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Mitch's Sports Report: Isles, Leafs Pressure Bruins; Canada Women Advance In World Curling Playoffs

In the NHL, the Boston Bruins were idle last night but two games were played that have an effect on their fortunes, and neither outcome was good for the Black and Gold.

In Columbus the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Blue Jackets 5-2 behind a goal and an assist each from William Nylander and  Leo Komarov, and with that win, the Leafs hop over the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic division, with 83 points to Boston's 82. That slides the Bruins down into the final available wild card playoff berth, and one of the teams vying to take over that spot is the NY Islanders, who were in Madison Square Garden to take on the Rangers. And with the Rangers leading 2-1 in the second period it looked like there was a good chance the Blueshirts would do the Bruins a solid and slow down the Islanders, right? Well, wrong. Of course not. The Islanders tied the game and then won it for good 3-2 on a late third period goal by Andrew Ladd, and now the Isles are a mere two points behind Boston for that wild card playoff entry, and oh, guess who the Bruins play after skating against Tampa Bay tonight? If you guessed those licking their chops Islanders, you're right!

Essentially, the waters of the Atlantic division between third place and the last wild card spot are teeming with sharks from Brooklyn to Tampa Bay to Toronto, and unless the Bruins beat the Lightning tonight, the Bruins are pretty much the chum. It is a must win, have-to-take-two points away game for Boston, at home tonight before they take on the Islanders in Brooklyn. When does baseball season start?

Well, actually, there is baseball to talk about because for the first time ever, the United States has won the World Baseball Classic, beating Puerto Rico last night 8-0 at Dodgers Stadium. Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays was the hero for Team USA. Stroman had a no-hitter going into the 7th inning before it was broken up on a single by Angel Pagan. Stroman was lifted after that by US manager Jim Leyland, who's had to walk a fine line during this tournament making sure pitchers didn't run up their pitch counts and risk injury just before the Major League season begins. The other interesting thing about Stroman is that he is a native of Puerto Rico as well as being a U.S. citizen and could have chosen to play for Puerto Rico, but he opted to represent the U.S. instead and delivered a first ever WBC title in doing so. Ian Kinsler hit a two-run home run in the third inning, and Brandon Crawford added a two-run single in a three-run USA seventh, giving Stroman more than enough runs to work with.

In the NBA the Boston Celtics keep fine tuning their game for the playoffs, which, unlike the city's hockey team, they will cruise into without fear. Isaiah Thomas scored 25 points and Avery Bradley added 18 to go with 8 rebounds as the Celtics beat the Indiana Pacers 109-100 at home, their fifth win in the past six games. The Celtics stay 2 1/2 games ahead of Washington for second place in the East, but are even closer to first in the conference, just one game behind the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

And finally, in Beijing, the Women's World Curling championships are taking place, and team Canada, as you might expect, is so far sweeping away the competition. Canada clinched first place after posting a pair of wins yesterday.

Ottawa’s Rachel Homan opened the day with a 6-4 win over Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg, locking up a berth in the 1-2 playoff game on Friday. The Canadians also took care of the Czech Republic 9-3 to improve to 9-0 and secure a first-place finish in the round robin. Next up is a round-robin against Italy and Denmark, and if Canada wins that round robin they'll secure a spot in the finals on Friday.