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Stanley Cup playoffs: Islanders beat Lightning in 2OTs, force Game 6 in ECF

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Sept. 16 (UPI) — The New York Islanders fought off playoff elimination with a 2-1 double-overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the 2020 Eastern Conference finals.

Jordan Eberle scored the decisive goal with 7:30 remaining in the second overtime period Tuesday at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

“To score that and continue to move on and give ourselves another chance [to advance] in a couple days is huge,” Eberle told reporters.

Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock gave his squad a 1-0 edge when he scored on a first-period power play. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman then tied the score with a goal four minutes into the second period. Neither team scored in the third period or the first overtime before Eberle struck.

Islanders left wing Anders Lee recovered a loose puck after a faceoff in New York territory at the start of the final play. Lee then scorched up the left flank before he sent a pass to his right on a breakaway.

The feed found Eberle, who roped a shot into the right side of the net to beat Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy on his glove side.

Vasilevskiy had 22 saves in the loss. Islanders netminder Semyon Varlamov had 36 saves.

“Winning and losing is razor-thin in this league. … It took the stars aligning to get the shot they got,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “That’s what happens in this game. We had opportunities to put this game away.”

The Islanders face the Lightning in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at 8 p.m. EDT Thursday in Edmonton. The winner of the series will battle the Dallas Stars next week in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning now lead the series 3-2.

“It was a grind for both teams,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “Our guys didn’t waver. You can get some energy from it.

“We’ve had some heartbreakers. … But this group keeps getting off the floor and refuses to give up. That’s a great sign for going forward and gives us some good energy for next game.”



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NFL legend Deion Sanders to coach football at Jackson State

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Sept. 21 (UPI) — Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders has been named the head football coach at Jackson State University in Mississippi.

Sanders, 53, announced the new role Sunday on his podcast 21st & Prime. Jackson State President Thomas Hudson and athletic director Ashley Robinson appeared on the show and confirmed the hire.

“It’s a match made in heaven,” Sanders said on the podcast. “God called me to Jackson State and to these men.”

“We are just so very fortunate to be in this space and have a man like this joining us,” Hudson said.

“It’s very big for Jackson State University,” Robinson said.

The longtime Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys cornerback has never coached a college football team, but has coached at the high school level.

Jackson State is expected to make the announcement at a news conference Monday morning.

Jackson State competes in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, which announced in August that it will play a six-game conference schedule between February 27 and late April. The season was scheduled to begin September 12, but was delayed by five months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Grambling, Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Mississippi Valley State, Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Alcorn State, Prairie View A&M, Southern University and Texas Southern also compete in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Sanders isn’t the first hall of famer to set foot on the Jackson, Miss., campus. Legendary Chicago Bears tailback Walter Payton spent four years at Jackson State and rushed for more than 3,500 yards before he was drafted as the fourth overall pick by the Bears in 1975. The school has also produced three others who were ultimately inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jackson State fired coach John Hendrick in August after he posted a 4-8 record in 2019 and ended the season with three consecutive losses. The Tigers haven’t had a winning season since 2013.

Sanders, who played collegiately at Florida State, will finish his tenure as offensive coordinator at Trinity Christian School in Cedar Hill, Texas, before he takes over at Jackson State.



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Celtics coach Brad Stevens meets with team leaders after locker room incident

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Sept. 18 (UPI) — Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens on Thursday held a late-night meeting with team leaders to clear the air after a Game 2 loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.

League sources told ESPN and The Athletic on Friday that Celtics guards Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown needed to be separated by teammates after a heated confrontation inside the locker room following the Game 2 loss. According to ESPN, Stevens met with Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Brown and Smart to talk through the issues that led to the incident.

During the locker room spat and the late meeting between Stevens and the players, Smart’s focus had been on increasing the urgency among the team, according to the outlets. Boston has blown double-digit leads in both games of the East finals and trail the Heat 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.

Another part of the discussion in the late-night meeting was about making sure the team smoothly integrated All-Star forward Gordon Hayward back into the lineup, according to ESPN. The Celtics upgraded Hayward — who has been dealing with an ankle injury — to questionable Friday and are hopeful he can play a role off the bench in Saturday’s Game 3.

After the meeting, the coaching staff and players believed the issues were resolved and preparations could begin for the next game, according to ESPN.

Game 3 of the series is set for 8:30 p.m. EST inside the NBA bubble near Orlando, Fla.



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Patrick Reed takes 1-shot lead at U.S. Open; Tiger Woods misses cut

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Sept. 18 (UPI) — Patrick Reed surged to the lead in a challenging second round at the 2020 U.S. Open in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Reed, who had a hole-in-one Thursday and opened with a 66, shot an even-par 70 in Friday’s second round at Winged Foot to grab a one-stroke lead over Bryson DeChambeau.

Reed started on hole No. 10 and had two birdies and three bogeys over his first nine. He opened his last nine with a birdie on hole No. 1 and offset two bogeys with two birdies the rest of the way.

The second round of the tournament proved to be much different than the surprisingly soft first day, as only Hideki Matsuyama (69), Bubba Watson (69) and DeChambeau (68) shot below 70 on Friday. Nine other players shot an even-par 70, while the rest of the field struggled.

On Thursday, 21 players finished under par — the most in an opening round of a U.S. Open at Winged Foot — and 32 golfers were at least even.

Rafael Cabrera Bello and Harris English both shot 70s to enter the weekend in a third-place tie with Justin Thomas at 2-under par. Thomas, who led after the first round, carded a 3-over 73 to slip two spots.

Jason Kokrak (71) was a shot back of that group at 1-under par. Thomas Pieters (74), Xander Schauffele (72), Matthew Wolff (74), Brendon Todd (72) and Matsuyama were tied for seventh at even-par 140.

Dustin Johnson — the top-ranked player in the world — and Rory McIlroy were at 3-over par going into the third round. Rickie Fowler was at 6-over but managed to make the cut line.

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods failed to make the cut at Winged Foot after another disappointing day. He followed up his first-round 73 with a 7-over 77 and will miss the third and fourth rounds at the U.S. Open for only the fourth time in his career.

“On this golf course it’s imperative that you hit fairways, and I did not do that,” Woods said. “The whole goal of entering an event is to win, and when I don’t give myself that opportunity over the weekend, it doesn’t feel good.

“… It was frustrating that I didn’t drive the ball as well as I needed to. It’s frustrating that I’m not going to be here for the weekend and be able to compete for this great championship. It feels like the way the golf course is changing — is turning — that anybody who makes the cut has the opportunity to win this championship. I didn’t get myself that opportunity.”

Collin Morikawa (71), Phil Mickelson (74), Jordan Spieth (81), Sergio Garcia (81), Tommy Fleetwood (74), Gary Woodland (74) and Justin Rose (77) also didn’t make the cut.

Moments from Tiger Wood’s career

Tiger Woods swings during the second round of the U.S. Open in Bethesda, Md., on June 13, 1997. The following April, Woods became the youngest Masters Tournament winner. Photo by Jay Clark/UPI | License Photo



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