Elias Says ...
A daily glance inside the numbers from the world of sports.
A daily glance inside the numbers from the world of sports:
• Why is Gary Bettman smiling? The NHL produced four sensational playoff games Saturday -- with the visiting team winning each one by one goal.
There have been three other days in NHL history in which visiting teams won four playoff games by the minimum margin, but there were either seven or eight games played on each of those days. Saturday marked the first day in league history in which there were at least four playoff games, and the visiting team won by a goal in each game.
• The Penguins trailed in the third period twice in Game 2 (2-1 and 3-2), but teen idols Jordan Staal and Sidney Crosby scored goals a little over two minutes apart in the middle of the final period to give Pittsburgh a 4-3 victory. During the regular season, the Penguins were one of four NHL teams that didn't win a game in regulation time after trailing at any point in the third period.
Ottawa lost five games this season in the regulation 60 minutes after holding a third-period lead. Only Colorado (six) had more losses of that type.
• Pittsburgh's third-period goals were scored by Gary Roberts (age 40), Staal (age 18) and Crosby (age 19). It was the first time in NHL playoff history that a team got goals from a player at least 40 years old and a teenager in the same game -- let alone in the same period! And double let alone goals by two different teenagers!
• Rangers fans had waited 3,616 days for one little old playoff victory before their team won at Atlanta on Thursday night, but they didn't even have to wait 48 hours for another. The visiting New Yorkers defeated the Thrashers 2-1 on Saturday afternoon to take a 2-0 lead in their series.
Brendan Shanahan broke a 1-1 tie by putting the puck past Johan Hedberg with 4:01 to play in the third period. A big goal, certainly, but he's had bigger: His last game-winning goal in the playoffs came in the deciding game of the Stanley Cup Finals for the Red Wings in 2002.
This is the 10th time that the Rangers have taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven playoff series. They have lost only one of those series; in 1968, the Blackhawks dropped the first two games to the Rangers but won the next four.
• Martin St. Louis (one) and Vincent Lecavalier (two) accounted for all three Tampa Bay goals in the Lightning's Game 1 loss, and each player scored a goal Saturday as Tampa Bay evened its series with the Devils with a 3-2 victory at the Meadowlands.
• Jeff Suppan returned to St. Louis and defeated the Cardinals 3-2 for his first victory in a Brewers uniform.
First, the St. Louis angle: The Cardinals became the first defending World Series champion to lose each of its first four home games the following season. Three other defending champs had lost their first three home games: the 1911 Philadelphia Athletics, the 1941 Reds and the 1973 A's (who bounced back from that poor home start to repeat as World Series champs).
Now, the Suppan angle: The pitching star of the Cardinals' 2006 postseason run became the first pitcher in major-league history to earn his first win of a season against the team for which he had started a game in the previous World Series.
• Alex Rodriguez hit his major-league-leading seventh home run of the season at Oakland on Saturday night and became the first player in Yankees history to hit seven home runs within the team's first 10 games of a season.
Previously, the record for the fewest team games needed by a Yankees player to hit seven homers was held by No. 7 himself: Mickey Mantle needed 11 games to accumulate seven home runs in 1961, en route to a career-high total of 54 homers that season.
• Alfonso Soriano struck out in the first inning of Saturday's game, grounded into a double play in the third and, following a single, was picked off second base in the sixth. But in the eighth, his infield single drove in the first of five Cubs runs in that frame, breaking open a close game, and the Cubs went on to blank the Reds 7-0. For Soriano, who had 95 RBIs last season, it was his first of this season.
Soriano's first RBI came in his 43rd at-bat of the season. Over the past 40 years, only four other players coming off seasons of driving in 90-or-more runs had gone as many at-bats into a season before getting their first RBI: Graig Nettles, 43 at-bats without an RBI for the 1977 Yankees; Mike Greenwell, 52 with the 1990 Red Sox; Steve Finley, 46 for Arizona in 2001; and Juan Gonzalez, 57 with the Rangers in 2002.
• The Nationals hit three home runs in their 6-2 win over the Mets, but what really raised eyebrows was Felipe Lopez's steal of second base in the third inning. It was Washington's first stolen base of the season, coming in its 12th game. That's the farthest into a season any National League team has gone without a stolen base since the Pirates failed to steal one in their first 23 games of the 1973 season. (Many AL teams have done it in the interim.)
Here's an amazing number: The 1935 Boston Braves (the final team of Babe Ruth's career, and holders of the worst won-lost record in the National League since 1900 -- 38 wins and 115 losses) -- that team didn't have a steal in its first 50 games that season! (Maybe the Bambino didn't have the green light?) That's the farthest any major-league team has gone into a season without a stolen base.
• The Blue Jays handed B.J. Ryan the ball with a one-run lead to start the ninth inning, but their closer issued three consecutive walks to load the bases and the Tigers wound up scoring four runs to take a 10-7 decision in Toronto. It was the fourth time in his big-league career that Ryan had walked at least three consecutive batters, but the first such instance in nearly five years -- since he passed three straight batters while pitching for the Orioles at Philadelphia on June 16, 2002.
• If shooting accuracy is your thing, you had to love the NBA's seven games Saturday. The combined totals for the seven games: 571 field goals in 1,127 attempts. That's right: NBA players made more field-goal attempts than they missed, shooting 50.7 percent from the floor.
It has been just over 10 years since, on a day with at least this many games played, NBA players made more shots than they missed. The last time was on St. Patrick's Day in 1997, when the league made 50.2 percent of its field-goal attempts in a seven-game schedule.
The last day with seven or more games on which the collective field-goal percentage was as high as it was Saturday was March 24, 1994, when NBA players shot 51.0 percent in seven games.
• Dwight Howard scored 35 points, making 14 of his 15 field-goal attempts, in the Magic's 104-87 victory at Philadelphia, moving Orlando tantalizingly close to a clinching a playoff spot.
With that near-perfect shooting performance in the books, Howard has now made 60.4 percent of his field-goal attempts this season. And with 11 rebounds Saturday, he has 968 rebounds with three games remaining in the regular season.
Howard could become just the second player in NBA history to shoot 60 percent from the floor in a season in which he collects 1,000 rebounds. The other guy to do that -- all together, now -- was Wilt Chamberlain, who had three such seasons (1966-67, 1971-72 and 1972-73).
• Tracy McGrady scored 25 points and was credited with 10 assists while Rafer Alston had 21 points and 13 assists in the Rockets' 123-112 win over the Hornets. They were the first pair of NBA teammates this season to collect 20 points and 10 assists in the same game.
The last Houston teammates to go 20/10 in points and assists in the same game was the unlikely tandem of Allen Leavell (22/13) and Lewis Lloyd (22/11) against the San Diego Clippers in 1984.
• The Grizzlies raised their record to 20-60 by scoring more than 30 points in every quarter en route to a 133-118 win over the Nuggets. And, believe it or not, Saturday night's game wasn't the first one this season in which Memphis had done that; the Grizz did the same thing in a win over the Warriors on Jan. 3.
Strange but true: the team with the poorest record in the NBA is the only NBA team that has had two such games this season.
• Michael Harrington of the Wizards started and scored in the third minute of his MLS debut Saturday night, the second-fastest goal in a player's first MLS match. Josh Wolff scored in the second minute of his debut on May 23, 1998, but Harrington's was the fastest by a player making his MLS debut as a starter. (Wolff was a sub in that 1998 game.)
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