Wild rallies again
VANCOUVER, May 9 (UPI) -- The Minnesota Wild made NHL history Thursday night with a 4-2 win over Vancouver in the deciding game of their conference semifinals.
Minnesota became the first team to rally from three games to one deficits twice in the same playoff year. Pascal Dupuis scored twice as Minnesota stormed back from a two-goal deficit to join the 1971 Montreal Canadiens as the only teams to win a pair of Game 7's on the road.
In just their third year in the NHL and in their first playoff appearance, the Wild will face another unlikely conference finalist, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, for the right to play for the Stanley Cup. The series begins Saturday in Minnesota.
It was a shocking end for the Canucks, who were in total control before a bad bounce late in the second period. Vancouver had also overcome a three games to one deficit in the first round against the St. Louis Blues.
Dupuis started the Wild's comeback with 4 1/2 minutes to go in the second. Wes Walz tied it just over eight minutes into the third and Darby Hendrickson put Minnesota in front with 5:12 remaining.
Dupuis scored again on the power play less than three minutes later, silencing GM Place.
Mavericks show offensive side
DALLAS, May 9 (UPI) -- An overwhelming first half Thursday night allowed Dallas to draw even with the Sacramento Kings, who could have lost more than a game.
The Detroit Pistons, meanwhile, took command of their conference semifinal series with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Nick Van Exel led a second-quarter explosion and scored 36 points as the Mavericks tied up their their Western Conference semifinal series at one game each with a record-setting, 132-110 victory over the Kings.
Sacramento suffered a potentially critical blow when All-Star forward Chris Webber injured his left knee in the third quarter. He had to be helped off the court and will have an MRI Friday.
Although the NBA's best offensive teams were expected to play a high-scoring series, no one could have anticipated this. The teams tied a playoff record for points in a first quarter and Dallas broke the mark for points in a first half.
Dallas led at the intermission, 83-61.
At a breakneck pace, no one was better than Van Exel, a small guard who occasionally has a big mouth but who usually comes through in big games. He scored 26 points in Game 7 of the first round against Portland and was the most outspoken Maverick after their discouraging home loss to Sacramento in Game 1.
Van Exel scored 13 points in a 30-7 spurt that looked like a clinic in transition basketball. On consecutive possessions, he made three 3-pointers in a span of 80 seconds. Dallas made 11 straight shots at one point.
The outburst turned a 44-40 lead after one quarter into a blowout. Van Exel's basket with 3:50 left capped the run and made it 74-47.
In Auburn Hills, rookie Tayshaun Prince forced overtime with 4.2 seconds left, then scored seven points in the extra session to lift Detroit to a 104-97 victory over the 76ers and a 2-0 lead in their series.
A first-round pick who played sparingly during the season, Prince has seen increased playing time in the postseason. His 6-9 frame makes him a tough matchup for opposing guards, as Aaron McKie and Greg Buckner found out.
Prince had 20 points while making eight of 13 shots and grabbed nine rebounds. He got a chance to play in place of injured guard Chauncey Billups, who sat out with a sprained ankle.
He had a chance to be a hero after Allen Iverson uncharacteristically missed two free throws with 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter, leaving Philadelphia with a 92-90 lead.
Starting from the right wing against Buckner, Prince dribbled into the lane and spun toward the hoop for the tying layup. Eric Snow shot an airball on a three-point attempt at the buzzer.
The Pistons set an NBA record by going 8-0 in overtime during the regular season, including one against the 76ers. They never trailed in the extra session as Prince opened the period with another inside hoop against McKie and a three-pointer that beat the shot clock.
Philadelphia cut the deficit to 100-97 and could have tied it, but McKie missed a three-pointer with 35 seconds to go. On the next possession, Prince backed down McKie and put in another soft lefthanded hook to seal it with 14 seconds remaining.
Mike Shula hired by Crimson Tide
TUSCALOOSA, Ala., May 9 (UPI) -- The University of Alabama announced Thursday night it had hired Mike Shula to help restore prestige to the school's sullied football program.
Shula, an assistant with the Miami Dolphins and a former quarterback of the Crimson Tide, became the successor to Mike Price and was given a six-year contract worth $900,000 per year.
"Mike (Shula) brings a mixture of youth and experience to our program while at the same time, a 15-year career in the NFL has prepared him for the step he is taking today," Alabama Athletic Director Hal Moore said. "It was that mix of enthusiasm, experience and ties to the University of Alabama that made Mike the perfect fot for this job."
On Saturday, Alabama made the stunning decision to fire Price before he even coached a game for the school. Price was unable to defuse the controversy surrounding his off-the-field behavior, which included a visit to a topless bar and unusual charges to a hotel bill.
While Price had no previous ties to Alabama when he was hired away from Washington State last December, Shula quarterbacked the Crimson Tide from 1983-86 and was a starter each of his last three seasons.
At a school where traditions run deep, finding a coach with Alabama roots emerged as an essential requirement.
Shula is the son of former Dolphins coach Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history. He becomes the third Alabama coach in less than a year.
Price replaced Dennis Franchione, who left abruptly to become coach at Texas A&M and -- like Price -- had no previous ties to Alabama.
Empire Maker to skip Preakness
BALTIMORE, May 9 (UPI) -- Kentucky Derby pre-race favorite and eventual runner-up Empire Maker will skip the Preakness on May 17.
"He's not running," trainer Bobby Frankel said.
Empire Maker was the overwhelming favorite heading into Derby week, but he favored his right front foot following a Tuesday jog and finished second to Funny Cide, the first gelding in 74 years to win the "Run for the Roses."
Frankel will point the horse toward the Belmont Stakes in New York on June 7. The decision ended a week of waffling by Frankel and the colt's owner, Juddmonte Farms, on whether to enter the horse.
Frankel said he would decide by Monday on whether to run Peace Rules or Midas Eyes in the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course. The horses have the same owner, Edmund Gann, so Frankel will run only one of them, depending on, "who is training better."
Peace Rules was third in the Kentucky Derby and Midas Eyes won the Derby Trial on April 26.
Without Empire Maker, the Preakness field currently stands at six, which would be the smallest since Spectacular Bid won in a five-horse field in 1979.
Astros win seventh straight
HOUSTON, May 9 (UPI) -- Geoff Blum had three more hits Thursday in helping the Houston Astros win their seventh straight, 6-2 over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Adam Everett also contributed a a two-run double. Houston completed its second four-game sweep of the Pirates in as many seasons while outscoring Pittsburgh, 37-16.
Pittsburgh has lost 23 of 28 games at Minute Maid Park since the facility opened four years ago.
Blum was three for three with a walk and an RBI single in the third inning. The third baseman is seven for seven with a walk and a sacrifice fly in his last nine plate appearances.
Blum and Bagwell had run-scoring singles in the third inning and Craig Biggio added an RBI double in the seventh.
Brian Giles had a two-run double in the first for Pittsburgh, which has lost a season-worst six straight games.
Other National League results: Cincinnati 8, St. Louis 6; San Francisco 3, Florida 2; Montreal 12, San Diego 5; Los Angeles 6, New York 1. Atlanta swept a double header from Colorado, 12-6 and 5-2.
Anderson drives in seven runs
ANAHEIM, May 9 (UPI) -- Garret Anderson hit a grand slam and drove in seven runs Thursday night as Anaheim cruised past the Cleveland Indians, 7-1.
The Angels completed their first home sweep of the Indians since April 20-22, 1993 and sent Cleveland to its ninth straight road loss.
Anderson produced the game's first run with a first-inning single off Jason Davis (2-4), who had his 23rd birthday spoiled.
After the Indians tied it in the second on John McDonald's bloop single off Kevin Appier (2-2), Anderson put the Angels ahead for good in the third with a groundout that plated Adam Kennedy.
Anderson blew open the game in the fifth. Davis started the inning by hitting David Eckstein and walking Kennedy. Tim Salmon hit a ground ball that deflected off Davis' right hand to load the bases and Anderson sent the rookie's 2-0 offering over the wall in right-center field.
It was Anderson's sixth career grand slam and fifth homer of the season.
Other American League results: Toronto 8, Texas 6; Oakland 8, Chicago 5; Minnesota 5, Tampa Bay 0; New York 16, Seattle 5. Baltimore's game at Kansas City was rained out and will be made up as part of a Friday double header.
Price, Couples share lead
They both shot a 6-under 66 in the first round over the revamped Quail Hollow Club course, adding to what has been an excellent year for 40-something golfers.
Couples, who ended a six-year victory drought two weeks ago in Houston, is 43. Price, the 99th player to be voted into the Hall of Fame, is 46. Price will defend his 2002 Colonial title in two weeks amid the circus of Annika Sorenstam's appearance on the PGA Tour.
Price chipped in twice, once for par, and needed only 20 putts.
Michigan still banned from bowls
INDIANAPOLIS, May 9 (UPI) -- The men's basketball program at Michigan has been banned from postseason play for another year.
Under a ruling issued by the NCAA Thursday, the school also faces a reduction in scholarships.
The ruling comes more than seven years after the NCAA began an investigation into rules violations committed when former booster Ed Martin paid men's basketball players $616,000.
The one-time Detroit autoworker, who died in mid-February, admitted loaning the money to Chris Webber, Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock, who played for the Wolverines in the 1990s.
Under the NCAA ruling, the Wolverines will be prohibited from playing in the postseason for the 2003-04 season, lose four scholarships over a four-year period, and get four years of probation that will conclude in November 2006.
It also requires the university to disassociate the four players involved for 10 years or show cause why such an action should not be taken.
Americans draw with Mexico
HOUSTON, May 9 (UPI) -- The United States and Mexico battled to a 0-0 tie Thursday night before a pro-Mexico sellout crowd of 69,582 at Reliant Stadium.
The draw left the United States at 3-1-1 this year, although it has not lost to Mexico since 2001. The Americans are 5-1-1 in the last seven matches against the Mexicans under coach Bruce Arena.
While this was a friendly match, it had a serious tone. Mexico, still smarting from a loss in the World Cup round of 16 last year, stocked its roster with several top talents from the Mexican League.
Only Jared Borghetti and Pavel Pardo were unable to suit up due to lingering injuries received in a friendly against Brazil just over a week ago.
Coach Ricardo La Volpe had promised a more attacking style and with Monterrey's Jesus Arelleno playing at midfield instead of his usual forward role, that is what Mexico delivered.
Nadeau condition improves
CONCORD, N.C., May 9 (UPI) -- NASCAR Winston Cup veteran Jerry Nadeau was upgraded from serious-but-stable to fair condition and removed from intensive care Thursday.
The announcement came almost a week after he suffered life-threatening injuries in a crash.
Nadeau was in critical condition after sustaining head, lung and rib injuries during a practice crash Friday for the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
The 32-year-old Nadeau was taken to Virginia Commonwealth University's Medical College, where on Thursday he was moved from the intensive care unit to a private room.
Doctors said Nadeau's vital signs are normal and he continues to show improvement, according to a statement from Nadeau's spokesman.
Nadeau was hurt when the back end of his Pontiac Grand Prix got loose and spun, hitting the wall with the driver's side of the vehicle between turns 1 and 2.
Capriati warming up for French Open
BERLIN, May 9 (UPI) -- Fourth-seeded Jennifer Capriati rolled into the German Open quarterfinals Thursday with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Nathalie Dechy of France.
In preparation for the French Open, Capriati will seek her fifth successive semifinal appearance when she faces Russian Elena Likhovtseva, who rallied to beat Magui Serna of Spain, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
The 26-year-old American has suffered from poor health this season. Capriati started the year with opening-round losses in Sydney and the Australian Open while recovering from eye surgery to remove sunspots. She reached the final at Miami but withdrew from Charleston due to strep throat.
Playing her first WTA Tour event in more than a month, the top-seeded Kim Clijsters recovered from a 2-5 deficit in the first set and ousted Colombian qualifier Fabiola Zuluaga, 7-5, 6-3.