National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Kershaw back with shutout ball, Dodgers top Nats

WASHINGTON (AP) Clayton Kershaw pitched seven shutout innings in his first outing since opening day, and Hanley Ramirez and Drew Butera homered as the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Washington Nationals 8-3 Tuesday night.

Kershaw (2-0) was stubborn in his return after missing 32 games, allowing nine hits but striking out nine without a walk.

The two-time NL Cy Young winner had been on the disabled list for the first time in his career, sidelined by a strained back muscle after winning March 22 in the major league opener in Australia.

The Dodgers kept outfielder Yasiel Puig out for the second straight game since he crashed into an outfield wall in the ninth inning Sunday at Miami.

Jayson Werth had four hits for the Nationals.

Blake Treinen (0-1), making his first major league start, allowed three unearned runs in five-plus innings.

Call overturned, Marte safe, Pirates nip SF in 9th

PITTSBURGH (AP) Starling Marte was called out, then ruled safe on a replay review with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, lifting the Pittsburgh Pirates over San Francisco 2-1 Tuesday night and ending the Giants' six-game winning streak.

It was 1-all when Marte tripled off the right-field wall against Tim Hudson. Marte slid into third, got up and bolted home when the relay from second baseman Ehire Adrianza skipped by third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

Sandoval recovered to throw home and plate umpire Quinn Wolcott initially ruled Marte was tagged by San Francisco catcher Buster Posey. A brief review showed Marte's right hand touched the plate before Posey tagged his chest.

Tony Watson (3-0) worked one inning. Marte scored both Pittsburgh runs and Ike Davis added two hits.

Hudson (4-2) allowed two runs on five hits in 8 2-3 innings, striking out five and walking one.

Subban, Weise lead Canadiens past Bruins 4-2

MONTREAL (AP) P.K. Subban and Dale Weise each had a goal and an assist, Carey Price made 26 saves, and the Montreal Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins 4-2 on Tuesday night to take the lead in their NHL Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series.

The Canadiens are up 2-1 with Game 4 set for Thursday in Montreal.

Tomas Plekanec and Lars Eller also scored for the Canadiens, who were outplayed for long stretches but made the most of quick-strike attacks.

Patrice Bergeron and Andrej Meszaros scored for the Bruins.

Balanced Heat take Game 1, top Brooklyn 107-86

MIAMI (AP) Turns out, the Miami Heat can beat the Brooklyn Nets.

And rest hardly led to rust for the two-time defending NBA champions.

LeBron James scored 22 points, Ray Allen added 19 and the Heat stayed perfect in this postseason by beating the Nets 107-86 on Tuesday night in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series. It was the first win for Miami in five meetings with Brooklyn this season.

Chris Bosh scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, Dwyane Wade finished with 14 points and Mario Chalmers had 12 for Miami, which recorded at least one regular-season win against every team except Brooklyn, losing four times by a total of 12 points.

This one was a different story.

Deron Williams and Joe Johnson scored 17 points each for the Nets, who got only eight from Paul Pierce and no points from Kevin Garnett in 16 minutes.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Thursday night.

A 24-9 run in the third quarter blew things open for the Heat, who hadn't played in eight days after sweeping Charlotte in the opening round. James finished 10 for 15 from the field and Allen - who had never faced his former Boston "Big 3" compatriots Pierce and Garnett in the playoffs - was 4 of 7 from 3-point land.

Miami's lead was 55-52 early in the third quarter after a 3-pointer by Williams, and every indication was that the Heat and Nets - who played three one-point games and a double-overtime affair in the regular season - were heading down to the wire again.

Not quite.

The Heat took off on the 24-9 run over a 7-minute span, with Bosh scoring the first seven points of that burst to get Miami going. Allen's 3-pointer pushed the lead to 14, James and Chris Andersen (who left in the fourth with a right knee contusion) added two free throws apiece and just like that Miami's lead was up to 79-61.

For Brooklyn, it was a collapse at an unexpected time. The Nets had the best third-quarter scoring differential in the East after Jan. 1, but were outscored 33-23 in that pivotal quarter in Game 1.

It was a hectic news day long before Heat-Nets, with Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant being announced as the league's MVP, the firing of Golden State coach Mark Jackson and the NBA saying that Los Angeles Clippers president Andy Roeser would be taking an indefinite leave as part of the fallout related to the Donald Sterling scandal.

And pregame lineup moves by both clubs lent more intrigue. Miami brought Shane Battier - who played 2 minutes, total, in the first round against Charlotte - back into the starting five, while Brooklyn reinserted Shaun Livingston into its lineup after using him off the bench late in the Toronto series.

After never leading by more than seven points against Brooklyn in the regular season, the Heat led by 11 after a drive by James with 3:32 left in the first half. But the Nets closed on a 14-6 run, and Williams' first beat-the-clock 3-pointer of the game sent Brooklyn into halftime down 46-43.

Williams did it again in the third, but that one only got Brooklyn within 79-66.

NOTES: The Heat held a pregame moment of silence for Hall of Famer Jack Ramsay, who died last week at the age of 89. ... David Beckham, who will be bringing an MLS team to Miami, sat next to the Heat bench. ... Livingston was on the court to warm up for the second half with about 10 minutes left in the intermission. Small problem: The rack of basketballs wasn't on the court yet. ... The Nets are 1-9 all-time against Miami in playoff games. ... Miami had not won consecutive Game 1s since the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the 2012 playoffs.

Lady Gaga concert rescheduled because of Wizards

WASHINGTON (AP) Lady Gaga was no match for the NBA's playoff schedule.

The Washington Wizards announced Tuesday that the Grammy winner's May 15 concert at the Verizon Center has been moved up to May 12 because it conflicts with a possible Game 6 in the club's Eastern Conference playoff series against the Indiana Pacers.

The conflict has caused much consternation among Gaga fans who had planned months ahead to travel to Washington on a specific date, but the NBA's television commitments held sway.

Wizards and Verizon Center owner Ted Leonsis blogged his "sincere apology" for inconveniencing the singer's fans.

Ex-New York Jets cheerleader sues, arguing low pay

HACKENSACK, N.J. (AP) A former cheerleader with the New York Jets has sued the team, claiming she and others were underpaid in violation of New Jersey state wage laws.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in state Superior Court in Bergen County, where the Jets and the New York Giants play their home games at MetLife Stadium.

The cheerleader is identified in court papers as Krystal C. California-based attorney Sharon Vinick says she and other members of the Jets Flight Crew earned $150 per game and $100 for required special events. But she says they weren't paid for practices or other appearances.

Vinick says when the unpaid hours are factored in the $1,700 per season works out to $3.77 per hour. She also represents cheerleaders with the Oakland Raiders in a similar lawsuit.

A Jets spokesman won't comment on the lawsuit.

Mariano Rivera would pick Pedroia over Cano at 2B

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Retired Yankees closer Mariano Rivera says he would take Boston's Dustin Pedroia over former teammate Robinson Cano as his top second baseman.

That's fine by Cano, who insists he respects Rivera as the best ever, no matter what.

"There is no doubt that he is a Hall of Fame-caliber talent," Rivera said about Cano in his new book published Tuesday. "It's just a question of whether he finds the drive that you need to get there."

"I don't think Robby burns to be the best. I think he's content to enjoy the game and help his team and go home. You don't see the red-hot passion in him that you see in most elite players," Rivera said.

Cano has moved on out West with Seattle, determined not to let Rivera's words in "The Closer: My Story" affect him or his new team.

"Everybody has a different opinion. That's his opinion and I have to respect his opinion," Cano said before Tuesday night's game at Oakland. "I'm not going to go too far into this. That's the only thing that I can say. My focus right now is this team. I'm here, we're winning. I was over there already and now I'm here and now I'm focused on the team. I'm going to be excited for my teammates."

Baseball's career saves leader played nine seasons with Cano. Rivera retired after last year, and Cano left the Yankees in the offseason and joined the Mariners on a $240 million, 10-year contract as the new centerpiece of the franchise.

Rivera played against Pedroia for eight years in New York's rivalry with the Red Sox.

"Nobody plays harder, gives more, wants to win more. He comes at you hard for 27 outs, every time. It's a special thing to see, a little guy like that who is willing to do whatever it takes," Rivera said. "If I have to win one game, I'd have a hard time taking anybody over Dustin Pedroia as my second baseman."

Rivera cites Roberto Alomar and former teammate Chuck Knoblauch as second baseman he'd consider alongside Cano in the debate over the best at the position. In the end, Rivera decides on Pedroia.

Cano has played at least 159 games in each of the past seven years - and Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon insists that durability shows plenty about his love for the game and desire to be great and stay in the lineup every day.

Cano will let those numbers provide all the necessary information.

"Everybody knows I play 160 games," he said. "How does Mariano feel? I respect that and I'm always going to have respect for him, a guy that I spent nine years with and for me is always going to be the best closer. That's how I feel."

McClendon said he was "surprised" to learn of Rivera's remarks regarding Cano.

"I'm extremely proud, I'm humbled and I feel blessed to be able to manage a guy of Robinson Cano's character and his ability to play the game of baseball. He's a Seattle Mariner and I'm proud to have him," McClendon said. "One thing I know about human nature, I don't know what Robinson Cano is feeling inside, just like you don't know what I'm feeling inside. It's impossible for me to justify that or answer that. All I can tell you is check the book, he plays 160, 162 games a year. I think that's pretty good passion.

"The last nine years, he's been the best second baseman in baseball, offensively and defensively, and the awards and the numbers back it up."

In the book, written with New York Daily News reporter Wayne Coffey, Rivera says there has been a decrease in atmosphere at New York home games following the move to new Yankee Stadium for the 2009 season.

"It doesn't hold noise, or home-team fervor, anywhere near the way the old place did," he said. "The old Stadium was our 10th man - a loud and frenzied cauldron of pinstriped passion, with a lot of lifers in the stands. Maybe I'm wrong, but it's hard to see that the new place can ever quite duplicate that."

Thunder star Kevin Durant wins first MVP award

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Kevin Durant has plenty of scoring titles. Now, he finally has an MVP trophy to go with them.

The Oklahoma City Thunder star won the NBA's top individual honor Tuesday, receiving 119 first-place votes. Miami's LeBron James, who had won the last two MVP awards and four of the previous five, finished second with six first-place votes, and Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers was third.

"Everything in my life, I had to take it," Durant said at a ceremony in Edmond. "They're not going to give it to you out of sympathy. I wouldn't want it any other way. This was another case, if I wanted to win the MVP, I had to go take it. I felt that this was the year I did that."

Durant won his fourth scoring crown in five years by averaging 32 points. The 6-foot-9 forward helped the Thunder go 59-23, second-best in the league, despite playing much of the season without three-time All-Star Russell Westbrook by his side because of a nagging knee injury.

"He's basically put himself in front of everybody else in the league and shown that he's the best player in the world," Westbrook said at the end of the regular season.

James agreed, saying Monday: "Much respect to him and he deserves it. He had a big-time MVP season."

Durant's run of 41 consecutive games this season with at least 25 points was the third-longest streak in NBA history.

"It was a two-man race, and then toward the end, it was kind of a no-brainer," Griffin said.

James averaged 27.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists while shooting nearly 57 percent from the field.

Griffin averaged 24.1 points and 10.1 rebounds.

"It's an honor, really," he said of finishing third. "It's hard to believe. I'm honored and humbled by that."

Durant scored at least 40 points 14 times. He also averaged 7.4 rebounds and a career-high 5.5 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field.

While Westbrook was out after his most recent knee surgery, Durant averaged 35 points and 6.3 assists as the Thunder went 20-7 and remained among the league's elite.

Westbrook's injury gave Durant an opportunity to use his improving skills as a playmaker.

"I've always been a player that was excited for my teammates' success," Durant said.

Teammates and opponents say Durant became a more complete player this season. They praised him for improving his court vision, consistently making the extra pass and moving more efficiently without the ball.

"I think we take it for granted," teammate Nick Collison said. "To be able to stay on for long periods of time - have to cut hard, catch the ball in the right spot and defend on the other end - is tough to do. To be able to show that shows that he has an edge to him. He doesn't take a night off."

Durant's slight build could be considered one of his few weaknesses, but he has improved in dealing with opponents who try to push him around.

"I don't really think that matters with him," Westbrook said. "He just takes on the challenge. When people try to be physical, he takes on the challenge and becomes more aggressive."

Though Durant's consistency stood out this season, he had several exceptional games. He scored 48 points on Jan. 4 at Minnesota, then scored 48 again two games later at Utah. He scored a career-high 54 points in a home win against Golden State on Jan. 17 and two games later scored 46 at home in a victory against Portland.

Two games after that, he had a triple-double - 32 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists - in a win at Philadelphia, and he followed that with 41 points in a victory over Atlanta. He scored 51 points at Toronto on March 21 in a staggering 53 minutes and hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left in double overtime.

He capped it off in the season finale by scoring 21 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter against Detroit and winning the game with a dunk with 16.5 seconds left. The Thunder overcame a 10-point deficit in the quarter to clinch the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

"I put in so much work and so many people helped me," he said. "I feel like we all won it. Our equipment guy gave me a hug today and said, `This is my first MVP,' and I thought about that. And I said, `Yeah, this is our first MVP.' I couldn't have done it without the teammates, without the trainer. Everybody. We all just did this together."

Top Clippers exec Roeser taking leave of absence

LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles Clippers President Andy Roeser is taking an indefinite leave of absence while the NBA restructures the franchise in the wake of owner Donald Sterling's lifetime ban.

Roeser's immediate departure was announced Tuesday by the NBA. The league announced plans last week to appoint a CEO to oversee the franchise in Sterling's absence.

"This will provide an opportunity for a new CEO to begin on a clean slate and for the team to stabilize under difficult circumstances," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life, fined him $2.5 million and urged owners to force him to sell the Clippers a week ago, responding to league-wide outrage over racist comments made by the 80-year-old real-estate mogul.

Sterling is the NBA's longest-tenured owner after buying the Clippers in 1981. Roeser, one of the Clippers' alternate governors, is one of the league's longest-tenured executives, having just completed his 30th season with the team.

The announcement of Roeser's leave surprised Clippers coach Doc Rivers while he prepared the team for Game 2 of its second-round playoff series in Oklahoma City on Tuesday.

"I knew they were going to bring in a new CEO eventually, but it is (a surprise)," Rivers said. "I just didn't know about it. I'm glad I didn't know about it, actually. I think the NBA is doing their job, and we're just trying to keep this thing together."

Roeser has been a loyal frontman for Sterling since the franchise's days in San Diego, and he stood by Sterling during every controversial stretch of the owner's career. Only radio and television play-by-play announcer Ralph Lawler has worked for the Clippers longer than the 54-year-old Roeser, who became team president in 2007.

But Roeser infuriated many longtime Clippers employees last week after Sterling's private conversation was made public by TMZ.

While nearly everyone else was reacting with outrage, Roeser released a statement questioning whether the recordings of Sterling were legitimate, while simultaneously apologizing on Sterling's behalf for sentiments about Magic Johnson on the recordings. Roeser's statement was sympathetic to Sterling and criticized V. Stiviano, Sterling's longtime associate and the other voice on the recordings.

Rivers said Roeser's statement upset many loyal Clippers employees who had been horrified by Sterling's comments. Rivers held meetings with much of the Clippers' front-office staff last week while Sterling was ousted, encouraging them to keep working for the franchise.

"I think that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way," Rivers said. "Andy right away said that was the wrong statement, so he apologized for that, and then we moved on."

Roeser joined the organization in 1984 from an accounting firm. Two years later, he became executive vice president, overseeing all facets of the team's business operations. He has been president of the Los Angeles Clippers Foundation since it began in 1994.

He helped bring Rivers to Los Angeles from the Boston Celtics last June, and was part of the acquisition of All-Star guard Chris Paul in 2011. Roeser also oversaw the development and construction of the team's training facility that opened in 2008.

Rivers is the Clippers' senior vice president of basketball operations, working alongside executive vice president of player personnel Gary Sacks on the basketball side of the team's operations.

Rivers didn't expect Roeser's absence to affect the Clippers' playoff run, noting he already had wide latitude to run the team however he wished.

"That's how they've allowed me to work for the most part, anyway," Rivers said. "Andy, he's basically allowed me to do what I needed to do. I would have to call him every once in a while on stuff. It's nothing big in the next couple of weeks that's going to have to be decided anyway, and I think the league understands that."

The Clippers overcame the distraction of Sterling's banishment to outlast Golden State in a seven-game first-round series on Saturday night.

After just one day off, they returned to the court and trounced Oklahoma City 122-105 on the road Monday night in the opener of their Western Conference semifinal series.

Police: Winston avoided walking in front of deputy

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston appeared to pause to avoid walking in front of a deputy before leaving a supermarket without paying for crab legs and crawfish, according to a sheriff's office incident report.

A Leon County sheriff's deputy who reviewed security video of the incident involving the Florida State University quarterback and baseball closer said Winston can be seen walking from the Publix supermarket's seafood counter to a dairy case, where he picked up a package of butter.

But before leaving the store, he stopped near bins of sale items near the front entrance as off-duty Deputy Marc Graves passed.

"Mr. Winston paused visibly near a series of sale bins and allowed Deputy Graves to pass in front of him. The pause appeared to be an attempt to avoid walking in front of Deputy Graves. Mr. Winston then walked behind Deputy Graves, passed all points of sale, and exited the store without paying for the merchandise," said the report prepared by Deputy Michael Crego.

Winston told deputies he walked out and forgot to pay for three pounds worth of Old Bay seasoned steamed crab legs and a pound of Cajun seasoned crawfish. But he said he didn't take the butter. He said he decided on the way out of the store that he didn't need it and placed it in a sale bin instead of returning it to the dairy cooler.

The report says deputies were unable to determine whether Winston took the butter or placed it in the sale bin.

Winston signed a civil citation admitting he committed petit theft and was suspended from FSU's baseball team for three games until he completed 20 hours of community service.

"Mr. Winston apologized repeatedly and stated he wanted to `make it right,"' Crego wrote.

Paralyzed athlete will speak at Rutgers graduation

Former Rutgers University football player Eric LeGrand, whose recovery from a paralyzing injury suffered during a game has become a unifying and inspirational story for the school, was announced Tuesday as one of its commencement speakers, a day after he said the offer to do so was rescinded "for political reasons."

The announcement from Rutgers President Robert Barchi, who said there was a "miscommunication" about the speeches, is the latest development in a strange saga surrounding the May 18 ceremony.

The New Jersey university initially announced that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would give the keynote address, and school officials maintained that she would not be "disinvited" as some students and faculty protested her selection, including holding a sit-in last week. They objected largely because of her role in deciding the U.S. would go to war in Iraq.

But on Saturday, Rice withdrew from the speech.

On Monday, former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, who was one of the chairmen of the Sept. 11 Commission, was named as the new keynote speaker.

Hours after that announcement, LeGrand tweeted that he had been offered the chance to give the speech, but that the university rescinded the offer "for political reasons."

Rutgers spokesman Greg Trevor said when university officials spoke with LeGrand, they may have given the impression that he was to be the keynote speaker, when that was not the plan. LeGrand will speak before Kean at the ceremony.

LeGrand did not return a message from The Associated Press seeking further details.

Later in the day, though, he tweeted that he had spoken with Barchi and would be speaking at commencement. "(Let's) keep the focus on the graduates," he wrote.

Before the resolution was announced, he told NJ.com that athletic director Julie Hermann told him on Monday that Rutgers had decided to go with another speaker. Trevor said he would look into that assertion.

In his statement Tuesday afternoon, Barchi said LeGrand had been invited as one of multiple speakers.

"It was never our intention that Eric would be the only speaker. We have resolved that miscommunication and are delighted to have him participate," Barchi said. "Eric holds a special place in the hearts of the class of 2014 and the entire university community. We are thrilled that he will be joining us on stage to make this special occasion ever more memorable."

LeGrand also will receive a degree at the ceremony.

He was paralyzed from the neck down while making a tackle on a kickoff during a 2010 game against Army. He now is able to breathe on his own and stand upright with the help of a metal frame.

LeGrand is known mostly for his hopeful outlook. He has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, helped with Rutgers football broadcasts, become a motivational speaker and signed a symbolic contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they were coached by his former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano. Last fall, LeGrand became the first football player to have his number retired by the university.

LeGrand told the Home News Tribune of East Brunswick that he was mapping out what he would say in a speech. "I was just going to give inspirational words about how they should attack life," he said. "All the things I've learned so far."

Penguins blank Rangers again, take 2-1 series lead

NEW YORK (AP) New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault finally took a shot at his club's taxing postseason schedule, but still won't say his players are tired.

Judging by their effort in their latest loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, he might be right.

The Rangers pressed the pace and widely outshot the talented Penguins, but New York came out on the short end of a 2-0 decision on Monday - their second shutout defeat in two nights.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots one night after making 22 saves at home in a 3-0 Game 2 victory that tied the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series.

The Penguins now own a 2-1 lead, have knocked the Rangers back on their heels, and have reclaimed home-ice advantage.

"Back to back nights is not easy," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who gave his club a 1-0 lead with his first goal of these playoffs. "We believe in (Fleury), and with every game, we see him get more and more comfortable. That's contagious."

It is the first time the Rangers have been shut out in consecutive playoff games since the 1937 Stanley Cup finals against Detroit.

New York finished its first-round win over Philadelphia with three games in four days - including Games 6 and 7 on consecutive nights - and started this series with three in four again.

"We tried real hard. We were forced to play a stupid schedule - five games in seven nights," Vigneault said. "I am real proud of how our guys handled it.

"We put our best foot forward in each and every game. Now we've got a full day to recover (Tuesday), and we're going to get right back at it on Wednesday."

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has said he wants his team to take advantage of the busy Rangers, but doesn't believe New York has been worn down.

"I didn't see a tired Rangers team at all," he said. "It's a lot of hockey games, but that's the schedule. I would much rather be playing in a 10-day period than stretch it out."

Crosby snapped a 13-game playoff drought with his second-period goal, and Jussi Jokinen also scored. Both goals came right after Pittsburgh killed penalties.

"The main thing is that you get chances and that you are out there creating things, making it tough on them," Crosby said. "That's the first step. Eventually you trust that it will go in."

The Penguins made the most of 15 shots, including just one in the third period.

New York's futile power play had already slowed down the offense, but now the Rangers can't score at all. They were 0 for 5 with the advantage Monday, pushing their streak to 34 failed opportunities.

"You might be frustrated right now, but it does no good," forward Brad Richards said. "We are in the middle of a series, and out of those three games, we played two real good ones."

The Rangers have consecutive losses in these playoffs for the first time and haven't scored since winning the opener in overtime. Game 4 is Wednesday in New York.

The tide turned in Pittsburgh's favor in the second period for the third straight game.

New York had 2:15 remaining on a 4-minute power play that began in the first, but couldn't cash in. To make matters worse for the Rangers, Crosby took a long stretch pass from defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, outraced Marc Staal, and beat Henrik Lundqvist between the pads from the left circle 19 seconds after James Neal left the penalty box. It was Crosby's 41st career playoff goal.

The Penguins struck for their second goal right after Jokinen jumped out of the box. He got to a loose puck in the neutral zone after Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello failed to connect on a backward pass in the Pittsburgh end.

Jokinen came in alone and scored his fifth of the playoffs with 4:40 left in the second - 8 seconds after his penalty ended.

New York was suddenly down by two and the weight of its anemic power play burdened the team even more. During the Rangers' last advantage in the second period, the Madison Square Garden crowd implored them to "Shoot the puck!" They did, but to no avail.

"I am happy about our whole team," Vigneault said. "We played a real strong game. That is one of the best two-way teams in the league."

The Rangers received their first power play 5:16 in when Marcel Goc was called for roughing Dominic Moore after an icing call.

Neal later got his 4-minute penalty for hitting Jesper Fast in the mouth with his stick with 1:45 remaining. Benoit Pouliot had the best chance during the first half of the advantage when he fired a drive off the right post with 14 seconds left in the period.

Before that, Zuccarello one-timed a pass from Pouliot during 5-on-5 play from the left circle that Fleury snagged with a stretch of his glove.

Lundqvist turned aside Chris Kunitz on a breakaway, for the second time in as many days, during New York's first power play.

"It's the first to four wins," Lundqvist said. "We will take a deep breath here and get ready for Wednesday.

"That's going to be a very important game for us. This is definitely not over."

NOTES: Crosby was nominated as a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award, given annually to the "Most Outstanding Player." He won it last season and in 2007. ... The Rangers replaced rugged forwards Daniel Carcillo and Derek Dorsett with Fast and J.T. Miller, and put defenseman Raphael Diaz in for the first time in these playoffs. John Moore sat out.

Paul scores 32; Clippers roll past Thunder 122-105

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Chris Paul got the best of Russell Westbrook in a matchup of two of the league's best point guards.

Paul made a career-high eight 3-pointers and scored 32 points to help the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Thunder 122-105 Monday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal.

Paul, who had never made more than five 3-pointers in a game, also had 10 assists.

"It was just one of those nights," he said. "This one will definitely go down in the history books for me. Don't count on it for Game 2, I can tell you that."

Though Paul is a career 36 percent 3-point shooter, he doesn't usually shoot them so often. Once he started hitting them, he became increasingly aggressive. He made 8 of 9 on the night.

"When somebody's got it going like that, you just try to stay out of the way as much as possible, but also help keep that fire going," Clippers forward Blake Griffin said.

Westbrook led the Thunder with 29 points on 9-for-14 shooting, but he had six turnovers and just four assists. Kevin Durant had 25 points and Serge Ibaka added 12 for the Thunder.

Oklahoma City thought it defended Paul relatively well.

"I thought on a lot of those 3s, especially early in the game, we had a hand in his face and a hand in his shots," Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha said. "So we did a decent job, but those shots went in, and that boosted their whole team."

The Thunder suffered their worst home loss since moving to Oklahoma City.

"We have to get more physical," Durant said. "I'm not talking about hard fouls, I'm talking about jamming the lane, fighting through screens and not letting guys run free. We just have to be more physical."

Griffin scored 23 points, Jamal Crawford had 17 and J.J. Redick added 12 for the Clippers. Game 2 is Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.

Both teams were coming off Game 7 wins in the first round on Saturday night, but only the Thunder looked weary. Oklahoma City opened by taking a 16-10 lead, but the Clippers responded with a 24-6 run. Paul hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter, matching his career high for 3s in a playoff game in the first 12 minutes. The Clippers shot 67 percent in the first quarter to take a 39-25 lead.

"I've never seen him this aggressive," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "He felt like he needed to set the tone."

Los Angeles extended its lead to 24 points in the second quarter and took a 69-52 halftime lead, with Paul getting 22 points and six assists.

Durant and Westbrook scored 16 points each in the first half, but the Thunder committed 11 turnovers before halftime.

A quick 3-pointer and a pull-up jumper by Paul pushed the Clippers' lead to 78-56 in the opening minutes of the third quarter. The Clippers reached 100 points with just over a minute left in the period and led 104-78 heading into the fourth quarter.

The score that matters to the Thunder is 1-0. They were behind 2-1 and 3-2 against Memphis in the first round and rallied to win the series.

"We just understand that we don't go into Game 2 with a 17-point lead," Paul said. "You know, you've just got to come back and be hungry and not be satisfied with one."

NOTES: Sefolosha rejoined the starting lineup after sitting out the final two games against Memphis. Thunder coach Scott Brooks said before Monday's game that he started Caron Butler in Games 6 and 7 against Memphis because the team needed another offensive weapon. ... Griffin attended the University of Oklahoma. He got a mixed reaction during pregame introductions. ... The Clippers made 7 of 10 3-point attempts in the first quarter. ... Ibaka was issued a technical foul in the third quarter after getting his legs tangled up with Griffin. ... Clippers C DeAndre Jordan made just 1 of 8 free throw attempts. ... Durant was issued a technical foul for arguing with an official with 10:40 remaining in the fourth quarter. ... The Clippers committed just nine turnovers. ... Oklahoma City outrebounded the Clippers 47-31.

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.

LA Kings shut down Ducks 3-1, take 2-0 series lead

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Jonathan Quick made 36 saves, Marian Gaborik scored his third goal in two games, and the Los Angeles Kings beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 Monday night to take a 2-0 lead in their second-round series.

Alec Martinez also scored for the Kings, who opened their first playoff series against their local rivals with two victories at a road arena packed with their own fans.

Dwight King added an empty-net goal for Los Angeles, which has won six straight postseason games and is halfway to its third straight trip to the Western Conference finals.

Patrick Maroon scored a power-play goal and Jonas Hiller stopped 14 shots for the Ducks, who couldn't crack the Kings' NHL-best defense despite controlling play for long stretches.

Game 3 is Thursday at Staples Center.

Wizards take 1-0 lead with 102-96 win at Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Bradley Beal scored 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and Trevor Ariza added 22 on Monday night, leading Washington past top-seeded Indiana 102-96 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Wizards won a second-round game for the first time since 1982 and are 4-0 on the road in this year's playoffs. They ended a 12-game losing streak at Indiana that dated to April 18, 2007, and they did it by nearly leading from wire-to-wire.

Paul George and George Hill had 18 points each for Indiana.

The Wizards trailed only once, 31-30, and took control with a 17-6 run to close the first half that made it 56-43. Indiana couldn't get closer than five points in the second half.

Game 2 is Wednesday night at Indiana.

The Pacers have lost both of their playoff series' openers and will face another uphill battle - just days after rallying from a 3-2 deficit to beat Atlanta in seven games in the first round.

Washington made a playoff franchise-record 10 3-pointers, going 10 of 16. Ariza was 6 for 6 with five coming in the first half when he scored a playoff-career best 17 points.

But the Wizards won this one because of their defense, especially late.

After pulling out to a 92-78 lead midway through the fourth quarter, Indiana scored six straight to close to 92-84 with 3:24 left.

But Washington didn't allow another field goal for nearly 6 minutes - from 7:41 left in the fourth until Indiana's last-minute 3-point flurry, and by then it was too late.

The Wizards took advantage of a five-day break after beating Chicago in the first round, looking fresh and stealing a page out of the Hawks' playbook by spreading out the Pacers.

It worked perfectly.

The Wizards jumped to an 8-0 lead and extended the margin to 28-15 after one quarter.

The Pacers spent the second half playing catch-up and the Wizards never let them get closer than two possessions.

After the Wizards took a 68-52 lead midway through the third quarter, the Pacers finally charged back with a 10-0 run that got them within 68-62.

But Washington sealed the game with a 7-0 fourth-quarter run that made it 92-78 with 5:46 to play. It was too much to overcome for Indiana, which made four 3s in the final minute.

NOTES: Washington has won nine of its last 10 dating to the regular season. ... Indiana held Washington to 66 points on Jan. 10, the lowest single-game point total this season. It took the Wizards 26:02 to top that mark Monday. ... Robert Mathis and Reggie Wayne of the Colts attended the game.

AP Source: Raptors give Casey 3-year deal

Dwane Casey started the season in the perilous position of working for a new general manager and coaching a young Toronto Raptors roster that was widely believed to be on the ground floor of a remodel.

He turned the situation into an Atlantic Division championship and the team's first playoff appearance since 2008, which was more than enough to convince general manager Masai Ujiri that the right man for the job was already in house.

Casey received a three-year contract extension on Monday, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press. The person requested anonymity because the team has not announced the move.

The agreement came one day after the Raptors lost Game 7 of their Eastern Conference playoff series to Brooklyn when Nets star Paul Pierce blocked a potential game-winning shot by Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry in the closing seconds. The fast resolution addressed one of the team's biggest question marks heading into the offseason.

"He's a great dude," guard DeMar DeRozan said of Casey before news of the contract went public. "Sometimes you don't even look at him as a coach because you can talk to him about any situation. I think that helped us a lot."

Casey was in the final year of his contract when Ujiri was lured away from the Denver Nuggets. An executive typically likes to hire his own coach, and Casey was brought on in 2011 by former basketball boss Bryan Colangelo.

The Raptors won 23 games in Casey's first season and 34 in his second, and Ujiri immediately started making roster moves to address the team's troublesome salary-cap situation and start positioning it for greater flexibility moving forward. The most notable move was sending Rudy Gay to Sacramento, but Casey and his new-look staff took the hand they were dealt and turned the Raptors into one of the most surprising teams in the league.

"This guy did so much and really got us ready," guard Greivis Vasquez said. "As a leader, you've got to give him a lot of credit. He did a great job. I thought we got better throughout the season. We gradually got better and the coaching staff was great."

Toronto went 48-34 to win the division for just the second time in franchise history. The Raptors also came close to advancing to the second round of the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history.

"We were right there," Casey said after Game 7.

Casey helped Lowry, a talented guard with a reputation for being a handful for coaches behind the scenes, harness his ultra-competitive nature and mature into the kind of reliable leader that the team needed.

The 28-year-old Lowry delivered the best season of his career and ingratiated himself with the Raptors' passionate fan base to set up what should be a lucrative trip through free agency this summer.

Casey also helped DeRozan blossom into a more well-rounded player. DeRozan averaged a career-high 22.7 points, but his 4.0 assists were also well above his previous career high of 2.5.

"He's not going to tell you do to something just to do it," DeRozan said. "There's a reason behind everything. Once you respect a man's word like that, you're going to work for him."

It also has to be comforting for Casey, who was told by Ujiri that he would get every opportunity to be the coach for the long term if he put the work in and helped the team improve like it did. Ujiri backed up his word, which should sweeten the experience for Casey after his first head coaching job went so sourly in Minnesota.

The Timberwolves gave Casey just a season and a half before firing him with a 20-20 record in 2007. Things only went south from there for the Timberwolves, and Casey went to Dallas to win an NBA title with the Mavericks as an assistant before getting another shot.

In Toronto, unlike in Minnesota, Casey will get the chance to finish what he started.

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AP freelance writer Ian Harrison in Toronto contributed to this report.

76ers guard Carter-Williams wins Rookie of Year

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Michael Carter-Williams has something to show for being a bright spot in a dismal season for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Carter-Williams won the NBA's Rookie of the Year Award on Monday after becoming only the third player since 1950-51 to lead all rookies in scoring (16.7), rebounding (6.3) and assists (6.2). Oscar Robertson (1960-61) and Alvan Adams (1975-76) were the others.

Despite the performance of their dynamic guard, the Sixers were awful this season. They were 19-73 and tied an NBA record by losing 26 straight games.

"I'd definitely trade this award to be in the playoffs in a second," Carter-Williams said. "Coaches tell me to watch the playoffs to look at how different the game is and I do see it. It's a whole different season. This game is about winning. I hope I set a positive example about leading your team in a good way no matter what. I hope guys that come in know the core of this team takes things seriously and we want to build something special."

Carter-Williams received 104 of a possible 124 first-place votes. The Orlando Magic's Victor Oladipo finished second and Trey Burke of the Utah Jazz was third.

"Michael made an immediate impact on the court this season, but his dedication, professionalism and contributions to both the organization and the Philadelphia community make him all the more deserving of this award," Sixers owner Josh Harris said in a statement. "This is an incredibly proud moment for the 76ers and one we are thrilled to share with him, the city and our fans."

Allen Iverson is the only other player in Sixers history to win the award. The 11th overall pick from Syracuse in last year's draft, Carter-Williams is the first player picked 10th or lower to win since Mark Jackson did it in 1987 for New York.

"Michael performed and represented the Sixers organization this past season in a manner befitting of the 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year," said co-managing owner David Blitzer. "He never stopped working from the moment he burst onto the national scene in our home opener through the final horn at last game of the season, and we are proud to congratulate him on this well-deserved award."

Carter-Williams had a spectacular debut, posting 22 points, 12 assists and nine steals to lead the Sixers to a stunning 114-110 victory over the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. He was the second rookie after Shaquille O'Neill to be the Eastern Conference Player of the Week in his first week in the NBA.

"By opening night, it was clear to us that Michael belonged," Sixers President Sam Hinkie said. "This award marks a lifetime of hard work. ... We congratulate him on this unique achievement and look forward to helping him put in the work necessary to garner even greater success in the future."

First-year coach Brett Brown had enough confidence in Carter-Williams to give him the responsibility of leading the team on the court. They traded away All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to clear the way for Carter-Williams.

With an eye toward the future, the Sixers traded Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen in February. They have a 19.9 percent chance at getting the No. 1 pick in this year's draft and are also owed New Orleans' lottery pick - unless the Pelicans win a top-3 pick. With possibly two first-round selections, Carter-Williams and 2013 lottery pick Nerlens Noel returning from a knee injury, the Sixers could be a contender soon.

"When I first got here, I really didn't know what to expect," Carter-Williams said. "I am not a person that trusts a lot of people. My circle is really close, especially when it comes to basketball, because everyone has an opinion. But I have a lot of trust in coach Brown."

LeBron James: Durant deserves to win NBA MVP award

MIAMI (AP) LeBron James of the Miami Heat says Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant would be a deserving winner of the NBA MVP award.

It's expected that Durant will be announced as this season's MVP later this week. James has lauded Durant's play this season several times in recent weeks, doing so again on Monday.

James says: "Much respect to him and he deserves it. He had a big-time MVP season."

James is a four-time winner of the league's MVP award, taking the honor in each of the previous two seasons.

Hurricanes fire Muller amid playoff drought

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Ron Francis wasted little time putting his stamp on the Carolina Hurricanes.

One week into his new job as general manager, Francis fired coach Kirk Muller and most of his staff.

Now leading a franchise that has made the playoffs just once in eight years, Francis cited the need for a "fresh start" and warned that nobody on the roster - from the marquee names, to the grinders at the end of the bench - is untouchable.

"I don't think changing the coaches lets the players off the hook," Francis said. "I think there has to be a lot of responsibility on their shoulders as well to turn this thing around. Hopefully we can do that going forward."

Francis, a Hall of Fame player and former captain and assistant coach with the Hurricanes, took control of the team last week when Jim Rutherford stepped aside after a two-decade run as its GM.

As part of his first big housecleaning move, assistants John MacLean and Dave Lewis also were fired and goaltending coach Greg Stefan was reassigned back to the team's pro scouting department.

Rod Brind'Amour, a third-year assistant who was the captain of Carolina's only Stanley Cup-winning team in 2006, was retained because Francis said "Roddy really didn't have, in my estimation, a prominent role on this staff."

Francis says it's "an open search at this point," is looking for "a guy who's a teacher" with strong communication and leadership qualities and ideally would like to hire his new coach before the June 27-28 draft.

"I don't really have anybody in mind," he said. "We'll start (with) a few names we're putting on the list, and we'll go forward looking at that list and see who is the best fit for our team going forward."

Muller was 80-80-27 in three seasons with the Hurricanes, who haven't made the playoffs since 2009, the longest active drought in the Eastern Conference. Carolina finished 13th in the 16-team East this season.

"The biggest thing was our inconsistency," Francis said. "Some nights we looked like a great team and other nights, we really struggled, looked like we didn't know how to play the game at times."

Muller, 48, made six All-Star teams during a 19-year career with six clubs, most notably New Jersey and Montreal.

He had never been a head coach in the NHL and was in his first season coaching the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL when he was hired during the 2011-12 season to replace the fired Paul Maurice.

The relentlessly positive Muller spent the past month in limbo, saying in mid-April that upper management had not told him anything about his job status and that he was going about his business as if he would remain the coach.

While owner Peter Karmanos Jr. said late in the season that he liked the coaching staff, he added last week that it would be entirely Francis' call whether to retain Muller.

During his formal introduction as GM, Francis said his impending decision on Muller's status "needs due process."

Muller's final year was plagued by subpar years from the four highest-paid players on the roster - forwards Alexander Semin and Eric and Jordan Staal, and goalie Cam Ward.

When Ward was asked during his exit interview if it was tough for Muller to get his message across in the dressing room, the goalie said "for me, obviously, I'm going to avoid that one."

Francis said he didn't sense much friction between Muller and the players.

"You look at our team, there's guys who didn't play well. They were told that by us in the exit meetings," the GM said. "There's always going to be situations where, as a player, if you don't like the coach, you've still got to perform."

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Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap

Woods says he's healing slowly from back surgery

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Tiger Woods described his recovery from back surgery as a "very slow process" that offered him no timetable on when he can return for a summer filled with big championships.

Woods already missed the Masters, choosing to have microdiscectomy surgery March 31 to relieve pain from a pinched nerve.

In a wide-ranging blog on his website Monday, Woods said he is still sore from the incision and his only contact with golf clubs is a few putts and chips that do not require him to rotate his back. He said tests showed no arthritic changes, which he attributed to being in good shape and strong in his legs and abdomen.

"I made the decision to have surgery because physically I just couldn't make a golf swing," Woods wrote. "The pretty much sums it up."

Though he is uncertain when he can even start hitting half-shots, Woods made it sound as though he would not be ready for the U.S. Open on June 12-15 at Pinehurst No. 2, the major championship course where he has the most experience.

"As I've said several times, I hope to be back sometime this summer, but I just don't know when," Woods said.

The one nonmajor that is important to him is the Quicken Loans National at Congressional, with a new title sponsor stepping in at a tournament that benefits his foundation.

"Whether I'm able to play or not, I'm going to be there to support it," Woods said.

That tournament is two weeks after the U.S. Open and three weeks before the British Open, with the PGA Championship, FedEx Cup playoffs and Ryder Cup filling out a busy lineup of big-time golf.

"You can understand why I want to hurry up and get better," Woods said.

Woods, who last played March 9 at Doral, said all he could do was to follow a strength program, listen to the doctors, chart his progress and wait.

"I haven't used a sand wedge yet," he said. "I've done putting and chip-and-runs using the same length of motion. I haven't really rotated yet. As far as taking a full swing, I have conference calls with my doctors every couple of weeks to see how my progress is and just kind of chart it out from there. Basically, you just follow a program. It's tedious because it's little rehab stuff, but you still have to do it.

"That's where I think the experiences of having gone through the surgeries in the past have really helped, because you have to lay the foundation down first before you can do the more arduous activities and then return to form," he said. "I'm walking and able to cycle now and started swimming last week."

Woods missed the Masters for the first time in his career and said it wasn't as difficult as some might think to watch on TV. He compared it to the British Open and PGA Championship in 2008, which he missed after reconstructive surgery on his left knee.

He started watching mainly when Fred Couples got into the mix, and he lost a little interest when Couples fell off the pace early in the final round. Woods congratulated Bubba Watson and said Augusta National is suited to left-handed players like Watson and Phil Mickelson who hit a fade, a shot that works well on key holes along the back nine.

On other topics:

-Woods said he has enjoyed spending time with his 6-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. He says he can't practice soccer with Sam, and he can't move quickly when working on baseball drills with Charlie.

-He said it helps to go through rehab at the same time with Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn, even though she is further along. "Her sessions are much longer and more developed," he said. "Her knee is getting stronger and it's good to see. She hopes to be ready to compete again in December."

Woods also said he has been texting with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who had "the exact same surgery" in December and couldn't play the final game of the year. "He just couldn't function anymore," Woods said.

The mystery about Woods is that golf requires a sudden, swift rotation through the ball. Plus, Woods said every person responds differently to surgery.

"I'm doing everything I can and listening to my doctors and working on a strength program, and then we just have to see how my back is," Woods said. "Some people heal up in three months, some people take four months, some people take longer. I just don't know."

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