrist shot bounced off the top of Mrazek’s glove and into the net.Detroit regained the lead short-handed at 6:53 as Larkin was skating the puck past the Ottawa net and threw a backhander that found a way in between Anderson and the post.Yet another bizarre tally pulled Ottawa even on the power play just 56 seconds into the third. Mike Green’s point shot deflected off the blade of Nyquist’s stick and fluttered past Anderson.Turris snapping a wrist shot past Mrazek on the stick side at 8:22 to pull Ottawa within one, and Claesson’s point shot beat Mrazek on the glove side with 7:29 remaining. Karlsson, back in the lineup after missing two games with a left foot injury, skated below the Detroit goal line and lifted the puck to the front of the net from the corner.

Habs crush Panthers to clinch Atlantic Division title

Jonathan Marchessault scored for Florida and Reto Berra finished with 27 saves.Lehkonen put Montreal ahead 2-1 at 1:27 of the third as he beat Berra with a rising shot from between the circles high to the glove side. Artturi Lehkonen scored twice in the third period and had an assist to help the Montreal Canadiens clinch the Atlantic Division title with a 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday night.Andrew Shaw and Alexander Radulov also scored for the Canadiens, and Charlie Lindgren stopped 31 shots in his second NHL start. He made it a two-goal game when he followed Paul Byron’s breakaway attempt by knocking in the rebound for his 16th with 3:11 remaining.

Tar Heels take NCAA title, 71-65, over Gonzaga

It’s all worth it.”The story starts with the downs. They stifled any bit of flow that existed in the game and turned it into a review-driven free-throw contest. They left the big men — Meeks and Gonzaga’s 7-footers Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins — among those languishing on the bench in foul trouble. Nigel Williams-Goss scored 8 straight points for the Bulldogs to give them their last lead — 65-63 with 1:52 left.Moments later, Williams-Goss twisted his ankle and neither he nor anyone on his team would score again.“To be so close for us is a temporarily crushing blow right now,” Few said. He made the free throw, and that 3-point play gave the Tar Heels a 66-65 lead.Gonzaga didn’t score again, though in a game that left fans from both sides booing a spate of over-officious officiating, the game couldn’t be settled without a controversial (non)call in the last minute.Leading by 1, and in a scrum under the Carolina basket, Tar Heels forward Kennedy Meeks went to the floor to try to wrestle the ball away from Silas Melson. When Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit his 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Carolina in the 2016 final, coach Roy Williams buckled over like a man who’d just been punched in the gut, put both hands on his knees and tried to figure out to explain it.“The feeling of inadequacy in the locker room last year is the worst feeling I’ve ever had,” Williams said.What ensued was a year of working harder, doing more, making sure That didn’t happen again.With 1:40 left in the final, Justin Jackson took a laser of a pass from Theo Pinson and laid it in while being fouled. Refs called a jump ball, and with the possession arrow favouring North Carolina, the Tar Heels converted on an Isaiah Hicks runner to push the lead to 3. But for anyone who bleeds Carolina Blue, it sure was a thing of beauty.“This is what we worked for,” junior guard Joel Berry II said. For a whole year, the North Carolina Tar Heels wondered if they’d get another chance.For a whole year, the Tar Heels thought about what might have been.When Monday night’s slugfest with Gonzaga came to a merciful end, the Heels had all their answers: The national title was theirs, the nets were hanging around their necks, the redemption tour was a success. Pinson went 2 for 9.Gonzaga’s numbers were even worse — 20 for 59 for 33.9 per cent. “I’m sitting over there, I’m not thinking the officials are doing a terrible job. “From my angle, it didn’t look like an out of bounds situation or I would have called a review. They brought steady cascades of boos from the crowd of 76,168, as fans from each side took turns protesting the whistles.“It’s a very difficult game to call,” said Williams, who has now led the Tar Heels to three of the program’s six titles. I think this group was tough enough tonight.” “I put it on the locker room up on the board — one of the things we had to be tonight was tough enough. Jackson had 16 points but went 0 for 9 from 3-point range. “But I’m hoping and knowing that perspective will come with time.”At Gonzaga — a program on fantastic footing thanks to two decades’ worth of building led by Few — they’ll regroup and reload and try to finish the deal next year.Few, both a coaching and card-playing buddy of Williams, might be tempted to give Ol’ Roy a call and ask him how he did it.“They wanted redemption,” Williams explained. … Their 71-65 win will not be mistaken for a work of art. “And the ups and downs we’ve had? I’m thinking our offence stinks.”He had a point.Carolina shot 35 per cent from the field, a percentage point worse than it did in Saturday’s semifinal win over Oregon, which stood, for two days, as their worst shooting night in a tournament win since 1967.Some of the culprits: Berry led the Tar Heels with 22 points but needed 19 shots to get there. That’s tough to hear.”Through NCAA spokesman David Worlock, national co-ordinator of basketball officials JD Collins said the play was not reviewable.Neither Few nor Williams threw much blame toward the officials, but the refs made this game virtually unwatchable.They called 27 fouls in the second half and put both teams in the bonus with 13-plus minutes left. Replays and pictures, retweeted and reposted thousands of times on social media, showed Meeks’ right hand touching out of bounds.But there was no protest, no review.“Probably on me,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few, whose first knowledge of the call came in the postgame press conference.

Tony Romo reportedly retiring from football, replacing Simms at CBS

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Romo hasn’t discussed his plans publicly. Tony Romo is retiring and replacing another former quarterback in Phil Simms on the top NFL broadcasting team for CBS after choosing not to chase that elusive Super Bowl with a team other than the Dallas Cowboys.Romo, who will be paired with play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz, considered multiple network offers along with whether he wanted to pursue a Super Bowl elsewhere after losing the starting job in Dallas last season, a person told The Associated Press on Tuesday. He led two fourth-quarter comebacks on the road with serious injuries — fractured ribs and a punctured lung at San Francisco early in 2011 and a herniated disc in his back at Washington two years later. 1 seed in the NFC, a defeat that stung even more for fans because Romo went to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, during the bye week with several teammates.Romo didn’t help his perception after the 2008 season finale, a 44-6 loss at Philadelphia that kept Dallas out of the playoffs when he infamously said, “If this is the worst thing that will ever happen to me, then I’ve lived a pretty good life.”As time passed, Romo seemed to understand why that quote struck a nerve for followers of America’s Team. The departure of the all-time passing leader from the storied franchise has been expected since November, when Romo conceded the job to rookie Dak Prescott after missing 10 weeks with a back injury.The Cowboys were in the middle of a franchise-record 11-game winning streak when Romo returned from the injury.Dallas owner Jerry Jones told Romo before free agency opened that the team would release him to give him a chance to continue his career with another contender. The expected roster move will reduce Dallas’ cap hit to about $19 million, likely spread over two seasons.The franchise leader with 34,183 yards passing and 248 touchdowns, Romo never parlayed his regular-season success into deep playoff runs the way Hall of Famers and multiple Super Bowl winners Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman did before him.Now Romo will follow Aikman into the broadcast booth. His last snap in a home regular-season game was the last of three broken collarbones sustained in his career, on Thanksgiving in 2015 against Carolina.While chided for his interest in golf and celebrity girlfriends, Romo developed a reputation for toughness. Aikman has been the top analyst with Fox, paired with Joe Buck, since 2002.Romo was 78-49 as the starter in Dallas, but just 2-4 in the post-season, with no road victories and no trips to the NFC championship game for a proud franchise that is one of just three teams that hasn’t played for the NFC title the past 21 seasons.His playoff debut a little more than 10 years ago illustrated the playoff struggles ahead when Romo infamously flubbed the snap on what could have been a winning field goal in Seattle.A year later, the Cowboys lost their playoff opener to the New York Giants as the No. The next season, he missed 12 games with a twice-broke left collarbone as the Cowboys went first-to-worst at 4-12.When Romo broke a bone in his back on an awkward tackle from behind in the preseason at Seattle, Prescott had already shown promise in the first two exhibition games. But Dallas decided at the last minute to try to generate interest in a trade.That move gave Romo more time to consider retirement, and the likelihood appeared to grow when he played in a golf tournament last week. Romo, who turns 37 this month, had given up his favourite hobby after a series of back injuries that included two surgeries in less than a year.Romo, who was signed through 2019, had a $14 million base salary and a $24.7 million salary cap hit for the Cowboys this season. A CBS spokeswoman did not immediately return messages seeking comment. After losing his regular-season debut to the New York Giants, Prescott guided the Cowboys on their record streak, with Romo as his backup for the final three wins.Romo played just one series in his final season with Dallas, and his last pass was a 3-yard touchdown to Terrance Williams in a meaningless regular-season finale at Philadelphia. And he gave them the only playoff victories for the Cowboys since their last Super Bowl title following the 1995 season.The most recent post-season win — in the wild-card round against Detroit — came during the last season that Romo was the full-time starter in 2014.

Connor McDavid’s mom wants him to ‘smell the roses’ during MVP-calibre season

With a week left in the regular season, he is closing in on 100 points and has 18 over his last 10 games as the Oilers push to overtake the Anaheim Ducks at the top of the Pacific Division standings. He has a huge heart.”When she is back home in Southern Ontario, she keeps in contact with Connor by text message, at least once every other day. “Friends ask, ‘How do you stand it?’ but it has just become a normal part of our lives.“I watched Sidney Crosby go through a difficult time a few years ago, and I worry. They stayed with him at his condo on the city’s north side. He has 28 multiple-point games this season, three more than Crosby or Chicago’s Patrick Kane, both chasing him in the points race.If life has taken off for Connor, it hasn’t changed too drastically for his mother or father, Brian. He really cares. Together, McDavid and Draisaitl, who is 21, are the NHL’s top scoring tandem with 168 points.“I am so proud of Connor,” his mother says. “I have always said he is an old soul trapped in a young body. Bobby Orr discovered him at a tryout camp when Connor was 13, and he entered the Ontario Hockey League a year early at 15.He has exceeded impossibly-high expectations and lifted a team and a city. He has now played 123 games and has never gone three straight without a point. At the start of the season, he became the youngest captain in league history.“One difference I notice about him from last year to now is his confidence,” Kelly McDavid says. She doesn’t ask him about hockey.“I ask how he is doing,” she says. He gets bombarded. He was 19 years and 266 days old, 20 days younger than the NHL’s previous youngest captain, Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog.That was one time that Kelly didn’t fret.“He was born to be a captain,” she says. My hope is that he stays healthy, and I don’t want him so focused on playing.“I want him to take time to smell the roses.”Less than two years out of high school, the 20-year-old has made a strong case to be named hockey’s most valuable player. “When they gave that to him, he took the role very seriously. It’s a long career and you don’t know what is going to happen.”Touted as the sport’s greatest young star since Crosby arrived in Pittsburgh a dozen years ago, McDavid sat out half of his first season with a broken clavicle. At least three songs have been written about him, the most recent released last week by a local rapper named Cadence Weapon.“Watching him start his career so publicly hasn’t really been that hard because he has been in the spotlight a long time now,” Kelly says. Residents of the building know he lives there, and occasionally leave bags of items for him to sign at his door.“He signs things and then puts the bag back outside,” Kelly says. Thousands of fans wear his jersey at each home game. “Things miraculously appear and disappear.”On Thursday night last week, Connor had an assist and a short-handed goal on a breakaway as the Oilers topped the San Jose Sharks. I want him to enjoy his life.” I don’t care what’s going on at the rink. That he would be a star was preordained. Fans knock on the door in search of a souvenir.“People approach us all the time wanting stuff autographed,” Kelly says. “Him getting an injury is always a worry, but my big concern is that he is happy,” Kelly McDavid says. “It is like they think we have an inventory of things laying around.“I tell them that if they want us to get something signed, we can give it to Connor in the summer, but that’s kind of tough. Both still work full-time, she as a human resources manager, he as a consultant.They still live in the same home in Newmarket, a suburb about 45 minutes from Toronto. Connor McDavid, the Edmonton Oilers’ young captain, has spent the season leading the NHL scoring race, and guiding his team to the playoffs for the first time in nearly 11 years.Across the country, Kelly McDavid has watched her youngest son come of age in public, always cheering, sometimes worrying, never not being a mother. At times, young boys ring their doorbell hoping that Connor is home. “He puts the team first, but he achieves his goals, too.”Fans expressed concern when the Oilers appointed McDavid their captain in October. On Saturday, he played a role in all three of his team’s goals in a come-from-behind overtime victory over the Anaheim Ducks.Fans started chanting “MVP” during that game, which ended with McDavid setting up the winning goal by his linemate Leon Draisaitl with a perfect pass. “I like it when he tells me has done something fun with the guys. “As a mom, that is what I want more than anything else. He used to always want to be older.“I would have to tell him, ‘Connor you are only four once’, and he’d say, ‘But I want to be five.’”He’s wanted to be a hockey player, and a captain, since he was a kid back home in Southern Ontario. We really want him to relax when he comes home.”In Edmonton to visit Connor last week, Kelly and Brian were recognized by fans.

While some players pan NHL Olympic decision, Ovechkin plans to ignore it

Ovechkin says ‘I’m going’ despite NHL skipping 2018 Olympics (The Canadian Press)

“I didn’t change my mind and I won’t,” said Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals captain who’s still chasing a first Olympic medal. But we will see. What would that rule look like and how would teammates react if the likes of Ovechkin and Kuznetsov bolted is another matter.Donald Fehr, the NHLPA’s executive director, suggested in a recent interview that it was “very probably an individual club decision” on whether players could go, a stance the NHL will surely dispute at some point soon.One team, the Montreal Canadiens, said it hadn’t considered how it might react just yet.Price expressed disappointment that perhaps the brightest set of young stars the league has seen would be denied a chance to experience the Olympics. The group has been increasingly resistant to players attending a sixth consecutive Olympics, unconvinced of the big-picture impact of a Games in South Korea and unwilling to disrupt their season for it.But if the league holds true to that stance, would Ovechkin be alone in jumping ship from the Capitals to represent Russia? While the 2022 Beijing Games are seen as more appealing in that sense, it’s worth remembering South Korea has a population of more than 50 million and is just one hour ahead of China’s capital.The NHL, which recently announced pre-season games in China next season, was recently informed by the IOC that if failed to participate in 2018 then 2022 was off the table. “Greatest event you’ll ever go to in your life.”For many it was the patriotic opportunity on the grandest international stage that was too alluring to pass up. “It’s in the heart always for Russian people. It remains difficult to see the league ultimately spurning that opportunity, though what changes the equation is still a mystery.Jonathan Toews wondered if it was all tied to future collective bargaining agreement negotiations.“For some reason for me I feel like it’s going to happen,” American winger and Sochi shootout star T.J. That’s pretty much what I think,” said Karlsson, the Ottawa Senators captain and a silver medallist for Sweden in 2014. Somebody going to tell me I don’t go, I don’t care, I just go.”Whether it actually gets to that point remains a matter of some uncertainty despite the NHL’s contention Monday that it considers the matter “officially closed.” Ovechkin and other prominent players like Montreal goaltender Carey Price wondered if the league was simply bluffing, hoping to coax a better deal for Olympic participation.Most were just aghast at the NHL’s decision.“They crushed a dream,” Anton Stralman, the Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman, told reporters in Boston.“It is crap. Oshie said. Maybe they will let us go.”Ovechkin has the support of Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, but it’s possible that the NHL comes up with a rule to prevent players from leaving — one the NHLPA would likely fight. Others like Nicklas Backstrom, who was forced to sit out Sweden’s appearance in the gold-medal game in 2014 because of a suspension, savoured the unique chance to mingle with greats from other sports in the Olympic village.Backstrom was among the many NHL players to ride around the grounds in Sochi, Russia on a bicycle, popping in to watch other events like curling and speedskating.Beyond that, players have described the Olympic opportunity as one that, without question, would help the game grow globally. How many players, whether from Canada, Russia, the United States, Sweden, or Finland, would actually leave their NHL squads in the midst of a playoff chase for three weeks?“I know some guys have been vocal about going regardless but I’m not sure if I’m thinking quite that far ahead yet,” said Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, the captain of two Canadian Olympic champions.“If Russia need us of course,” 24-year-old Washington centre Evgeny Kuznetsov said, before putting a hand to his chest. “It’s going to come down to the very last minute for me to when I really believe we’re not going to go. Ovechkin responded as one might expect, reiterating his long-held stance that he’ll attend the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, whether the NHL decides to go or not. Erik Karlsson called it “crap.” Alex Ovechkin threatened outright disobedience. It would really be very unfortunate if we weren’t able to go over there.” “It’s the biggest opportunity in your life to play in the Olympic Games. As it stands, Hart Trophy favourite Connor McDavid won’t get to represent Team Canada; Auston Matthews won’t be able to stand for the star-spangled banner; Patrik Laine won’t have a chance to dazzle with the Finns.“I loved going,” said Toronto winger James van Riemsdyk , a starring force alongside Phil Kessel with the Americans in 2014. Others said the NHL was crushing dreams and wondered if the fight was really over.Reaction was mostly fiery to the NHL’s decision not to halt the 2017-18 season for players to attend the 2018 Olympics. “It’s definitely something that’s disappointing that our guys won’t get a chance to do that going forward now.”Mike Babcock guided Canada to its last two Olympic gold medals and has been an outspoken proponent for the NHL attending again.“I’ve been twice,” the Leafs head coach said. “It’s going to do more damage to this sport than people realize, and whoever made that decision obviously doesn’t know what they are doing.”Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Justin Faulk said he didn’t even read the NHL’s official statement on the matter “because I don’t believe half of their reasoning”.The NHL ownership class ultimately made the decision.

For the Maple Leafs, playing the Buffalo Sabres is still a challenge

But the last four of those games come against tough opponents – the Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets. While it may not be the black hole it was for Leaf teams in previous years, KeyBank Center, which the Leafs visit for the final time this season Monday night, is not a friendly place despite the thousands of Leaf fans who pack the place for every game against the Sabres.The Sabres, who are well out of the playoff race in seventh place in the Atlantic Division with a 32-34-12 record, should not present much of a challenge to the Leafs. No one personifies that more than rookie centre Auston Matthews, who raised his game markedly in the past several weeks. Thanks to Boston’s 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, the Bruins took over second place from the Maple Leafs by one point with 92, although the Leafs have two games in hand.This places much importance on Monday’s game in Buffalo against the Sabres, as the Leafs close out the regular season with five games in seven nights. Starting with the Leafs’ first game in their recent 13-game run, Matthews went five games without a point and then ran up seven goals and four assists in the next eight to easily make himself the front-runner in the race for the Calder Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s rookie of the year, with 38 goals and 28 assists.“He’s got unbelievable determination,” Babcock said Sunday. He missed only one game and returned to top form quickly, beating the Nashville Predators and the Detroit Red Wings in his past two outings.However, despite a 10-2-1 record in their past 13 games, the Leafs were only able to move briefly into second place in the Atlantic after Saturday’s 5-4 win over the Red Wings. After the Leafs held a brief optional practice Sunday in Buffalo, Babcock said Andersen will start against the Sabres while backup Curtis McElhinney gets the call for the second game of the back-to-back set against the Capitals, who are first in the Eastern Conference.Given the way the Leafs played since early March, there is reason for them to be optimistic they can shake the hex in Buffalo that has long plagued the team. However, their past visit, a 5-2 loss on March 25, was nearly a catastrophe. The pace of his game has gone way up, he is way more aware defensively, way more aware in his own zone, plays way faster.” You wonder, ‘Gee, am I ever going to score? The precocious Toronto Maple Leafs learned a lot of things about winning in the regular season, but one lesson remains – Buffalo.No matter what edition of the Maple Leafs ventured down the Queen Elizabeth Way to the Peace Bridge border crossing and whatever arena they played in – the old Memorial Auditorium or today’s KeyBank Center – the results have not been good for Toronto. “But he’s had some moments this year where it doesn’t go for him and when it doesn’t go in the net for him he’s like a lot of scorers, he gets a little [pushy], he wants to get through it.“Everybody in life, and I don’t care what you do, there is momentary doubt. You push through it and you believe in yourself.”Like his teammates, according to Babcock, Matthews is a far cry from the player he was at the start of the season.“He’s got unbelievable determination, work ethic, understanding. Since the Sabres joined the NHL in 1970, they have a 69-26-8 record at home against the Maple Leafs. The Leafs turned in one of their worst efforts in the past six weeks and were lucky to escape the joint without a serious injury. While this season’s Leafs have come a long way in learning how to win in the NHL, especially how to close out a third-period lead, Buffalo remains a challenge. Goaltender Frederik Andersen was knocked out of the game after the first period when he banged heads with Sabres forward William Carrier.Fortunately for the Leafs, Andersen was not seriously injured. Toronto and Buffalo have split four games this season and the Leafs are 1-1 at KeyBank Center. “I think he’s improved drastically from the start of the year. Or am I prepared for this speech? He wants to be good,” Babcock said. Am I prepared for this presentation or this interview?’ That’s life. There are also two sets of back-to-back games, Buffalo and Washington on Monday and Tuesday, and Pittsburgh and Columbus on Saturday and Sunday to close out the regular season.The importance of the Buffalo game was shown in head coach Mike Babcock’s goaltender selections.

South Carolina beats Mississippi State to win first NCAA championship

Dawn Staley finally could raise an NCAA championship trophy.A’ja Wilson scored 23 points to help coach Staley and South Carolina win their first national championship with a 67-55 victory over Mississippi State on Sunday night.Staley made the Final Four three times as a player at Virginia but never won. ‘La, we got you a ring. They spent a year getting to know our team, getting to know our system. Tennessee won both of those matchups, the last coming in 1996 when the Lady Vols beat Georgia. The Bulldogs couldn’t muster the same effort against the Gamecocks. “Allisha Gray, Kaela Davis they all believed in it. The junior centre sees a repeat in the future for the Gamecocks.“Man, just be with us next year, we’re trying to be in this same spot next year, we’re going to see how it goes,” Wilson said after winning the most outstanding player award for the Final Four.The Gamecocks won the title without star centre Alaina Coates, who hurt her ankle in the SEC Tournament. Tennessee did it in 1987 and Louisiana Tech accomplished the same feat a year later. If you stick with us and if you’re disciplined, if you believe – all these players believed in that. “Go back to my Temple days, they believed in our vision. It’s incredible belief and discipline and can’t thank them enough for choosing South Carolina.”The Bulldogs lost twice to the Gamecocks this year, dropping a game in South Carolina in the regular season and then in the SEC Tournament title game. Morgan William, who had become the face of the tournament with the game-winner against the Huskies after a 41-point performance against Baylor, was held to just eight points.South Carolina (33-4) turned a 10-point halftime lead into a 45-31 advantage midway through the third quarter before the Bulldogs rallied. Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer fell to 0-9 all-time against South Carolina.No team had a tougher road to the championship then the second-seeded Bulldogs. She didn’t even travel with the team to Dallas.“Our players never fretted. 1 seeds en route to the title. The Bulldogs had already knocked off top-seed Baylor and UConn to get to the championship game.This was the sixth time in NCAA Tournament history that teams from the same conference played for the national championship, including three by the SEC. Happy our words came true to them.”Mississippi State had all the momentum on its side after a shocking win over UConn on Friday night that ended the Huskies’ record 111-game winning streak. That brought a huge cheer from the thousands of Mississippi State fans who made the eight-hour trip from Starkville, Miss.But that’s as close as the Bulldogs could get.The victory in front of a sellout crowd came one day after the Gamecocks men’s basketball team lost in the Final Four in Phoenix.Wilson, who grew up in South Carolina, blocked a shot on one end of the court and then hit a short jumper in the lane that started a 12-2 run to put the game away. We got you a ring,’” Staley said of Coates. She also led the Gamecocks to the national semi-final two years ago before losing to Notre Dame. Once the final buzzer sounded, Staley grabbed the trophy and paraded it around the court high over her head.“You have to give tribute to the former players,” Staley said. Got the opportunity to play and we become national champions. They were trying to become the third team in NCAA history to beat three number No. Staley emptied her bench with less than a minute left and Wilson left with tears of joy. Mississippi State (34-5) slowly cut into its deficit, getting with 54-50 on Jazzmun Holmes’s jumper. We took that vision to South Carolina and that vision was we’ll be national champions.