The Kings are not the Stanley Cup champions ... yet


The Kings are not the Stanley Cup champions ... yet

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- After 45 years of waiting, the Los Angeles Kings' quest for their first Stanley Cup title will last at least a few more days. The Kings had a chance to sweep New Jersey out of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday night, but they were done in by three third-period goals in a 3-1 loss to the Devils in Game 4. While the Kings are an amazing 15-3 in this remarkable postseason run, they have lost three Game 4s with a chance for a sweep. No worries, though, as Los Angeles bounced back in Game 5 to knock out Vancouver and Phoenix on the road. The Kings managed to sweep St. Louis in the second round. The Devils claimed their first lead of the series in the third period before Kings defenseman Drew Doughty tied it. Adam Henrique put New Jersey ahead to stay with 4:29 left, and Ilya Kovalchuk secured the Eastern Conference champions' first win of the series with an empty-net goal. Now it's back to New Jersey for Game 5 on Saturday night. "It was pretty even all the way, but they found a way to get a late goal," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "We had some chances early in the third, but we didn't bury it, and we made a couple of mistakes that they capitalized on. We've just got to hit the reset button. "We've been in this situation now three times in the playoffs, and we've always come back with a big rebound game." The Kings might have to get some rebounds past 40-year-old Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who has been in top form all series, and stopped 21 shots in Game 4. The NHL's career winningest goalie doesn't appear to be satisfied with the three Stanley Cup titles he already has. "Marty played well for them and made some big saves," Brown said. "Tonight was a battle out there, and now it's just a matter of having the same approach in the next game." The Kings were trying to become the first team to sweep the Devils in a best-of-seven series, and the first to sweep the finals since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings. New Jersey had managed a total of only two goals in the first three games -- dropping a pair of 2-1 overtime decisions at home before losing 4-0 in Los Angeles in Game 3. Los Angeles has won a record 10 straight road games in these playoffs, and 12 consecutive postseason games away from home, dating to last year. If the Kings win one more in New Jersey, they will also own the mark for most road wins in a playoff year with 11. "Whether you win or lose, we don't have time to get down or too excited. We just have to focus on the next one," goalie Jonathan Quick said. "We've played well on the road, but at the same time, we try to play the same way whether you're on the road or at home. We're just focused on the next one, and that's all it is. This one is in the past." Quick faced 72 shots in the first three games, and the only two that got past him were a bounce off the chest of Kings defenseman Slava Voynov, and Ryan Carter's deflection of Marek Zidlicky's shot. On Wednesday, he was beaten by Henrique's perfectly placed wrist shot. "They were desperate in all of the games," Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. "Everybody is bringing their A' game in the finals, and we're going to have to do it again. We have to bury the chances we get. "They seem like they had chances off the rush, and they capitalized on those. They played with a little more desperation than we did, and we have to correct that in Game 5." Teams that had a chance to win the Cup on home ice are 6-8 since 2000. The last four champions closed the deal on the road. The Kings could be primed to repeat that feat. "We didn't have our best game, and they did," defenseman Matt Greene said. "They played well. We knew they were going to come out hard, and they did. We have to be tighter in the defensive zone and tighter in our game if we want to win. "I think we played OK, but that's not going to cut it right now. We've got to do a better job of moving the puck faster out of our zone, getting more sustained pressure in theirs and disrupting their game." The Kings can take comfort in the fact that teams who led 3-0 in the Stanley Cup finals have won the series 24 of 25 times since the NHL went to a best-of-seven format in 1939. The only exception is the 1942 Detroit Red Wings, who blew the big lead against the Toronto Maple Leafs. None of the Kings appeared worried Wednesday that the Stanley Cup was slipping out of their grasp. The games have been tight, and Los Angeles has effectively shut down the Devils' power play, which is 0 for 15 in the series. "I don't think we were expecting to win in four before the finals started," Kings forward Simon Gagne said. "We're in a great position, but it's going to be a big fight. We all know that fourth one is going to be the toughest one to win. "Sure, you're disappointed. You hope you could do it in front of your fans. But at the same time, it's the Stanley Cup finals, and it's going to take a lot of work to get it done. They played well, and we came up short. That's the bottom line. Now we have to focus on the next game. That's it."

Why Joe Maddon chose Albert Almora Jr. over Jason Heyward in huge Game 6 for Cubs

Why Joe Maddon chose Albert Almora Jr. over Jason Heyward in huge Game 6 for Cubs

With the chance to book their first trip to the World Series since 1945, the Cubs benched the player with the biggest contract in franchise history and started a 22-year-old rookie who began this season at Triple-A Iowa.

Now that says something about Clayton Kershaw’s overall brilliance and Albert Almora Jr.’s precocious nature, but it also again spotlights Jason Heyward’s offensive spiral during the first year of that $184 million megadeal.  

Heyward’s Gold Glove defense in right field, well-rounded skills and clubhouse intangibles certainly helped the Cubs get to this point – up 3-2 on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series – but manager Joe Maddon wanted to go in a different direction for Saturday’s Game 6 at Wrigley Field.   

“Kershaw’s pretty good,” Maddon said. “You look at his numbers, he’s been absurd versus lefties, (so you) get another right-handed bat out there and the way Albert can play defense really makes it a little bit easier.

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“If we didn’t have the opportunity to do something differently tonight I wouldn’t have. But we do. Albert just presents well at the plate – and well on defense – to the point where I thought we needed to give it a go.”

Almora – the first player the Theo Epstein regime drafted here with the sixth overall pick in 2012 – could be the 2017 Opening Day starter in center field if Dexter Fowler cashes in elsewhere as a free agent.

After posting career lows in homers (seven) and OPS (.631) during the regular season, Heyward has gone 2-for-28 (.071 average) in the playoffs and will probably need to reboot during the winter.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of internal work done in the offseason with him, no question,” Maddon said. “You know he’s not satisfied with the year. (But) he was a big part of our 100-plus wins this year.

“It is something that he has to work on – and he will work on it – but by no means is anybody giving up on him. He just needs to probably clear his mind a little bit when this is all said and done and get back to the drawing board.”

Huskers stay unbeaten with comeback win over Purdue


Huskers stay unbeaten with comeback win over Purdue

At halftime Saturday, Nebraska, the No. 8 team in the country, was trailing Purdue, which just fired its coach.

Uh, what?

Order was soon restored, but the Huskers needed to bounce back from a halftime deficit to grab a 27-14 win over the lowly Boilermakers on Saturday in Lincoln.

Purdue threw an interception on the game's opening drive, and Nebraska turned that into a touchdown, something that looked very much like how everyone expected this one to go. But quarterback David Blough retaliated with the first of two first-half touchdown passes, while the Huskers mustered only a field goal on the next drive and then went silent the rest of the opening 30 minutes, punting three times and Tommy Armstrong throwing an interception right before the break. In there, Blough threw his second touchdown, an 88-yard monster to DeAngelo Yancey that gave the Boilers a lead.

That lead didn't last too long, though, as after going three and out on their first drive of the third quarter, the Huskers scored on each of their next three possessions: an Armstrong pass to De'Mornay Pierson-El, a 24-yard run by Alonzo Moore and a 51-yard field goal by Drew Brown. Meanwhile, the Nebraska defense clamped down, and Purdue had just one drive that lasted more than five plays in the second half, with that drive ending in a turnover on downs and Blough adding an interception.

All in all, the Huskers out-gained the Boilers, 409-333, and had the ball for about seven more minutes, avoiding a repeat of last year's matchup, when Purdue scored its lone Big Ten win over Nebraska.

Armstrong threw for 252 yards, one touchdown and one interception and added 51 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Terrell Newby had 82 yards rushing.

Blough threw for 309 yards, but the Boilers managed just 24 rushing yards.

The win sent Nebraska to a perfect 7-0 ahead of next weekend's huge Big Ten West Division showdown with Wisconsin.

The loss dropped Purdue to 3-4. The Boilers take on Penn State next weekend.