Despite all of the controversy surrounding Michigan State athletics, at least one night was celebratory for the Spartans, and that was Tuesday night. The second-ranked team cruised past the Illinois Fighting Illini, 81-61, on Senior Night to clinch at least a share of the regular season Big Ten Title. Miles Bridges scored 19 points and Jeremy Langford added 16, as the sophomore Bridges was also most likely playing his final game at the Breslin Center. Among the three seniors celebrated was Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn Jr., whom Tom Izzo was most emotional about after taking him out for the final time at home. Izzo brought Nairn over to MSU from the Bahamas, and has grown close to the point guard ever since. The coach was in tears as Nairn kissed the Spartan logo at center court. The win was the 11th in a row for Michigan State, who sits a game ahead of the Ohio State Buckeyes, who blew out Rutgers on Tuesday. They used a 12-1 run early in the second half to pull away for good, after Illinois kept things close in the first 20 minutes. Leron Black led the Illini with 20 points as they fell to 3-13 in conference play. They will hope to turn things around, but things stay tough when they host the ninth-ranked Purdue Boilermakers on Thursday night. The Spartans will end their season on Sunday when they visit the Wisconsin Badgers.
Lightning Double-Up Capitals in Battle of First Place Teams
The Tampa Bay Lightning got the best of the battle of first-place teams that are clinging on to the top spot in their respective divisions in the Eastern Conference. Brayden Point scored twice on Tuesday night to lift the Lightning past the Washington Capitals, 4-2, on the road. Both of Point's goals came in the first period, while Chris Kunitz also found the back of the net in the opening 20 minutes to give his team a 3-0 lead. That was enough support for goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who stopped 35 shots for his league-leading 35th win of the season. Nikita Kucherov clinched things for Tampa Bay with a breakaway goal with 7:02 remaining in the game after the Capitals scored twice to make things interesting. Part of that attempted comeback was Alex Ovechkin's NHL-leading 36th goal, which made it a one-goal game with 11:02 to play. Lars Eller also added a power-play goal for Washington, who stays a point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division. They will hit the road on Thursday night to take on the Florida Panthers. The Lightning take their NHL-best 40-17-3 record to Ottawa on Thursday to battle the Senators.
Bruins Keep Pace With Another Win
Right behind the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division are the surging Boston Bruins, who continued to regroup after a tough loss in Vancouver this past weekend. They won their second straight, 3-2, over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night, remaining a point behind the Lightning for first place in the Atlantic Division. David Krejci was the hero on Tuesday with the game-winning goal to break a tie with 1:04 to play in regulation. Noel Acciari and Matt Grzelcyk also scored for Boston, who has won seven of their past nine games. They rallied from a 2-0 deficit on the road Tuesday night by scoring all three of their goals in the third period. The Oilers are going in the opposite direction, as, with Tuesday's loss, they have dropped seven of their past eight. Ryan Strome and Jujhar Khaira both found the back of the net for Edmonton, who got off to a hot start despite getting out-shot, 13-2, in the opening period. The struggling Oilers move on to Thursday when they play host to the Colorado Avalanche, who also rallied for an overtime win over the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night. The Bruins look to keep the pressure on Tampa Bay when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs in an Original Six showdown on Saturday.