NHL: Even as the Montreal Canadiens swept through the opening round of the playoffs – their first postseason series victory in four years – they knew that a more difficult challenge was next.
The Boston Bruins. Their Original Six rival. The defending Eastern Conference champions and the NHL’s top team in the regular season.
“That’s our measuring stick,” forward Max Pacioretty said after the visiting Canadiens beat the Bruins 3-1 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Wednesday night. “There’s always been that rivalry, and that bad feeling between Boston and Montreal. Not just between the cities, but in the rooms, too.”
Pacioretty scored the winner, and Carey Price made 29 saves to give the Canadiens a spot in the conference finals against the New York Rangers. Game 1 will be in Montreal on Saturday, with the rest of the schedule to be announced.
It’s just the second time since winning their NHL-best 24th Stanley Cup title in 1993 that the Canadiens have reached the third round of the playoffs.
“You have an opportunity to get one step closer to the Stanley Cup,” said Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban, the team’s leading scorer in these playoffs. “We deserve it. We played hard. Nothing has come easy for us all year.”
• Kings keep series alive, force Game 7: Trevor Lewis scored his fourth goal of the postseason, Jonathan Quick made 21 saves, and the Los Angeles Kings forced a seventh game in the Freeway Faceoff series with a 2-1 victory over the visiting Anaheim Ducks.
Jake Muzzin scored an early goal for the Kings, who ended their three-game skid with another sturdy defensive effort at home.
Los Angeles improved to 6-1 in postseason elimination games over the last two seasons while beating Ducks goalie John Gibson for the first time in his six-game NHL career.
Kyle Palmieri scored and Gibson stopped 21 shots for the top-seeded Ducks, who missed the chance to clinch their first trip to the Western Conference finals since 2007.
Heat rally past Nets, advance to East finals
NBA: Ray Allen’s 3-pointer with 32 seconds left highlighted a huge Miami rally, and the Heat advanced to the Eastern Conference finals by topping the visiting Brooklyn Nets 96-94.
The Heat won the series 4-1 and will face either Indiana or Washington in the East finals starting next week.
“When we met the first day for prep we said the No. 1 key, overwhelmingly the No. 1 key in this series, was great mental stability,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And you have to have that throughout the course of each game, each possession and obviously through the series. That’s what it was down the stretch … incredible focus.”
Miami had not led since late in the second quarter before Allen’s shot from the left wing put the Heat up 93-91. Shaun Livingston tried to answer with 24 seconds left, missing in the lane and Chris Bosh controlled the rebound for Miami.
Allen made a pair of free throws with 21.6 seconds to play, capping a 12-0 run that erased an eight-point deficit.
LeBron James scored 29 points and Dwyane Wade had 28 for the Heat. Joe Johnson scored 34 for the Nets, including a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left that got his team within one.
• Spurs eliminate Blazers, move on to West finals: Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard each scored 22 points, and the Spurs overcame an injury to Tony Parker to close out the Western Conference semifinals with a 104-82 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in San Antonio.
Patty Mills scored 18 points and Tim Duncan had 16 points and eight rebounds for San Antonio, which had four blowout victories in the five-game series.
It’s the third straight conference finals appearance for San Antonio, which lost a heartbreaking seven-game series to the Miami Heat in last season’s NBA Finals.
They will await the winner of the series between Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points for Portland, while Damian Lillard added 17 points and 10 assists.
The Trail Blazers’ bench contributed only seven points compared to 40 by the Spurs’ reserves.
Ulissi wins Giro stage; Matthews keeps lead
CYCLING: A fantastic final burst from Diego Ulissi helped the Italian cyclist win the fifth stage of the Giro d’Italia in Viggiano, Italy, while Australian rider Michael Matthews retained the overall leader’s pink jersey.
Ulissi came from behind with 150 meters to go to cross the line solo, with his arms raised high in celebration at the end of the 126-mile leg from Taranto to Viggiano.
Cadel Evans was second, with Julian David Arredondo Moreno third, in a group which crossed a second behind Ulissi in the first uphill finish of this year’s Giro.
• Routley takes stage 4 in California: Will Routley of Canada surprised the favored sprinters by winning stage 4 of the Tour of California, and Bradley Wiggins of Britain retained his race lead for the third day.
Routley, a former national titlist who was part a six-rider, early race breakaway, completed the 102.6-mile Monterey to Cambria road race in 3 hours, 48 minutes, 37 seconds.
American Gregory Daniel was second and Kevin De Mesmaeker of Belgium was third. Wiggins increased his lead to 28 seconds over Rohan Dennis of Australia.
Sevilla beats Benfica in Europa final
SOCCER: Sevilla goalkeeper Beto saved two Benfica penalty kicks in the shootout in Turin, Italy, to win the Europa League, another international title for Spain.
Sevilla substitute Kevin Gameiro scored the decisive kick to seal a 4-2 shootout win. The teams played a 0-0 draw through extra time.
Benfica dominated regulation time, but was denied a goal by key blocks from Sevilla defenders. The Portuguese club stretched its streak of losses in European competition finals to eight since its last title 52 years ago.
Federer defeated in return at Rome
TENNIS: Roger Federer appeared to lose focus in his first match back after the birth of his second set of twins, losing to 47th-ranked Jeremy Chardy of France 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) in the second round of the Italian Open in Rome.
After cruising through the first set easily, Federer began to commit unforced errors at an alarming rate and Chardy quickly took advantage amid swirling wind at the Foro Italico.
Federer’s boys, Leo and Lenny, were born last week, prompting the 17-time Grand Slam champion to withdraw from the Madrid Open.