Northeast Conference - LIU Brooklyn's Mica-Jonathan Petit-Homme Advances to NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships -
LIU Brooklyn freshman Mica-Jonathan Petit-Homme continued his standout first season with the Blackbirds, advancing to the NCAA Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., by recording the seventh-fastest time in the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA East Preliminary Meet on Friday.
The performance highlighted a trio made by Blackbirds on day two of the event, which is being held on the campus of North Carolina A&T.
Petit-Homme ran from lane three in the first heat of three in the 400-meter hurdles, and sprinted to a personal-best time of 51.60 in the 400-meter hurdles. The time shaved .30 seconds off his previous best, which he ran in the quarterfinal round on Friday.
The Linden, N.J. product finished fourth in his heat, not quite good enough to earn him an automatic bid into the NCAA Championships. But the time was one of the three non-automatic qualifiers over the three heats which was good enough to advance him to Eugene.
Sophomore Brendon Rodney, who entered the meet with the seventh-fastest time in the East Region in the 200-meter dash, qualified for the quarterfinals in the event with a time of 20.97. Rodney finished second in his heat, earning an automatic advancement into Saturday’s round.
The lone representative at NCAA Preliminaries from the women’s side, freshman high jumper Kyaira Wright-Harmon completed the event with a mark of 1.67m, placing her 37th in the field of 48.
The Blackbirds conclude prelims on Saturday, as Rodney looks to join Petit-Homme in Eugene in the 200-meter event and sophomore high jumper Kemar Lewis takes the stage in his event. LIU’s men’s 4x100-meter relay team of Rodney, senior Nickolei Mahlung, senior Brian Richards and sophomore Mikhail Williamson, and the 4x400-meter team of Petit-Homme, Rodney, sophomore Alistair McLean, and junior Kervin Morgan will also compete.
Northeast Conference - Monmouth's Rachel Watkins, Errol Jeffrey Advance To NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Finals -
Greensboro, NC — Senior Rachel Watkins (Oakland, N.J./Indian Hills) and junior Errol Jeffrey (Brooklyn, N.Y./Transit Tech [Bronx C.C.]) each advanced to the NCAA Finals in their respective events at the NCAA East Preliminary Round at North Carolina A&T on Friday to highlight the Hawks’ second day of competition.
Watkins bested her school record in the 400 hurdles for the fourth straight race, running 58.28 to finish fourth in her heat, and sixth overall to advance, while Jeffrey, who added more than a foot to his personal best, threw 60’08” in the shot put, to finish in sixth position to advance to the NCAA Championship Finals.
Watkins, who became only the second female in Monmouth history to qualify for NCAA Finals in school history (Tisifenee Taylor; All-American in the long jump in 2007), became Monmouth’s first athlete male or female to qualify for the NCAA Finals in a track event.
Head coach Joe Compagni noted, “Rachel graduated on Wednesday and had to battle through some obstacles with our travel challenges just getting here yesterday. She didn’t let that get to her yesterday and then put together another great race today.”
Jeffrey became the third shot putter in the program to qualify for NCAAs in the last five years, joining Larry Lundy (2009) and All-American Vince Elardo (2012).
“Errol has been on a mission to get over 60’ and get to the NCAA Finals all year, and he competed very well today,” added Compagni.
Senior Symmone Fisher (Coram, N.Y./Longwood) finished 38th in the hammer with a throw of 167’8”.
“Symmone was disappointed since she has thrown a mark that would have advanced to the NCAA Finals,” stated Compagni. “She did an excellent job of coming back from major knee surgery last year and getting back to this meet was one of the big goals she met.”
In the javelin, senior Kevin Gilhuly (Wallingford, Conn./Mark T. Sheehan) finished in 25th position with a throw of 208’5”, while freshman McLean Lipschutz (Robbinsville, N.J./Robbinsville) claimed 35th place with a throw of 199’0”.
“Kevin and McLean both threw well but wanted more,” added Compagni. “They will both be back next year, though, and getting to this meet is a very valuable experience that will help them excel in big meets in the future.”
McLean is one of five Monmouth freshmen who have qualified for U.S. Junior Nationals next month in Iowa.
Pioneers Beat LIU Brooklyn, 8-7; Advance to NEC Championship Game -
Lakewood, NJ – The Sacred Heart baseball team defeated the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds, 8-7, Friday night to advance to their fifth straight NEC Championship game in Lakewood, New Jersey. SHU improves to 34-22 on the season and is just one win shy of their third straight NEC Championship.
Junior Kody Kerski (Waterbury, CT) rebounded from a rough first inning, striking out 12 en route to his seventh win of the season. The hard throwing righty allowed just four hits in 7.2 innings of work. The 12 punch-outs were a season high for Kerski.
Freshman Dan Wertz (Cross River, NY) notched the save for Sacred Heart, getting the final out of the game.
Junior Nick Leiningen (Millwood, NY) struggled in relief of Kerski, allowing four runs in the ninth.
It didn’t take Sacred Heart too long to take the lead on LIU. Junior Dan Perez (Seymour, CT) hammered a two run, two out home run over the right field wall to give SHU the 2-0 lead. Senior Dave Boisture (Highland Mills, NY) led off the first with a base hit to left and came around on the Perez blast.
Down 2-0 after one, LIU Brooklyn immediately fought back, scoring three in the bottom half of the first. Center fielder Pete Leonello blasted a lead off triple into the right center field gap. Leonello would score on a pass ball for LIU Brooklyn’s first run of the game. Kevin Needham knocked in LIU Brooklyn’s tying run, smacking a single into right center field, scoring Kyle Demarco. Demarco reached on a walk. The Blackbirds took the lead on a Chris Untereiner single to center field to score Needham from second.
SHU tied it right back up in the third inning. Perez led off the inning with his second hit of the day. FreshmanJesus Medina (New York, NY) followed Perez with a base hit of his own. Both Perez and Medina moved over to scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Keaton Flint (Charlton, NY). Perez would then race home on a wild pitch to tie the game up at three.
In the fourth inning, Sacred Heart once again took the lead. Murphy smacked a two out base hit to left field to score senior captain Jonathan Servilla (Fairfield, CT) from second base. Servilla led off the inning with an infield hit and then stole second base to get into scoring position for Murphy.
Sacred Heart would break it open in the fifth, scoring four more runs. Flint started the rally with a one out single down the right field line. Freshman Jayson Sullivan (Charlton, NY) followed Flint, reaching on a Blackbird error after laying a bunt down. Senior catcher Rocco Gondek (Glastonbury, CT) followed Sullivan, smacking a single through the right side to score Flint from second. The Pioneers would load the bases thanks to an infield hit by Servilla. Boisture followed Servilla with an RBI fielder’s choice to score Sullivan from third. Sacred Heart would load the bases for the second time in the inning after freshman Brian Lamboy (Manalapan, NJ) was hit by a pitch. Following Lamboy, Murphy once again came up with the big hit, this time smacking a fastball through the right side to score two Pioneers, giving SHU the 8-3 lead.
LIU Brooklyn rallied in the bottom of the ninth off Leiningen, scoring four runs to get within just one run. Ziznewski singled to right center field to score Leonello and Melvin Rios. Untereiner came up with the second big hit for LIU, knocking a two out base hit to left field to score Ziznewski and Demarco. LIU Brooklyn had the tying run on first but Wertz got Mike Garcia to weakly ground out to get the final out of the game.
Sacred Heart will play the winner of Bryant and LIU Brooklyn as they go for their third straight Northeast Conference Championship. We will have the call on the Pioneer Sports Network at 3:30 pm.
Braves-Mets Preview -
The Atlanta Braves have won six consecutive games. The New York Mets have lost six straight at home.
The teams had to wait one more day before finding out which streak will end, as they’re set to complete a suspended game before meeting in the regularly scheduled one about an hour later Saturday night.
Friday’s game is tied 5-5 heading to the top of the ninth, with the Mets rallying to tie in the eighth in the midst of a downpour, having drawn within one on a Daniel Murphy single and scoring again on a wild pitch.
”It was tough to see. As tough as it was to see, I’m sure it was tough to get a grip on the ball and footing on the mound,” Murphy said. ”So, equal playing field and we were really glad to tie the score up there, and we’ll come out tomorrow and see if we can win an inning.”
The ninth inning presents an interesting decision for both managers. Atlanta’s Fredi Gonzalez is considering putting Anthony Varvaro, who blew the save Friday, back on the mound.
“I could even run Varvaro back out there,” Gonzalez said. ”It’s like going back-to-back days.”
Mets manager Terry Collins will also turn to his bullpen, as opposed to giving the ball to scheduled Saturday starter Dillon Gee to pitch in the suspended game.
“I’m going to start the game with a relief pitcher,” Collins said. “Otherwise, if the thing’s over in 10 minutes, the guy’s already warmed up, now he has to sit for an hour. That’s not what I want to happen.”
Once the first game is over, Mike Minor (5-2, 2.78 ERA) will try to put an end to his road struggles against the Mets.
He appears to have a good chance to do so given his performance of late. Atlanta has won his last three starts, during which the left-hander has gone 2-0 with a 1.83 ERA with 20 strikeouts over 19 2-3 innings.
He set a season high with nine strikeouts and surrendered two runs and three hits in six innings of a 5-2 victory over Los Angeles on Sunday. Minor didn’t get the decision.
Minor has a 5.63 ERA in seven career starts versus New York - his worst against any team he’s pitched at least 15 innings against. He’s turned in a pair of solid effort in his last two matchups, allowing three runs in 13 1-3 innings, but those games came at Atlanta.
Minor, who went seven innings and gave up three runs in a 7-5 win over the Mets on May 3, has gone 1-1 with an 8.04 ERA in three career starts at Citi Field.
New York’s Dillon Gee (2-5, 6.04), by contrast, has been very comfortable at Citi Field, posting a 2.35 ERA in four starts as opposed to a 9.97 mark in five starts away from home.
Gee, who gave up three runs in five innings of a 4-3 road defeat to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, has failed to pitch more than five innings in his past four starts.
Gee has held Freddie Freeman to one hit in 11 at-bats, but the Braves slugger hit a two-run homer Friday and has recorded a pair of two-hit games in his last three.
Freeman has eight home runs against the Mets - tying his highest total against any team - and has batted .316 with six home runs and 21 RBIs in 19 games against the Mets since the start of last season.
The Braves have won 13 of the past 17 against the Mets, who have surrendered eight first-inning runs over their last four games.
Braves-Mets suspended, game to resume Saturday -
NEW YORK (AP) — Evan Gattis had a two-run, pinch-hit single in the top of the eighth, then the Mets rallied to tie it in a downpour in the bottom half before the Atlanta Braves and New York were suspended by rain with the score 5-5 Friday night.
The teams will resume play with none out in the top of the ninth inning on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. The regularly scheduled game is set to start 7:15 p.m.
With rain starting to fall heavily, Gattis put Atlanta up 5-3 with a bases-loaded single off Greg Burke. The Mets tied it in a wet and wild bottom half, taking advantage of center fielder B.J. Upton’s error on Daniel Murphy’s RBI single and scoring on a wild pitch by Anthony Varvaro.
The game was suspended after a 75-minute delay.
Varvaro could be seen struggling to get a good grip on the ball throughout the inning, repeatedly rubbing his hand on his jersey and pants. Catcher Brian McCann even visited Varvaro to calm him down.
The tarp was brought out after Rick Ankiel struck out to end the eighth.
The Braves were trying for their seventh straight win - they swept two home series - but only a second win in seven road games. The Mets were swept by Cincinnati in a three-game series at Citi Field. They entered Friday’s game 0-9 in games following a start by rookie star Matt Harvey.
New York led 3-2 behind the impressive pitching of Jeremy Hefner for six innings, but LaTroy Hawkins gave up a homer to Dan Uggla leading off the seventh to tie it. It was Uggla’s fourth hit in 38 at-bats.
Hefner gave up a two-run homer to Freddie Freeman in the first then was sharp the rest of his outing, giving up three hits and two walks. He struck out seven. But Uggla’s homer ensured he would remain winless in his nine starts.
Braves starter Kris Medlen allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings. He struck out nine, but yielded a homer leading off the fourth to John Buck that tied it 2-all.
Justin Upton was walked by Scott Rice with one out in the eighth and advanced to third on Freeman’s single. Rice struck out McCann for the second out and was replaced by Greg Burke. Uggla walked to load the bases for Gattis.
The rookie with a made-for-Hollywood story came to the plate having hit three homers - two as a pinch-hitter - in his last six at-bats, including a grand slam on Wednesday. As a heavy rain started to fall, he worked the count to 1-2 before lining a single up the middle.
Struggling in the downpour, Varvaro walked Buck then struck out Ike Davis - his fourth strikeout of the night - and pinch-hitter Jordany Valdespin before Ruben Tejada singled.
Murphy hit a soft line drive to center field that hit off Upton’s glove as he came in on it and Buck scored.
Tejada was able to race to third base when B.J. Upton struggled picking up the ball. Varvaro bounced the first pitch to Ankiel and it scooted to the left of catcher Buck allowing Tejada to score and tie it 5-all.
New York last scored more than four runs at home on April 24, a 7-3 win in 10 innings over the Dodgers.
NOTES: Braves RHP Brandon Beachy (elbow surgery, June 2012) was scheduled to make a rehabilitation start for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday night. … Mets RHP Jenrry Mejia (elbow inflammation, 60-day DL) is set to have a rebab outing Saturday for Class A St. Lucie. … Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said rookie sensation Gattis and McCann will split the catching and designated hitter duties for the two-game series in Toronto next week. Atlanta’s third catcher, Gerald Laird is lined up to be behind the plate against the Mets on Sunday for Julio Teheran’s start. … Braves 3B coach Brian Snitker stayed in Atlanta to see a back specialist. Carlos Tosca coached third. … Mets 3B coach Tim Teufel was attending his daughter’s high school graduation in Florida. Bench coach Bob Geren coached first and Tom Goodwin moved from first to third.
Yankees-Rays Preview -
Baseball hasn’t seen a left-hander as young as 23-year-old Matt Moore start a season this well since one of the greatest New York Yankees sluggers of all-time was still putting fear into the opposition from the pitcher’s mound 96 years ago.
The current Yankees are privy to just how good Moore has been, and they won’t have Curtis Granderson to try and help slow him down.
Moore takes the mound as the host Tampa Bay Rays look to avoid a fourth loss in five games Saturday against first-place New York.
Though he would later be known for his 714 career home runs, a 22-year-old Boston hurler named Babe Ruth began the 1917 season winning his first nine decisions.
No other lefty would win his first eight at such a young age until Moore (8-0, 2.29 ERA), who has dazzled at times in his second season as a full-time starter for the Rays (24-23).
Moore’s ERA rose more than a point while posting a 5.06 mark over his previous three starts, but he allowed just one run in seven innings of a 3-1 win at Baltimore on Sunday.
He has won nine straight decisions dating back to last season to break the franchise record set in 2012 by Cy Young Award winner David Price.
“Historically speaking, it’s been wonderful,” manager Joe Maddon said.
Opponents are hitting just .175 off Moore, the third-best mark in the majors.
“It’s good for our team. That’s the biggest thing we can take away from my record,” Moore said. “On my days to pitch, we’re winning all the games. That’s the most important part.”
Moore gave up one run and two hits - including a solo homer to Robinson Cano - in a season-high eight innings of a 5-1 win over the Yankees on April 22, striking out nine.
New York (29-18) hopes to have a better performance this time after ending a two-game slide with a 9-4 victory in Friday’s series opener. They lost Granderson, though, to a broken knuckle on his left pinkie after he was hit by a pitch in the fifth, and manager Joe Girardi indicated the outfielder could miss a minimum of four weeks.
Granderson also missed the first 38 games with a broken right forearm suffered when he was hit with a pitch in his first spring training at-bat.
“It’s sad,” Cano said. “He’s one of those guys you’re going to miss. Hopefully he gets back soon.”
Brett Gardner hit a two-run homer in the fourth while Lyle Overbay and Jayson Nix also drove in a pair of runs Friday.
Though Ivan Nova was activated from the disabled list Friday, Girardi decided to send him to the bullpen and give Vidal Nuno another start Saturday.
Nuno (1-1, 1.13) will be making his fourth career appearance and second start after allowing a leadoff home run in the bottom of the 10th in a 3-2 loss to Baltimore on Tuesday.
His only start came May 13, when he gave up three hits and three walks in five innings of a 7-0 win over Cleveland.
It’s unclear how many more starts the left-hander will receive with Nova back. Nova, who had an inflamed right triceps, has been put into a long-reliever role to get back on track before he returns to the rotation.
The Yankees had lost 13 of the previous 16 meetings in St. Petersburg prior to Friday, when the Rays’ Evan Longoria went 0 for 4 to end his career-best 16-game hitting streak.
Indians-Red Sox Preview -
Jon Lester has always pitched well against the Cleveland Indians. More recently, he has come to excel at Fenway Park.
On Saturday afternoon, he’ll have a chance to put the two together as he looks to propel the Boston Red Sox to a second straight victory.
Lester (6-1, 3.15 ERA), making his first home start against the Indians (27-20) since August 4, 2010, has been dominant at Progressive Field. He is 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA versus Cleveland since the 2011 season, striking out 33 in 26 innings. That includes a start on April 18, in which he surrendered two runs and four hits over seven innings of a 6-3 victory.
The left-hander has also seemingly solved last season’s woes at Fenway. In 2012, he posted a 6.31 ERA at home, as opponents hit .302 off of him. This season, he has recorded a 1.66 ERA in Boston, allowing 12 hits over 21 2-3 innings. In his last home start, he retired the first 17 hitters before ultimately finishing with a one-hitter in a 5-0 win over Toronto.
“My job was easy. I put the glove there and he hit it,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “I don’t think whoever we were facing could have hit him.”
Lester wasn’t so good in his last start, however, as he gave up six runs in six innings of a 6-4 defeat to the Chicago White Sox on Monday. After winning Lester’s first five starts of the season, Boston has won just two of his last five.
Lester will face a familiar foe in Cleveland’s Nick Swisher, who has 15 hits off him in 49 career at-bats. Only Derek Jeter has more hits off the Boston lefty. Swisher will look to provide some pop for an Indians offense that has two home runs in its last four games after hitting 10 during a five-game winning streak.
After batting .203 with six extra-base hits while losing three of four, Boston (29-20) scored eight runs Friday for its highest total since last Saturday.
That offense came in spite of the absence of Will Middlebrooks and Shane Victorino, who were both placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday. Mike Carp provided the biggest hit with a three-run homer in the second inning, breaking an 0-for-21 slump.
“It definitely means a lot,” Carp said. ”I’ve been struggling for playing time and to have a big at bat like that it builds confidence heading into the next couple days.”
The Red Sox will look to keep up their momentum against struggling Scott Kazmir (2-2, 6.35), who has posted a 10.13 ERA over his last two starts.
He lasted a season-low three-plus innings against Seattle on Monday, yielding five runs and seven hits but escaped without a decision in a wild 10-8 win.
“The last two just didn’t really go my way,” Kazmir told the Indians’ official website. “I never really got into a groove.”
Kazmir has plenty of experience against Boston. His 139 2-3 innings against the Red Sox are by far his most against any team. He has a 4.06 lifetime ERA versus Boston.
The left-hander has handled David Ortiz (10 for 46) but Dustin Pedroia is 17 for 33 (.515) in their matchups.
Spurs-Grizzlies Preview -
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The towels are showing up all around Memphis. They hang over neighborhood signs and even at a door to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The sentiment? Believe Memphis.
The Grizzlies certainly do.
Yes, they are down 0-2 to San Antonio in their first Western Conference final, but they take heart in knowing they dug themselves out of an 0-2 hole in the first round against the Clippers.
No NBA team has won separate series in the same postseason after losing the first two games. The Grizzlies now see only opportunity at home, where they have yet to lose this postseason.
”We got to believe,” Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph said. ”We got to be confident. We got to believe. Game 2 went down, we came all the way back and went to overtime, so we got to have that confidence and we got to believe in ourselves.”
Game 3 is Saturday night.
”Believe Memphis” is the slogan first printed on giveaway towels for fans in the 2011 playoffs, which they held up instead of waving, trying to will the Grizzlies to victory late in a game against Oklahoma City. Yes, the Grizzlies won that game in overtime, and it’s been a catch-phrase since then for this small market team in a town best known for its barbecue and music.
Fans are ready for the latest biggest home game in team history, and the Grizzlies hear all the excitement every time they go outside. So they are busy trying to focus on business.
”We’re down 0-2 and we’ve got to take care of home just like they took care of home,” Grizzlies guard Tony Allen said Friday. ”Simple as that.”
The Grizzlies’ confidence also stems from a return to the arena they call the ”Grindhouse.” They set a franchise record winning 32 games there this season, and they are 19-1 here since Feb. 8. Memphis also has lost three straight only twice this season, the last in mid-January.
This series took a three-day break after the Spurs won 93-89 in overtime Tuesday night in Game 2. The Grizzlies took off Wednesday after flying home and practiced Thursday and Friday. The Spurs practiced Wednesday and Thursday before taking off Friday.
The home team has won 17 of the last 20 games between these teams, and the Spurs lost both trips to Memphis during the regular season. With strong memories of blowing a 2-0 lead to Oklahoma City in the Western finals, the Spurs know the games in Memphis will be hard.
”We know they play great at home,” Spurs forward Boris Diaw said. ”They have a great crowd, and they seem to be more pumped up when they play at home. They are probably going to make more shots, so we’ve got to be ready for that.”
It would be tough for the Grizzlies to shoot much worse than they did in the first two games in San Antonio, including a stretch where they missed seven straight layups in one sequence. They missed 15 of 18 attempts inside 5 feet in the first half, a statistic that surprised Grizzlies guard Mike Conley because of their strength scoring in the paint.
”We don’t expect to do that again, but we just have to be better mentally prepared and focused on finishing at the rim,” Conley said.
Randolph went 1 of 8 in the first game and shot a bit better in Game 2. But he still struggled with close shots, with the Spurs often doubling down on him. Randolph said he needs guards like Conley, Allen and Jerryd Bayless to be more aggressive helping on the perimeter and moving the ball.
”That rim’s tight,” Randolph said with a laugh. ”No, I’ll just be confident. I’ll take that shot again tomorrow, and hopefully it goes in.”
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins has spent the past two days trying to tighten his defense. He’s also worked on his team’s spacing in an effort to revive the offense.
In any case, the coach doesn’t want his Grizzlies to relax too much and expect a boost simply by being at home.
”As I told our team, being home is not going to win anything for us,” Hollins said. ”We have to go out and play much better. There’s no need at this point to change the starting lineup. I mean we lost an overtime game, and we got blown out in a game. We have to come here, hold serve and we got to play better, obviously.”
The Grizzlies also want to make Spurs point guard Tony Parker work harder and spend more energy bringing the ball up the court. That also might slow Parker from getting his teammates involved, something he did all too well in Game 2 with a playoff-best 18 assists.
Parker had an MRI exam on his bruised left calf Thursday. The three-day break provided a welcome break for him.
”I feel like I’ll be fine Saturday,” he said.
The Spurs, looking to win their first NBA title since 2007, have been getting strong contributions from Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Both have scored in double figures in each game this series.
Green has not lost sight of that blown 2-0 lead to Oklahoma City a year ago.
”We’re a more mature team,” he said. ”We’ve been there before so we know what it takes. But we also know what it takes to get past that point and not to be lackadaisical, not to get satisfied. We’ve just got to continue to just come out and play basketball, stay focused and remember what happened last year.”
Detroit at Chicago Preview -
CHICAGO (AP)—Jonathan Toews is going to play his usual minutes. Corey Crawford will be in goal. The lines will look largely the same.
Don’t expect any major changes for the Chicago Blackhawks when they try to extend their season in Game 5 of their second-round playoff series against Detroit on Saturday night.
After three consecutive losses to the rolling Red Wings, Toews and Co. think they are close to a breakthrough.
“The guys are very confident that we’re very close to finding a way to win one game and when we do that we know all that confidence, the momentum is going to come rushing back and that’s what we’re focused on,” Toews said. “It’s the only thing we can worry about.”
It’s quite the change from the end of the regular season, when the Red Wings won their last four games to secure a spot in the postseason.
Then they were down 3-2 in the first round against Anaheim before taking the last two to advance, including a road victory in Game 7.
Now they’re in complete control against the top-seeded Blackhawks, and eager to deliver a knockout blow.
“It’s a race to four, and we feel that we’re in a good position,” said Daniel Cleary who had an empty-net goal in Detroit’s 2-0 victory on Thursday night.
“But we also understand that Chicago is a great team. They’re loaded with champions, with winners, with guys (who) know what it takes.”
Problem for the Blackhawks is those guys aren’t doing anything right now. Jimmy Howard and the Red Wings have shut them down completely.
Toews, who took home the Conn Smythe Award when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, is without a goal in his past 10 playoff games dating to last season.
Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa combined for three shots in Game 4. Patrick Sharp got off to a great start in the postseason, but is without a point in the past two games.
And the few times Chicago’s biggest stars have managed to wriggle free, Howard has been right there. The 29-year-old goalie has stopped 86 of 88 shots over the past three games for a sparkling .977 save percentage.
“They’re doing a great job in front of me,” Howard said, praising Detroit’s maturing defensemen. “They’ve been helping me out a lot and (it’s) why I think we’ve been successful here.”
Toews grew so frustrated on Thursday night that he was called for three penalties in the first 11 minutes of a period for the first time in his career, according to STATS LLC. The Red Wings used the captain’s second penalty to score the first goal of the game on Jakub Kindl’s power-play shot midway through the second.
“I understand what happened in the second period wasn’t a good thing and I don’t attribute it to me losing my temper,” Toews said after the Blackhawks had a team meeting and an optional skate on Friday.
“I think obviously I was a little bit careless with my stick and unfortunately it cost me and it cost our team, but I think we’re looking to have that controlled emotion as a team.”
But coach Joel Quenneville and defenseman Brent Seabrook felt the need to talk to Toews about what happened, indicating their concern about the costly sequence.
“It was I think after the third one he looked frustrated and I don’t know if that was a reason for the penalties,” Seabrook said. “It was a little bit of bad luck with his stick. I just tried to calm him down and we need him. He’s the best player on the team and our leader. If the rest of the group sees him like that it’s going to trickle down.”
Toews has been hounded by Henrik Zetterberg throughout the series, but the Red Wings captain downplayed his role ahead of Game 5.
“I don’t think it’s man on man,” he said. “It’s two teams that play out there.”
Only 24 teams have come back to win a best-of-seven NHL playoff series after dropping three of the first four games, according to STATS. That’s out of 265 opportunities, or 9.1 percent. Tampa Bay was the last team to accomplish the feat, beating the Penguins in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in 2011.
The Blackhawks faced a similar situation when they lost the first three games of a playoff series against Vancouver two years ago. They managed to force a Game 7 and lost 2-1 in overtime.
“We talk about momentum and how important it is come playoff time,” Quenneville said. “They obviously got it right now, but one game could turn everything around. That’s what we’re looking for.”
Rangers-Bruins Preview -
BOSTON (AP) — Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask saw the replay of his Game 4 gaffe over and over on television.
”I saw it in my head, too,” he said Friday, a day after he fell in the crease and allowed a goal that helped the New York Rangers stay alive in the Eastern Conference semifinals. ”You can either cry about it or laugh about it. I choose to have a sense of humor.”
That attitude will help when the Bruins try for a second time to finish the series at the TD Garden in Game 5 on Saturday. The Rangers would need a win to force the series back to Madison Square Garden for a sixth game on Monday.
”We want to do the pushing now,” Rangers forward Michael Haley said. ”Put out some hits and get a good forecheck and get the energy in our favor.”
The Bruins took a 3-0 lead into the fourth game of the best-of-seven series on Thursday night, and Nathan Horton and Torey Krug scored in the second period to give Boston the lead. But just 54 seconds after the Bruins went up 2-0, Rask stumbled in the crease and fell just as Carl Hagelin backhanded a shot on net.
Rask swiped at the puck with his stick, but it was moving so slowly it eluded him.
”Probably the ugliest goal I have ever seen turned it around for us, and that’s hockey,” Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. ”A save or a goal or one shift can change everything. It was an ugly goal. Sometimes that’s all you need to get us going, to get the building going. We kind of lowered our shoulders a little bit and started playing our game.”
Rask gave up another soft goal - with help from an uncharacteristic turnover by defenseman Zdeno Chara. The 2009 Norris Trophy winner was stripped of the puck behind the Bruins net, and Derek Stepan wrapped it into the net behind the unsuspecting Rask to tie it 2-2.
”Sometimes it (stinks) to be a goalie,” Rask said after practice on Friday.
But Bruins coach Claude Julien said he didn’t need to talk to Rask to boost his spirits.
”What do you want me to say?” Julien said. ”There’s not much you can say on those types of things. We know the impact it had.
”He lets one of those in and how many does he save for us? You kind of balance those things out and it becomes a non-issue.”
Tyler Seguin gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead, Brad Boyle tied it for the Rangers with 10 minutes left in regulation, and then former Boston College Eagle Chris Kreider won it in overtime.
”We were ugly the first part of the game. We end up finding ourselves. After a fluky goal, I think we played better,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said Friday after practice. ”All is forgiven. You don’t go back and dissect it. You won a game to keep yourself alive. That’s what we have to look to here now.”
Just 10 minutes from elimination, New York now has a chance to get back into the series against a team that just three years ago blew a 3-0 lead in its second-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers rallied from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits against Washington in the first round to earn the right to face the Bruins.
”That’s something you try to hang your hat on, I guess,” Tortorella said. ”I’m not a real big believer in it. I think that every new game is a different situation. But our team doesn’t give.”
The Bruins skated for about 30 minutes on Friday afternoon in preparation for the 5:30 p.m. start for Game 5. Julien said he wanted his players to work up a good sweat, even with the late finish on Thursday night.
Everyone was on the ice except for Andrew Ference - including injured defensemen Wade Redden and Dennis Seidenberg, who have been out for the entire second round so far. Seidenberg said he felt comfortable but would have to talk to the doctors and trainers.