Ravens come away with redemption in Foxboro

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Ravens come away with redemption in Foxboro

FOXBORO -- The Baltimore Ravens came to Gillette Stadium for redemption on Sunday.

And they got it in a 28-13 win over the Patriots in the AFC Championship.

It was redemption for the AFC title game last year that ended with New England going to the Super Bowl. One year later, the tables have turned. And that redemption was something the Ravens prided themselves on following the game.

"Last year we ran our course," said Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. "And it wasnt one play. It wasnt no dropped pass, it wasnt no one field goal, it was about a team that came in. And we came back and we were faced with adversity early this season. The injuries, starting with Sizzle Terrell Suggs the first time me, Ed Reed and Sizzle actually played together was against the Colts. So the up-and-down roller coaster that went through was just an example or just everything that we had to go through. Starting with last years loss here and then rebuilding as a team and coming in and having one of the best training camps ever, I can say, just because everyone believed in each other.

"Its just so special, its special to be here right now. Honestly, I just said that God doesnt make mistakes, man," added Lewis. "There was no way that he was going to bring us back here twice to feel the same feeling. He had a real plan for us the whole year. And thats one thing that I really congratulate my team by, that we stuck to the course, no matter what happened throughout the year. It was always, Next man up. And our locker room, its contagious. Its contagious with a certain respect that we have for each other, coaches all the way down to trainers. Its a great environment to be around. Thats probably the biggest thing I got out of telling them is, were back, were back. But this time were on our way to the Super Bowl."

Last year, the Ravens had to walk off the field covered in Patriots-colored confetti. They didn't want to see that confetti this year. And they didn't.

The loss last year weighed on the Ravens' minds, said wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who caught two touchdown passes on Sunday.

"We came here last year and left with a bitter taste in our mouth, we felt like this team the Patriots took something away from us," Boldin said. "And we wanted to come back and make that right. It wouldve been great to do it in front of our fans in Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium, but we thought the proper way was to come back here and to win at Foxboro. And we were able to do that."

Said Ravens offensive lineman Bryant McKinnie: We didnt want to leave here the same way we did last year, seeing the confetti drop on them and their dancing, I mean, that hurt. There was no way we could go and repeat that same thing again. We knew it was in our hands, we just had to go out and execute the plays and make something happen.

Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

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Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

BROOKLYN, NY – Things didn’t go so well last season for the Bruins when Tuukka Rask suddenly wasn’t well enough to play in the last game of the season, so there was good reason for the B’s to be a little nervous when their No. 1 goalie again couldn’t answer the bell Saturday night vs. the Islanders.

Anton Khudobin had won four games in a row headed into Saturday night, of course, and in his previous start he’d helped snap a 10-game winning streak for the Calgary Flames. So perhaps it wasn’t all that surprising when Khudobin stood tall for the Bruins making 18 saves in a tight, nervy 2-1 win over the Isles at the Barclays Center.

“You don’t have that many shots, but maybe 10 scoring chances…that can be tougher than seeing 30 shots and same amount of scoring chances,” said Khudobin. “But I’m glad got the job done, we got our points and we got the ‘W’.”

It wasn’t wall-to-wall action in a game where both teams combined for 37 shots on net, but it was still impressive that Khudobin and the B’s special teams killed off six Islander power plays in such a tight hockey game. After the B’s backup netminder was lauded for the way he battled in the crease and competed for pucks like his team’s very life was on the line in a pivotal game.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard, and fighting that hard to see pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I loved his performance. He’s a battler. He got swimming a couple of times, but that’s Dobby. He keeps it interesting for you. He’s a battler and he always has been. That’s what we needed tonight.”

One could spend days analyzing Cassidy's words and wondering much of that was deserved, appreciative praise for Khudobin, and how much of that might have been a veiled message to Boston's No. 1 goaltender sitting back home in Boston. 

The best save of the night probably won’t even count as a save for the Russian netminder. It was John Tavares, after having beaten Khudobin once in the first period, moving into the offensive zone with speed during a third period power play, and getting an open look at the net front in the high slot. Khudobin thought quickly and dropped into the unconventional double-stack pad save that seemed to throw Tavares off just a little, and the Isles sniper smoked the shot off the crossbar rather than tying up the game.

“I didn’t touch it. I didn’t really have time to get there, so the only thing I tried to do was the two-pad stack, old school Bob Essensa-style,” said Khudobin, who has now improved to 6-5-1 with a 2.60 goals against and an .899 save percentage this season. “Then he hit the crossbar. You need to get some luck in this league, and if you don’t get luck you’re going to lose games.”

A little luck and a little good, old-fashioned battling between the pipes was enough for Khudobin and the Bruins in Saturday night’s mammoth win. Now the questions become whether or not to go right back to Khudobin again on Tuesday at home against the Nashville Predators.

NCAA TOURNAMENT: Oregon beats Kansas 74-60 to punch Final Four ticket

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NCAA TOURNAMENT: Oregon beats Kansas 74-60 to punch Final Four ticket

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Oregon lost one of its best players to an injury just before the NCAA Tournament, had to survive two nail-biters to reach the Midwest Regional finals, and then faced a top-seeded Kansas team that had romped to the brink of the Final Four.

Of course, the Ducks would rise to the occasion.

With swagger and verve and downright prolific shooting, the plucky team that everybody wanted to count out rolled to a 74-60 victory over the Jayhawks on Saturday night, earning the Ducks their first trip to the national semifinals in nearly 80 years.

"You feel so good for so many people," said Ducks coach Dana Altman, who is headed to his first Final Four after 13 trips to the NCAA Tournament. "It's a team effort. You feel good for a lot of people."

Indeed, a whole lot of people had a hand in it.

Tyler Dorsey hit six 3s and poured in 27 points, Dillon Brooks added 17 and Jordan Bell finished with 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks in a virtuoso performance for the Ducks (33-5), who seized the lead with 16 minutes left in the first half and never trailed the rest of the way.

Now, they'll face the winner of Sunday's game between North Carolina and Kentucky in the Final Four in Glendale, Arizona. It will be their first trip since 1939, when the Tall Firs won it all.

Player of the year candidate Frank Mason III had 21 points in his final game for the Jayhawks (31-5), but the offensive fireworks and steady poise that had carried them to a 13th straight Big 12 title fizzled just 40 minutes from campus on a night where very little went right.

Star freshman Josh Jackson was mired in early foul trouble. Sharpshooting guard Devonte Graham never got on track. And the swagger the Jayhawks showed in humiliating Purdue in the Sweet 16 simply evaporated for a team that rolled to the Elite Eight by an average margin of 30 points.

"I'm disappointed for them more than I am for me," said Kansas coach Bill Self, who fell to 2-7 in Elite Eight game, including four defeats as a No. 1 seed. "But the one thing that happened today, and it's hard to admit, the best team did win today."

The Ducks knew everything was stacked against them, but the point was only driven home when their bus passed the Power and Light District in downtown Kansas City on the way to the arena. Thousands of fans in red and blue were rallying hours before the tipoff, turning it into a de facto road game.

But the torrid shooting of Brooks, Ennis and Dorsey quickly deflated the sold-out Sprint Center, and sent a warning shot to the Jayhawks that they were in for a fight.

"You've got to give them credit," Graham said. "They hit some big shots."

Foul trouble sent Jackson to the bench for much of the first half, allowing the Ducks carve to out a comfortable lead. Then Dorsey finished the half with back-to-back 3s, including a deep bank shot at the buzzer, as the Ducks pranced to their locker room relishing in a 44-33 advantage.

"When you play hard throughout the whole game," Brooks said, "you catch some breaks."

The Ducks kept dancing in the second half, beating the Jayhawks at their own game: Getting into transition, passing up good shots for better ones and knocking down 3-pointers.

The Ducks' lead swelled to 55-37 when Brooks drilled another shot from the perimeter, and frustration began to creep into the Kansas bench. It was only compounded every time Jackson or Graham tossed up a shot that clanked hollowly off the iron, the Jayhawks' sense of desperation slowly growing.

Jackson didn't score until midway through the second half, and said later he'd "never been in such a tough position." Graham was 0 for 7 from the field, missing all six of his 3s.

The Jayhawks eventually began to whittle into their deficit, doing most of the work at the free-throw line. But the Ducks kept answering just enough to keep the crowd from giving Kansas anything extra.

When Svi Mykhailiuk scored to make it 64-55, Ennis answered with a driving basket. When Mykhailiuk buried a 3 from the corner to make it 66-60 with 2:49 left, Dorsey answered at the other end with another 3-pointer as the shot-clock expired to give Oregon some breathing room.

A few minutes later, the Ducks were cutting down the nets to end a satisfying trip to Kansas City.

"The seven years we've been at Oregon, we've had great guys to work with," Altman said, "but I also feel good for all the other players, the ex-players, who have built Oregon basketball. Like we said, 1939 is a long drought, but we owe all the ex-players."