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In brief: New York Rangers clinch playoff spot on third try

Derek Stepan is congratulated by teammates Marc Staal, center, and Dan Girardi after a goal in a playoff clinching win. (Jay LaPrete / Associated Press)
Derek Stepan is congratulated by teammates Marc Staal, center, and Dan Girardi after a goal in a playoff clinching win. (Jay LaPrete / Associated Press)
From staff and wire reports

NHL: The New York Rangers needed three tries before finally getting the win that clinched a postseason berth.

Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan each scored their 20th goals and had an assist, and the Rangers hung on to win at Columbus 4-2 Monday night to earn a sixth-consecutive playoff spot.

“It’s tough to get to the dance,” New York coach Alain Vigneault said. “People don’t realize how hard it is to be able to get an opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup. We finally got our checkmark.”

Dan Boyle and Mats Zuccarello also scored for the Rangers, who snapped a three-game skid and moved three points behind second-place Pittsburgh. They remain two points ahead of the fourth-place Islanders in the Metropolitan Division.

Nick Foligno scored twice for Columbus, which pulled within one with 9:15 remaining before conceding an empty-net goal.

Foligno cut the lead to 2-1 at 14:41 of the second period but four minutes later, Kreider forced a turnover to create an odd-man break and found Zuccarello, who scored from the slot for his career-high 26th goal to make it 3-1.

Tortorella said Zuccarello’s goal was the most important play of the game.

“We got a little unlucky,” he said. “I thought (Ryan Murray) played the 2-on-1, made a great block but it comes right back to Zuccarello and he puts it in the net. We need to get out of that period 2-1.”

Blues tied in West: At St. Louis, Vladimir Tarasenko’s 37th goal midway through the third period was the go-ahead score for the Blues, who scored five straight goals in a 5-2 victory over Arizona to tie for first place in the Western Conference.

The Blues and Stars each have 105 points, also tied for the Central Division lead, with two games to play. Dallas holds the tiebreaker with more regulation wins.

Miller saves Canucks: Jared McCann scored the winner in the second period, Ryan Miller made 40 saves, 20 in the third period, and Vancouver beat visiting Los Angeles 3-2 .

Emerson Etem and Jannik Hansen also scored and Vancouver got its first three-game winning streak this season.

Islanders top Lightning: At New York, John Tavares got his 30th goal and two assists, and the Islanders scored three times in a 5:15 span to get a crucial 5-2 victory over Tampa Bay.

New York holds the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot and won for the third time in four games to reduce its magic number to two over Boston to secure a third straight postseason berth.

Stamkos has surgery: Lightnings captain Steven Stamkos has had surgery to remove a blood clot from near his right collarbone and is expected to miss 1 to 3 months.

Dr. Karl Illig said in a statement released by the team: “Everything went as expected for Steven. We plan to re-evaluate him in about two weeks and we should know more about his prognosis at that time.”

Stamkos has 36 goals and 64 points in 77 games.

D-II champs complete perfect season

COLLEGE WOMEN: Kelsey Hoppel scored 27 points, Nicole Hampton nearly had a quadruple-double and Lubbock Christian beat Alaska Anchorage 78-73 in Indianapolis for the Division II women’s basketball title.

The seniors combined for 28 of the Lady Chaps’ 38 second-half points after they redshirted last year so they would be eligible for the school’s first year of postseason NCAA eligibility.

Hampton had 22 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and seven steals and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Hoppel made four 3-pointers and collected three assists and six steals on her way to the all-tournament team.

Led by its dynamic duo, Lubbock Christian (35-0) finished off the third perfect season ever in Division II.

Alaska (38-3) was led by Megan Mullings, who had 23 points and 12 rebounds.

Thomas More defends D-III title: Abby Owings scored 17 points to lead Thomas More to its second consecutive Division III championship with a 63-51 win over Tufts (28-4) in Indianapolis.

Sydney Moss added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Saints, who completed an undefeated season at 33-0.

Arizona hires Husky assistant: Arizona has hired former player Adia Barnes as its next women’s basketball coach.

Barnes replaces Niya Butts, who was not retained after eight years as the Wildcats’ coach.

Barnes is Arizona’s all-time leading scorer and was the Pac-12 Player of the Year in 1997-98. She went on to play 12 seasons in the WNBA, winning a WNBA championship with Seattle in 2004. She spent the past five seasons as an assistant at Washington.

Messi investiagated for off-shore account

MISCELLANY: Spanish tax authorities said they are investigating allegations of tax irregularities involving soccer player Lionel Messi after documents released by an international probe of offshore accounts.

Messi’s family released a statement denying wrongdoing and threatened to sue media outlets that released the information linking the Argentine player to accounts in Panama. Barcelona said it was supporting Messi and his family.

The soccer star was among those named in reports by international media who received a vast trove of data and documents leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which specializes in creating offshore accounts that allegedly can be used to avoid tax.

Last year, Spanish authorities charged Messi and his father with three counts of tax fraud for allegedly defrauding Spain’s tax office of 4.1 million euros ($4.6 million) in unpaid taxes from 2007-09. They will stand trial in late May and potentially face nearly two years in prison if found guilty.

U.S. women win hockey gold: Alex Carpenter scored at 12:40 of overtime to lift the United States over Canada 1-0 to win the women’s world hockey championship in Kamloops, British Columbia.

Alex Rigsby made 32 saves for the U.S. The Americans have won the past three world championships and seven of the last nine overall.

The U.S. and Canada have met in every final of the 17 women’s world championships to date.

Duke freshman leaving: Brandon Ingram has made it official – he’s the latest one-and-done player to come through Duke.

The freshman announced his decision in a first-person story posted on the Players’ Tribune website.

He is the seventh Duke freshman since 2011 to head to the NBA. Ingram averaged 17.3 points, matching the third-highest average by a Duke freshman in school history.

Chelsea hires coach: Antonio Conte will take charge of Chelsea after completing his spell as Italy coach at the European Championship.

Chelsea announced that the 46-year-old Italian signed a three-year contract to become head coach of the London club. Euro 2016, which starts June 10, is to finish on July 10.

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