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WAMC Sports Report 12/22/23: Rams start strong, hold off Saints 30-22

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws a pass during the second half of n NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)
Ryan Sun/AP
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws a pass during the second half of n NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)


Matthew Stafford passed for 328 yards and two touchdowns, and the Los Angeles Rams surged forward in the NFC playoff race with a 30-22 victory over the New Orleans Saints. Rookie Puka Nacua had nine catches for a career-high 164 yards and a TD, and Kyren Williams rushed for 104 yards and another score while topping 1,000 yards for the season in the Rams' fifth victory in six games. Los Angeles led 30-7 with 12:44 left in the fourth quarter after scoring on six of its first eight possessions, but Derek Carr threw TD passes to Juwan Johnson and A.T. Perry on the Saints’ next two drives. New Orleans' two-game win streak ended.


Jeff Skinner scored twice, including the go-ahead goal, and added an assist, and the Buffalo Sabres responded from their most embarrassing loss of the season with a 9-3 rout of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Tage Thompson also had a goal and two assists and captain Kyle Okposo scored twice, two nights following a 9-4 loss to Columbus when the team was booed off the ice and fans chanted “Fire Donnie” in reference to coach Don Granato. Auston Matthews, Calle Jarnkrok and Max Domi scored for Toronto, which lost consecutive games in regulation for just the second time this season.

Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Adam Erne scored in a span of 69 seconds early in the third period as the Edmonton Oilers snapped a three-game losing streak with a 6-3 win over the New Jersey Devils. Ryan McLeod had two goals for Edmonton while playing against his older brother. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also scored, and Calvin Pickard made 23 saves. Dawson Mercer, Jonas Siegenthaler and Timo Meier scored for the Devils, who lost their third straight after winning eight of 10. Michael McLeod had two assists. McDavid scored his 12th goal at 1:40 of the third to tie the game at 3. Draisaitl put Edmonton ahead with his 14th at 2:22 before Erne made it 5-3 with his first goal for the Oilers at 2:49.

Sidney Crosby scored his 19th goal of the season in regulation and then beat Pyotr Kochetkov in a shootout to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1. Alex Nedeljkovic made 23 saves and turned away all three Carolina attempts in the shootout as the Penguins beat the Hurricanes for just the third time in 13 meetings. Teuvo Teravainen scored his 12th of the season for the Hurricanes. Kochetkov stopped 24 shots, but couldn't get his glove on Crosby's wrist shot from in close in the shootout.

Joel Hofer stopped 36 shots, Pavel Buchnevich scored twice and the St. Louis Blues topped the sliding Florida Panthers 4-1. Buchnevich added an assist, giving him a three-point night. Robert Thomas had three assists, and Jordan Kyrou and Alexey Toropchenko also scored for the Blues. Eetu Luostarinen scored for the Panthers, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 21 saves.

Alex Ovechkin scored his first goal in 15 games with 53 seconds left in overtime to lift the Washington Capitals to a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Ovechkin’s 828th career goal came on a 4-on-3 Capitals power play due to a roughing call against Columbus goaltender Elvis Merzlikins with 2:18 left in the OT period. It was Ovechkin’s 26th OT goal, extending his NHL record, and his 125th game-winner overall, second in NHL history behind Jaromir Jagr’s 135.

Philip Tomasino scored twice, including the go-ahead goal with 4:01 remaining, and the Nashville Predators beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2. Cole Smith also scored, Gustav Nyquist converted an empty-netter and Colton Sissons added a pair of assists for the Predators, who have won eight of 10. Morgan Frost had a goal and an assist, and Sean Couturier also scored for the Flyers, whose nine-game points streak ended. The game was tied 2-2 when Sissons passed from the side boards to the slot, and Tomasino fired a wrist shot over goalie Samuel Ersson's right shoulder.

Nicholas Paul scored the winning goal with 1:13 left in the third period and added two assists as the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the league-best Vegas Golden Knights 5-4. Paul put home a rebound for his second straight three-point game. Tampa Bay right wing and NHL points leader Nikita Kucherov had a goal and two assists. Brayden Point had two goals and an assist, and Alex Barré-Boulet also scored for the Lightning. Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 30 shots. The Golden Knights got two goals from Jonathan Marchessault. Ivan Barbashev and Paul Cotter had the other goals.

Matt Duchene scored with 9.2 seconds left in overtime giving the Dallas Stars a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night. Duchene’s goal, his NHL-leading sixth game-winner, came seconds after Dallas goalie Scott Wedgewood stoned Elias Pettersson on a 2-on-none at the other end. Thomas Harley had the primary assist and also scored for the Stars, who are 4-0-1 in their last five games. Tyler Seguin and Roope Hintz also scored and Wedgewood made 17 saves. Conor Garland and Dakota Joshua each had a goal and an assist and Brock Boeser also scored for the Canucks, who are 6-0-2 in their last eight games.

Kirill Kaprizov scored with 4.9 seconds remaining in overtime, lifting the Minnesota Wild to a 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Kaprizov took a pass from Marcus Johansson and beat Canadiens goalie Sam Montembeault to help the Wild avoid a shootout. It was Kaprizov’s third goal in two games after scoring twice against Boston on Tuesday. Defenseman Brock Faber, Matt Boldy and Marco Rossi also scored for the Wild. Juraj Slafkovsky, David Savard and Nick Suzuki scored for the Canadiens. Filip Gustavsson made 22 saves in the win. Montreal’s Sam Montembeault stopped 20 shots in the loss.

Nathan MacKinnon scored four goals to extend his career-best points streak to 17 games, Mikko Rantanen scored twice, and the Colorado Avalanche rallied for a 6-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators. MacKinnon scored his fourth goal into an empty net in the final moments for the first four-goal game in Avalanche team history. Cale Makar had a pair of assists in his return from a lower-body injury that sidelined him for three games. Jacob Bernard-Docker, Ridly Greig, Drake Batherson, and Josh Norris scored for Ottawa, which lost its sixth straight.

Elias Lindholm had a goal and two assists, Jacob Markstrom made 27 saves for his 200th career win and the Calgary Flames extended their winning streak to a season-best three games with a 3-0 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Nick DeSimone scored his first career goal 2:24 into the opening period and A.J. Greer also scored as the Flames ended a four-game road losing streak. Lukas Dostal made 41 saves for Anaheim, which had won two in a row. Anaheim fell to 3-14 since Nov. 15 and lost the opener of a season-long eight-game homestand.

Clayton Keller scored his third goal in three games and the Arizona Coyotes beat the San Jose Sharks 5-2 to extend their win streak to four. Keller, who leads the Coyotes in points, got his 12th goal of the season in the second period. He took a lead pass from Alex Kerfoot in the attacking zone and broke in alone on Sharks goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, beating him through the legs with a backhand. Keller and Kerfoot both had a goal and two assists. Michael Kesselring and Lawson Crouse also scored for the Coyotes, and Nick Schmaltz had a goal and an assist. Karel Vejmelka made 29 saves in the win, though his career-long shutout streak of more than 130 minutes was snapped in the second period.


Kelly Olynyk scored 25 points and the short-handed Utah Jazz beat Detroit 119-111 on Thursday night for the Pistons’ 25th straight loss — one short of the NBA single season record. The 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers and 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers share the record at 26. The 76ers hold the overall mark at 28, a skid that started in the 2014-15 season and carried over into 2015-16. Back in action Saturday night in Brooklyn, the Pistons are 2-26 under first-year coach Monty Williams. Utah played without four of its top seven scorers — Lauri Markkanen, Jordan Clarkson, Keyonte George and Talen Horton-Tucker — on the second night of a back-to-back after losing at Cleveland on Wednesday. Cade Cunningham led Detroit with 28 points and 10 assists.

Trey Murphy III scored 28 points while starting for New Orleans star Zion Williamson — out with an illness — and the Pelicans pulled away in the second half to beat the undermanned Cleveland Cavaliers 123-104. Williamson didn’t travel with the Pelicans, who have been battling a flu bug that has been making its way though the team. Murphy started for the first time this season and helped offset not having Williamson by making six 3-pointers. The Pelicans have won five of six. CJ McCollum scored 18 and Brandon Ingram added 17 for New Orleans. Dean Wade scored 20 for the Cavs, who played without their top three scorers — Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland and Evan Mobley.

Coby White scored 22 points and the Chicago Bulls beat San Antonio 114-95 on Thursday night for the Spurs’ 21st loss in 22 games. White had 12 points in the fourth quarter to help the Bulls break it open. DeMar DeRozan finished with 21 points after scoring 27 the previous night in a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Devin Vassell led San Antonio with 21 points. But prized rookie Victor Wembanyama finished with a season-low seven points and five rebounds after setting an NBA record for a teenager with eight straight double-doubles. The No. 1 overall draft pick played 22 minutes after missing a blowout loss Tuesday night at Milwaukee.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 points, Chet Holmgren gave Oklahoma City the lead for good with a dunk he threw off the backboard to himself, and the Thunder beat the Clippers 134-115. Los Angeles saw its nine-game win streak come to an end. Holmgren finished with 23 points and Lu Dort added 21 for the Thunder, who shot 58.6% from the field to win for the fifth time in six games. James Harden scored 23 points and Paul George added 22 for the Clippers, who hadn’t lost since falling at Golden State on Nov. 30. Former Thunder star Russell Westbrook had 15 points and 13 rebounds for Los Angeles.

Ja Morant had 20 points and eight assists in his first home game following a 25-game suspension to help the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Indiana Pacers 116-103 on Thursday night. Desmond Bane led Memphis with 31 points and also had seven assists. Jaren Jackson Jr. added 21 points and seven rebounds. Bane was 11 of 26 from the field and 5 of 12 from 3-point range, while Morant shot 7 of 15. Memphis was still relishing in Morant’s return Tuesday night in New Orleans when he scored 34 points and made the winning, spinning layup as time expired. He was suspended by the NBA for waving a gun at least twice on social media. Obi Toppin led Indiana with 22 points.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 37 points, 10 rebounds and six assists and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Orlando Magic 118-114 on Thursday night for theirt sixth consecutive victory — all at home on the longest homestand of the season. The Bucks have won 15 straight games at Fiserv Forum, their longest single-season home winning streak since 1991-92 when they won their first 18 at home. Damian Lillard added 24 points and eight assists for Milwaukee. Franz Wagner scored 29 points for Orlando. The Magic have lost four in a row.

Anthony Edwards had 27 points to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves past Los Angeles 118-111 and hand the Lakers their fourth straight loss. LeBron James sat out on the second night of back-to-back games for the Lakers. The Timberwolves tied Boston at 21-6 for the best record in the NBA. Karl-Anthony Towns had 21 points for Minnesota before limping to the locker room for further examination on a lower-leg injury with 5:07 left. The Timberwolves avoided consecutive losses for the first time this season and improved to 12-1 at home. Anthony Davis had 31 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers.


Prized free-agent pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto and the Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed to a $325 million, 12-year contract, according to multiple reports. Yamamoto is set to join Japanese countryman Shohei Ohtani with the Dodgers, who signed the two-way superstar to a record $700 million, 10-year deal last week. The Dodgers did not confirm the agreement with Yamamoto on Thursday night. MLB.com and ESPN were among the outlets citing anonymous sources in reporting the deal. It's the third pitching coup for the Dodgers this offseason. In addition to Ohtani, they signed right-hander Tyler Glasnow to a $136.5 million, five-year contract after he was traded from the Tampa Bay Rays to Los Angeles.

Shohei Ohtani has been named The Associated Press' Male Athlete of the Year for the second time in three years. Before the two-way superstar signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers this month, he put together another incredible season for Japan's national team at the World Baseball Classic and for the Los Angeles Angels. Ohtani led the AL with 44 homers and in several other categories, and he had the lowest opponents' batting average on the mound until his season ended early due to an elbow injury. The Dodgers still gave Ohtani the biggest contract in professional sports history.

Major League Baseball is widening the runner’s lane approaching first base to include a portion of fair territory, changing a more than century-old rule that caused World Series controversy over possible interference calls. MLB also is shortening the pitcher’s clock with runners on base by two seconds to 18 and further reducing mound visits in an effort to speed games. The sport’s 11-man competition committee also requires a pitcher who warms up on the mound before a half inning to face at least one batter.


Syracuse 83 Niagara 71

Iona 85 Colgate 65

Georgia Tech 73 UMass 70


Syracuse 85 St. Francis 43

Cincinnati 71 Siena 51

Stony Brook 71 Iona 49

Caitlin Clark scored 35 points on the way to the 13th triple-double of her career as No. 4 Iowa recovered from a slow start to defeat Loyola Chicago 98-69 on Thursday night. Clark, the nation’s leader in scoring and assists, had a career-high 17 rebounds to go with 10 assists. Clark, who has had 30 or more points in six games this season, was 12 of 21 from the field. Hannah Stuelke had 20 points for Iowa and Kate Martin had 19. Iowa trailed by as much as seven in the first half before closing with an 8-2 run to lead 51-46 at halftime.


South Florida 45 Syracuse 0

The Georgia Bulldogs are getting ready for a bowl game, which is standard routine at this time of year. Yet it feels so different. After winning back-to-back national championships and holding down the No. 1 spot in the rankings for nearly the entire season, Georgia’s first loss in nearly two years cost it a spot in the College Football Playoff. So, instead of preparing for a semifinal game and the chance to go for a third straight title, the Bulldogs are left to settle for an Orange Bowl matchup against unbeaten Florida State that carries little significance beyond pride.


Oregon State and Washington State say they have reached an agreement with 10 departing Pac-12 schools on revenue distribution for 2023-24 that puts an end to a legal battle sparked by conference realignment. Last week, Oregon State and Washington State were given control of the Pac-12 and assets when the state Supreme Court of Washington declined to review a lower court’s decision to grant the schools a preliminary injunction. Financial terms of the settlement were not released. Washington State and Oregon State say the departing members will forfeit a portion of distributions for this school year and guarantee to cover a portion of “potential future liabilities.”


French President Emmanuel Macron says the giant opening ceremony extravaganza that Paris is planning to hold on the River Seine to launch next year’s Olympic Games could be moved if France is hit again in the run-up by extremist attacks. Macron’s comments in a television interview on Wednesday night were a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into the deep layers of planning for the July 26 ceremony. Many details about the show remain shrouded in secrecy to preserve its hoped-for wow factor. The athletes will be paraded through the heart of the French capital on boats on the Seine. But Macron says plans could be revisited for security reasons if needed. He cited deadly extremist attacks that hit Paris in 2015 as an example.

© 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.