The NY Rangers hadn't won a playoff game in their own house dating back to 2015, a six-game Madison Square Garden losing streak. But they snapped it last night with a 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens that evens their opening round playoff series at two games apiece.
Rick Nash got the Rangers on the board first, but Torey Mitchell tied things up for Montreal with just over a minute left in the first period. The game winner was scored by Jesper Fast in the second when he picked the pocket of Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov and beat Carey Price for an unassisted goal. Henrik Lundqvist made the lead stand up in a scoreless third and ended the night with 23 saves. I said this series was destined to go seven games, and I wouldn't be surprised if a game seven in Montreal had to be decided in overtime. But first things first, as the two teams prepare for a pivotal game five Thursday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Elsewhere, the hockey sticks of the Pittsburgh Penguins must have looked like brooms to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were desperately trying to avoid a four game sweep at the hands of Sidney Crosby and company when they took the ice in Ohio last night. The Jackets got the started they wanted, sprinting out to a 3-0 lead but the Penguins kept striking back, and by the third it was a less comfortable 4-3 lead for Columbus, which hadn't won a playoff game in three years. They pushed the lead to 5-3 before Jake Guenztel scored for Pittsburgh with 27 seconds left, but the Jackets hung on fir that last half minute for a 5-4 win. They still face elimination in game five Thursday night back in Pittsburgh.
If the veteran San Jose Sharks felt any frustration trailing the youngsters of the Edmonton Oilers two games to one, they certainly must have felt better after a 7-0 rout of Edmonton last night, tying up that series at two games apiece with game five back in Edmonton.
To the NBA, and this is definitely not the way the Boston Celtics scripted things up. After a regular season that saw them win the eastern conference and the top seed heading into the playoffs, few people outside of Chicago thought the Celtics would be down two games to none to the eighth-seeded Bulls. But here we are.
Chicago topped the Celtics 111-97 for the second straight game in Boston, and are looking at taking full control of the series Friday night when they get back to Chicago, unless the Celtics can get their game together, especially on the boards, where the Bulls have been grabbing rebounds like kids going after candy spilled from a pinata, collecting 43 on the night. Celtics fans must have been suffering from a disturbing kind of deja vu, watching veteran Rajon Rondo return to the kind of form he displayed regularly in his days as the Celtics star guard. He fell just short of a triple double last night, pouring in 11 points and 14 assists for the Bulls, while Jimmy Butler added 22 points and Isaiah Thomas was held to 20 for Boston.
In Major League Baseball, a thrill and a first for Brian Johnson, who recorded his first ever major league win in the Red Sox 8-7 win over the Toronto Blue Jays last night. Johnson was called up from Triple A to get the start, and Johnson is a guy you want to root for. He publicly acknowledged struggling with an anxiety disorder, a condition that led him to missing six weeks of the season in the minors last year, with full support from the Red Sox organization, to their credit. Johnson also suffered from an irritated ulnar nerve that caused numbness in his pitching hand, a frightening sensation that was treated successfully and that Johnson admitted led to much of his anxiety issues.
So it had to feel good to finally get his first win for the big club, allowing four runs and striking out six over five innings against the Blue Jays. Johnson left with a lead thanks to a big night on offense from Mookie Betts, who went 3 for 5, Mitch Moreland, who hit his league-leading 10th double and drove in three runs, and Pablo Sandoval, who also had a three-hit night. The Blue Jays did rally in the bottom of the ninth, trailing 8-4 and closing the gap to just one run as Matt Barnes yielded three runs before finally getting Devon Travis to pop out to short to end it. The Sox have now won a season high four in a row while the Blue Jays drop to 2-11 on the year.
The NY Yankees had their winning streak stopped at eight games in a 4-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Miguel Gonzalez pitched shut-out ball into the 9th inning, scattering just four hits, and the White Sox homered twice off Luis Severino, who took the loss for New York.
At Citi Field in Queens, NY Mets third baseman Jose Reyes handed the Philadelphia Phillies a gift in the eighth inning, and the Phils opened it up to an eventual 6-2 win in ten innings. It was 2-1 Mets when Reyes dropped a pop up with two outs and allowed pinch hitter Andres Blanco to tie the game and send it to extras. Philly then scored four times in the top of the tenth to put the game away.