Playing like favorites, Predators continue to find ways to win in playoffs

NASHVILLE — Defenseman Mattias Ekholm’s read of the Nashville Predators’ dressing room between the second and third periods was that players felt “something better was coming.”The Predators had outshot the Anaheim Ducks 28-13 over the first 40 minutes. They were playing the way they wanted to play. They were feeding off the raucous Nashville crowd. It made no sense that they were trailing 1-0.“Their goaltender (John Gibson) played real well,” Predators center Mike Fisher said. “We were getting chances. Sometimes it’s easy to get frustrated. But that’s not the right emotion. We stayed with it. We knew if we kept doing that, and not sit back, we would find a way.”That’s exactly what happened. They found a way. Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi scored third-period goals to lift the Predators to a 2-1 victory. Nashville now owns a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.“Going into that third, guys were saying the right things,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “They were confident. They believed they were playing a decent game, and if we just stayed with it we would eventually get one to drop.”The Predators are now 10-3 in this postseason, and 6-0 at home. Somewhere in this process they have made the transition from a team hoping to win a Stanley Cup to a group of players who understand they have a true opportunity to get it done.For the first time in franchise history, the Predators have a postseason swagger. They have gone from hoping to win playoff games to expecting to win them.It has helped that the City of Nashville is smitten with the Predators’ success. Other NHL arenas might be able to match the crowd boost the Predators had Tuesday, but it would difficult to surpass it.“It’s tough to put in words,” Josi said. “You’ve got to be here to feel the energy. It’s unbelievable. Our fans, they’re Continue Reading

NFL Power Rankings: NY Giants play like champions and rise to No. 6; Texans and Falcons hold on to top two spots

Facing a pivotal game against the Packer Sunday night, the Giants were inspired by a brave kid from the Make a Wish Foundation who told them to play like World Champions. Then they put on a performance that definitely set some battle lines for the remainder of the season, one that, taken on its own, would have them back where they started the season in the Daily News power rankings. Ah, but there is the rest of the season to consider when doing these things and while the Giants may have the most upside of any team, the 10-1 Texans and Falcons still rule the roost for now, each surviving tight games this past week. As it is, the Giants move up four spots from No. 10. As for the Jets, someone forgot to tell them how to play on Thanksgiving. Either that or they got their message from Rich Kotite. Even so, they remain at No. 23 because everyone behind them is so bad. The Rams could have passed them after their win in Arizona if not for the Jets' head-to-head win two weeks ago. Here's the skinny:1. (Last week - 1) Texans (10-1): Overcoming injuries on D with home field now the goal. 2. (2) Falcons (10-1): These fourth quarter wins could pay dividends later. 3. (3) Broncos (8-3): Good teams win games when they're flat. They're a very good team. 4. (4) 49ers (8-2-1): Big plays from defense, Kaepernick. Now who starts at QB? 5. (5) Ravens (9-2): Ray Rice's fourth-and-29 pickup might be the play of the year. 6. (10) Giants (7-4): If they play like that, nobody beats them. 7. (7) Patriots (8-3): Five TD returns in two weeks. 8. (8) Bears (8-3): Jay Cutler makes a difference. So does protecting him. 9.  (6) Packers (7-4): They're 2-4 against winning teams, 5-0 against losers. Time to re-assess. 10. (9) Steelers (6-5): Big Ben better get back in a hurry. 11. (16) Bengals (6-5): Team to watch suddenly. 12. (15) Bucs (6-5): Tough loss to Falcons but they look good enough to get a wild card. 13. (17) Colts (7-4): Nice rebound Continue Reading

NY Jets vs. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck isn’t playing like a rookie as Gang Green gets first look at NFL’s top pick

at METLIFE STADIUM WHEN: 1 p.m. LINE: Jets by 3 TV: Ch. 2 (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms) RADIO: WEPN 98.7 FM (Bob Wischusen, Marty Lyons), in Spanish on WEPN 1050 AM (Clemson Smith Muniz, Oscar Benitez) FORECAST: Partly cloudy, high of 72, 10 mph winds. JETS TEAM STATS COLTS TEAM STATS * * * KEY MATCHUPS WR Reggie Wayne vs. CB Antonio Cromartie Wayne has quickly developed chemistry with Andrew Luck as his go-to guy. His 506 yards receiving rank third in the NFL and he comes off a performance against Packer CB Charles Woodson in which he caught 12 passes for a career-high 212 yards and the game-winning TD, coming out of bunch formations and off pics. Cromartie is also on a roll. He lived up to his own hype and blanketed the Texans' All Pro Andre Johnson Monday night. INJURY REPORT The Colts' OLB Robert Mathis is out with a sprained knee. Dwight Freeney is expected to be back after missing three games with a high ankle sprain, but he likely won't be 100%. Colts starting RB Donald Brown (knee) is also out. Mark Sanchez will get back a pair of weapons in Dustin Keller and Stephen Hill, who have missed time with hamstring injuries. All-Pro center Nick Mangold (ankle) is questionable. He'll probably play, but it remains to be seen how effective he'll be. S Eric Smith (knee) and NT Sione Pouha (back) are doubtful, but aren't expected to play. DL Kenrick Ellis (knee) is out. WR Clyde Gates (shoulder) and FB John Conner (knee) won't play, either. SCOUT SAYS "Outside of some small accuracy problems, Luck hasn't been playing like a rookie, and if the Jets' pass rush doesn't get to him, he's going to have a chance for a big day. The Colts are starting to get more out of their rookie tight ends (Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen) and the Jets have a history of getting burned by tight ends. With Donald Brown out, the Colts might not be able to take advantage of the Jets' soft run defense. Opponents are starting to take away Mark Sanchez's first Continue Reading

NY Giants journey to Super Bowl XLVI was powered by a season of big plays like Victor Cruz’s 99-yard touchdown vs. NY Jets

There wasn't one moment of clarity where it all seemed to come together for the Giants. There was no one play or one game when Jerry Reese thought they finally started to play like the team he was sure they could be. “I don’t know what game it was,” the GM said, moments after the Giants beat the San Francisco 49ers in overtime on Sunday night to advance to Super Bowl XLVI. “I just know in the last point of the season we started to play better, we started to practice better and everything started to jell for us.” Most people point to the Christmas Eve win over the Jets, which was the start of the Giants’ run of five straight victories. Others point to their near-miss against the then-undefeated Packers on Dec. 4. Some argue it started with the win in Dallas the following week. Whenever it began, though, even Reese knows the Giants’ run has been filled with huge plays that could’ve gone either way, and at least a little bit of good fortune. “To get this far you’ve got to have some luck, I’ve said that before,” Reese said. “You’ve got to have good luck, you’ve got to have good players, you’ve got to have good coaches. It’s all come into play for us.” Here are five key plays, in order of importance, that helped the Giants reach the playoffs in what has become a Super Bowl season: 1. MILES AWAY The Giants have lost four straight games and their season is inches away from ending late in the fourth quarter in Dallas on Dec. 11. They are 6-6 and a loss to the Cowboys would make it almost impossible for them to win the NFC East or even make the playoffs. The Cowboys are leading 34-29 with 2:25 remaining when, on a third-and-5 from the Dallas 25, Tony Romo has Miles Austin wide open on a “go route,” about five yards behind Giants CB Aaron Ross. If he catches it, Miles has got a 75-yard touchdown, the Cowboys have a 12-point lead and Continue Reading

Rex Ryan says his New York Jets are the Giants’ ‘big brother’ in new book ‘Play Like You Mean It’

Rex Ryan left little doubt in his new book that he thinks the Jets - not the Giants - officially own the city. In "Play Like You Mean It," which was co-written with Don Yeager, will be released on Tuesday, Ryan's dig at Big Blue highlights an illuminating book that features everything from his admiration of Bill Belichick to his criticism of ex-Jets such as Kerry Rhodes. "When people ask me what it's like to share New York with the Giants, my response is always I am not sharing it with them - they are sharing it with me," Ryan writes. "Some people like to say the Giants are the big brother team and the Jets are the little brother team. I know it's going to (tick) off every Giants fan to hear this, but here you go: I really don't care. "We came to New York City to be the best team in the NFL, not just the best team in New York City. And I have news for you: We are the better team. We're the big brother....It seems clear that right now we are the better team and we are going to remain the better team for the next 10 years. Whether you like it or not, those are the facts and that's what is going to happen." Ryan reveals his conversation with Belichick after Gang Green's divisional playoff win over the Patriots and maintains that "People get the wrong message sometimes when I talk about Belichick. I really do respect him." Ryan was harsh on tight end Chris Baker and linebacker Eric Barton, who left for other teams when Ryan took over in 2009. "His idea of trying to motivate Vernon Gholston was to rip the guy, yelling at him all the time about how he wasn't giving enough effort, that he wasn't playing hard, that he wasn't measuring up," Ryan wrote about Barton, who signed with the Browns in 2009. "That's not showing respect. Those guys never respected the guys they played with. They were negative guys, and I'm not going to have negative guys on my team. That was the message I got from the people I talked to in the organization." Barton responded to Continue Reading

Undermanned Knicks play like team of the past vs. Celtics, the recent Isiah Thomas-era past

They came to the Garden hoping to see the kind of night that the old Knicks used to produce. What they got instead was a team that played like Isiah Thomas' Knicks. It was supposed to be a special Garden night out of the past. It turned out to be the recent past. Very recent. You bet Amar'e Stoudemire wasn't close to being at his best and Chauncey Billups was in street clothes. We still found out something: When the Celtics play their best, the Knicks don't belong on the same court with them. Their Garden or ours. The Knicks, even carried by all the emotion of the past week, still don't have a playoff victory in 10 years. They are wounded right now, for sure. They also didn't compete Friday night in the second half. They were outplayed, outcoached, outclassed. There was old-school ball played on this night, but only by the Celtics. It's a good thing the genius who runs this place raised ticket prices for next season already. "We came in a little too slow," Carmelo Anthony (4-for-16) said when it was mercifully over, and he ought to know. You bet the Knicks were undermanned on this night. If this had been a regular-season game, Amar'e Stoudemire doesn't even play. But it was the playoffs, the first playoff game at the Garden in seven years. The Knicks really were playing for their season Friday night, because going down 0-3 to the Celtics was the same as being gone. So Stoudemire showed up. He tried. And managed to score more baskets in the second half than Anthony, who was fit as a fiddle. "Felt good enough to play, wasn't 100%," he said. The Knicks were undermanned in Boston in Game 2 and led with 20 seconds to go and Stoudemire wasn't around. The Knicks didn't show up Friday night. They weren't going to beat the Celtics anyway, not the way Pierce and Allen were shooting the ball. But they were beaten to the ball all night long. If you can remember five shots they contested in a 113-96 beatdown, raise a hand. Amar'e showed up, rest of the team Continue Reading

Miami Heat can’t measure up to Knicks when LeBron James fails to play like an All-Star

Meet LeBron, mortal. This was James as Garden fans have never seen him before. While Dwyane Wade wore goggles, James seemed to be playing with a blindfold on as the Knicks posted a surprising 93-88 victory Thursday night. James was never this bad when his old buddy out in Cleveland, Dan Gilbert, accused him of tanking Cavalier playoff games. Here was LeBron's line: 24 points on 7-of-24 shooting. "I missed 10 or 12 layups and I made some difficult shots," James said. "That's when you know it's one of those games, when you make hard ones and miss the easy ones." We never remember Michael Jordan uttering those words as he was leaving New York. Since Jordan's retirement, the Knicks' chief tormentor has been either James or Dwyane Wade. Take your pick. "He gets psyched up for the Garden," Mike D'Antoni said beforehand, referring to James. "He and Wade both. And Kobe (Bryant) will be the other guy who comes in ... this is a place they like to shine." The lights were shining brightly, which necessitated Wade wearing tinted goggles due to the lingering effects of a migraine headache. Wade lit up the Knicks for 33 points in the first three quarters, at one point hitting 13 straight shots. Then he went 0-for-7 in the fourth, scoring only one point. "It was nothing that we did," D'Antoni said. "He's human." This just in: LeBron is human, too! In the fourth, the two future Hall of Famers combined for 11 points. Yes, it was shocking to see James and Wade both fail to deliver as the Knicks held Miami to 15 points in the fourth. "It was just one of those games where you get right to the rim and they're just short," James said. "We had some great looks." In other games against the Knicks, the basket was always as big as a hoola-hoop. Thursday night, it was a thimble.In his last Garden appearance, back in December, James made 14 of 23 shots for 32 points, to go along with a triple-double."I never expect to have a crazy game Continue Reading

Nets play like a team in limbo, waiting for Carmelo Anthony trade, in 96-89 loss to Trail Blazers

PORTLAND - If the bigger goal of this season is to develop Brook Lopez, Saturday night could be considered a success.If it's to win games and hold on to leads, chalk up the 96-89 defeat to the Trail Blazers as yet another failure.Lopez scored 32 points - piggybacking his 35-point effort in Friday's loss to the Lakers - but the Nets dropped their fifth straight, thanks to a typical late-game meltdown. Trailing 87-86 with two minutes left, the Trail Blazers went on a 7-0 run, forcing the Nets into three straight turnovers in an ugly conclusion.Deja vu.With a proposed trade for Carmelo Anthony still in the works, five of the 10 active Nets are on the trading block. Devin Harris, who would be sent to Denver in the deal, played like he's on the way out.The point guard took 10 shots and finished with eight points. Rookie Derrick Favors, who would also go to the Nuggets, played only 15 minutes and scored four points, none in the second half. Lopez shot 12-of-19, but only grabbed three rebounds.The Nets led by nine in the third quarter before the Trail Blazers went on a 17-0 run to take a 63-55 advantage. The Nets bounced back to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but melted down late. The Nets (10-30) have lost five straight and 10 of their last 11. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

‘Saturday Night Live Backstage’ showcases past cast members, plays like ‘best-of’ documentary

NBC's continuing series of prime-time "Saturday Night Live" specials always has a subtle, self-congratulatory undertone. But when you watch this two-hour "Backstage" retrospective, most of which plays like a best-of with commentary, you remember that however much the show has annoyed or bored you, it's also created plenty of moments that have earned the congratulations. Since "SNL" is now 35 years old, it would be remarkable if it hadn't created memorable moments. But lasting 35 years in television is a striking achievement in itself - even if Gilbert Gottfried is right when he says we're past any debate on whether "SNL" is funny or not funny, because these days, "it's a restaurant with a good location." And, over the years, a remarkable wait staff. Since this special is packed with clips from Chevy Chase's first "Weekend Update" and John Belushi's samurai deli clerk up through Eddie Murphy, Jimmy Fallon and the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler political satires of 2008, it's hard not to marvel at how much talent has passed through "SNL." A lot of that talent broke through on the show, which is especially remarkable because "SNL" has never been designed as a star vehicle. Particular players have gotten more airtime as they have become more popular or developed signature bits, but the show has remained an ensemble, which is one reason for its longevity. Name players leave, no-name players arrive, and "Saturday Night Live" goes on. Seth Meyers rocks the 'SNL' stage as Anderson Cooper with Maya Rudolph as Mamie Thibodeaux, a Hurricane Katrina survivor, during a 'Anderson Cooper 360' skit. (Dana Edelson)  Turnover is also one of several reasons for the show's unevenness - an unevenness that creator Lorne Michaels, to his credit, has always acknowledged. He does so again in this new special. "I was there for the golden age," he muses, "and I can tell you, it wasn't always golden." In that vein, this special replays the awkward night Sinead O'Connor Continue Reading

Eli Manning will need to play like Phil Simms did on Super stage

CHANDLER, Ariz. - Eli Manning took his offensive linemen, tight ends and fullbacks to a nice, pricey dinner after the Giants arrived in town the other night. "Eli finally opened up the checkbook," guard Chris Snee joked. Eli learned from Peyton that the best way to keep his linemen happy is to keep them well-fed. Just like his older brother did at the Super Bowl last year, Eli got them in the proper frame of mind by splurging on a good meal on the first night in town. When the group returned to the Giants' hotel in the desert, Manning, Snee, center Shaun O'Hara and guard Rich Seubert relaxed in the hotel lounge. What was on the television? The Giants' 39-20 victory over the Broncos in Super Bowl XXI, which was being replayed on the NFL Network. "It got me ready to play," Snee said. "I was fired up." How about Manning? "Is there ever any reaction from Eli?" Snee said. "He was just watching the game and enjoying it like everybody else. I'm sure he got fired up in his own way." Phil Simms completed a Super Bowl record 22 of 25 passes in that game and outplayed John Elway, just as Brett Favre admitted yesterday that Manning "outplayed me" 10 days ago in the NFC Championship Game. Now Manning has to outplay Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLII for the Giants to have a chance. They might need him to play like Simms did 21 years ago. "It's working right now for the Giants," Simms said Wednesday. "They are about as hot as a team, physically and emotionally, as I've seen. I can't remember a team like this going into the Super Bowl." Peyton Manning and Brady are very good friends. Eli Manning and Brady have become tight. They text-message, call and see each other when Brady is in New York. You might have heard Brady has a high-profile girlfriend who lives in Manhattan. They've also run into each other at the Kentucky Derby. "Eli always has been someone I've watched and admired," Brady said at the Pats' hotel yesterday. "I think he's a great player. He plays Continue Reading