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Archive for May, 2014

(Fayetteville) (AP) – Arkansas says its regular season-ending game against Missouri has been moved up a day, marking the 17th time in 19 seasons the Razorbacks will have played on the day after Thanksgiving.

The two Southeastern Conference schools, playing for the first time as conference foes, will play in Columbia, Missouri, on Friday, Nov. 28 at 1:30 p.m. on CBS.

They had been scheduled to play a day later, which would have been Arkansas’ first game on the Saturday following Thanksgiving since a win over LSU in Little Rock in 2010. The Razorbacks had closed out the regular season with LSU since joining the SEC in 1992, but they’ll face new cross-division opponent Missouri beginning this season.

Arkansas opens at Auburn on Aug. 30, while the Tigers host South Dakota State.

(Fayetteville) (AP) – The University of Arkansas men’s and women’s track and field teams are preparing to host the 2014 NCAA West Preliminary this week.

Competition begins Thursday at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville. The school’s men’s team is ranked No. 4; the women’s team is ranked No. 8.

About 1,670 of the nation’s top athletes – making up 200 teams – are expected to compete this week to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

(Jonesboro) (AP) – The Arkansas State University women’s basketball team has been selected to play in the 2014 Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

Organization officials made the announcement Wednesday that the school was among 16 programs invited to play the event that opens Nov. 14-15.

Arkansas State has made two previous appearances in the preseason tournament – the most recent was in 1998, when the squad fell to Florida in the opening round.

The Red Wolves also played in the inaugural Preseason WNIT tournament -known then as the NWIT – in 1994 and advanced into the second round.

FILE - In this Nov. 12, 2010 file photo, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling, right, sits with his wife Shelly during the Clippers NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons in Los Angeles. Donald Sterling has agreed to surrender his stake of the Clippers to his wife, and she is moving forward with selling the team. A person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press Friday. May 23, 2014, that the couple made the agreement after weeks of discussion. The individual wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the agreement. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

FILE – In this Nov. 12, 2010 file photo, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling, right, sits with his wife Shelly during the Clippers NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons in Los Angeles. Donald Sterling has agreed to surrender his stake of the Clippers to his wife, and she is moving forward with selling the team. A person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press Friday. May 23, 2014, that the couple made the agreement after weeks of discussion. The individual wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the agreement. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Shelly Sterling was reviewing bids from five groups interested in buying the Los Angeles Clippers, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The individual, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the deal, said if an agreement to sell is reached before next Tuesday, the league’s owners wouldn’t meet in New York to vote on terminating Donald Sterling’s ownership.

The individual wouldn’t specify the interested buyers, but described them as major players with considerable financial means. The person told the AP the sale price “appears to be increasing to an unbelievable number,” and that it could soar past $1.5 to $2 billion, and possibly more.

Another person familiar with the negotiations said Shelly Sterling’s attorneys, bankers and others involved in the process were in a locked room reviewing the bids, which were due by 2 p.m. PDT Wednesday. The individual wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the sensitive and competitive negotiations.

Donald Sterling’s attorney, Bobby Samini, said there would be no sale of the team without Donald Sterling’s involvement, though he declined to say whether Sterling was involved in reviewing bids or in touch with Shelly Sterling.

“Mr. Sterling is an owner of the team, and there will be no sale of the team without his involvement,” Samini said.

But a May 22 letter obtained by The Associated Press and written by another one of Sterling’s attorneys says that “Donald T. Sterling authorizes Rochelle Sterling to negotiate with the National Basketball Association regarding all issues in connection with a sale of the Los Angeles Clippers team.” It includes the line “read and approved” and Donald Sterling’s signature.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the league’s advisory/finance committee met Wednesday by phone to discuss the separate responses from Donald and Shelly Sterling to the NBA on its efforts to terminate the Sterlings’ ownership of the Clippers.

The first individual told the AP that the league’s owners know a sale couldn’t be completed by next Tuesday. But if an agreement was in place, the NBA would give the Sterlings extra time before holding any meetings.

The individual said the league hopes a voluntary sale would remove the potential of legal action being taken by the Sterlings.

The person told the AP that at this point, with Donald Sterling saying he plans to fight the matter in court, the NBA intends to go forward with the meeting in New York on June 3.

A forced sale would require approval by three-fourths of the league’s 30 owners. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said he is confident he would get the necessary votes.

On Tuesday, Donald Sterling issued a fiery response to the league’s attempt to oust him. The league charged that he had damaged it and its merchandising partners with his racist comments about blacks in a recording released last month.

He argued that there is no basis for stripping him of his team because his statements were illegally recorded “during an inflamed lovers’ quarrel in which he was clearly distraught.”

According to the response, a copy of which was obtained by the AP, Sterling says girlfriend V. Stiviano recorded him without his knowledge, which is illegal under California law. He also said he could not have “willfully” damaged the league because he did not know it would be made public.

“We do not believe a court in the United States of America will enforce the draconian penalties imposed on Mr. Sterling in these circumstances, and indeed, we believe that preservation of Mr. Sterling’s constitutional rights requires that these sham proceedings be terminated in Mr. Sterling’s favor,” the response said.

Donald Sterling was banned for life and fined $2.5 million by Silver after the recording was made public.

It is possible Shelly Sterling could complete an expedited sale of the team despite her husband’s legal wranglings, according to Daniel Lazaroff, director of the Sports Law Institute at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

“She would have to be willing to go through with a sale that gave her absolutely no retained ownership interest in order to satisfy the league,” said Lazaroff, a law professor at the school. “If she did that, I don’t think the league would stand in her way. If she wants to retain any portion of ownership it wouldn’t work.”

Even if Shelly Sterling accepts an offer, the league has the right to approve potential owners, a lengthy process that would almost certainly not be completed by next Tuesday.

“The best case scenario is she finds a suitable buyer,” Lazaroff said. “That would work for the league and from a financial standpoint that would work for the Sterlings. If the sale price is satisfactory, the smart thing might be to just get out. He’s a businessman who understands buy low and sell high.”

Donald Sterling purchased the Clippers for $12 million in 1981, making him the league’s longest-tenured owner.

He argued in his response to the league’s charges that he can’t get a fair hearing next week because the other owners have already made up their minds to oust him.

Lazaroff noted that Sterling signed the NBA’s constitution when he joined the league, and its bylaws spell out specific procedures for terminating ownership. He said as long as the league follows its own rules it should be on solid legal ground.

“I could see a happy ending to this,” Lazaroff said, “but it will depend on both of the Sterlings being out of the picture.”

FILE - In this June 16, 2005, file photo, Tiger Woods chips to the 15th hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament, at Pinehurst's No, 2 Course in Pinehurst, N.C. Woods withdrew from the U.S. Open on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, as he recovers from back surgery that has kept him out of golf for nearly three months. It will be the second U.S. Open, and sixth major, he has missed because of injury over the last six years. The U.S. Open is June 12-15 at Pinehurst No. 2, where Woods tied for third in 1999 and was runner-up in 2005. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

FILE – In this June 16, 2005, file photo, Tiger Woods chips to the 15th hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament, at Pinehurst’s No, 2 Course in Pinehurst, N.C. Woods withdrew from the U.S. Open on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, as he recovers from back surgery that has kept him out of golf for nearly three months. It will be the second U.S. Open, and sixth major, he has missed because of injury over the last six years. The U.S. Open is June 12-15 at Pinehurst No. 2, where Woods tied for third in 1999 and was runner-up in 2005. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Tiger Woods withdrew from the U.S. Open on Wednesday as he recovers from back surgery that has kept him out of golf for nearly three months.

It will be the second U.S. Open, and sixth major, he has missed because of injury over the last six years.

The U.S. Open is June 12-15 at Pinehurst No. 2, where Woods tied for third in 1999 and was runner-up in 2005. The announcement on his website was not surprising. A week ago at a promotional event for the Quicken Loans National at Congressional, Woods said he still had not taken a full swing with a golf club and did not know when he could.

He had microdiscetomy surgery to relieve a pinched nerve on March 31.

“Unfortunately, I won’t be there because I’m not yet physically able to play competitive golf,” Woods said. “I’d like to convey my regrets to the USGA leadership, the volunteers and the fans that I won’t be at Pinehurst. The U.S. Open is very important to me, and I know it’s going to be a great week.”

Woods last played on March 9 at Doral, where he closed with a 78 while suffering what he called back spasms. He withdrew in the middle of the final round at the Honda Classic with back pain a week earlier.

Woods is a three-time U.S. Open champion, one short of the record shared by Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones and Willie Anderson. His most recent U.S. Open victory was in 2008 at Torrey Pines, where he won in a playoff over Rocco Mediate a week before he had season-ending knee surgery.

That was his 14th victory in 46 majors, a winning rate of 30 percent as a pro. He has not won a major since Torrey Pines, leaving him four short of Nicklaus’ record.

Woods missed the British Open and PGA Championship after knee surgery in 2008. He missed the U.S. Open and British Open while allowing leg injuries to heal in 2011. He missed the Masters for the first time in April because of back surgery.

Nicklaus said earlier Wednesday that Woods’ health would be the biggest obstacle in breaking his record in the majors. Woods called Nicklaus earlier Wednesday to express regrets about missing the Memorial, and Nicklaus said that Woods indicated he was making progress.

“If he’s healthy, I think Tiger has got 10-plus years to play top quality tournament golf,” Nicklaus said. “And I’ve said many times, he’s got a little over 40 tournaments to play the major championships; he’s only got to win five to pass my record. As good a player as he is, I don’t think that should be a big deal. But then again, he’s got to do it. Plus, he’s also got to be healthy to be able to do it.”

Woods has not indicated when he might be able to return to competition, saying that would be up to his doctors and how he recovers from the surgery.

“Despite missing the first two majors, and several other important tournaments, I remain very optimistic about this year and my future,” he said.

While Woods won’t be at Pinehurst, niece Cheyenne Woods will be there the following week for the U.S. Women’s Open. She earned a spot Wednesday in qualifying in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Indiana Pacers forward Paul George celebrates after dunking against the Miami Heat during the second half of Game 5 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals in Indianapolis, Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Indiana Pacers forward Paul George celebrates after dunking against the Miami Heat during the second half of Game 5 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals in Indianapolis, Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George and the Pacers got one win Wednesday night.

Now comes the hard part: Winning an elimination game at Miami against LeBron James and the Heat.

George scored 21 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter and inspired his teammates to withstand the Heat’s frantic late charge to help keep the Pacers’ once-promising season alive with a 93-90 victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.

“We have to go and basically do the impossible, which is go down there and beat them in front of an unbelievable crowd with unbelievable energy and knowing that LeBron is going to come back and try to respond,” Pacers forward David West said after finishing with 19 points and nine rebounds. “We’ve got an ultimate challenge in front of us. I think guys are up for it.”

While George fell just short of his career playoff high (39) and four points short of Reggie Miller’s franchise record for points in an NBA playoff game, he also had six rebounds, six steals and only three turnovers in 45 minutes. And he helped limit James to a career playoff-low seven points in 24 1/2 minutes, largely because the four-time MVP spent most of the night in foul trouble.

It was good enough, barely, to get within 3-2 in the best-of-seven series. Game 6 is Friday night at Miami. The Heat haven’t lost back-to-back playoff games since the 2012 conference finals against Boston, and the Pacers know they have to continue playing the way they did in Game 5 if they intend to get Game 7 back in Indy.

“Coach told me, `Green light. Stay on green.’ David West kept telling me, `Don’t keep no bullets in the chamber’ so I really just came out firing,” George said. “My teammates found me and I got hot.”

Even without James going full throttle, the Heat still had a chance.

After falling into an 11-point hole early in the fourth quarter, the Big Three – James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade – rallied the Heat. James’ only 3-pointer of the night tied the score at 81 with 3:51 left, and after Indiana answered with five straight, the Heat twice closed to within one in the final 1:16. They even had a chance to take the lead with 4.9 seconds left, but a 3-pointer from Bosh that would have given Miami the lead was off the mark.

Bosh finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Wade and Rashard Lewis each had 18 as the Heat went 15 of 31 on 3-pionters.

Now the Heat will get a second chance to clinch their fourth straight conference championship at home, where they’ve won 10 straight postseason games. The last team to reach the NBA Finals four straight times was Boston from 1984-87, and Miami is eager to make sure they don’t have another trip back to Indy.

“It’s the Eastern Conference Finals,” James said. “There should be urgency, no matter what.”

George was the personification of urgency Wednesday as he delivered the most clutch shooting performance of his young career. The 24-year-old All-Star was 12 of 19 from the field in the second half and was 5 of 14 on 3s in the game.

But the Pacers needed everything else to go right just to survive.

The Heat committed 17 turnovers, compared to just 13 for the usually turnover-prone Pacers, Indiana had a 45-38 rebounding edge, and it needed every one of George’s points in the fourth quarter. The 21 points broke Michael Jordan’s previous record for most points in a playoff quarter against Miami. Jordan had 20 against the Heat in May 1997.

“I just felt it. I felt in rhythm. I had to be aggressive,” George said. “I tried to come out and be aggressive to start this game off and I was getting looks. I got hot.”

And this one lived up to the heavyweight billing.

There were hard falls, tough plays and strange sights.

James watched helplessly from the bench after picking up his fifth foul with 8:34 left in the third quarter as the Pacers went on a 23-7 run to turn a 50-41 deficit into a 64-57 lead.

Lance Stephenson made things even stranger when he attempted to listen in on one of Miami’s huddles, drawing a glare from coach Erik Spoelstra, and later blew in James’ ear. James cracked a small smile.

“I’m just here to play basketball, man. All the extracurricular activities, I don’t really get into,” James said. “I’m just trying to win. We need one more win to get to the finals. That’s my only concern.”

Indiana extended the lead to 77-66 early in the fourth on one of George’s dunks.

Then the Heat scored nine straight to make it 77-75, tied it at 81 and twice managed to get within one in the final 76 seconds before George answered with a 3. West finally sealed it by making 1 of 2 free throws after Bosh’s errant 3.

 

 

Ryan Hunter-Reay lifts his son, Ryden, after Hunter-Reay won the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Tom Strattman)

Ryan Hunter-Reay lifts his son, Ryden, after Hunter-Reay won the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Tom Strattman)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Chants of “USA! USA!” followed Ryan Hunter-Reay as fans ecstatically celebrated the Indianapolis 500′s first American winner in eight years.

They waved flags and roared their approval when, in Victory Lane, Hunter-Reay described himself as “a proud American.”

“Being an American boy, I think when you look at maybe the NASCAR side of it, it’s all Americans,” Hunter-Reay said. “This is an international sport, open-wheel. We do battle on every different type of discipline, short ovals, street courses, the only series in the world like that. IndyCar Series is a true drivers’ championship. That’s what I love most about it.”

On Sunday, Hunter-Reay earned his first Indy 500 by beating one of the very best in a thrilling finish to the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Hunter-Reay peeked around Helio Castroneves, then reversed course and dipped inside for a daredevil pass and the late lead. Castroneves charged back to the front, winning a drag race down the frontstretch at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And then, in a stirring wheel-to-wheel battle between a pair of bright yellow cars, Hunter-Reay seized the lead once more Sunday as the drivers hurtled toward the finish with a single, 2.5-mile lap remaining.

With nobody in front of him, Hunter-Reay used the entire track to keep Castroneves in his rearview mirror. He nipped him at the line by less than half a car length, denying his Brazilian rival a chance at history.

The finish was well worth the wait – to the fans who watched 150 laps of caution-free racing, to the drivers who bided their time unsure of when they should charge to the front and to Hunter-Reay, who finally got to drink the celebratory milk in his seventh try. He beat Castroneves by just 0.060 seconds – only the 1992 race had a closer finish when Al Unser Jr. beat Scott Goodyear by 0.043 seconds.

Castroneves, trying to become the fourth driver to win a fourth Indianapolis 500, settled for second. He said a caution with 10 laps to go broke his rhythm as the red flag came out so track workers could clean debris and repair a track wall.

“It was a great fight,” he smiled. “I tell you what, I was having a great time. Unfortunately, second. It’s good, but second sucks, you know what I mean?”

Marco Andretti finished third and Carlos Munoz was fourth as Andretti Autosport had three cars in the top four, as well as the winner.

Michael Andretti was thrilled to field the winning car, and his Andretti Autosport organization had four cars finish in the top six. That included Kurt Busch, who was sixth before leaving for the Coca-Cola 600 in North Carolina.

But as a father, Andretti had to balance his emotions to help son Marco deal with the disappointment of falling short in his ninth Indianapolis 500.

“It’s a weird feeling because I really was disappointed for him,” Michael Andretti said. “I know you only get that many shots. He had a car that was close, just not close enough. Yet I’m so happy and proud of the rest of the team. As a dad, disappointment. As a team owner, couldn’t be happier. You have to try to balance those things.”

Here are five other things that happened in the Indianapolis 500:

DIXON SPINS: Reigning IndyCar champion Scott Dixon made a rare mistake 33 laps from the finish, when he spun, lost control of his car and wrecked. It brought his race to an end and he finished 29th. He also “slapped my hand a little bit,” when his car hit the wall.

“All of a sudden, it just started to slide midpack. I tried to catch it and there was no catching it,” Dixon said. “I feel really bad for the guys. We had a pretty strong car all day.”

RED FLAG RIGHT: Castroneves said that the red flag that flew with 10 laps left for Townsend Bell’s wreck threw off his rhythm. He also acknowledged that it was the correct decision by race control. There was too much debris scattered across the track to clean it up quickly, and the red flag provided more green-flag laps to the finish – and a better show for the fans. “I believe it was the right decision, to be honest,” Castroneves said. “It broke the rhythm, but it gave everybody a good, clean race. I think that was definitely the right choice.”

RECORD-SETTING RACE: The 20 drivers on the lead lap at the end of the race set a record, breaking the mark of 19 set in 2009 and again last year. The 6,105 laps completed by the 33-car field also were a record, and Ryan Hunter-Reay’s average winning speed of 186.563 mph was second only to Tony Kanaan’s 187.433 last year. There were just 21 caution laps, matching the record for fewest since 1976, when yellow flags were first recorded.

VILLENEUVE’S RETURN: Jacques Villeneuve finished 14th in his return to the Indianapolis 500, the race he won in 1995. He struggled early with his car and lost a lap, but was able to get back on the lead lap during the four caution periods. He was impressed with the early pace of the race, which went caution free for 150 laps.

“After being away for 19 years, I was happy to be running quickly at the end,” he said. “We ended on the lead lap and stayed away from the wall, so I think that’s an acceptable result for being away for so long.”

TOUGH DAY FOR TONY: Kanaan threw up his hands, shook his head in disbelief and rued the misfortune that ended his day early. The defending Indy 500 champion ran out of fuel during Sunday’s race, leading to a lengthy pit stop because the starter was damaged on his car. He lost 18 laps during the repairs.

“Our day was pretty much over before it started,” he said. “When you go that many laps down, you simply cannot recover. I always say this place chooses the winner and unfortunately today she didn’t choose us.”

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Apparently, Jimmie Johnson isn’t done in NASCAR after all.

The six-time and defending Sprint Cup champion had spent much of year listening to outsiders wonder when or if he would return to Victory Lane. Those questions ended with Johnson’s dominating win at the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night. That left just one query from Johnson himself: “What the hell are you going to write about?”

Maybe about how Johnson’s title defense is truly underway as he goes for a record-tying seventh driver crown. This win all but locks him into NASCAR’s expanded 16-team playoffs and Johnson expects it will energize his No. 48 team in the season’s second half.

“We really want to heat up and win races later in the season,” he said when asked if he had panicked about a drought that stretched since winning last November at Texas Motor Speedway.

“More than anything I got tired of answering the question,” Johnson said. “We hold ourselves to a high standard.”

There’s a great chance Johnson could get on a big time roll. The Sprint Cup series this week heads to Dover, where Johnson has won a record eight times. Then comes Pocono, where he has three wins.

Johnson has politely dealt with inquiries about not winning and showed that the best way to combat that was finishing out front. He did that Thursday in qualifying, taking his first pole of the season, then followed that up with the stellar performance Sunday night.

Johnson led the most laps – 165 of 400 – and was in the lead 10 separate times. The last came when Johnson moved past Kenseth in turn four nine laps from the end. No one came close to running him down after that, not even Kevin Harvick, who led 100 laps and has been the toast of NASCAR all year long with the speed the Stewart-Haas team has produced.

Harvick was second, Kenseth third and Carl Edwards fourth.

Johnson made sure the No. 48 won’t be overlooked this year.

“You never know when you are going to peak. We will hopefully peak at the right time,” he said.

Five other things to take away from the Coca-Cola 600:

GORDON IS TOUGH: Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon again showed his toughness and determination by lasting all 600 miles in the car despite back spasms that saw him cut short practice and leave the track early Saturday. Gordon was among the top 10 all night long and held the lead with 16 laps left before falling back.

Gordon said his back bothered him at times during the long, long ride, but he was able to persevere. “It tells me a lot about what kind of threshold I have and I just want to show this team the kind of commitment I have to them because of what they have shown me,” he said.

Gordon finished seventh for his ninth top-10 finish in 12 races this season.

THE DOUBLE IS TOUGH: Kurt Busch was more than prepared to go all 1,100 miles Sunday night. Unfortunately, his equipment wasn’t as he blew an engine on lap 271 of 400 – about 184 miles short – and could not complete the Coca-Cola 600. Earlier, Busch finished sixth in the Indianapolis 500 in the first time he’s ever raced an Indy car.

A frustrated Busch never had the speed to match the leaders at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but had toughed out the problems to stay on the lead lap when the car finally gave out. “We were going to muscle it out,” he said. “And then it’s like the car just swallowed three cylinders all at once. So the engine let go. Those things happen in motorsports.”

DANICA PROBLEMS: Danica Patrick had hoped to have her best showing at Charlotte after starting fourth, her best qualifying run this year. She was up to second early in the race behind winner Johnson, but began to fall back. Her issues were complicated when she was involved in a five-car wreck midrace, then was done for good when her engine blew on lap 281. She finished 30th, her poorest performance in three career Coca-Cola 600s.

WHEN WILL KENSETH WIN? With Jimmie Johnson’s drought over, the attention will turn to Matt Kenseth. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has yet to win this season after capturing a series-leading seven victories a year ago. Kenseth acknowledged the frustration that comes from not finishing things off when you’re in contention as he was Sunday night.

“They put you out in the front at the end of the race, you don’t win the race, you’re always frustrated and disappointed,” he said. “You don’t get a lot of those opportunities.”

DALE JR.’S STRUGGLES: There’s probably no place Dale Earnhardt Jr. wants to win a points race more than Charlotte, where he grew up watching his father run and learned to love NASCAR racing. Instead, it’s been problem after problem for him at the track he cherishes. This time Earnhardt led 13 laps and was positioned among the leaders late before engine problems dropped him from contention.

“We just have to look at the positives and try not to dwell too much on what happened,” he said.

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Josh Beckett reacts after striking out Philadelphia Phillies' Chase Utley looking for a no-hitter baseball game, Sunday, May 25, 2014, in Philadelphia. Los Angeles won 6-0. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Josh Beckett reacts after striking out Philadelphia Phillies’ Chase Utley looking for a no-hitter baseball game, Sunday, May 25, 2014, in Philadelphia. Los Angeles won 6-0. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Josh Beckett transformed himself from power pitcher to deceptive hurler after a winless, injury-plagued season ended with surgery.

He still dominates, but in a different way.

Beckett pitched the first no-hitter of his stellar career and the first in the majors this season, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers over the Philadelphia Phillies 6-0 Sunday.

“You don’t think at this point of your career that you’re going to do that,” Beckett said.

Certainly not after a miserable 2013.

Beckett was nearly derailed by a nerve condition that left him unable to feel his fingertips. He even had to learn to hold the steering wheel with his left hand because he couldn’t feel his right hand.

Now he’s healthy and pitching like a guy with three All-Star games, two World Series rings and a World Series MVP award on his resume.

On this day, he was downright nasty.

“For him to be able to do that is nice,” manager Don Mattingly said. “Just for everything that he’s been through with us, the surgery last year, he just seemed to change himself as a pitcher and is using the breaking ball more.”

Beckett stuck out six, walked three and didn’t come close to allowing a hit against a lineup that included two former NL MVPs and four former All-Stars. The 34-year-old right-hander threw 128 pitches. He fanned five-time All-Star Chase Utley on a called strike three to end the game.

Figuring Utley wasn’t expecting a fastball with a no-hitter on the line, Beckett fired a 94 mph heater right down the middle.

“I was trying to think along with him,” Beckett said.

Beckett mixed a sharp fastball with a slow curve that kept hitters off-balance while retiring 23 straight batters in one stretch. He pitched the Dodgers’ first no-hitter since Hideo Nomo beat Colorado at Coors Field in 1996, and the 21st in franchise history. Sandy Koufax threw four.

“I knew he had something special going early,” catcher Drew Butera said. “I was a nervous wreck from the fourth inning on when he said he had never taken one this far. He’s a guy who is going to keep it loose and he didn’t want anybody to be thinking about it.”

Beckett pitched the first no-hitter in the majors since Miami’s Henderson Alvarez did it against Detroit on the final day of the 2013 season.

Beckett also became the first visiting pitcher to throw a no-hitter in Philadelphia since Montreal’s Bill Stoneman stopped the Phillies on April 17, 1969, at Connie Mack Stadium.

All of the defensive plays behind Beckett were routine. Domonic Brown had the hardest out, a liner that left fielder Carl Crawford ran down near the warning track in the fifth.

Beckett sat at the end of the bench, next to a security guard, as the Dodgers batted in the ninth inning, before taking the mound in his bid for history.

“It was awesome. You think about it pretty much from the fourth on. I’m not one of those guys that carried a lot of no-hitters deep into games,” he said.

Beckett’s longest previous bid was 6 2-3 innings before allowing a single to Detroit’s Curtis Granderson on June 3, 2009.

Beckett retired pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn Jr. on a popup to shortstop to start the ninth. Speedy Ben Revere followed with a grounder that first baseman Adrian Gonzalez fielded, and he flipped to Beckett covering the bag for the second out.

“It was the most excited I’ve ever been playing defense,” Gonzalez said.

Jimmy Rollins was up next, and Beckett walked him on a full-count pitch. That brought up Utley, and when the count when to 3-2, Butera went to the mound to talk to Beckett.

“It was what it was, and if I threw one, great. If not, I have healthy kids and a healthy wife, and that’s the main goal,” Beckett said.

A pitch before striking out, Utley took a few steps toward first base when he thought a 3-1 delivery was ball four. Instead, it was strike two.

Utley left the clubhouse before reporters arrived.

“He had real good stuff right down to the final batter,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. “Our best hitter not swinging at the last two strikes is an indicator right there.”

Beckett walked off the mound, pumped his fist and was mobbed by teammates. He got a standing ovation from the crowd of 36,141 at Citizens Bank Park on his way to the dugout.

Beckett gave the policeman he chatted with throughout the game in the dugout one of his bats. The Phillies gave him the pitching rubber before he left the ballpark.

“I’m really touched by that,” Beckett said. “The Phillies showed what a class organization they are by getting that to me.”

Last July, Beckett had a rib removed in thoracic outlet syndrome surgery to fix a condition that was affecting his right arm. He went 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA in eight games in his first full year with the Dodgers following a blockbuster trade with Boston in 2012.

Beckett helped the Red Sox with the 2007 World Series, but fell out of favor with fans before his departure. He was considered the ringleader after reports of players drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games surfaced following the disastrous end to 2011.

Beckett (3-1) started this season on the disabled list with a thumb injury, raising more doubts about how effective he would be for a team with postseason expectations.

“I just wanted to help the team,” he said. “You always want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

Beckett was the MVP of the 2003 World Series for the Marlins, capping their championship run by pitching a five-hit shutout in the clinching Game 6 at Yankee Stadium.

Roy Halladay has the only other no-hitter at cozy Citizens Bank Park, doing it for the Phillies in a 4-0 playoff win over Cincinnati on Oct. 6, 2010.

In 1988, Pascual Perez of the Expos held the host Phillies hitless for five innings at Veterans Stadium before the game was stopped because of rain. A Major League Baseball committee later ruled that no-hitters of less than nine innings didn’t officially count.

Beckett walked Utley in the first and Marlon Byrd in the second before retiring 23 straight.

Beckett threw a one-hitter for the Red Sox at Tampa Bay on June 15, 2011. He allowed an infield single to current Phillies utilityman Reid Brignac in the third inning of a 3-0 win.

Phillies righty A.J. Burnett (3-4) allowed four earned runs and 11 hits in seven innings in a matchup against his former Marlins teammate. Burnett is 1-3 with a 6.26 ERA in his last four starts.

“What was good for him today was he was able to throw his changeup and his hook for strikes in fastball counts,” Burnett said.

Marlins manager Mike Redmond, who caught Beckett in Florida, sort of predicted success for Beckett this season.

“When we were in LA, we talked about some things and I said, `Man, this might be your best year because you’re just going out and enjoying it,’” Redmond said.

A no-hitter sure makes it fun.

NOTES: Dodgers SS Hanley Ramirez remained out of the lineup because of a sore calf. … Dodgers CF Matt Kemp, the 2011 NL MVP runner-up, wasn’t in the starting lineup for the third straight game. Mattingly said Kemp will start playing some LF.

AP Sports Writer Steven Wine in Miami contributed to this report.

New York Rangers' Martin St. Louis, center, celebrates his game-winning goal during overtime in Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals against the Montreal Canadiens, Sunday, May 25, 2014, in New York. The Rangers defeated the Canadiens in overtime 3-2. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

New York Rangers’ Martin St. Louis, center, celebrates his game-winning goal during overtime in Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals against the Montreal Canadiens, Sunday, May 25, 2014, in New York. The Rangers defeated the Canadiens in overtime 3-2. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEW YORK (AP) — Henrik Lundqvist earned his 41st career playoff victory and his first postseason point with an assist.

The only number that mattered late Sunday night was the one win the New York Rangers need to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in 20 years.

“You just have to keep the same mindset that you had for the first four or five games, and the last series. You don’t change anything,” Lundqvist said after the Rangers’ 3-2 overtime victory gave them a 3-1 lead against the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference finals. “You don’t think about what’s ahead. You’re just going in and trying to do your job.”

The Rangers know firsthand just how quickly a 3-1 series lead can evaporate. They dug out of that hole in the previous round against Pittsburgh.

A win Tuesday in Montreal will put New York in the championship round for the first time since they won the title in 1994. A loss will make Game 6 necessary at what will be a nervous Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

“I look forward to that challenge,” Lundqvist said of the return to Montreal, where the Rangers won the first two games of the series. “It’s exciting to know you’re one game away. You have to motivate yourself to get to a level where you’re helping the team.

“That’s pretty good motivation right there.”

Martin St. Louis has been providing inspiration on and off the ice in recent times, particularly since the unexpected death of his mother the day after the Rangers fell behind the Penguins 3-1.

St. Louis tended to family responsibilities for a day before rejoining his teammates in Pittsburgh for Game 5.

The Rangers, who attended the funeral for St. Louis’ mother near Montreal in between Games 1 and 2 of this series, were galvanized as they rallied around their grieving teammate.

New York is 6-1 since her passing, and the latest win came 6:02 into overtime on Sunday when St. Louis netted his sixth goal of the playoffs.

“I had some decent looks,” St. Louis said. “The puck bounced a couple of times. You just have to concentrate on your next opportunity. You get this far, you have to trust yourself. That’s what I try to do, and I was fortunate.”

He has 10 career postseason winning goals and 39 overall. He hadn’t scored in a playoff overtime since Game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup finals when he was with Tampa Bay.

Less than three months since being acquired by the Rangers, he is providing memorable moments that could lead to another championship. St. Louis has a six-game point streak – with four goals and three assists – and three goals in this series.

“He has been great for us ever since he got here,” said forward Carl Hagelin, who also scored his sixth playoff goal. “He shows a lot of tenacity and emotion every time he steps on the ice.”

The Rangers rebounded from a home overtime loss on Thursday by outlasting the Canadiens, who carried much of the play over the final two periods. New York didn’t want to return to Montreal all even, even though it won the opening two games of the series there.

“It would have been devastating to go back there without getting one at home,” forward Brad Richards said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but I’d rather it be 3-1 than 2-2. It was a very emotional time when we saw that go in.”

A loose puck came to St. Louis, alone in the right circle, and he fired a snap shot over goalie Dustin Tokarski’s shoulder. That gave the Rangers the win after they squandered a pair of one-goal leads.

“St. Louis had some time and picked a corner on me,” Tokarski said. “It’s a game of inches, and we came up a bit short.”

Hagelin put the Rangers in front with a short-handed tally in the first period, and Derick Brassard made it 2-1 in the second in his return from a two-game injury absence. Hagelin also assisted on St. Louis’ winner.

Lundqvist made 27 saves in tying the postseason franchise record for wins held by 1994 Cup champion Mike Richter, who was in attendance. He also earned an assist on Brassard’s goal.

“I’m really proud to be out there with those guys, and hopefully can keep it going a little more,” Lundqvist said.

Francis Bouillon tied it for Montreal in the second, and fellow defenseman P.K. Subban made it 2-2 in the third with a power-play goal. David Desharnais assisted on both for Montreal. Tokarski stopped 26 shots for the Canadiens, who went 1 for 8 on the power play.

“By no means are we counting ourselves out,” Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said. “It’s a tough loss, it’s a bitter loss, but at the end of the day we are still in this series. I still like our chances with two games at home.”

Though there were 13 minor penalties, there was no carry-over of the nastiness in Game 3 when a hit by Montreal’s Brandon Prust broke the jaw of New York forward Derek Stepan. Prust served the first game of a two-game suspension. Stepan sat out after having surgery.

The Rangers gave Montreal five power plays through the first two periods, and New York’s penalty-killers stood tall. But the sixth produced the tying goal 2 minutes into the third period when Subban scored his first goal of the series and first point in six games.

That broke the Rangers’ run of 27 straight killed penalties, dating to Game 2 of the second round.