One of the NHL's all-time greats skates away


One of the NHL's all-time greats skates away

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Swedish defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom retired after 20 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, ending one of the best careers in NHL history on Thursday. The four-time Stanley Cup champion and seven-time Norris Trophy winner as the league's best defenseman fought back tears as he made the announcement. "My drive and motivation are not where they need to be to play at this level," Lidstrom said. The 42-year-old set an NHL record by playing 1,564 games with a single team. He had put retirement on hold in each of the previous two years by signing one-year contracts. "I've been dreading this day since I became manager in 1997," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. Lidstrom had 264 career goals with 1,142 points. After being incredibly durable for 19 seasons, he missed a career-high 11 games with a bruised right ankle and was out for another game with the flu. "That didn't sway me one way or another," Lidstrom said. "A couple of weeks after the season is over, you start working out. Once I started doing that I didn't have the push I need and I can't cheat myself." He plans to move his family to Sweden and hopes to have an off-ice role with the Red Wings. "Retiring today allows me to walk away with pride, rather than have the game walk away from me," said Lidstrom, whose oldest of four sons went to Sweden two years ago to attend school and play ice hockey. Lidstrom was named the NHL's best defenseman last year for a seventh time, matching Doug Harvey's total and trailing Bobby Orr's record by one. When Lidstrom won his final Norris Trophy last summer, he was a finalist for the 11th time in 13 seasons. Defenseman Brad Stuart, who was his teammate for the past four-plus seasons, said he was amazed at Lidstrom's ability to make the right play on almost every shift game after game. "I've played with great players who made mistakes, but I can't think of one game when I thought, Nick just didn't have it tonight,'" Stuart said during this year's one-series postseason. "He's that same, steady, amazing defenseman every night. I think I've seen him out of breath maybe three or four times in a few years because he's so smart, he gets himself in the right position to make a play." The four-time Olympian also scored the gold-medal winning goal for Sweden over Finland in 2006. He became the first European-born captain to win a Stanley Cup in 2008, six years after being the first from Europe to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP. He has a chiseled body thanks to a year-round workout that includes exercise before practice and after games along with a sensible diet that includes only occasional slices of pizza and fast food. Lidstrom's teammates call him "The Perfect Human," in part because he's as humble as he is successful on the ice. "It's one of the most emotional days in Red Wings history with Nick retiring and all you people showing your respect for such a high-quality individual," Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch said at a packed news conference that included a slew of team employees wearing Lidstrom's No. 5 red jersey with a winged wheel.

Cubs beat Dodgers, head home with 3-2 lead in NLCS


Cubs beat Dodgers, head home with 3-2 lead in NLCS


LOS ANGELES -- Jon Lester pitched seven sharp innings, Addison Russell hit a tiebreaking homer and the Chicago Cubs moved one win from their first World Series trip in 71 years by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 on Thursday.

The Cubs grabbed a 3-2 lead in the NL Championship Series and will have two chances to wrap up that elusive pennant back home at Wrigley Field.

"The city of Chicago has got to be buzzing pretty much right now," manager Joe Maddon said.

The Cubs' first opportunity to clinch comes Saturday night in Game 6, when Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw faces major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks.

"That's a game we expect to win," Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. "This series certainly isn't over."

Emerging star Javier Baez was in the middle of everything for the Cubs, a common theme this October. The second baseman made a sensational defensive play when the game was still close in the seventh, and his three-run double capped a five-run eighth that made it 8-1.

After busting out of his postseason slump Wednesday, Russell hit a two-run homer for the second straight game. This one was a sixth-inning drive off losing pitcher Joe Blanton that gave Chicago a 3-1 lead.

By winning consecutive games in Los Angeles, the Cubs took control of the best-of-seven series after getting shut out in Games 2 and 3.

Of course, there's no need to remind longtime fans that the Cubs were in the same favorable position 13 years ago - heading home to Wrigley Field with a 3-2 lead in the NLCS.

But even with ace pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood starting the final two games, Chicago collapsed against the Marlins in one of its most excruciating failures.

More than a decade later, the franchise is still chasing its first World Series championship since 1908.

Baez had three of Chicago's 13 hits, matching the team's total in Game 4, when the Cubs snapped a 21-inning scoreless streak and won 10-2.

Lester allowed one run and five hits, improving to 2-0 in three playoff starts this year. He has given up two runs in 21 innings.

The left-hander struck out six and walked one.

Anthony Rizzo's run-scoring double gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first.

Los Angeles tied it in the fourth on Adrian Gonzalez's RBI groundout.

After scoring their first run, the Cubs stranded six runners through the first five innings before finding success against the Dodgers' third reliever.

Russell homered on an 0-1 pitch from Blanton, who gave up a single to Baez leading off the sixth. Baez stole second and scored on Russell's shot to center field that put the Cubs ahead on another unusually hot night at Dodger Stadium.

Chicago jumped on struggling Dodgers rookie Kenta Maeda from the start. Dexter Fowler singled leading off the game and scored on Rizzo's double to right two batters later.

Maeda gave up one run and three hits in 3 2/3 innings, struck out six and walked two in losing for the second time in three postseason starts. The right-hander has allowed eight earned runs in 10 2/3 innings with a 6.75 ERA over three appearances.

The Dodgers' defense fell apart in the eighth when the Cubs extended their lead to 8-1.

Gonzalez tried flipping Russell's slow roller to reliever Pedro Baez, who came over to cover first and bobbled the ball for an error.

Pinch-hitter Willson Contreras followed with a single, and the runners moved up on pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr.'s sacrifice bunt. Fowler reached on an infield single to first, with Gonzalez losing a foot race when Fowler slid into the bag, scoring Russell.

Kris Bryant reached on an infield single to third, with the Dodgers unsuccessfully challenging the call that he was safe.

The Dodgers thought they'd finally escaped the inning on a double play when Rizzo lined to Kike Hernandez, who forced Fowler at second. But the Cubs challenged the call and it was reversed, allowing Chicago to prolong the inning. Baez got yanked after walking Ben Zobrist to load the bases. Ross Stripling came on to face Baez, who doubled to deep right, driving in three more runs.

With the Dodgers trailing 3-1, Gonzalez found himself on the wrong end of a video review for the second straight game.

With Baez playing way out on the outfield grass in shallow right field, the slow-footed Gonzalez tried to take advantage with a drag bunt leading off the seventh. Baez rushed in for a barehanded scoop and off-balance throw, but Gonzalez initially was called safe by first base umpire Ted Barrett. The Cubs challenged and the call was overturned.

In Game 4, Gonzalez was tagged out at home to end the second after sliding with his left hand stretched toward the tip of the plate while Contreras applied the tag near Gonzalez's upper left arm. The Dodgers challenged, and the video review upheld umpire Angel Hernandez's call.


Vin Scully was back at Dodger Stadium for the first time since ending his 67-year career behind the microphone earlier this month.

The 88-year-old Hall of Fame announcer attended as a spectator and proclaimed, "It's time for Dodger baseball!" from an upstairs suite.


Cubs outfielder Matt Szczur isn't on the NLCS roster, but he's contributing. A day after his bat was borrowed by Rizzo to hit a home run, Szczur revealed during an in-game TV interview that Russell wore a pair of his underwear leggings Wednesday after leaving his own at home.


Dodgers: Kershaw takes the mound in Chicago on an extra day of rest. The left-hander is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance this postseason. Overall, the three-time Cy Young Award winner is 4-6 with a 4.39 ERA in 17 career playoff appearances.

Cubs: Hendricks' 2.13 ERA was tops in the majors this season. The right-hander allowed a solo homer in 5 1/3 innings of Game 2, his longest career postseason start. The Cubs lost 1-0 to Kershaw.

Ex-Stanford star hits WNBA title-winning shot for LA Sparks


Ex-Stanford star hits WNBA title-winning shot for LA Sparks

MINNEAPOLIS -- Nneka Ogwumike's short jumper with 3.1 seconds left gave the Los Angeles Sparks a 77-76 victory over the defending champion Minnesota Lynx for their first title in 14 years in the deciding game of the WNBA Finals on Thursday night.

The league MVP joined her teammates in celebration as a stunned crowd slowly filed out after finishing with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Candace Parker had 28 points and 12 rebounds to earn MVP honors of the Finals. It was Parker's first WNBA title.

"She's been through so much," Ogwumike said of Parker. "She's probably the most misunderstood person in the league. I told her I wanted her to get one. She had an awesome game tonight. She's been our leader."

Parker said she listened to one of Pat Summitt's speeches before the game and that motivated her. Her former coach at Tennessee died in late June.

"She would have been proud of our rebounding. It came down to rebounding and defense," Parker said. "I could hear her voice telling me to keep going. She was definitely present tonight."

Rebekkah Brunson made one of two free throws with 23 seconds left to give the Lynx a 74-73 lead. Parker answered with a layup on the other end that Maya Moore countered with a jumper with 15 seconds remaining. Ogwumike's first try for the win was off the mark, but she worked her way over to the loose ball for another attempt that she coolly swished.

Lindsay Whalen's final shot from just inside halfcourt wasn't close, setting off Los Angeles' celebration as Parker and Sparks owner Magic Johnson embraced in a long hug.

Johnson spoke to the team after the loss at home in Game 4 on Sunday. His presence in Minnesota was all the more impressive considering the Dodgers, the other pro club he's invested in, were playing baseball in Los Angeles at the same time in Game 5 of their National League championship series.

"I told them the series wasn't over and that there was still a Game 5 to be played. They had to believe they could do it on a tough home court. This team Minnesota is tremendous," Johnson said. "We just beat the champions so I give them a lot of credit to. Our leaders led us and we had a great coach in Brian and they believed all season long. I told them this was their year. I wanted them to do it for Candace Parker. She deserves to be a champion. Great group of ladies."

Moore had 23 points and 11 assists for the Lynx, who fell short of matching the WNBA record of four championships. The Houston Comets won four straight titles from 1997-2000.

The Lynx played in the finals for the fifth time in the last six years. They won three.

Parker finally had help with the scoring when reserve Chelsea Gray reeled off 11 consecutive points for the Sparks. Gray capped that run with a smooth up-and-under layup to put them in front 60-59 early in the fourth quarter. Parker's putback with 3:06 left gave L.A. a 71-63 lead, putting the Lynx in trouble.

But Moore seized the moment with a 3-pointer that brought Minnesota within four points, and Parker forced an off-balance 3 on the other end.

Whalen stole the ball from Kristi Toliver and finished the fast break with a layup to tie the game at 71, setting up the final flurry.

On the next play, Ogwumike hit a jumper that appeared to come after the shot clock expired. The officials signaled for a review, but never looked at the basket and Los Angeles led 73-71 with just over a minute left.

The WNBA's new postseason format with the field ordered by overall record regardless of conference sure worked well, leading to this classic matchup between the two teams that fought all summer for the top seed and featuring several of the league's biggest stars.

The game was remarkably close, with 11 lead changes and six ties in the first half alone. Moore gave Minnesota its biggest lead of the first 20 minutes with a pair of free throws in the closing seconds of the second quarter to make it 34-28.

The Sparks had an opportunity for a surge when Sylvia Fowles exited with an injury to her right hand, scoring on a fast break while Fowles was wincing in pain by the bench and out of the play and then picking up a bonus point on a free throw for Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve's technical foul.

Augustus and Renee Montgomery knocked down 3-pointers from the top of the key down the stretch of the third quarter, though, and Fowles soon re-entered the game. She made her presence felt with a powerful take to the rim for a layup and a 53-47 lead.


Ogwumike joined Toliver and Essence Carson with three fouls in the first half and played less than 4 minutes in the second quarter.


If the finals return to Minnesota next year, the Lynx could have yet another place in which to try to pop the corks with a major renovation set for Target Center next summer. They'll play across the Mississippi River in St. Paul at Xcel Energy Center, the hockey home of the Minnesota Wild.