ISU come up 1 point short in NIT second round vs ODU

NORFOLK—Jonathan Arledge made the go-ahead layup with 19 seconds to play, and Old Dominion held off Illinois State 50-49 on Monday in the second round of the NIT for its 23rd straight win at home.It’s the seventh-longest active home winning streak in the country.Illinois State’s MiKyle McIntosh missed two free throws with 4.3 seconds left. ODU’s Ambrose Mosley then missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but the Redbirds, trying a length of the court pass with two seconds left, turned it over on their final play.

”There’s a reason they’re 23-0 at home; the fans, the team plays with confidence and toughness,” said ISU coach Dan Muller. ”It was a tough place to play, but we’ve been in situations like that.”

The top-seeded Monarchs (26-7) advance to host Murray State on Wednesday.

”The atmosphere was great, with the crowd being that loud, it’s tough to make those regardless of how you shoot,” said ODU’s Aaron Bacote, who had eight points.

Arledge had 10 points for the Monarchs and reserve guard Keenan Palmore scored a season-high 11, with nine rebounds, subbing for starter and leading scorer Trey Freeman (17.3 points per game).

”I just wanted to prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” said Palmore, who started last year as Freeman sat out a transfer year. ”If Trey played, then great, but I needed to be ready no matter what.”

Freeman played only 12 minutes due to an ankle injury suffered in practice.

”Really proud of our guys for that effort, not knowing whether Trey would play at all, whether he’d play five minutes or 25 minutes,” said ODU coach Jeff Jones. ”Illinois State comes at you hard. If you’re afraid or hesitant in the least, they’ll knock you back really quickly.”

Illinois State (22-13) handed ODU its worst loss of the season, 64-45, in November in the Virgin Islands.

Richards third period goal heps Darling to first career shutout as Hawks edge Rangers 1-0

NEW YORK—Brad Richards has spent many nights on the ice at Madison Square Garden, playing with and against the New York Rangers. His latest appearance provided quite a lasting memory.Richards broke a scoreless deadlock 7:19 into the third period, and young teammate Scott Darling made 25 saves in his first outing at the ”World’s Most Famous Arena” as the Blackhawks edged the Rangers 1-0 on Wednesday night for their fourth straight win.Richards spent three seasons with the Rangers before having the final six years of his contract bought out after New York’s trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 2014.

”Tonight was a little special,” the veteran forward said. ”It’s a bonus to get one in this building against them, but not in a bad way. I have nothing bad to say about the organization or New York. Everyone knows how much I love playing here.It was pretty cool to score against them and win the game.”

Right after Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle rang a shot off the crossbar behind Darling, Richards got the puck in front of the New York net, waited patiently and snapped a shot past Cam Talbot for his 11th goal.

”We hit the crossbar, and not even 20 seconds after we’re losing the game,” said Rangers forward Derick Brassard, who scored in overtime on March 8 at the United Center to give the Rangers a 1-0 win.

The Blackhawks stretched their winning streak to four and snapped the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers’ winning run at five.Richards has five career goals against New York. His latest was enough to make a winner of Darling, who played for just the third time since Dec. 13. He improved to 7-3 and earned his first NHL shutout in 10 career games.

”This was special for me against them in this famous arena,” the 26-year-old Darling said. ”An Original Six matchup on national TV. You can’t ask for more. It was a great night.”

Talbot, who stopped 30 shots, had been 5-0-1 with a 1.00 goals-against average in his previous six games. He hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a game in his last seven appearances.

”I felt really good again,” Talbot said. ”I felt like I was seeing the puck well and controlling the puck. It’s tough when a guy like Richie gets that much time in the slot. You almost have to try to wait him out, but it was a tough situation and he made a nice play.”

The Rangers fell to 15-4-2 since No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist was forced out of the lineup by a neck injury. Lundqvist has been cleared to return to practice and is getting closer to rejoining the lineup.New York has scored only 11 goals in its past seven games.Much like the previous meeting between these teams, goals were tough to come by. Talbot got the best of No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford in that one.Jonathan Toews, who had two goals and two assists Tuesday in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 home victory over the New York Islanders, nearly gave the Hawks the lead with 13:02 left in the first, but his chance at the right post during a power play was snagged by Talbot’s glove.Richards was denied 1:23 later during the same advantage when Talbot blocked his shot from the slot and covered the rebound.Darling matched his New York counterpart and turned aside a couple of chances in close. Dominic Moore then slid the puck into the net, but the goal didn’t count because the whistle had already sounded. Rick Nash also got in tight later in the period, only to be denied by Darling.There was a moment of confusion with 9:29 left in the second when Derek Stepan’s drive hit the side of the net to Darling’s right. Fans behind the goalie thought the puck had gone in and began cheering. The spotlight operator also was fooled and shined lights in the crease.It wasn’t to be.

”The difference was we go down get a chance, hit the crossbar, then they come down and score,” Stepan said. ”That’s kind of the way hockey is.”

NOTES—A video highlighting Richards’ time with the Rangers was shown during the first period. It ended with the words ”Once a Ranger, Always a Ranger.” Richards acknowledged cheers from the crowd with a wave from the bench. … Lundqvist will remain out for at least another week as he begins practicing with teammates and gets back into game shape. … Rangers RW Martin St. Louis (knee) missed his first game of the season.

Mirotic leads Bulls past Pacers 103-86

Chicago Bulls Logo - Red bull with script above head

With his play on the court, Nikola Mirotic is demanding significant playing time even after injured big man Taj Gibson returns to action.

Off the court, though, Mirotic’s minutes are of little concern to him right now.

”My role? I don’t know,” the Chicago Bulls’ rookie forward said. ”If I play 10 minutes, I don’t care. When I’m on the court, I’ll try and play good defense and good offense and try to help the team.”

Mirotic scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half, Mike Dunleavy added 21 points and Pau Gasol had 19 points and 12 rebounds to lead the short-handed Bulls to a 103-86 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.

Mirotic, who played 31 minutes off the bench, entered averaging 20.3 points in nine games in March. His previous best scoring month was the 9.9 points he averaged in December.

Gasol believes those numbers warrant a bigger role for Mirotic.

”For sure, for sure,” Gasol said. ”Once we get everyone back – and hopefully we stay healthy – the coaching staff has to figure how to make sure they take advantage of the players that are playing at a high level now.

”It’s great to see young players prove their value and prove their talent and help us get wins.”

The Bulls (41-28) snapped a two-game losing streak despite playing without injured starters Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler and Gibson.

Solomon Hill had 13 points to lead six players in double figures for Indiana (30-37).

The teams split the season series 2-2. In the first three meetings, the Pacers held the Bulls to an average of 88.7 points on 37.5 percent shooting. But the Bulls broke through for 51 points in the first half Wednesday, led by Dunleavy’s 19 points on 5-for-7 shooting on 3-pointers.

”We’ve just had some mental lapses early, left 3-point shooters and let them get going,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. ”We’ve got some guys that are a little bit out of sync offensively, so we’ve just got to figure that out.”

The Bulls led 51-41 at halftime and never led by less than three points in the second half. Every time the Pacers tried to rally, Mirotic had a response.

”He’s spectacular,” Vogel said of Mirotic. ”Not just second half, but he’s given us a lot of problems. He’s a threat at the 3-point line, great off the bounce, great with his cutting game. He’s a heck of a weapon off the bench, and we clearly didn’t do a good enough job on him.”

Mirotic also had nine rebounds as the Bulls posted a 52-38 edge on the boards.

The rookie has proved so valuable of late that he’s playing a lot of minutes in the fourth quarter, but Mirotic said he has no expectations going forward.

”I want Taj to come back because we need him,” he said. ”For me, always the most important thing is the team and right now we have 13 games left, so every game is really important for us and we’ll go step by step.”

Speaking on Wednesday for the first time since he sat out the final six minutes of a loss at San Antonio on Sunday because of a minutes limit, Joakim Noah tried to defuse the budding controversy of a rift between coach Tom Thibodeau and Bulls management over the situation.

”I’m just trying to stay focused on what’s important and trying to win basketball games,” he said. ”I’m not trying to get caught up in any noise or anything like that. I don’t want to be a distraction. We’ll figure it out internally and do what’s best for the team.”

NOTES—Paul George, who broke a leg during a USA Basketball exhibition game over the summer, is practicing on a limited basis, but whether he’ll return this season is unclear. It’s literally week to week and just see where we’re at,” coach Frank Vogel said. ”If he’s not ready to play before (the playoffs), then he’s not ready to play. He might not play this year.” … Indiana center Ian Mahinmi left in the third quarter with a bruised forehead after he was inadvertently elbowed by teammate C.J. Watson.The Bulls remained short-handed Wednesday, but their health could improve significantly soon. Butler (sprained left elbow) and Gibson (sprained left ankle) are practicing and could return later this week. ”Both are coming along well,” Thibodeau said. ”They’re getting closer, they’re going through practice fully, contact and everything, so hopefully it’ll be soon.” … The Bulls observed a moment of silence before the game for Jack Haley, a member of the 1995-96 team who died Tuesday.The Bulls host the Toronto Raptors on Friday.

ISU beats UWGB, advances to NIT second round.

NORMAL—Paris Lee hit the shots when it mattered, scoring 18 points late in the game, and also made two key steals late to lead Illinois State past the Wisconsin-Green Bay 69-56 in Wednesday’s first round of the National Invitation Tournament.Daishon Knight added 17 points, and Reggie Lynch and DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell scored 15 and 14, respectively, for the Redbirds (22-12).ISU went 0 of 8 from the 3-point line until the second half. Lynch nailed a 3 with 16:13 left to put ISU up for good, and Lee followed 12 seconds later with another. The Redbirds went 4 for 16 from beyond the stripe.Lee’s two steals of deep passes ISU converted for points in the final six minutes.

”Paris basically was a beast all night,” said Redbirds coach Dan Muller. ”He certainly stepped up when we needed him.”

Free throws sealed the victory for Illinois State. The Redbirds went 27 for 33 compared to Green Bay’s 6 of 13.

”Runs begin with good shots and a lot of emotion,” Muller said. ”But free throws won it for us. And Paris (Lee) hit a lot of them in the first half to keep us in the game.”

Lee went 9 of 10 from the free-throw line.

”I was trying to attack all night, and just got the foul calls,” Lee said. ”We were down early, and we needed the right plays by the right people.”

The Phoenix were led by Keifer Sykes, who scored 14 points after missing last week’s Horizon Conference final loss against Valparaiso because of an injured ankle. Alfonzo McKinnie added 11 points and seven rebounds for Green Bay (24-9).Green Bay led 31-24 at the half after a sloppy 20 minutes that saw ISU shoot 20 percent (5 for 25) from the field to Green Bay’s 45 percent (14 for 31).ISU tightened its zone defense in the second half, and its shots starting falling.

”We felt really good at the half,” said Green Bay coach Brian Wardle. ”But they came out and threw the first punch in the second half, and we just went into a drought. The bottom line is, we needed to make shots, and we didn’t. Give credit to Illinois State. They are a very good team.”

The Phoenix saw their NCAA tournament chances dashed with the loss to Valparaiso in the Horizon Conference title game. The Redbirds fell to Northern Iowa in the Missouri Valley Conference championship after shocking top-seeded Wichita State in the semifinals.ISU will visit top-seeded Old Dominion on Monday in the tournament’s second round.

Toews and Hossa score two apiece as Hawks beat Isles 4-1 for third straight

Jonathan Toews scored twice and assisted on both of Marian Hossa’s goals to lead the Blackhawks past the slumping New York Islanders 4-1 on Tuesday night.Toews recorded his first four-point game this season as the Blackhawks won their third straight and improved to 7-1-1 since Feb. 24 when leading scorer Patrick Kane broke his collarbone against Florida.New York’s Nikolay Kulemin scored at 5:29 of third period to end Corey Crawford’s shutout bid, but the Islanders lost their season-worst fourth straight.Although Crawford made 38 saves, he wasn’t tested heavily by the goal-starved Islanders. New York has scored only one goal in each of its four consecutive losses.The Islanders are five points behind the Atlantic Division-leading New York Rangers, who have played four fewer games.

Illini season goes down in flames 79-58 in NIT

Illinois Fighting Illini (2004 - 2013)

TUSCALOOSA—Levi Randolph had 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists to help Alabama rout Illinois 79-58 on Tuesday in the first round of the NIT.Alabama (19-14) played its first game without head coach Anthony Grant, who was fired Sunday afternoon and replaced by interim coach John Brannen.

”We were playing for more than just ourselves tonight,” Brannen said. ”This is coach Grant’s program as I’ve mentioned many times. He’s asked us to carry it on in terms of going forward and we’re going to do that to the best of our abilities.”

Alabama shot 59.6 percent from the field overall, including 8 of 15 from 3-point range. Rodney Cooper added 19 points.Malcolm Hill led Illinois (19-14) with 22 points and six assists. The Fighting Illini shot 32.3 percent from the field, including just 7 of 24 from beyond the arc, and were nearly run out of the building early.Alabama went on a 20-0 run in the first half, holding Illinois scoreless for eight minutes. Alabama shot 63 percent from the field in the first half, knocking in 17 of 27. The Tide shot 50 percent from 3-point range on the way to a 46-22 halftime lead and they stretched the lead to as many as 30 points in the second half.

”We use the term and we used it with coach here that we just want to keep punching and eventually your opponent will eventually wear down,” Brannen said. ”Every timeout that came, I said, `Guys, they ain’t wearing down yet so we need to continue.”’

Illinois shot 31.3 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes and 16.7 percent from beyond the arc. Coach John Groce had publicly worried about the motivation of his team this week a year after playing in the NIT and just a few days after a slow start cost them dearly in a 73-55 loss to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament.The Illini had no answers for Alabama and lost for the sixth time in eight games.

”I thought they were inspired today,” Groce said. ”I thought that they had a cause today, and I thought they came out with a chip on their shoulder today. I thought their effort level, their energy level, in particular the majority of the first half, but I think the first eight minutes was outstanding so give them a lot of credit.”

The Illini outrebounded Alabama 36-33. … Illinois ended its season, losing 14 of its 33 games…..The Crimson Tide trailed for only 13 seconds in the game, falling behind 4-3 early in the first half. The Crimson Tide picked up its 1,600th win in program history.

Ramblers rally past Rider in CBI first round

Loyola-Chi. Ramblers logo

Milton Doyle scored 20 of his game-high 22 points in the second half as Loyola rallied from a nine-point, second-half deficit to claim a 62-59 win over Rider in the opening round of the 2015 College Basketball Invitational (CBI) at Gentile Arena. The Ramblers (20-13) reach the 20-win mark for the first time since the 2006-07 season while the Broncs’ season ends with a 21-12 record.After a Montel James basket opened the scoring, Rider scored the next seven points to open up an early five-point lead. The Ramblers responded in thunderous fashion, rattling off the next eight points on four dunks and a Donte Ingram put-back capped a 13-3 run that gave the home team a 13-10 lead at the 12:27 mark. The next six combined baskets all came from downtown, four by Rider and two from LU’s Devon Turk, as the Broncs regained the lead. The visitors stayed hot from deep but a basket from Doyle and another Turk trey gave Loyola a 31-30 lead with 85 seconds left. However, Teddy Okereafor buried two from behind the arc, the second one coming in the waning seconds, to send Rider to the locker room with a 36-31 advantage. Loyola shot 50% overall in the period and received 14 first-half points from Turk but the Broncs were even better, hitting 10-of-14 (71%) from downtown in the half to compensate for a 3-for-11 (27%) effort from inside the line.Okereafor carried his hot shooting into the second half, capping a personal 10-0 run with a bucket and two free throws to give Rider a 40-31 lead with just under three minutes elapsed in the second half. Six straight points from Doyle pulled LU within three but Xavier Lundy hit his fifth triple of the game to extend the lead back to six. A Jimmie Taylor free throw gave the Broncs an eight-point lead (52-44) at the 8:10 mark before Loyola was finally able to get some defensive stops. Two free throws each from James and Doyle cut the deficit to four and, after a Lundy basket, Doyle scored in the paint and hit two more from the stripe to make it a 54-52 game at the 3:02 mark.Doyle gave the Ramblers their first lead since the late stages of the opening half with a bucket at the 1:56 mark but Okereafor answered with an elbow jumper to even the game at 56 with 1:29 left. Two more free throws gave the hosts the lead and Okereafor could only split a pair, leaving the Ramblers up by one (58-57) with 40 ticks left. Doyle and Taylor traded perfect, 2-for-2 trips to the line and Ben Richardson knocked in two more charity tosses to give LU a 62-59 lead with five seconds left. Loyola elected to foul and Okereafor missed the first of a two-shot, double-bonus foul. He attempt to intentionally miss the second free throw did not draw iron, giving Loyola the ball back with :01.5 left. However, a turnover on the inbounds gave Rider one last chance but Zedric Sadler’s long, contested three-pointer was long to send Loyola on to the next round.Doyle was terrific, finishing 5-of-7 from the floor and 11-of-12 from the stripe for his 22 points. He also added six assists and three rebounds. Turk finished with 14 points while Ingram added eight in 21 minutes off the bench. Lundy led Rider with 19 points.Loyola advances to take on the winner of tomorrow night’s UC-Santa Barbara/Oral Roberts game next Monday night (March 23)

This time, Westbrook and Thunder too much for slumping Bulls

Chicago Bulls Logo - Red bull with script above head

OKLAHOMA CITY—Unlike the last time the Bulls played Oklahoma City, Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook showed faith in a teammate with the game on the line, and Anthony Morrow proved worthy.Westbrook had 36 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, including one to Morrow for a clinching 3-pointer in the final minute, helping the Thunder hold off Bulls 109-100 on Sunday.

”We did a good job of learning from our mistakes,” Westbrook said. ”The first time we played them, I had a chance to hit Serge (Ibaka) on a kickback (when) two guys was on me. Tonight, same situation – two guys on me. I kicked to A-Mo and trusted my teammate and he knocked it down, so it was good.”

Centers Enes Kanter (18 points, 18 rebounds) and Steven Adams (14 points, 11 rebounds) both posted double-doubles for the Thunder. Oklahoma City, the league’s top rebounding team, dominated on the boards by a 52-33 margin.For only the third time in the Thunder’s last nine games, Westbrook didn’t record a triple-double, falling short in assists largely because his teammates weren’t shooting well early and Westbrook took over as the team’s primary offensive option late. Oklahoma City shot 46 percent from the field, with Westbrook finishing 12 of 27.Westbrook’s final assist came on the game-turning play. With the Thunder up 99-95 in the final minute, he held the basketball until near the end of the shot clock, then passed to Morrow, who swished the decisive 3-pointer. The Thunder has won 16 of its last 18 home games.

”We wanted to close out the game better than we did a few weeks ago in Chicago,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. ”.I thought the defense was good in the game. We make a few mistakes in Chicago that we wanted to make sure didn’t happen again.”

Nikola Mirotic scored 27 points and Pau Gasol added 20 for the Bulls, who beat the Thunder on March 5 on a 3-pointer by E’Twaun Moore with 2.1 seconds left. The rematch was tight throughout – neither team led by more than nine points – but it was Westbrook making plays in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference.With the Thunder clinging to a 96-95 lead, Westbrook drove the lane and earned two free throws, making one with 1:27 left. At the other end, he stepped in front of a pass by Aaron Brooks, stole the ball and drove the length of the court for a layup to give Oklahoma City a 99-95 cushion with 1:12 left.Oklahoma City’s Dion Waiters stripped Moore on a drive toward the basket and the ball glanced off Moore’s hand with 1 minute left, giving the Thunder possession. After Morrow’s 3-pointer, Gasol scored. Westbrook then received a quick inbounds pass, and with Tom Thibodeau screaming at his players to trap the elusive Thunder guard, Westbrook drove all the way to the basket for a layup.Westbrook made 3-of-4 free throws in the final 12.3 seconds to cap a 14-point quarter.

”You just try to make him work for his points,” Thibodeau said of Westbrook. ”He’s playing at such a high level right now and he is making plays on top of it, so he keeps pressure on you at all times.”

Thibodeau didn’t offer a specific timetable as to when injured forwards Jimmy Butler (left elbow sprain) and Taj Gibson (left ankle injury) might be able to return, but said Gibson has returned to practice. … The Bulls have not won in Oklahoma City since Jan. 27, 2010. … Gasol just missed what would have been a 45th double-double this season, grabbing eight rebounds.

NOTES—Oklahoma City started two centers, Kanter and Adams, in an attempt to slow the Bulls’ potent frontline duo of Gasol and Noah. Kanter set a Thunder record with 10 rebounds in the first quarter. . Thunder F Serge Ibaka missed a second straight game due to knee soreness. Brooks said Ibaka remains day-to-day. . Kanter’s double-double was his sixth since joining the Thunder at the NBA trade deadline, while Adams recorded his fifth double-double of the season…..Gasol, on the performance of Kanter and Adams: ”They were aggressive throughout the night. They understand that having a guy like Russell Westbrook that attacks so much and forces help, especially from bigs so deep into the paint, that they’re going to have opportunities. They’ve got size and strength and they pursue.”….The Bulls Host Indiana on Wednesday.

Sharp back on track(2 goals)as Hawks slam the Sharks 6-2.

SAN JOSE—The Blackhawks used a two-game trip with their dads in tow to end quite a few scoring droughts.Patrick Sharp scored his first two goals since January and Duncan Keith also got his first in more than a month to help the Blackhawks beat the San Jose Sharks 6-2 on Saturday.

”It seemed like I was hitting a post every game and not having anything to show for it,” Sharp said. ”It was nice to shoot one there and have it deflect off one of their guys into the net. That’s the game of hockey. Sometimes you get the ones that you don’t deserve and vice versa. It doesn’t really matter who’s scoring.”

Sharp and Keith ended their slumps one game after Brad Richards and Andrew Shaw got their first goals since January in a 2-1 win at Arizona. The Hawks, still playing without star forward Patrick Kane, have won six of eight games to move within striking distance of Nashville and St. Louis for the Central Division lead.The Blackhawks were three points behind the division leaders heading into Saturday night’s games.

”Across the board, we’re not looking to outscore anybody,” coach Joel Quenneville said. ”We’re thinking checking. We won some tight ones. We’re pleased with what transpired for sure on this road trip.”

Brandon Saad broke a tie with a third-period goal, and Bryan Bickell and Marian Hossa also scored. Corey Crawford made 33 saves.Melker Karlsson and Joe Thornton scored for the Sharks, who began the day three points behind Los Angeles for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Antti Niemi made 24 saves against his former team.

”We played good for 40 odd minutes and that’s just not good enough,” Thornton said.

A close game turned to the Hawks favor in the opening 5 minutes of the third period. It started when Teuvo Teravainen flipped a puck into the neutral zone. Sharks defenseman Mirco Mueller tripped while trying to play the puck and that sent Saad in alone on Niemi for his 21st goal of the season.

”It was a tight checking game the first two periods and then the bounces went our way,” Saad said.

Just a few minutes later, Richards set up Bickell all alone in the slot to put the Blackhawks up 4-2.Sharp, who had not scored in 19 games since Jan. 28, added a late power-play goal that deflected off defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Hossa had an empty-netter.San Jose now heads off on a seven-game road trip hoping to fight its way back into playoff position. It’s a tense time around the Sharks, who are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2002-03 season and have had to deal with a public spat between Thornton and general manager,and former Hawk, Doug Wilson.After the San Jose Mercury News reported Thursday night that Wilson told season-ticket holders that the reason Thornton was stripped of the captaincy last summer was because he ”lashes out” at teammates when under stress, Thornton said Friday that Wilson needs to ”shut his mouth” and ”stop lying.”

”It’s business as usual,” coach Todd McLellan said. ”You guys know where we are in the standings, we know where we are in standings. It’s about playing hockey and winning. That stuff doesn’t matter, we got to focus.”

The teams traded power-play goals in the second. Keith ended his 18-game drought since Jan. 30 with a blast from the top of the circle to give the Hawks the lead.Later in the period, Thornton’s shot deflected off Brent Seabrook‘s skate and past Crawford for the equalizer.The Sharks dominated play early, getting nine of the first 10 shots on goal and could have been leading except for strong play from Crawford and a disallowed goal when Pavelski was ruled to have interfered with Crawford.But the Blackhawks struck first when Sharp scored on his own rebound to end a 19-game goal drought since Jan. 28.San Jose got the equalizer when Karlsson knocked in the rebound of Matt Irwin‘s shot for his 12th goal.

NOTES—Joakim Nordstrom served the first game of a two-game suspension for a hit on Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson on Thursday. Former Sharks F Andrew Desjardins took his place in the lineup. … Sharks D Matt Irwin returned to the lineup after missing three games with an upper-body injury.

Richards late PP goal carries Hawks past Arizona 2-1

GLENDALE—Two months without a goal weighed heavily on Brad Richards, but when the veteran Blackhawks forward finally found the net, he also reached an impressive milestone.Richards scored a tiebreaking power-play goal with 7:11 left in the third period to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.Richards put in a rebound of Kris Versteeg‘s blocked shot to give him 900 NHL points, ninth best among active players.

”I don’t think I’ve ever gone that long (without a goal). That’ll take a little weight off the shoulders, hopefully.” the 34-year-old Richards said. ”Hard to believe. (The 900 points) means I’m getting older. It’s been a good run, and it was special to do it here with my dad watching.”

The Blackhawks had seven power plays and converted two, including Andrew Shaw‘s first-period goal. Corey Crawford made 17 saves in the win, and Arizona’s Mike Smith stopped 43 shots.

”The best part of the night was the power-play success,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

The Coyotes had a power play for the last 38.5 seconds of the game, and made it a 6-on-4 skating advantage after pulling Smith, but couldn’t force overtime. Tobias Rieder had given Arizona a 1-0 lead early in the first period.The playoff-bound Blackhawks have earned at least one point in six of their last seven games. Arizona has lost 13 of 14.The Coyotes, to the dismay of a huge crowd of vociferous Blackhawks fans, opened the scoring when Rieder scored from the right wing 4:53 in.Rieder scored his 11th goal of the season, the most by a Coyotes rookie since Mikkel Boedker had 11 during the 2008-09 season.That was one of just six first-period shots for the Coyotes.The Blackhawks tied it on Shaw’s power play goal at 8:10. That ended a run of 11 straight penalty kills over three games for Arizona.

”We’re getting opportunities, they’re just not going in for us,” Shaw said. ”It just shows that if you keep working hard and go in on net and charging toward the puck and getting those loose pucks back, it’s going to start going in for us.”

The Hawks had gone five games without a power-play goal until Shaw scored. The Blackhawks got another power play at 11:12 of the first when Smith punched Versteeg, after Versteeg was knocked into Smith in the crease by Arizona’s Mark Arcobello.Smith was given a penalty for roughing, and the Blackhawks came close to a goal twice during the advantage but were rebuffed.The Blackhawks peppered Smith with shots in the second period, too, but couldn’t capitalize even with Smith out of the net around the 9-minute mark of the frame.

”When you traipse them out there on the power play seven times, you’re playing with fire,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. ”Mike allowed us to hang around the game.”

Crawford didn’t face as many shots, but made a number of impressive saves in his first game against the Coyotes this season. The teams split their previous two meetings.

NOTES—Former Coyotes center Antoine Vermette, who was with the team from 2011 until last month before being traded to the Hawks, received a warm reception in his return to Arizona. … Coyotes D Oliver Ekman-Larsson was boarded in the last minute of play by¬† Joakim Nordstrom, but wasn’t hurt seriously and could play Saturday, Tippett said…. A crowd of 17,534 was announced, the third Coyotes home sellout of the season. … NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski attended the game as he is in the area for the Sprint Cup race on Sunday near Phoenix.