One playoff game from each conference was on Wednesday's NHL schedule. In the East, Blake Wheeler notched a goal with one assist while Mark Recchi added a key power-play score as Boston dispatched Philadelphia, 4-1, in Game 3 of their semifinal series from Wachovia Center. Miroslav Satan and Patrice Bergeron also lit the lamp for the Bruins, who have a stranglehold on the set after winning the first three games. Tuukka Rask picked up his seventh win of these playoffs with a 34-save performance. Arron Asham provided the lone offense for the Flyers, who will try to avoid being swept for the first time since 1997 in front of the home crowd in Game 4 on Friday. Brian Boucher allowed three goals on only 19 shots in defeat.
In the West, Dustin Byfuglien scored his first three goals of these playoffs for his second career hat trick and Antti Niemi made 31 saves, as Chicago took control in its Western Conference semifinal series with a 5-2 win over Vancouver in a chippy Game 3 from GM Place. Marian Hossa netted a big third- period goal for some breathing room as Chicago gained a 2-1 lead in the best- of-seven set. Kris Versteeg, who scored the game-winner Monday in Chicago, opened the scoring this time with a first-period tally, and Jonathan Toews recorded three assists for the Blackhawks, who ripped off three straight goals in the final 20 minutes of Game 2 to skate away with a 4-2 victory and even the series. Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen had the goals for the Canucks, who will host Game 4 on Friday. Alex Edler and Sami Salo each picked up two assists in the setback. Roberto Luongo was charged with all five goals on 35 shots and looked shaky in doing so with each of Chicago's scores coming via the rebound.
San Jose aims to reach the conference finals for the second time in franchise history Thursday night when the Sharks go for a sweep of the defending Western Conference champion Red Wings. The Sharks moved to a 3-0 lead in the set thanks to Tuesday's overtime win at Joe Louis Arena. Patrick Marleau's goal 7:07 into OT lifted the Sharks to the 4-3 win. San Jose has never swept a playoff series, while Detroit was last taken out in four games by Anaheim in the first round in 2003. It looks bleak for the Red Wings as only two teams in NHL history have come back to win a series when trailing three games to none -- the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders.
The other game comes from the Eastern Conference as Pittsburgh tries for a commanding 3-1 lead in that semifinal series with another contest in Montreal. On Tuesday, Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 18 shots he faced for his first shutout in this postseason, as Pittsburgh clipped the Canadiens, 2-0. Evgeni Malkin and Pascal Dupuis tallied in the third period.
Amare Stoudemire scored 13 of his 23 points in the second half and totaled 11 rebounds, and the Phoenix Suns held off the Spurs, 110-102, in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal series. Jason Richardson and Steve Nash each scored 19 points, while Grant Hill tallied 18 for the Suns, who won the opener, 111-102, Monday night. Hill and Stoudemire each had eight points in the final quarter, a period in which the Suns made 11-of-13 foul shots. Tim Duncan ended with 29 points and 10 rebounds, while Tony Parker came off the bench for 20 points and seven assists for the Spurs. Richard Jefferson had 18 points and 10 rebounds. The series shifts to San Antonio for Game 3 Friday.
The Atlanta Hawks will try to bounce back from a huge blowout and even their Eastern Conference semifinal series Thursday night in Orlando. The Magic recorded one of the biggest wins in team history with a 114-71 drubbing Tuesday night in the series opener. Orlando held a 60-21 scoring advantage in the middle two quarters. The Hawks are 0-13 all time in conference semifinal series since the round was renamed as such in 1971. Atlanta has lost 12 straight conference semifinal games dating back to 1997 after getting swept the last two times it reached this round.
Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo highlight the 2009-10 NBA All-Defensive Team, which the league announced Wednesday. Howard ranked first in the NBA in blocks (2.78) and rebounds (13.2) per game, making him the first player to lead the league in those categories in consecutive seasons. He also led the NBA in defensive rebounds per game (9.7), and anchored a Magic defense that was first in the league in opponent field goal percentage (.438). Howard was the leading vote-getter among First Team selections with 57 points, including 28 First Team votes. Rondo finished with 50 points and got 23 First Team votes, while NBA MVP LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers received 45 points (20 First Team votes). Rounding out the All-Defensive First Team are the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (34 points, 13 First Team votes) and Charlotte Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace (30 points, 11 First Team votes).
The New Orleans Saints signed guard Jahri Evans to a seven-year contract on Wednesday. Though financial details of the deal were not released, a New Orleans paper, citing a league source, indicated the pact was worth $56.7 million, the richest deal ever for a guard. Evans, 26, has started all 16 games in each of his four seasons in the league. The Saints selected him in the fourth round of the 2006 draft out of Bloomsburg, and this past season Evans was a First Team All-Pro selection. Evans was a restricted free agent.
New York Yankees starting pitcher Andy Pettitte left Wednesday's 7-5 win over Baltimore after five innings because of stiffness in his pitching arm. Pettitte was sent to New York-Presbyterian Hospital to undergo tests, where it was revealed the veteran hurler has mild inflammation in his left elbow. Though surgery does not seem imminent, Pettitte is listed as day-to-day. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after the game that Pettitte felt some stiffness in his forearm during his April 30 start against the White Sox, and that he received treatment. The veteran left-hander gave up one run on six hits and two walks against the Orioles, improving his record to 4-0 this season.
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens was put on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with a strained left hamstring. Jurrjens left Thursday's 10-4 loss against St. Louis after control issues in the first inning. He is 0-3 with a 6.38 earned run average in five starts this year. The young right- hander came into the season after winning 14 games in 2009 with a stellar 2.60 ERA in 34 starts.
The PGA Tour's unofficial fifth major, The Players Championship, gets started Thursday at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Henrik Stenson is back to defend his title against a field that includes nine other former Players champions. Stenson, who won for the second time on the PGA Tour, came from five strokes behind to earn the win, matching the largest comeback in tournament history. He will be hard-pressed to repeat as no player has ever won this title in back-to-back years. This year's field took a hit Monday when world No. 3 Steve Stricker withdrew because of a shoulder injury. However, the rest of the top 10 in the world will be at the TPC Sawgrass this week. After skipping the 2008 Players, Tiger Woods will be back at Sawgrass for the second straight year. From 1999-2005, Woods had a stellar run at this event with a win and a second-place finish and six straight top-16s. Since then, he has finished no better than tied for 22nd.
Temple University head football coach Al Golden and head men's basketball coach Fran Dunphy received lengthy contract extensions on Wednesday. For Golden, it is a five-year extension, while Dunphy was the recipient of an eight-year pact. Golden, 40, has been Temple's head coach since the 2006 season and steadily built up the program. This past season the Owls went 9-4, achieving their first winning season since 1990 and first bowl appearance since 1979 -- the EagleBank Bowl at Washington D.C. in December -- where they fell to UCLA. The 61-year-old Dunphy finished his fourth season at the helm by guiding the Owls to a 29-6 overall record -- best since John Chaney's 1999-2000 squad finished 27-6 -- that included the school's first regular- season Atlantic 10 title since 2002, a third consecutive conference playoff title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Hofstra University named Mo Cassara head coach of the men's basketball team on Wednesday, just two days after Tim Welsh resigned following his DWI arrest. Cassara spent the last four years as an assistant at Boston College, where he was heavily involved with recruiting, scouting, off-season workouts and scheduling. Prior to joining Boston College, Cassara served as the head coach at Clark University, a Division III program, for two years (2004-06). He also had a one-year stint as an assistant at Dayton in 2003-04. Cassara agreed to a multi-year contract to replace Welsh, who was reportedly arrested on the morning of April 30. According to a New York newspaper, the 49-year-old Welsh was found asleep at the wheel at a green light. He registered a .18 on a breath test, more than twice the legal limit, and was charged with driving while intoxicated. Welsh had been hired on March 31 to succeed Tom Pecora.
Southern California starting defensive tackle Christian Tupou will miss the 2010 season after suffering a torn ligament in his left knee during the Trojans' end-of-spring game this past weekend. Tupou, a senior, has started at nose tackle for USC the past two seasons and is expected to redshirt the upcoming year and return in 2011. He had 25 tackles, four for a loss in 2009 as a junior and was named an All-Pac-10 honorable selection.