NHL Three Stars: Lundqvist stops Crosby roll

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

No. 1 Star: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Lundqvist made 34 saves as the King helped the Rangers shut down Sidney Crosby, ending his seven-game goal streak, and defeat the Penguins, 3-0.

No. 2 Star: Ryan Miller, Vancouver Canucks

Miller made 33 saves to improve to 9-1 against the Coyotes in his career and 6-0 in Arizona, as the Canucks defeated the Arizona Coyotes, 2-1.

No. 3 Star: Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings

Zetterberg’s snipe at 2:01 of the third period gave the Detroit Red Wings a key insurance goal en route to a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Hayes, Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast had the Rangers goals.  … Darren Helm and Danny DeKeyser scored for Detroit. … Zack Smith scored for Ottawa. … Jake Virtanen and Jannik Hansen scored goals and the Vancouver Canucks. … The Canucks won a coach’s challenge against the Coyotes.

Did You Know? It was New York’s first shutout at Pittsburgh since Feb. 27, 1971, when Ed Giacomin won 4-0. (NHL)

Dishonorable Mention: Rough night for Crosby, as Sid has no shots on goal and was a minus-3. Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz were also a minus-3.  … Dion Phaneuf was beaten by Zetterberg and was a minus-1 in his first game with the Senators.

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Let’s help the new Savannah summer league team pick a name

(Savannah Baseball)Baseball fans unite. The new summer league team based out of Savannah, GA. needs help picking a name and they’ve called upon us for assistance.

One can’t blame them, either. On the heels of the New Britain Rock Cats relocating to Hartford and rebranding as the Yard Goats with help from the Internet, the new Savannah squad is hoping we’ll again have the long-term answers to all of their branding and marketing questions as well.

After all, not only did the Internet help name Hartford’s team the Yard Goats, it motivated them to create this incredible jingle that has been stuck in our head for a week straight. 

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The Yard Goats are up and running with a head of marketing steam. Now Savannah looks to follow suit as they prepare to debut in the Coastal Plain League — a summer wooden-bat league aimed at helping college ballplayers keep their skills sharp between seasons. The process began with an online vote over the winter, which actually allowed fans to write in their choices. After careful consideration, they’ve narrowed it down to the five best — and possibly cleanest — choices.

They are as follows:

— Savannah Anchors
— Savannah Seagulls
— Savannah Ports
— Savannah Party Animals
— Savannah Bananas

The first three all play off Savannah’s location. The city lies on the Savannah River, about 20 miles upriver from the Atlantic Ocean. It was a key city in the American Revolution and during the American Civil War, so if you’re a history buff or even a Savannah resident, the Ports would probably be the most appealing and meaningful choice.

Anchors could be a sneaky good name too and lead to some unusual marketing opportunities. How about a giant anchor beyond the outfield fence that rises and lowers on every home run like the Big Apple at Citi Field? The logo would be an original too and could be used as a nod to the United States Naval Academy.

Seagulls is another fitting name, but feels like the least exciting or creative name of the group. You could say it’s the safest choice, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but we’d prefer something with a little more meaning and buzz.

Moving along, the Party Animals would definitely get some attention. Especially from the college crowd, which fits well with a collegiate based team. Perhaps it doesn’t portray an image some people would want to associate with their local team, but it made their list. If the team is comfortable with it, we should be too.

Last and not least there’s the Bananas. That name would seem to be indicative of very little, other than the fact that it rhymes with Savannah. Rhyming names can be fun when they make sense, like the Tampa Bay Rays, but there are more sensible choices here with long-lasting potential. Then again, this name seems to have the best jingle potential, so maybe we shouldn’t count it out so quickly.

[Elsewhere: Tim Flannery is fed up with Padres fans, writes lengthy statement]

Those are the choices. On a personal level, I feel like the Anchors would be the best all-around decision, but perhaps you feel differently. Feel free to “a-weigh” in here and vote on the Savannah baseball website

The winning name will be announced on Feb. 25.


BLS H/N: Cut 4 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Knicks start slow, come up short at buzzer to Wiz in Rambis’ debut

With Kurt Rambis now coaching, but the Knicks looked awful similar on Tuesday. (Al Bello/Getty Images)After firing Derek Fisher and elevating associate head coach Kurt Rambis to the head of the New York Knicks bench, Phil Jackson said he made the change to try to shake the sinking Knicks, losers of nine of their last 10, into better starts, a stronger defensive disposition, and better finishes to games. Rambis didn’t get much of the first two for most of the night, but he nearly got the third … only to come up just short.

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After a pair of free throws by All-Star point guard John Wall gave the Washington Wizards a 111-108 lead with 4.3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Knicks had no timeouts and one last chance to extend the game. Needing to go the length of the floor and find a 3, the Knicks exploited a Washington miscue — after Wizards forward Otto Porter failed to foul New York point guard Jose Calderon, Wall stepped up to do the job, leaving Knicks guard Langston Galloway wiiiiiide open on the right wing. Galloway, a 37.5 percent 3-point shooter on the season, rose up …

… and was just short on his try, catching the front of the rim and not getting the friendly bounce on the carom, locking in a Wizards win. The Knicks dropped their sixth straight game and 10th in 11 tries, as Rambis fell to 0-1 as New York’s interim head coach.

While the Knicks deserve credit for erasing an early 16-point deficit and climbing out of a 10-point hole in the final two minutes to have a chance to knot it at the horn, the first game of the Rambis era bore a striking resemblance to the last contests of Fisher’s days.

New York once again came out sluggish and flat, seeming to move at half-speed through their offensive actions while also failing to get back in transition, leading to easy layups and uncontested 3-pointers for a Wizards club that shot 65 percent from the field en route to a 35-21 lead after 12 minutes. The Knicks got on track offensively in the second quarter, with Anthony — who played the first 16 minutes of the game, despite recently dealing with soreness in his surgically repaired left knee — and shooting guard Arron Afflalo leading the charge, but continued to struggle containing Washington on the other end, as the Wiz kept shooting the lights out from long distance (10-for-12 from 3 in the first half) with Wall repeatedly generating just about whatever shot he wanted out of the pick-and-roll.

That was a persistent problem for the Knicks all night long. Wall, it turns out, is really, really good, and a Knicks backcourt that has struggled all season — and, really, for several seasons — to credibly defend opposing guards had little success deterring him, as he rolled up 28 points and 17 assists, with 10 directly leading to 3-pointers, to go with five rebounds, one steal and only one turnover in 43 brilliant minutes:

Even with Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal (26 points on 8-for-14 shooting, four steals) scorching the Nets, New York was able to crawl back into the game. The Knicks outscored the Wiz 33-20 after intermission, thanks in part to a renewed focus on the importance of getting back in transition — Rambis credited a halftime video session for getting the players on point; Sasha Vujacic called the Knicks’ first-half transition D “embarrassing”. In another holdover from Fisher’s days, the Knicks again seemed to shift toward a more pick-and-roll-heavy offensive attack as the game progressed and tended to find cleaner and higher-value looks, which helped lead to 14 third-quarter points from the previously quiet Kristaps Porzingis, who started punishing the shorter Jared Dudley (who’d worked the rookie over in the early going) and the slower Marcin Gortat whenever his teammates would find him on a mismatch.

Down the stretch, though, it was Washington’s All-Star point man who carried the day. Wall made or assisted on all of the Wizards’ last five baskets, including this stepback killer over the outstretched arm of Porzingis:

… and made all four of his free throws in the final seven seconds, helping keep the Wizards up and making sure the Knicks needed a late-game prayer. Galloway, who’d mixed the good (14 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals off the bench, a huge tough 3 to get New York within one with eight seconds left) with the bad (a costly turnover that scuttled a fast break just six seconds earlier) got one last great and clean look, but just couldn’t convert, sending the Knicks to yet another loss, dropping them to 23-32 on the season.

During an in-game interview with MSG Network’s Al Trautwig, Jackson said he didn’t expect the Knicks to look drastically different under Rambis on Tuesday than they did under Fisher on Sunday; change takes time, the Zen Master said. But with a stated goal of making a playoff push, five games now separating New York from the eighth-seeded Detroit Pistons and only 27 games remaining, time isn’t on the Knicks’ side, and while it’s tough to take too much from one game, Tuesday’s performance sure made it seem like the slow starts, spotty defense and scattershot finishes didn’t leave town when Fisher did.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

Stay connected with Ball Don’t Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL, “Like” BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don’t Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

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Hood forces OT, Hayward beats buzzer for big Jazz win over Mavs

Although they have not garnered much attention, the Utah Jazz have been one of the NBA’s hottest teams over the past few weeks. They came into Tuesday night’s road game at the Dallas Mavericks having won six in a row, good enough to rise to .500 at 25-25. Another victory would give them more wins than losses for the first time since the last days of November, when they were 8-7.

It took 53 minutes to get it, but Utah left Dallas with their first win at the American Airlines Center in exactly six years and a month. And they did it with two very dramatic shots.

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Down 10 early in the fourth quarter and 104-101 with 20 seconds left in regulation, the Jazz opted to trade quick twos from Gordon Hayward with free throws for Deron Williams and Raymond Felton. Having made up no ground, they had to take a three to force overtime with just a few seconds left. Rodney Hood came through:

Utah avoided a second OT with more heroics from Hayward. A Chandler Parsons three-pointer with 1:47 remaining tied it at 119-119, but the two teams failed to score over the next several possessions to set up one final play for the Jazz. Hood beat Wesley Matthews off the dribble to force a foul on the floor. Utah appeared to want to get the ball to Hood again on the next try, but Hayward did just fine once he got the ball:

That buzzer-beater finished off the 121-119 Utah win, which combined with the Houston Rockets’ loss to the Golden State Warriors later in the night to put the Jazz into seventh place in the West. With the Mavericks looking rather average over the last few weeks, it’s not out of the question that the Jazz could make up the one-game gap to No. 6 quite soon. For that matter, Marc Gasol’s broken foot could send the No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies sliding down the standings.

It’s perhaps a little early to consider such scenarios given that the Jazz are just a game ahead of the ninth-place Portland Trail Blazers, but it’s easy to feel good about their play during this seven-game winning streak. While the likes of Hayward, Rudy Gobert, and Derrick Favors have been identified as budding stars, Hood has been a recent revelation, scoring a game-high 29 points (12-of-26 FG) to make it seven of his last 10 games with at least 22 points. Those contributions have been especially important to a group lacking some perimeter playmaking following a run of backcourt injuries.

The Jazz have been inconsistent enough to inspire caution. But they have a clear opportunity to establish themselves as a playoff team over the next few weeks.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Joe Johnson banks in buzzer-beating game-winning 3 to beat Nuggets

A couple of years back, Kevin Garnett introduced us to “Joe Jesus,” his preferred nickname for then-Brooklyn Nets teammate Joe Johnson, whom Garnett said “might not be there when you call on him, but he’s there when you need him.” On Monday night in Brooklyn, in the midst of a season to forget, Johnson showed the Barclays Center crowd how a resurrection really feels.

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Things did not look good for the Nets, who had built a 16-point lead over the visiting Denver Nuggets midway through the second quarter before watching Michael Malone’s club whittle the deficit down over the next two periods, erase it with 5:34 left in the fourth, and take a two-point lead on a wild runner by Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried with 1.3 seconds remaining:

But with the Nets down 104-102 and scarcely one tick remaining on the clock, Johnson — who’s been scorching the nets (no pun intended) in relative obscurity since the calendar flipped to 2016 after a dismal start to the season — pulled an all-time answer out of his bag of shot-making tricks to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat:

As Brooklyn guard Markel Brown prepared to trigger the inbounds, the Nets tried to confuse the Denver defense with screens and motion. As Nuggets defenders worked to track Shane Larkin curling to the far corner, Thaddeus Young moving from the right block to the left corner, and Brook Lopez trying to position himself deep in the paint, Johnson found himself with a step on Denver forward Danilo Gallinari. (After the game, Johnson would tell YES Network sideline reporter Sarah Kustok that the play was intended to get Lopez a touch down low and attempt to send it into overtime, but that he knew he’d come scot free off the sprint to the top of the key.)

Brown found Johnson before Gallinari could recover, and the 34-year-old took one dribble before raising up off his left foot and flinging a 27-foot prayer … that softly banked off the window and splashed through the net with no time left on the clock, stunning the Nuggets and handing the Nets a 105-104 win.

“I was able to take a dribble and I don’t even know how it went in,” Johnson said after the game, according to Michael Scott of The Associated Press.

Here’s what Johnson’s saving grace looked like from courtside and, crucially, in slow-motion:

And here, even more crucially, is what Johnson’s final-second heroics did to Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who is reportedly in town to interview prospective general managers after firing Billy King, and who got treated to a show:

Even in the midst of a dire season, basketball games can be fun!

Johnson finished with 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting with eight assists, three rebounds, two steals and one absolutely vicious crossover of Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic in 29 1/2 minutes of work:

After the loss, the Bosnian bully — still working his way back from left knee surgery last May — licked his wounds and had some fun with being the brunt of the joke on Twitter:

As good as that was, it still comes in second on the evening … which, as it happens, is where everybody else slots in behind Johnson when it comes to buzzer-beating game-winners over the last decade:

With Johnson acting as the closer capping big nights for Brown (19 points, four rebounds, two assists in 24 minutes off the bench) and Young (20 points, seven rebounds, three blocks, two assists), the Nets kept the Nuggets from earning a sweep of their trip to New York after Sunday’s Derek Fisher-era-finishing win over the New York Knicks, and sent their fans home happy.

“You know, the play before, Faried made a tough shot and I was just thinking, man, just our luck,” Johnson said after the game, according to the AP. “He made that tough shot, but we got some luck back.”

Maybe it was luck, or maybe it was divine intervention. Either way, it ended with the Nets saved, thanks to the seven-time All-Star shot-maker.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

Stay connected with Ball Don’t Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL, “Like” BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don’t Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

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