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WAMC Sports Report 5/25/23: Tkachuk sends Panthers to Stanley Cup Final, after topping Hurricanes 4-3 for sweep


Matthew Tkachuk scored a power-play goal with 4.9 seconds left, Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 36 shots to cap off a brilliant series, and the Florida Panthers earned their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 27 years by beating the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 to win the Eastern Conference title in a sweep. Tkachuk’s goal was his second of the night — and maybe the biggest in Panthers’ history. The Panthers will play either Vegas or Dallas for the Stanley Cup starting sometime next week; Vegas currently leads the Western Conference title series 3-0 and looks for their own sweep tonight at 8 in Dallas.


The Celtics finally found cohesion between their defense and offense in their Game 4 win, capitalizing off 16 Heat turnovers and finding their 3-point shot. Now down 3-1, the question is whether Boston can carry that energy home, a place where it is just 4-5 this postseason to keep alive its hopes of extending the series. At the very least the Celtics’ win made their hopes of becoming the first NBA team in 151 tries to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series shift from insurmountable back to possible heading into Game 5, which is tonight at 8:30 in Boston.

It took 3,787 regular-season games and 29 trips to the playoffs, countless ripoffs of rainbow uniforms and even more ‘yeah, buts’ than any city should have to stomach. Finally, 47 seasons into an entertaining, often frustrating and almost always overlooked journey in the NBA, Denver is at the center of the basketball world. The Denver Nuggets are in the NBA Finals. The Nuggets brushed aside their long-held irrelevance by completing their first sweep in 44 NBA playoff series. They did it against the Lakers, the team had beaten them in their seven previous playoff series. Next up, Denver will play the winner of the Miami-Boston series that the Heat lead 3-1. The first game of the NBA Finals is set for June 1.

Police in Tennessee have conducted a welfare check on suspended Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant and say “he is fine” after cryptic messages appeared on his Instagram account and were later deleted. The post from Wednesday included messages and pictures saying “Love ya ma,” “Love ya pops” and “You da greatest babygirl love ya.” A fourth message simply read: “Bye.” Shelby County Sheriff’s Office spokesman John Morris told The Associated Press deputies checked on Morant at his home Wednesday morning. Morris says Morant told them he was “taking a break from social media.” Morant was suspended from all team activities May 14 after a video showed him flashing a gun for a second time.


Adam Frazier hit a three-run homer and pinch-hitter Gunnar Henderson had a go-ahead, two-run double in an eight-run seventh inning that rallied the Baltimore Orioles over the Yankees 9-6 and stopped New York’s season-high, five-game winning streak. Gleyber Torres homered twice and drove in three runs, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa tripled and homered as the Yankees built a 5-1 lead against Tyler Wells. New York’s bullpen entered with a major league-best 2.80 ERA, but Baltimore sent 12 batters to the plate in the seventh against Cortes and the Yankees bullpen, the Orioles’ highest-scoring inning this season.

Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout homered in the same game for the 26th time during the Los Angeles Angels' 7-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox to sweep the three-game series. The Angels’ MVP duo came through in the early innings. Ohtani connected in the third, and Trout followed in the fourth to match Ohtani with 12 homers apiece this season. Rookie Zach Neto hit a three-run homer during a four-run second inning in the Angels' fourth straight win. Connor Wong homered for the Red Sox, who have lost four straight for the second time in two weeks.

Marcus Stroman pitched eight efficient innings to help the Chicago Cubs beat the New York Mets 4-2 on Wednesday night. Nico Hoerner homered in Chicago’s second straight victory since coming home after a 2-7 trip. Seiya Suzuki also drove in a run with a double off Japanese countryman Kodai Senga. Stroman (4-4) threw just 88 pitches in his longest outing of the season, 59 for strikes. The right-hander allowed four hits, struck out three and walked two. Francisco Álvarez hit a two-run shot in the third, but that was it for the Mets. Stroman helped himself by starting a 1-6-3 double play in the sixth, and then pounded his chest in celebration. Mark Leiter Jr. worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save.

Trea Turner tied the game with a two-run homer in the ninth inning and Alec Bohm hit the winning single in the 10th to rally the Philadelphia Phillies from five runs down in a 6-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Turner delivered his first highlight-reel hit for the Phillies when he connected to deep left off reliever Jose Ruiz (1-1), tying the game at 5. Craig Kimbrel worked the 10th for the win. Evan Longoria hit a two-run homer and Emmanuel Rivera drove in three runs for the Diamondbacks.

Republican Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo announced Wednesday a preliminary agreement between his office, legislative leaders in the state and the Oakland Athletics for a stadium funding plan. It comes after weeks of negotiations over how much public assistance the state will contribute to a $1.5 billion ballpark in Las Vegas. The preliminary agreement indicates a funding bill could come to the Nevada Legislature in the coming days. It still needs approval from both the Senate and Assembly, with less than two weeks until the session ends. The A’s have been looking for years for a home to replace Oakland Coliseum, where the team has played since arriving from Kansas City for the 1968 season.


The New York Jets hosted punter Matt Araiza for a workout at the team’s facility six days after a San Diego State investigation found no wrongdoing by him in an alleged gang rape at an off-campus party in October 2021. Joe Linta, Araiza’s agent, confirmed the punter’s visit with the Jets during an interview on WFAN Sports Radio in New York. ESPN first reported what is believed to be Araiza’s first workout for an NFL team since he was released by Buffalo last August. The session Wednesday with the Jets could prompt other teams to bring in Araiza, who has maintained his innocence throughout.

Von Miller knows Stefon Diggs’ competitive makeup all too well to buy into the narrative the Bills receiver wants out of Buffalo. The Bills pass rusher discounted the cryptic messages Diggs posted on social media months ago and his absence from the start of voluntary practices this week. Miller assured Bills fans, saying he expects the receiver to be back for the team’s mandatory minicamp next month. Diggs has a history of being mercurial dating to his first five seasons in Minnesota. He is entering his fourth season in Buffalo after being acquired in a trade in March 2020.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed former Arizona Cardinals linebacker Markus Golden to a one-year contract. The deal gives the Steelers some depth behind star edge rushers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. The 32-year-old Golden has spent most of his eight seasons in the NFL with Arizona, racking up 47 sacks in 111 games with the Cardinals and New York Giants. Golden had 2 1/2 sacks last year for Arizona while finishing with 48 tackles, tied for the third-highest total in his career.

Lamar Jackson practiced with the Baltimore Ravens during their voluntary session. Jackson says the reason he came was because the team is learning a new offense under new coordinator Todd Monken. The star quarterback reached a $260 million, five-year deal with the Ravens late last month. Jackson skipped this part of Baltimore’s offseason work last year, although he attended the mandatory camps. Rookie receiver Zay Flowers was at practice as well. So was wideout Rashad Bateman, who is back from a foot injury that limited him to six games last season.


The PGA Tour's “Block Party” is still going with Michael Block playing at Colonial after tying for 15th at last week's PGA Championship. The club pro from California will tee up for the first round Thursday at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas. The 120-player field also includes local favorites Scott Scheffler and Jordan Spieth. Scheffler, the No. 1 player in the world, was the runner-up in the major last week and at Colonial last year to Sam Burns. Block is in on a sponsor's exemption and says he's glad he hasn't come to reality yet about what's happening.

Lilia Vu and Brooke Henderson are the only players from the top 10 in the world at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play. Both are winners after the opening session at Shadow Creek. Vu was a semifinalist a year ago. She returns as a major champion and the No. 1 seed in the 64-player field. Shadow Creek is playing tough in hot conditions. Several holes have been won with par, and 13 of the 32 matches went to the final hole. Danielle Kang is a member at Shadow Creek. That didn't help in her opening-round loss to Muni He.

© 2023 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

A 2022 Siena College graduate, Alexander began his journalism career as a sports writer for Siena College's student paper The Promethean, and as a host for Siena's school radio station, WVCR-FM "The Saint." A Cubs fan, Alexander hosts the morning Sports Report in addition to producing Morning Edition. You can hear the sports reports over-the-air at 6:19 and 7:19 AM, and online on WAMC.org. He also speaks Spanish as a second language. To reach him, email ababbie@wamc.org, or call (518)-465-5233 x 190. You can also find him on Twitter/X: @ABabbieWAMC.