Steve Babineau/Getty ImagesSTANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS- To be honest, this was the kind of game I was expecting from Pittsburgh all along.
Although the Bruins got out the early 1-0 lead against Pittsburgh in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the Garden on Wednesday night, this would not be a repeat of Monday night's game 2 blowout.
David Krejci put the Bruins on the board with a quick even strength goal- his 9th of the postseason- just 1:42 into the first period, the Bruins first shot of the game as it turned out. After that, getting one past Pittsburgh's Tomas Vokoun was about as easy as getting one past a brick wall.
Not quite nine minutes into the second, Chris Kunitz got the Penguins on the board with an even strength goal. With the game tied at 1-1 and the Penguins on the power play late in the second, Bruins F Greg Campbell slid down to block a Evgeni Malkin shot before getting back up and limping around for another 40 seconds- attempting to block another shot and chipping the puck out during the remainder of his shift. As it turned out, the shot broke Campbell's right leg and the forward will miss the remainder of the season.
With the game deadlocked at 1-1 and both Rask and Vokoun turning aside everything that came their way in the 3rd, the game headed to overtime. Despite a trio of power plays in the first OT, the Bruins still weren't able to get anything by Vokoun and the game remained deadlocked 1-1 heading into the second OT.
With just under five minutes remaining in the second overtime, it almost looked as though we'd be heading for a 3rd OT until this happened.
In the wee hours of Thursday morning, Patrice Bergeron ended Game 3 on a tip in that got past Vokoun to give Boston the 2-1 win and a seemingly commanding 3-0 lead in the series.Rask turned aside 53 shots throughout the night (29 of those shots coming in the 3rd period or OT) while Vokoun stopped 38. Neither team capitalized on the power play, with the Bruins going 0-5 and the Penguins going 0-6. The Bruins have a chance to sweep the Penguins and punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final with a Game 4 win on Friday night. Game 4 will get underway Friday night at 8:00 ET from the Garden with the game being televised on the NBC Sports Network and the CBC.
As an aside, let me just pose the question: How big was Wednesday night's win? Think about it- instead of Pittsburgh cutting the series lead in half with no Campbell, the Bruins are now firmly in control of their own destiny and one game away from returning to the Stanley Cup Final.
ELSWHERE IN THE NHL- A go-ahead goal from Chicago's Marian Hossa early in the 3rd period broke a 2-2 deadlock and handed the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings their first home loss of the postseason on Thursday night. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford turned aside 19 of 21 shots faced and Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell also scored for the Hawks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.
Like the Bruins, one more win separates the Blackhawks from a return to the Stanley Cup. Should both the Bruins and Blackhawks advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, this will be the first time since the 1979 Stanley Cup Finals that two Original Six teams will be in the Championship game.
Charles Krupa- AP PhotoRED SOX- After exploding for 17 runs on Monday, the Red Sox bats were fairly quiet against Texas starter Alexi Ogando and the Rangers bullpen on Wednesday night. Boston managed only five hits and left 8 runners on base in their 3-2 loss against the Rangers, setting up a rubber game for Thursday night.
Serving as the Rangers DH, Jeff Baker got the Rangers out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the second with a shot off of Jon Lester. In the top of the 3rd inning, former Red Sox 3B Adrian Beltre would add to the Texas lead with a 1-out solo homer [the Red Sox were fortunate it wasn't a 2-run blast as 1B was thrown out attempting to stretch a single into a double to lead off the inning- NANESB!].The Red Sox finally got on the board and cut into the Texas lead after a 2-out 2-RBI double by Dustin Pedroia off of Rangers starter Derek Holland in the bottom of the 3rd. Things would look promising for the Red Sox in the bottom of the 5th after Ellsbury belted a ground-rule double to start off the bottom half of the frame. Gomes singled to left to bring Ellsbury within 90 feet of home, but was tagged out by Texas catcher AJ Pierzynski at home when he tried scoring on a fielder's choice off the bat of Pedroia. Big Papi then hit into a double play to end the inning and seemingly kill the Red Sox momentum.
In the bottom of the 7th, Ellsbury once again led off the inning with a double off of Texas reliever Robbie Ross. Gomes followed that up with a single, and while Pedroia struck out, Ross walked Ortiz to load the bases. Rangers manager Ron Washington then pulled Ross for former Blue Jay Jayson Frasor, and this time Ellsbury came home to tie the game on a fielder's choice hit by Mike Napoli. Although Daniel Nava would strike out to end the inning, the Red Sox bullpen would pitch two shutout innings against Texas.Michael Kirkman came in to pitch the bottom of the 9th for the Rangers and immediately gave up a leadoff double to the deepest part of the park to Johnny Gomes. Ron Washington then counter-intuitively had Kirkman walk Pedroia so they could pitch to Big Papi. Big Papi responded by doing this:
Instead of the Rangers running the risk of any hit from Pedroia bringing home Gomes and Texas losing by a 4-3 final, Big Papi blasts the first pitch he sees into the Texas bullpen for the 6-3 win. The Red Sox take two out of three from the AL West leaders, wrapping up the regular season series in dramatic fashion.
Despite leaving 10 runners stranded, the Red Sox had a pretty good night in the batter's box. Both Gomes and Ellsbury went 4-5 on the night and Big Papi's 3-run homer was his first hit of the evening. Neither starter factored into the decision- Andrew Bailey was credited with the win and Kirkman gets the loss.The Red Sox will next host the Anaheim Angels over the weekend, with Felix Doubront [4-2; 4.88 ERA] will get the start against the Angels' Tommy Hanson [2-2; 4.19 ERA]. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 ET [weather permitting- NANESB!] and the game will be televised on NESN.
NBA FINALS- Despite the advanced age of some of their marquee players and nine days off, the San Antonio Spurs showed no signs of rust in Thursday night's opening game of the 2013 NBA Finals. The last time LeBron James faced the Spurs was the 2007 NBA finals when he was still with Cleveland. Despite professing to be fifty times better, his triple double on Thursday night wasn't enough to get the Eastern Conference champs past the Spurs. San Antonio point guard Tony Parker had 21 points on the night- 10 of them coming in the 4th quarter as the Spurs rallied, but none more important than this one late in the 4th.
Parker quiets the home crowd with a late buzzer-beater to give the Spurs some insurance. San Antonio wins Game 1 of the NBA finals by a final of 92-88.