Bears

See what had the Rangers' coach so enraged

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See what had the Rangers' coach so enraged

From Comcast SportsNet
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Penguins reached a milestone, sewed up home-ice advantage when the playoffs start and drew the ire of another divisional opponent on a busy Thursday night. Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves to tie the Pittsburgh franchise record for wins and the Penguins clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night. Pittsburgh earned the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference for the fourth consecutive season and will play the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. It was in the aftermath of a 6-4 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday that Flyers coach Peter Laviolette called Penguins counterpart Dan Bylsma "gutless" and Philadelphia forward Daniel Briere said Joe Vitale was "trying to hurt me" after a late-game check. After Thursday's game, Rangers coach John Tortorella was even more scathing, calling the Penguins "one of the most arrogant organizations in the league" during a profanity-laden tirade following Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik's knee-to-knee hit on New York center Derek Stepan. "It's a cheap, dirty hit," Tortorella said. "I wonder what would happen if we did it to their two whining stars over there. I wonder what would happen. So I'm anxious to see what happens with the league with this. Just not respect amongst players. None. It's sickening." Orpik was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct on the play. "They whine about this stuff all of the time, and look what happens?" Tortorella said. "It's ridiculous. But they'll whine about something else over there, won't they?" One of those stars Tortorella was referring to, Evgeni Malkin, had his 49th goal Thursday. He added an assist to give him 107 points and extend his lead on Steven Stamkos in the scoring race to 11 points with one game to play. Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang also each had a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh. Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov scored for the Rangers, who were playing for the first time since clinching the top seed in the conference. New York and Vancouver Canucks, which lost in regulation, are tied for the most points in the NHL (109). New York rested Henrik Lundqvist for the first time in 11 games after he sustained a swollen right forearm during Tuesday's victory against Philadelphia. Lundqvist said after the morning skate that if the game was crucial that he would have played. The Rangers gave no update on the condition of Stepan, who remained on the bench but did not play after the hit from Orpik. Bylsma compared the hit to one Letang received from Dallas' Eric Nystrom last month. Nystrom was not fined or suspended by the league. "You see here where (Stepan) jumps out of the way and Brooks is on his track and looking to hit the guy at an angle, and he trying to get out of the way creates that scenario," Bylsma said. Orpik was not available to reporters after the game. Almost lost in the postgame insults was Fleury tying Tom Barrasso with his 226th victory for the Penguins. Fleury's 42nd win of the season is one behind the Nashville Predators' Pekka Rinne for the league lead. "A great honor for me to catch up to a guy like that who's been on top and won a couple Stanley Cups," Fleury said. Kunitz picked up his 200th assist on Malkin's 49th goal with 10:54 left that elicited chants of "M-V-P" from the Penguins' 250th consecutive sellout crowd. Pascal Dupuis assisted on Richard Park's second-period goal to his point streak to 16 games, longest in the NHL this season. Tyler Kennedy also scored for the Penguins (50-25-6), who reached 50 wins for the second time in franchise history. But the Rangers had little to play for other than possibly winning their first Presidents' Trophy since 1993-94 or to make runs over their final two games at breaking team records for wins and points established during that Stanley Cup season. New York was clearly not pleased at perhaps losing their fourth-leading goal-scorer in Stepan in what was a virtually meaningless game. "It was pretty gutless and dirty, and (Orpik) is known for sticking his knee out and his elbow out," Rangers goalie Martin Biron said. "I don't really care what he says in defense of what he did, it was dirty. "It was what (Orpik's) done all his career, and he's going to continue to do that unless somebody just gets him either with a suspension or whatever. Those are hits that aren't going to be in the game much longer because it's very dangerous." Kunitz's career-high 25th goal came at 1:11 of the first. Dubinsky tied it 3:12 later when he slammed home a rebound of a Ruslan Fedotenko shot, his 10th, but Kennedy gave Pittsburgh the lead for good 8:27 into the game with his 11th of the season and fifth in his past 10 games. Park -- in the lineup only because wingers James Neal and Steve Sullivan were not because of lower-body injuries -- made it 3-1 with his seventh at 5:11 of the second. Anisimov's goal came during a five-minute power play with 2:14 left, but Letang answered with an empty-netter at 19:11. The Penguins beat the Rangers for the fourth consecutive time this season and won for the third time in their past four games. "Both teams played pretty hard to make sure they're playing good playoff hockey going into the playoffs," Crosby said. NOTES: The game was the 500th of Biron's career. He's won only 13 of 35 career decisions against Pittsburgh. ... The Penguins announced their season team awards throughout the game during stoppages. Malkin was selected most valuable player. ... The announced crowd of 18,585 set a new Penguins season attendance record of 742,608 -- with one game remaining. ... The Rangers had won their previous four on the road and five of their previous six in Pittsburgh. ... When leading after two periods, the Penguins are 31-0-3 this season. ... Pittsburgh D Matt Niskanen (upper-body injury) did not play.

Promising start turns ugly as Bears drop another one to an NFC North rival

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USA TODAY

Promising start turns ugly as Bears drop another one to an NFC North rival

Oh, it all started so promising.

The Bears looked like a well-oiled machine early Sunday, looking like the kind of team bouncing back from a gut-wrenching loss to the Green Bay Packers a week prior. But with another NFC North rival in town, this time the Detroit Lions, things turned ugly in a hurry — and the result ended up the same.

The Bears lost for the seventh time in 10 games this season, falling to the Lions by a 27-24 score on the shores of Lake Michigan.

An offense that has struggled to put points on the board much of the year — and couldn’t match a Packers offense led by backup quarterback Brett Hundley last weekend — started strong, with three scoring drives in its first four possessions. Mitch Trubisky led scoring drives of 70, 55 and 73 yards, producing 17 points and had the Bears ahead by 10 midway through the second quarter.

The lone Lions points came after a rare miscue by the offense in the opening 20-plus minutes when Trubisky fumbled a snap, only for D.J. Hayden to run it back 27 yards for a touchdown. But still, the Bears looked the superior team on both sides of the ball.

It was then, though, that Matt Stafford flipped a switch and started picking apart the Bears’ defense. Backed up at his own nine-yard line after an offensive pass-interference penalty, Stafford marched the Lions down the field, rattling off completions of 17, 40 and 28 yards, the last a touchdown pass that took advantage of a badly burned Marcus Cooper.

Stafford then led a 73-yard touchdown drive, once again picking apart the Bears’ secondary and giving his Lions a lead right before the half, a sudden turn of events considering the Bears had a double-digit lead not long before.

After an uneventful third quarter, the Bears tied the game with five minutes remaining on a stellar touchdown run by Tarik Cohen. But Stafford marched the Lions right down the field immediately afterward, and the Lions cashed in with a 52-yard go-ahead field goal.

Trubisky led the Bears downfield and put them in position for a game-tying field goal, but Connor Barth’s attempt was way off the mark, sending the Bears to another upsetting defeat.

Tarik Cohen gets back in the game

After earning much social-media scorn the last few weeks, the Bears’ coaching staff brought Tarik Cohen back with a vengeance.

The rookie running back proved himself a dangerous offensive weapon early in the season, but he had been largely absent for weeks, combining for just five rushing attempts and three receptions in the previous three games against the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and aforementioned Packers.

Well, the Bears’ coaches must have heard all that criticism and heavily involved Cohen, who finished with nine rushes for 44 yards and four catches for 15 yards. He was targeted a total of six times.

And Cohen came up with a huge play late in the game, taking a shovel pitch from Trubisky, running to the pylon and flipping his way into the end zone, extending the ball in midair to make sure it was a touchdown. That score tied the game at 24 with five minutes left.

Banged-up Bears

The Bears’ defense — already well bothered with injuries — added a couple more to the list Sunday.

None seemed more significant than the one to Leonard Floyd, who was taken off the field on a cart in the fourth quarter after Kyle Fuller crashed into Floyd’s right knee. Floyd spent a good deal of time on the ground before the cart came out.

Fuller suffered a wrist injury on the same play, with TV cameras catching the sight of an awful lot of blood.

At various points, defensive linemen Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman left the field with members of the training staff. And on the offensive side, wide receiver Josh Bellamy was announced as being in the concussion protocol after a play in the third quarter.

Gustav Forsling showing improvement in his second season with Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Gustav Forsling showing improvement in his second season with Blackhawks

On two consecutive Saturday evenings the Blackhawks were looking for a little more offense. On two consecutive Saturday evenings they got some from Gustav Forsling, whose shots got through to either tie a game (vs. Carolina) or take a lead (vs. Pittsburgh).

Forsling isn’t the big go-to guy when it comes to points but he’s nevertheless getting them for a Blackhawks team that’s starting to find its offense again. But this is more about Forsling’s overall game which, not long after he made the Blackhawks roster last fall, plateaued. This season he’s been more consistent and more confident from the start, and he and Jan Rutta have formed a pair that coach Joel Quenneville trusts and has kept together for most of this season. The 21-year-old defenseman talked of working on the mental side of his game entering this season and said he feels the difference.

“I’ve been working on it this summer and I feel a little bit better,” he said. “[Just] more confident with the puck and confident in myself and pretty much everywhere.”

Quenneville has seen the difference.

“I think he’s getting better with his reads,” Quenneville said. “He’s got a better gap. [Being] quicker all over the ice is part of that and nice to see him pound one that goes through because his shot can be a lot heavier than it’s been and we want him to use it a little bit more, too.”

Forsling says he feels comfortable playing with any of the Blackhawks’ defensemen but there’s no doubt he and Rutta have been good together. The two clicked immediately, and at times they’ve been the Blackhawks’ second pair.

“I think we’re thinking the same way out there on the ice. We have a great conversation out there and everything’s worked out fine,” Forsling said. “He’s a funny guy and we get along well.”

Forsling’s offensive contributions are welcomed but so is his defense. When the Rangers were looking for the game-tying goal late in the third period on Wednesday, Forsling was on Corey Crawford’s left side to prevent David Desharnais from scoring it. Seventy-six seconds later, Artem Anisimov’s goal gave the Blackhawks a two-goal lead.

“Great play by him,” Crawford said. “For us, we want to cover the short side there and it’s great or him to get over quick and get his stick there. Definitely a great stop by him.”

Forsling’s playing with more confidence. He’s added a little early offense. The Blackhawks wanted Forsling to reach another level this season and so far, he’s doing that.