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BOSTON (AP) -- Jonathan Toews watched the end of the fifth game of the Stanley Cup Final from the Blackhawks bench, unable to play after a hit to his head.

Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron was in a Chicago hospital after leaving the United Center by ambulance.

As the Stanley Cup Final approaches a sixth and potential clinching game on Monday night, the attention shifted from the players on the ice to the ones who might not make it there, including two of the top forwards and biggest stars in the series.

"It's not the best situation for either team," Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said Sunday after both teams flew back to Boston. "But it's a tough sport, and injuries happen. When you leave it all out there to help your team win, that's all part of the game."

Bergeron was injured in the second period of Game 5 on Saturday night, which the Blackhawks won 3-1 to take a 3-2 lead in the series. He made two brief appearances on the ice in the third period but something was obviously wrong and he was unable to complete either shift.

Toews, who won the Selke Award as the NHL's top defensive forward - Bergeron was a finalist - missed the entire third period after a shot to the head from Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk.

"They're both great players," Chicago winger Patrick Sharp said. "I think any coach in the league, any player in the league would like to have those guys on their team. They take pride in taking faceoffs, playing well away from the puck, making their linemates better, (they're) both big parts of the locker room.

"I can't speak for what Boston is dealing with, with Bergeron. I know I don't need to say much about Jonathan. I think everyone knows what we think of him in our locker room. Hopefully we can have him back for (Monday)."

Bergeron, who was taken to the hospital for observation, was released later Saturday night and rejoined his teammates for a team meal.

"He was crushing some food," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said Sunday.

Bergeron was on the team flight back from Chicago. After the Bruins' bus arrived at the TD Garden in the afternoon, he walked without crutches or assistance to a car and was driven away.

"He's good. He came back with us and everything so hopefully he can play," Marchand said. "He looked really good today. He had a nice suit on, very dashing. Obviously, he's a big part of the team and hopefully he can play."

The Blackhawks lost Toews after Boychuk knocked him down in the slot, making contact with his head. Boychuk wasn't penalized, and NHL spokesman John Dellapina said on Sunday that the league reviewed the hit and there will be no supplemental discipline.

"I think they said it was clean, wasn't it? Then I agree with them," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "I'm not going to hide from that. If it wasn't a clean hit - I've been a guy that supported those kind of things that we need to get out of the game. But it was a clean hit."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville alluded to the contact with the head but then said, "I'm not going to go there."

Toews was tied with Patrick Kane for the Blackhawks' team lead with 23 goals during the regular season. Since being reunited with Kane on Chicago's top line in Game 4, Chicago has rallied to take the lead in the best-of-seven series. Before he was knocked out of the Game 5, Toews assisted on both of Kane's goals.

"He's our leader," Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya said. "You know, he's one of those guys, and when he's full-speed he gives everything he's got every game. That's something that is tough to replace."

Quenneville said Toews was doing much better and the team is optimistic he will be able to play in Game 6.

"We'll see how he is. I think the progress today, he's doing real good," Quenneville said. "We'll visit in the morning, and he seemed fine. So nothing has changed. Nothing is different. We'll keep an eye on him, and we'll go from there."

With or without Toews and Bergeron, the Blackhawks have a chance to clinch their second Stanley Cup title in four seasons on Monday night in Boston. If they lose, the series returns to Chicago for a decisive seventh game on Wednesday.

And that, Julien said, is why he wasn't worried about whether Toews will play or not.

"I think I should be looking in my backyard and make sure I've got my guys playing tomorrow before I start worrying about the game plan with them," he said. "Right now we know it's up to us to ... bring our `A' game if we want a chance to win. That part of it should be more important than who they have and don't have in their lineup."

Monday, 24 June 2013 00:56
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Allan Simonsen's death after a spinout cast a pall over the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The race still had more than 23 1/2 hours to go, but there was no call to stop it on Saturday after the first driver fatality in 16 years.

Simonsen's partner Carina, the mother to their daughter born last year, made sure of that.

It was her "specific request" that Simonsen's team, Aston Martin Racing, continue the world's most renowned endurance race in honor of the Dane.

Just 10 minutes into the race, Simonsen spun and skidded into the barrier at the Tertre Rouge corner where cars typically reach speeds of up to 105 mph. The 34-year-old Simonsen was taken to a hospital, where he died of his injuries, race organizers said.

The violence of the impact showed as a tire from Simonsen's car rolled on the track while a door hung wide open. The race was held up for nearly an hour to repair the guard rail.

"Tragically, and despite the best efforts of the emergency services in attendance, Allan's injuries proved fatal," Aston Martin said in a statement.

Simonsen's death marked the first driver fatality since 1997 when Sebastien Enjolras was killed in pre-qualifying. The last driver fatality during the race was Jo Gartner in 1986.

Simonsen was participating for the seventh time at the endurance race, which is won by the team that completes the most laps in 24 hours with up to three drivers alternating. He finished second in the GT2 class at Le Mans three years ago. He clocked the fastest time in qualifying on Thursday in the GTE-Am class.

Jean Todt, the FIA president, and Pierre Fillon, president of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest which organizes the race, paid tribute to Simonsen.

"Allan was an extremely talented and experienced sportscar driver who had raced in every corner of the world and was highly respected by his peers and his team," they said in a joint statement. "For many in endurance racing, Allan was above all a good friend who displayed his passion for racing on and off the track. His loss will be felt by the FIA, the ACO and the greater motorsport family."

Simonsen and Danish co-drivers Kristian Poulsen and Christoffer Nygaard were leading the GTE-Am class in the world endurance championship after topping their category at Silverstone in April and finishing second in Spa-Francorchamps last month.

"Aston Martin Racing will not make any further comment until the precise circumstances of the accident have been determined," Simonsen's team said.

Toyota Racing team president Yoshiaki Kinoshita expressed his condolences, along with drivers from around the world.

Formula One driver Jenson Button tweeted: "Allan Simonsen RIP. Such a tragic loss. A true fighter & a true racer. Safety is something we need 2 improve on in Motorsport."

IndyCar Series leader Helio Castroneves tweeted: "Very sad to know about the fatal accident of Allan Simonsen on Le Mans today. Praying for him and (his) family."

Another IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan tweeted: "Such a tragic news on the passing of (at)AllanSimonsen. Sad day in motorsports again. Thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Sunday, 23 June 2013 09:54
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- After rookie Martin Perez silenced the St. Louis Cardinals, his manager was non-stop with praise.

"I've always seen the stuff, but tonight was the first time I think he showed he's a big-league pitcher," Ron Washington said after the Texas Rangers' 4-2 victory Saturday night. "It can be a huge step, he just beat a pretty good team.

"He should be proud. I know we are."

Nelson Cruz got the decisive hit for the second straight game with a two-run homer in the third inning for the Rangers, who have won four of five after losing six in a row.

Fellow rookie Shelby Miller (8-5) allowed two homers for the second time in three starts and didn't make it out of the sixth against the team the Cardinals beat in the 2011 World Series, Texas was making its first regular-season visit to Busch Stadium.

"I'm not saying that if I make a better pitch I get them out, but both pitches were right down the middle, perfect pitches to hit," Miller said. "The first one was supposed to be in and the other one was supposed to be away, and both kind of ended up right down the middle of the plate."

A.J. Pierzynski also hit a two-run homer for Texas, which goes for a three-game sweep on Sunday night with Nick Tepesch (3-6, 4.84) facing Adam Wainwright (10-4, 2.37). The first two games have been sellouts and the finale was supposed to be a matchup of aces, but the Rangers are saving Yu Darvish for the Yankees Tuesday in New York.

They didn't want Perez to come up in New York, either.

Perez (1-1) was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock where he was 5-1 with a 1.75 ERA. The lefty allowed a run in each of the first two innings but gave up just two hits the next five innings and retired the last 10.

Though perhaps the Rangers' top prospect, Perez entered 1-5 with a 5.40 ERA with seven starts.

"I just had to do the same job I'm doing at Triple-A," Perez said. "The first two innings I missed a couple pitches but after that I just said `OK, this is my game.'"

Joe Nathan wrapped up a game that had all of the scoring in the first three innings with a perfect ninth for his 24th save in 25 chances. The start of the game was delayed by rain 66 minutes. It was the second such delay this week.

Earlier Saturday, Washington said he felt good about Cruz's tiebreaking two-run single in the ninth on Friday because the Rangers need wins, and not because Cruz needed redemption. The Rangers were an out away from taking the '11 Series when Cruz misplayed David Freese's game-tying triple in Game 6.

Cruz snapped a 2-2 third-inning tie with a two-run homer, his 19th of the season to the opposite field in right. He also singled and has four hits and five RBIs the first two games of the series.

Miller departed after bouncing a throw to first on a sacrifice bunt by Perez that loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth. Fellow rookie Seth Maness got Ian Kinsler on a groundout to end the sixth.

Miller is 3-2 this month, the other loss coming when he gave up two homers and four runs on the road against the Mets. Manager Mike Matheny couldn't find fault with pitches that the right-hander left up.

"He lives there, that's where his success is, so that's one of those two-edged swords," Matheny said. "Most of the guys in the league have a tough time catching up to him. You don't see many guys that see him the first time able to square balls up the first pitch they see on the top of the zone."

The Cardinals have opened the scoring both games and took the lead on Allen Craig's RBI single in the first with Carlos Beltran just beating the relay to the plate from center fielder Leonys Martin.

The Rangers answered when Adrian Beltre doubled to open the second and Pierzynski lined the next pitch into the right field seats for his seventh homer. The Cardinals tied it in the bottom half when Freese tripled off the top of the wall in right-center and scored on Shane Robinson's sacrifice fly.

NOTES: St. Louis Rams general manager Les Snead threw the ceremonial first pitch. ... Tepesch is 0-2 with a 9.77 ERA in his last three starts, and Washington said he needs to develop trust in all of his pitches. ... Wainwright has worked at least seven innings six straight starts, going 5-1. ... Cardinals RHP Michael Blazek made his major league debut and struck out two in a perfect ninth. ... Yadier Molina was 0 for 4 to end a seven-game hitting streak, dropping his league-leading average to .366. He batted .423 (11 for 26) during the streak. ... Craig has 21 RBIs this month, his best month ever. ... Cruz has 11 RBIs the last six games with a .400 average (10 for 25).

Sunday, 23 June 2013 09:51
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CHICAGO (AP) -- Patrick Kane was right there again. Slicing through the middle of the ice, setting up his teammates for prime opportunities. Using his skills to beat another hot goaltender.

When it comes to the Stanley Cup finals, the talented forward just loves to put on a show.

Kane scored two goals, Corey Crawford made 24 saves and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Boston Bruins 3-1 on Saturday night to move within one victory of their second championship in four years.

"This is what you work for all year, all summer, when you're training throughout the year, at training camp, whatever it may be," Kane said. "This is what you work for, this opportunity. We've got to seize the moment and take advantage of it."

Kane had a terrific postseason when Blackhawks won it all in 2010, including the winning score in a 4-3 overtime victory in Philadelphia that secured Chicago's first title in 49 years. Now he's picking up steam with the Blackhawks set to play for another Stanley Cup on Monday night in Boston, collecting seven goals in the last seven games.

Dave Bolland added an empty-net score, Toews had two assists and Bryan Bickell was credited with a team-high six hits and an assist. Toews also won nine of his 12 faceoffs before leaving with an upper-body injury.

"We're hopeful he'll be ready next game," said coach Joel Quenneville, providing the usual vague description of injuries that's so common in the NHL playoffs.

The Bruins also lost one of their key players when Patrice Bergeron was hurt in the second. It was unclear what happened to the star center, but the team said he was taken to a hospital for observation.

"As far as we're concerned, he's just getting evaluated right now," coach Claude Julien said. "Not much I can say on his situation."

Zdeno Chara scored in the third period for the Bruins, who lost consecutive games for the first time since the first round against Toronto. Tuukka Rask made 29 saves, keeping the Bruins close while they scrambled to generate quality chances.

"We just ran out of time," Rask said.

Chara got a nice pass from David Krejci from behind the net and beat Crawford on the glove side to make it 2-1 at 3:40 in the third period. The whistling slap shot by the big defenseman came after he was on the ice for five of Chicago's goals in the Blackhawks' 6-5 overtime victory Wednesday night.

The location of Chara's third postseason goal brought to mind the glove-side difficulties for Crawford in Game 4. But he held up just fine coming off the worst postseason game of his career.

"I think it was a big effort by everyone to come back, play defensively, block shots, sacrifice our bodies to block those pucks and quickly get on to offense," he said.

Crawford gloved Daniel Paille's slap shot early in the third, and the Blackhawks helped their embattled goaltender by turning up the pressure on Rask after the Bruins cut it to one. Kane forced Rask to make a couple of nice stops, and Michael Frolik also made a run to the net.

The Blackhawks survived one last push by the Bruins after they pulled Rask, and the crowd of 22,274 roared when the overhead videoboard showed the No. 1 and the Stanley Cup on the screen, signifying the team is one victory away from its fifth title.

"We understand the situation and what's at stake, but our mindset is going in there and trying to have the best game possible," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "It's no different from tonight's game."

Not so for Boston.

"It's do or die," Julien said. "We've been there before, and we've done well in that situation."

Boston and Chicago returned to the ice three days after they played the highest-scoring game in this year's NHL playoffs.

It was a marked departure from the first three games of the finals, and raised questions about what the play would be like in the last part of the series. The answer, at least in Game 5, was a return to the strong team defense and disciplined play. It meant little room to maneuver in both offensive zones, especially for the series' biggest stars - except Kane.

"Guys that have that kind of innate skill of scoring and being a top player, they anticipate like the rest of us would like to," Quenneville said.

With 2 1/2 minutes left in the first, Johnny Oduya's long slap shot broke the stick of Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and trickled to the left side of the net where Kane poked it in for eighth playoff goal.

The line of Kane, Toews and Bickell, which Quenneville put back together before Game 4, struck again in the second. Bickell was stopped by Rask on a rush along the left side, but skated behind the net and threw it back in front.

The puck went off the right side of the goal as Rask got his blocker to the post. Kane then deftly backhanded the bouncing puck into the top of the net to make it 2-0 at 5:13.

"You're not going to get those chances often, so it was good to bury them," he said.

That proved to be enough for Crawford, who has allowed one goal or less in nine games this postseason. But this one had to be particularly satisfying after facing a barrage of questions about his glove over the past two days.

"I have a job to do," said Crawford, who watched from the stands when the Blackhawks won it all in 2010. "Whatever is being said doesn't really affect what I'm going to do on the ice."

Since the NHL went to a best-of-seven format for the Stanley Cup in 1939, the winner of Game 5 in a deadlocked series has gone on to win the title 15 times in 22 occasions.

Those numbers likely don't scare Boston very much. The Bruins faced the same situation against Vancouver in 2011 and came back to win the championship.

"We're going to fight," center David Krejci said. "We're going to fight with everything we have and force Game 7."

NOTES: Bruins rookie Carl Soderberg made his first career playoff appearance when Julien decided to scratch Kaspars Daugavins. The 27-year-old Soderberg played a little more than 14 minutes in his first game since April 28. ... Former Blackhawks G Ed Belfour received a loud ovation and chants of "Ed-die! Ed-die!" when he was shown on the videoboard in the second period. ... Actress Michelle Pfeiffer and her husband David Kelley, a TV writer and producer, attended the game. ... The Bruins had no power plays.

Sunday, 23 June 2013 09:49
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