Joining the Red Sox is win-win for Melancon

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Joining the Red Sox is win-win for Melancon

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox haven't exactly been a dominant team of late. They missed the playoffs entirely in both 2010 and 2011 and haven't won a postseason game since 2008.

But when you compare them to the Houston Astros, it's no contest.

Mark Melancon, obtained in a deal between the Sox and Houston which sent Jed Lowrie to the Astros last winter, is happy to be back with a team capable of contending.

"It's a different atmosphere for sure, and I'm excited for it," said Melancon Thursday morning after reporting to camp. "Everything I've seen is top-notch."

Melancon was drafted by the Yankees and made his major-league debut for them before being dealt to the Astros. Now, he'll experience the rivalry from another perspective.

"I got a taste of a winning environment in New York and now I'm on the other side, which is just as exciting,'' said Melancon. "I'm so excited. I've been on the other side for so long. It's bickering back and forth and you hear the differences but you always have respect for your competition. Now I'm on the other side of the fence, which is the better side, so I'm looking forward to it.

"I have all respect for the Yankees. They're first class. It's very similar, actually, in how the Yanks and Sox go about things. Winning is a priority and that shows.''

Winning wasn't a reality in Houston in Melancon's two seasons with the Astros. After a somewhat respectable 76-86 season in 2010, the Astros dipped to 56-106 last season.

"When you lose over 100 games, it's struggle,'' he said. "It's not necessarily fun to lose like that. Everybody gave it 100 percent, but you show up to the ballpark and you've lost six in a row, it's tough."

Competing in the American League East is unlike any other division in the game.

"It's just more cutthroat,'' he said. "Everybody has a chance to win and I think the Northeast takes baseball a little more seriously all the way around and that just tends to brings everybody's excitement level up. I missed that 100 percent."

Nash scores a pair of goals in Bruins 2-1 win over Islanders

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Nash scores a pair of goals in Bruins 2-1 win over Islanders

BROOKLYN, NY – The Bruins knew they needed to find stellar performances somewhere in order to come out of a must-win game vs. the Islanders with two points, and they got exactly that.

Riley Nash had his best game as a member of the Bruins with a pair of goals scored in a 2-1 win over the Islanders at the Barclays Center that snapped a four game losing streak, and pushed them back into the wild card playoff spot.

It wasn’t a perfect game for the Black and Gold by any means and it was nip-and-tuck all the way, but it was important for the Bruins to show they could pull out those kinds of games late in the season.

Things didn’t look all that great early when John Tavares cut through the Bruins defense in the first period, and whistled a wrist shot from the high slot that went through Adam McQuaid’s legs before beating Anton Khudobin. The Bruins responded, however, on the very next shift with Nash stealing the puck from Scott Mayfield in the neutral zone, and beating Thomas Greiss short side for the important game-tying goal.

It looked like the Bruins had their go-ahead score in the first period on a second-effort power play goal by Frank Vatrano, but that was wiped out by a coach’s challenge that ruled David Backes interfered with Greiss in front of the New York net.

So the Bruins needed to wait until the third period when Boston’s fourth line stepped up and won the massively important game for Boston. Dominic Moore fed Riley Nash hustling into the offensive zone, and he weaved through the Islanders defense before snapping a shot past Greiss for his second goal of the game and his seventh on the season for the Bruins. 

NCAA TOURNAMENT: Gonzaga beats Xavier 83-59 to reach first Final Four

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NCAA TOURNAMENT: Gonzaga beats Xavier 83-59 to reach first Final Four

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points while orchestrating Gonzaga's efficient offense, and the Zags finally shook their overrated tag by routing Xavier 83-59 on Saturday to reach the Final Four for the first time.

Gonzaga (36-1) has been dogged by criticism through the years despite winning consistently, in part for playing in a weak conference but also for never making the Final Four.

On the cusp of history, the Zags took it head on with a superb all-around game to give coach Mark Few the one missing piece of his resume.

Gonzaga found the range from the perimeter after struggling the first three NCAA games, making 12 of 24 from 3-point range. The defense, a soft spot in the past, shut down the underdog and 11th-seeded Musketeers (24-14) to win the West Region.

The Zags will face the winner between South Carolina and Florida in next week's Final Four in Arizona.

J.P Macura led the Musketeers with 18 points.

The Musketeers brought their turn-the-page jar of ashes to the NCAA Tournament, where they burned through a string of upsets to reach their third Elite Eight and first since 2008. They beat Maryland, Florida State and took down No. 2 Arizona in the regional semifinals, setting up a matchup of small Jesuit schools seeking their first Final Four.

The Final Four was the only thing missing on Few's resume, which includes 18 straight NCAA Tournaments, eight trips to the Sweet 16 and a third Elite Eight after surviving West Virginia's constant pressure in the regional semifinals.

The Zags struggled to find an offensive rhythm against the Mountaineers - who doesn't? - but had it flowing against Xavier.

Gonzaga came into the Elite Eight hitting 29 percent of its 3-point shots after making 37 percent during the season. The Zags found the range early against Xavier, hitting 8 of 13 from the arc in the first half, mostly against the Musketeers' zone or on kick-outs from center Przemek Karnowski.

Xavier got off to a good start offensively by working the ball around, but hit a dry spell and made 1 of 5 from 3-point range as Gonzaga stretched to lead to 49-39 by halftime.

Halftime did little to slow the Zags, who pushed the lead to 59-42 on 3-pointers by Williams-Goss and Jordan Mathews. Gonzaga kept the machine rolling in the second half, continuing to make shots while its defense prevented the Musketeers from making any kind of run.