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National

  • Quick, Kings put Rangers on brink

    NEW YORK (AP) — It turns out Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings are just as good with the lead as they are without it.
    That leaves the New York Rangers with little hope of making much of a series out of the Stanley Cup finals.
    Quick stopped 32 shots in his best start of the series, Jeff Carter scored in the final second of the first period, Jake Muzzin and Mike Richards added goals in the second, and the Kings beat the Rangers 3-0 on Monday night to move within one win of their second Stanley Cup title in three years.
    Los Angeles leads 3-0 and can claim the Cup on Wednesday night in New York. The Kings have already survived three Game 7s on the road, so this amount of success has their confidence soaring.
    Quick hardly showed it when he took the podium wearing a black hooded sweatshirt.
    “I don’t think it would be any different if we were down 3-0,” Quick said. “We’re just trying to win a game in a couple days here. That’s the focus.”
    After the Rangers blew two-goal leads in each of the first two games of the championship round in Los Angeles, they came home and couldn’t get anything going against Quick.
    The All-Star was sharp early and in the middle when the Kings built their lead. Not even six power plays could jump-start New York’s offense.

  • Triple Crown frenzy hits NYC

    NEW YORK (AP) — Martin Panza celebrated California Chrome’s charge to Preakness Stakes victory three weeks ago like most fans at the packed Pimlico Race Course — bumping fists, slapping hands and thinking ahead to Saturday and the possibility of the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years.
    And then Belmont Park’s director of racing operations thought about everything else: the tens of thousands of additional people who show up for the Belmont Stakes whenever a horse has a chance at history; the millions more in expected wagers; and the need for more of everything, from seating, concessions to bathrooms, security and about 1,000 additional workers.
    Local officials and business leaders celebrated too, seeing the race and the added interest of a Triple Crown contender as a boon of sold-out hotel rooms, dinners out and free publicity, so long as the writers and broadcasters were aware the track is actually on Long Island, as NBC’s Bob Costas noted Wednesday, and not in New York City.
    If California Chrome triumphs, it will happen on Panza’s turf — or rather, his dirt — at an marquee New York-area event that the track’s new management team reimagined earlier this year as a fusion of sports and entertainment worth attending even when the Triple Crown is not on the line.

  • Williams puts L.A. on top of New York

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — Justin Williams usually saves his greatest postseason heroics for seventh games, not openers.
    And for all of his series-saving feats over the years, the two-time NHL champion had never scored an overtime playoff goal.
    When Williams got the puck on his stick with an uncontested chance to stake the Los Angeles Kings to an early lead in the Stanley Cup finals, Mr. Game 7 buried the shot and the New York Rangers.
    Williams scored 4:36 into overtime after a turnover by Dan Girardi, and Los Angeles beat New York 3-2 Wednesday night in a thrilling series opener.
    Kyle Clifford had a goal and an assist, and Drew Doughty made up for an early mistake by scoring the tying goal in the second period. Jonathan Quick made 25 saves as the Kings moved one victory closer to their second Stanley Cup title in three years — but only after another rally in a postseason full of comebacks.
    "We certainly don't want to make a habit out of this," Williams said. "That is a world-class team up there with world-class offense. There could have been a lot of story lines tonight. They had a breakaway in the end of the third period that (Jonathan) Quick made a great save on. We wouldn't be sitting here right now. A lot of things (went) awry during the game."
    Game 2 is Saturday at Staples Center.

  • Rangers, Kings set for series

     LOS ANGELES (AP) — Although the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers have played 41 combined postseason games over the previous six weeks, they still have ample energy for the big finale to their epic playoff chase.

    "No, you don't get tired right now," said Kings forward Marian Gaborik, the former 40-goal scorer for the Rangers. "All you think about is winning the Stanley Cup."

    When they meet at Staples Center on Wednesday night to begin the first New York-L.A. Cup final in NHL history, the Rangers and Kings are prepared for one more exhausting series in a spring filled with two-week sagas, nail-biting finishes and Game 7 heroics.

    No team in NHL history had made it to the Stanley Cup finals after going seven games in each of the first two rounds — until New York and Los Angeles both did it this spring. The Kings even went one longer, playing the maximum 21 games.

    Yet neither team will be satisfied without one more achievement. The Rangers haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1994, while the Kings are just two years removed from their only NHL championship. Two franchises long familiar with losing have the chance to raise the Cup again, and the players already felt the energy building when they went through practices Tuesday.

  • Nadal is still in the hunt

     PARIS (AP) — Maybe, just maybe, Rafael Nadal was a tad vulnerable, the thinking went before this French Open.

    He had lost three times on his beloved red clay already this year, more defeats than he ever had on the surface before heading to Roland Garros.

    Then came an admission, after the Grand Slam tournament's third round, that his back was bothering him and slowing his serves.

    Well, leave it to the eight-time French Open champion's upcoming quarterfinal opponent — 2013 runner-up David Ferrer, one of the men who beat Nadal on clay this spring — to set the record straight.

    "Rafael," Ferrer said, "is always the favorite."

    Nadal certainly looked the part in the fourth round Monday, when he won 18 points in a row during one stretch en route to beating 83rd-ranked Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 for a record 32nd consecutive victory at the French Open. That broke Nadal's own mark of 31 and moved him a step closer to a fifth straight title in Paris.

    The No. 1-ranked Nadal, now 63-1 for his career at the tournament, has won all 12 sets he's played in Paris in 2014, dropping a total of 23 games. He was asked whether he would have preferred a more taxing encounter by now.

  • Safety is still issue for youth

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama called Thursday for more robust research into youth concussions, saying there remains deep uncertainty over both the scope of the troubling issue and the long-term impacts on young people.
    “We want our kids participating in sports,” Obama said as he opened a day-long summit on concussions at the White House. “As parents though, we want to keep them safe and that means we have to have better information.”
    The summit signaled an effort by Obama to use the power of the presidency to elevate a national conversation over youth concussions. The White House brought together representatives of professional sports leagues, coaches, parents, young athletes, medical professionals and others for the event.
    Obama, an avid sports fan and father of two daughters involved in athletics, highlighted millions of dollars in pledges and other support from the National Football League, the National Institutes of Health and others to conduct research that could begin to provide answers and improve safety.
    Among the financial commitments is a $30 million joint research effort by the NCAA and Defense Department and an NFL commitment of $25 million over the next three years to promote youth sports safety.
    The president said additional research needs to also be combined with a broader recognition of the need to take the matter seriously.

  • Westbrook scores 40 in win

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook is picking up where Kevin Durant left off.
    Durant hasn’t shown the same consistent excellence in the postseason that earned the Thunder star the MVP award after the NBA regular season. Westbrook has picked up the slack, making a case for being Oklahoma City’s best player in the postseason.
    Westbrook had 40 points, 10 assists and five steals in Oklahoma City’s 105-92 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night that tied the series at two games apiece.
    The guard has been doing similar damage throughout the playoffs, averaging 26.6 points, 8.1 assists and 7.5 rebounds in 17 postseason games. In one stretch, he had three triple-doubles in five games.
    “Just his focus on every possession on the defensive end and his poise on the offensive end — I think that’s what’s fun to watch,” Durant said. “People outside of our team don’t really look at that type of stuff, but that’s something we can definitely build on as a group, is watching him wreak havoc on the defensive end and offensively, playing with such patience.”
    Tuesday’s performance matched the second-highest playoff point total of Westbrook’s career, falling short of the 43 he scored in the 2012 NBA Finals.

  • Is Nadal still tops at Roland Garros?

    PARIS (AP) — For once, not everything seems so obvious heading into the French Open.
    Yes, Rafael Nadal will still be favored by most to win the clay-court Grand Slam tournament yet again. He is, after all, 59-1 for his career at Roland Garros, winner of a record eight championships.
    Still, if the 2014 tennis season to date is any indication, there could be some surprises in store when play begins in Paris on Sunday. So far, there already was one new major champion, Stanislas Wawrinka at the Australian Open. And there has been a rather egalitarian feel to the spring clay circuit, with nine winners at nine tournaments.
    The three top men in the ATP rankings — No. 1 Nadal, No. 2 Novak Djokovic and No. 3 Wawrinka — each claimed a Masters title on the slow red surface, including Djokovic’s victory over Nadal in the Rome final last weekend. That gave Nadal three clay losses in a season for the first time since 2004, when he was all of 17 and yet to make his French Open debut.

  • Spurs romp to win in Game 2

    SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs have been here before.
    Tony Parker scored 22 points, Danny Green added 21 on seven 3-pointers, and San Antonio used a dominant third quarter to pummel Oklahoma City 112-77 Wednesday night and take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.
    The Spurs were in the same position in 2012 before the Thunder won four straight to capture the series and stun a Spurs team that appeared to have its best days behind it.
    Well, San Antonio is back in the conference final with a commanding lead, wiser and even older.
    “I know after the game, nobody is very happy in the locker room,” Parker said. “Everybody is very focused, and we respect that team. We know they’re very capable of a comeback, and they did that against us in 2012. We’re just very focused and nobody is satisfied.”
    Game 3 is Sunday at Oklahoma City, where the Thunder will try to bounce back from the worst playoff loss in franchise history.
    “It definitely doesn’t feel good, and it shouldn’t,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “I hope our entire locker room doesn’t feel good. You shouldn’t feel good. We got our butts kicked.”

  • Duncan, Spurs roll to Game 1 win

    SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs were not going to believe Serge Ibaka was really injured until the Oklahoma City Thunder took the court in the opener of the Western Conference finals without their athletic big man.
    Their skepticism was unwarranted.
    Ibaka is indeed injured and Oklahoma City needs to find a way to replace his defensive presence against San Antonio.
    Tim Duncan had 27 points and the Spurs took advantage of Ibaka’s absence to score more than half their points in the paint, beating the Thunder 122-105 Monday night in the opener of the best-of-seven series.
    Tony Parker did not appear limited by a hamstring injury, adding 14 points and 12 assists in 36 minutes in San Antonio’s first victory over Oklahoma City this season.
    Parker and coach Gregg Popovich both said earlier they weren’t sure if the Thunder would actually be without Ibaka, who injured his left calf in Oklahoma City’s series clincher against the Los Angeles Clippers.
    “Contrary to what San Antonio was thinking, he’s not coming back,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
    That’s bad news for Oklahoma City entering Game 2 on Wednesday.
    San Antonio had 66 points in the paint and shot 58 percent from the field in the win.