The Washington Capitals moved closer to the Metropolitan Division lead, while the Pittsburgh Penguins gave themselves breathing room in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Evgeny Kuznetsov continued his hot streak with two goals and two assists as the Capitals downed the Kings, 6-4.
Kuznetsov has six goals and six assists in six games since the All-Star break to help the defending Stanley Cup champions go 4-1-1 on their longest homestand of the season. He had just 10 points in 18 games prior to the hot streak. Alex Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading 38th goal and had two assists as the Caps pulled within three points of the first-place New York Islanders. The Isles have a game in hand.
Meanwhile, the Penguins received a 50-save performance from Matt Murray in a 4-1 win at Philadelphia. Murray stopped 28 shots in the second period alone and blanked the Flyers until Shayne Gostisbehere scored on a power play with 4:34 remaining. Jake Guentzel notched his 27th goal, Sidney Crosby scored his 24th and Kris Letang added a goal and an assist as the Pens moved into a tie with Columbus in the East, three points ahead of Carolina for the last two conference playoff berths.
Elsewhere on NHL ice, the Sharks now top the Pacific Division and Western Conference standings after Evander Kane scored twice and five other San Jose players had two points in a 7-2 rout of the Canucks. Tomas Hertl, Melker Karlsson and Joe Pavelski each had a goal and an assist, while Martin Jones turned back 25 shots to help the Sharks move one point ahead of Calgary.
In NHL news, the Los Angeles Kings have traded forward Nate Thompson and a fifth-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens for a fourth-round choice. Each pick is in the 2019 draft. Thompson has four goals and six points in 53 games this season, winning 53.3 percent of his faceoffs. The 34-year-old is a pending free agent who carries a $1.65 million salary-cap hit for the rest of the season.
The Blackhawks have worked out a three-year extension with Collin Delia. The rookie is 6-2-3 with a 2.98 goals-against average for the suddenly-surging Hawks, who’ve won seven in a row.
In Toronto, Kawhi Leonard banked home the tiebreaking basket with 4.2 seconds remaining and finished with 30 points as the Raptors topped the Nets, 127-125. Leonard scored 30 points and Raptors beat the Nets for the eighth straight time in Toronto. Serge Ibaka had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Raptors, who also received 17 points from Pascal Siakam. Raptors center Marc Gasol scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter of his Toronto home debut. Brooklyn lost for the fifth time in six games despite D’Angelo Russell, who finished with 28 points and a career-high 15 assists.
Collin Sexton scored 20 points and the Cavaliers held off a late rally to send the Knicks to their franchise-record 17th straight loss, 107-104. Larry Nance Jr. had 15 points and 16 rebounds for Cleveland, while Kevin Love had 14 points and nine rebounds in his second game since returning from foot surgery.
Checking out Monday’s other NBA action, the Milwaukee Bucks continue to maintain a one-game lead over Toronto for the top seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 29 points and had 17 rebounds in the Bucks’ seventh win in eight games, 112-99 at Chicago. Eric Bledsoe added 19 points for Milwaukee, which closed on a 12-2 to bounce back from Saturday’s loss to Orlando. Malcolm Brogdon added 17 points and Khris Middleton had 16 in the victory.
Russell Westbrook set an NBA record with his 10th straight triple-double and Paul George poured in 47 points to push the Thunder past the Trail Blazers, 120-111. Westbrook delivered 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists to pass the previous mark for triple-doubles set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1968.
James Harden reached the 30-point plateau for the 30th straight game to lead the Rockets’ 120-104 win over the Mavericks. Harden finished with 31 points, eight rebounds and seven assists despite a strained left shoulder suffered in Houston’s previous game Saturday against Oklahoma City.
The Nuggets’ three-game skid is over after Nikola Jokic provided 23 points and 12 boards in a 103-87 victory against the Heat. Denver drained 16 3-pointers, four coming during a 16-0 run that put the Nuggets ahead, 75-57.
The Pacers won their sixth in a row as Myles Turner scored 16 points in a 99-90 decision over the Hornets. Thaddeus Young added 11 points and eight rebounds to help Indiana overcome Kemba Walker’s 34 points, 26 coming in the second half.
The Pistons knocked off the Wizards, 121-112 as Andre Drummond furnished 32 points and 17 rebounds in Detroit’s fourth straight win. Blake Griffin had 20 of his 31 points in the first half for the Pistons, who opened the game in a tie with Miami for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth.
Derrick Rose contributed 22 points and Jeff Teague added 19 as the Timberwolves earned a 130-120 win over the Clippers. Karl-Anthony Towns had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota, while Dario Saric had 19 points to help the Wolves withstand a 45-point eruption by Clippers reserve Lou Williams.
In NBA news, the NBA is going to investigate whether league rules were broken when Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons inquired about meeting with Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson for playing tips. The Basketball Hall of Famer revealed over the weekend that Simmons expressed a desire to meet, through an intermediary. Johnson indicated that he would be willing to partake in such a session with the 76ers’ starting point guard if all parties involved granted permission, but Philadelphia general manager Elton Brand says the request was denied.
One of Jeremy Lin’s agents says the veteran NBA guard is in the process of having his contract bought out by the Atlanta Hawks so he can join the playoff-contending Toronto Raptors. Toronto will become Lin’s eighth NBA franchise, after stints with Golden State, New York, Houston, the Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte, Brooklyn and Atlanta. He started just one of his 51 games this season, averaging 10.7 points on nearly 47 percent shooting.
The Cavaliers have signed well-traveled guard Nik Stauskas for the rest of the season. Stauskas last week went from Portland to Cleveland to Houston and to Indiana before the Pacers waived the 25-year-old, allowing the Cavs to pick him up again. He averaged 6.1 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 44 games off the bench for the Trail Blazers.
The league has determined that Golden State’s Kevin Durant should have been called for a discontinued dribble on the Warriors’ final possession of what became their 120-118 win over Miami on Sunday. Golden State made a pair of free throws on that possession to pull out the victory. The league opted not to fine Heat coach Erik Spoelstra for his postgame comments about the officiating.
In women’s basketball, UConn topped South Carolina, 97-79.
In top-25 basketball, fourth-ranked Virginia faced a tough test in their first game since losing to Duke on Saturday. The Cavaliers avoided their first losing streak of the season as Kyle Guy scored 20 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers in the final two minutes of a 69-61 victory over eighth-ranked North Carolina. Guy and his teammates rallied from seven down in the final eight minutes to snap UNC’s seven-game winning streak. De’Andre Hunter also had 20 points as the Cavaliers improved to 21-2 overall and 9-2 in the ACC. Coby White scored 17 points to lead the Tar Heels, who shot just 35 percent and fell to 19-5.
The other top-25 game of the night had No. 14 Kansas holding off TCU, 82-77 in overtime. Devon Dotson capped his 25-point performance with six free throws in the final 40 seconds as the Jayhawks won their second straight while starting four freshmen. Dotson also had 10 rebounds for one of the three double-doubles for Kansas.
In college basketball news, Tennessee remains the top team in the latest Associated Press men’s basketball poll for the fourth consecutive week after extending its team-record winning streak to 18 games. The Vols received 40 of 64 first-place votes, while second-ranked Duke picked up 24. The Blue Devils didn’t move up despite earning the top overall seed in the NCAA’s initial rankings for March Madness. Third-ranked Gonzaga switches places with No. 4 Virginia following the Cavaliers’ 10-point home loss to Duke on Saturday. Fifth-ranked Kentucky is followed by Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Houston and Marquette. Kansas State is back in the poll at No. 18. Cincinnati dropped out.
Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and MLB first-round pick Kyler Murray says he will pursue a career in the NFL. Murray tweeted that he is firmly and fully committing his life and time to becoming an NFL quarterback, adding that football has been his love and passion his entire life. Murray was drafted ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics last June before throwing for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns for Oklahoma, leading the Sooners to the CFP semifinals.
In other NFL news, the Cleveland Browns are giving Kareem Hunt a second chance to play in the NFL. The Browns have signed the running back, three months after he was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs. Hunt was dropped after a video showed him pushing and kicking a woman the previous February. He was placed on the NFL’s commissioner’s exempt list hours before the Chiefs released him. The Browns feel comfortable giving the Cleveland native an opportunity to make amends. Hunt has sought treatment and counseling, but he could still be suspended by the league under its personal conduct policy for the incident and two others that surfaced after he was released by the Chiefs. Hunt was in his second season with Kansas City and was one of the team’s most productive players as it won the AFC West the last two years. He led the NFL with 1,327 yards rushing as a rookie in 2017 and logged 824 yards on the ground through 11 games last year before he was cut.
The Panthers have re-signed safety Eric Reid to a three-year contract that runs through the 2021 season. Reid joined the Panthers in Week 4 of last season and started all 13 games played, recording 73 tackles, five pass breakups, one interception and a sack. Reid has an ongoing lawsuit against the NFL owners for colluding to keep him out of the league following his decision to kneel for the national anthem while with the 49ers.
Former NFL referee Red Cashion has died at 87. Known for his vociferous calls of “FIRST DOWN,” Cahsion retired from the NFL in 1997 after officiating for 25 years, 21 as a referee. He worked two Super Bowls.
Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole has asked for a $13.5 million contract through arbitration for 2019. The Astros countered with an offer worth just over $11.4 million. Cole received $6.75 million last year while going 15-5 with a 2.88 ERA for the AL West champions. Players and teams have split six decisions, including a victory for Astros shortstop Carlos Correa.
In other signing developments ahead of spring training, Brad Brach and the Cubs have finalized a one-year contract that guarantees the reliever $3 million and could be worth $8 million over two seasons. The right-hander had 12 saves and a 3.59 ERA in 69 games for Baltimore and Atlanta last season.
Free agent catcher Stephen Vogt is returning to the Bay Area, agreeing to a minor league contract with the Giants. Vogt played 4 ½ of his six seasons with the Athletics and is a career .251 hitter with 57 home runs and 218 RBIs.
The Pirates have announced a minor league contract with outfielder Melky Cabrera, who will report to major league spring training. Cabrera has a .286 average in 14 seasons with seven big league teams.
Catcher Nick Hundley has accepted a minor league deal with the Athletics and an invitation to big league camp. Hundley batted 241 with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs in 96 games for the Giants last season.
Lefty reliever Zach Duke has signed the one-year deal he accepted from the Reds last week. Duke split last season between the Twins and Mariners, going 5-5 with a 4.15 ERA.
Phil Mickelson finished off a 7-under 65 to win the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and match the tournament record with his fifth victory. Mickelson had a three-shot lead over Paul Casey with two holes to play when it was too dark too finish Sunday night because of delays from rain and a hail storm. He hit a 7-iron to 8 feet on the par-3 17th and played it safe down the par-5 18th, making a 6-foot birdie. Mickelson finished at 19-under and joined Tiger Woods as the only players to surpass $90 million in earnings. Casey birdied the 18th for a 71 to finish alone in second, three shots back. He won the pro-am portion of the tournament with Don Colleran, the chief sales officer for FedEx.
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