National Sports Briefs
WASHINGTON ó Philadelphia Flyers coach John Stevens was so excited about Game 7 against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals that he skipped the team bus and took the 40-minute walk from the hotel to the rink.
Stevens’ players were so calm and collected despite seeing a 3-1 series lead evaporate that about a half-dozen gathered for their traditional pregame soccer ball juggling outside their locker room, right near the signs reading, “No ball playing of any kind in this area.”
Both approaches paid off, and Philadelphia finally figured out how to put away Washington. Joffrey Lupul netted a rebound during a power play 6:06 into overtime, Martin Biron made 39 saves, and the Flyers avoided a monumental collapse by beating Washington 3-2 Tuesday night in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
“A lot of people thought we were dead. A lot of people,” said Flyers forward Danny Briere, whose assist on the winning goal gave him a series-high 11 points. “And probably their side, too, thought, ‘We have the momentum. These guys are down. They’re not going to get back up.’ That was a little bit of an advantage. We got back up from a lot of tough situations this year. We did it again tonight.”
And now, a year removed from the NHL’s fewest points, a year removed from the worst record in franchise history, the Flyers won a playoff series for the first time since 2004. They will face the top-seeded Montreal Canadiens in the conference semifinals, starting Thursday.
BOSTON ó The University of Massachusetts has agreed to hire Memphis assistant and former Minuteman player Derek Kellogg as the new basketball coach.
Kellogg takes over from Travis Ford, who left to coach at Oklahoma State.
Kellogg, 34, played at UMass from 1991-1995 under current Memphis coach John Calipari and was an All-Atlantic 10 player.
– CLEMSON, S.C. ó Clemson’s K.C. Rivers has decided to return to the Tigers for his senior season.
Rivers was Clemson’s leading scorer last season, averaging 14.7 points a game as the Tigers went 24-10.
– STARKVILLE, Miss. ó Mississippi State point guard Jamont Gordon has declared for the NBA draft, but won’t hire an agent.
MINNEAPOLIS ó A federal judge denied on Tuesday the NFL’s motion that he vacate his earlier ruling that allows suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick to keep $16.5 million in bonuses.
U.S. District Judge David Doty also declined the NFL’s motion that he recuse himself from the case. The league had accused him of bias.
Doty had ruled in February that the Falcons would violate the NFL collective bargaining agreement if they tried to recover the roster bonus money Vick already received.
Vick is serving a 23-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to federal charges in a dogfighting operation.
– DAVIE, Fla. ó Jake Long seemed at ease in his new role as the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick, leaning into a news conference microphone to talk about his mean streak while his mother sat in the corner, nodding as she smiled.
The Miami Dolphins were grinning Tuesday, too. They signed the Michigan left tackle to a five-year contract with $30 million guaranteed, and they’ll select him with the top pick in the draft Saturday.
The deal allows the Dolphins and Long to avoid a possible holdout.
“It’s really important for us to know Jake is going to be on the field for us on time when training camp begins in July,” coach Tony Sparano said. “That was critical.”
Long’s total contract package is for $57.75 million. Last year’s top pick, JaMarcus Russell, signed for $61 million with the Oakland Raiders.
Long becomes the highest-paid lineman in the NFL and a 6-foot-7, 315-pound cornerstone in a rebuilding project for the new Dolphins regime led by Bill Parcells.
“Jake was our guy from the beginning,” general manager Jeff Ireland said.
– KIRKLAND, Wash. ó The Seattle Seahawks released former MVP Shaun Alexander, just 26 months after he signed a $62 million contract as the franchise’s cornerstone.
“I will be playing for another NFL team this fall,” said Alexander, who ran for just 716 yards in 13 games last season, his lowest total since he replaced Ricky Watters as Seattle’s lead back in 2001.
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