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Mikko Rantanen starts season with two goals

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DENVER — Mikko Rantanen missed training camp and the preseason, yet showed he hasn’t missed a beat after a summer of uncertainty.

Rantanen had two goals less than a week after agreeing to a contract with Colorado, Joonas Donskoi scored twice in his debut and the Avalanche beat the Calgary Flames 5-3 on Thursday night.

It capped a wild few days and nearly 5,000 miles of travel for the 22-year-old Rantanen.

“Everything happened really quick. I got a call last Saturday and now I’m here,” Rantanen said. “It’s already been four or five days and played the first game, too. I felt surprisingly good; it’s probably going to take a couple of games to get fresh legs.”

Rantanen was a restricted free agent heading into the summer and he remained in his native Finland while contract negations dragged on through training camp. The parties finally agreed to a six-year, $55.5 million deal on Saturday night and Rantanen joined the team on Sunday, four days before the start of the season.

He had career highs in goals (31) and assists (56) in 74 games last season playing mostly with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog on Colorado’s top line. He didn’t get to work with the team until Monday, but was sharp in more than 18 minutes of ice time against the Flames.

“As soon as I watched him practice for two days, I knew he was going to pick up where he left off,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “He came in and practiced and it looked easy for him.”

Rantanen scored a go-ahead goal in the first period and added the eventual decisive score on the power play late in the second period, minutes after J.T. Compher gave Colorado a 3-2 lead.

Mark Giordano scored 16 seconds after Rantanen’s second goal but the Flames couldn’t overcome early penalties. Calgary had three in the first period and Colorado had two goals on six power-play chances overall.

“They got a lot of momentum and their top players got a lot of touches early,” Giordano said of penalties. “It carried on for a while. I thought after the midway point of the game we did a better job. When we were 5-on-5 we were very good.”

Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan each had a goal and an assist for Calgary. David Rittich had 26 saves for the Flames, who started the season the same way last season ended — with a loss.

The Avalanche defeated Calgary in the first round of last season’s playoffs, beating the Western Conference’s top seed in five games.

Donskoi got Colorado off to a quick start with a power-play goal 5:59 in, and the teams traded goals the rest of the period.

Gaudreau’s goal 1:50 into the second period tied it and Donskoi scored into an empty net with 1:09 left in the third. Donskoi also helped the Flames when Monahan’s shot deflected off of his stick and in for Calgary’s first goal.

He made up for it with a strong debut after signing with the Avalanche on July 1.

“It felt amazing. I’ve been waiting for this moment all summer,” Donskoi said. “There were a lot of emotions.”

Colorado goalie Philipp Grubauer had 26 saves.

NOTES: Calgary LW Milan Lucic was given a game misconduct late in the second period. … The Flames announced Thursday they had signed general manager Brad Treliving to a multi-year contract extension. Treliving is in his sixth year as the club’s GM. … Avalanche D Conor Timmins made his NHL debut Thursday night. He was Colorado’s second round pick in the 2017 draft. Fellow defenceman Cale Makar had an assist in his first regular-season game. Makar played in 10 playoff games last spring.

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Flames: Hosts Vancouver in their home opener Saturday night.

Avalanche: Host the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.LOS ANGELES — Walker Buehler allowed one hit over six scoreless innings, Max Muncy drove in three runs and the Los Angeles Dodgers capitalized on mistakes to beat the Washington Nationals 6-0 in Game 1 of their NL Division Series on Thursday night.

Buehler struck out eight, walked three and retired his final seven batters after earning the start over veterans Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu, whose 2.32 ERA was lowest in the majors this season.

“He set the tone for us,” Muncy said about Buehler. “He was pounding the zone.”

Dodgers rookie Gavin Lux and Joc Pederson slugged pinch-hit solo homers in the eighth.

Nationals first baseman Howie Kendrick had two grounders roll under his glove, the second leading to the Dodgers’ second run in the fifth.

Washington’s Patrick Corbin stumbled through a rocky first inning. He issued four walks, joining Art Reinhart of the St. Louis Cardinals as the only pitchers to walk that many in the first inning they ever pitched in the post-season.

Reinhart walked four — including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig — in the fifth inning of Game 4 of the 1926 World Series against the Yankees.

Corbin walked three in a row with two outs in the 31-pitch inning. Yan Gomes was charged with a passed ball, too, and Muncy drew a free pass with the bases loaded to put the Dodgers in front.

“We didn’t play very well today,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said.

Corbin gave up two runs — one earned — and three hits in six innings. The left-hander struck out nine and finished with five walks.

Cody Bellinger walked with two outs and scored on an error by Kendrick in the fifth that made it 2-0. Third baseman Anthony Rendon made a diving stop on Chris Taylor’s single down the line, but his throw to first wasn’t in time and Bellinger went to third.

Muncy’s grounder rolled through Kendrick’s legs for an error, scoring Bellinger, and Taylor got thrown out at the plate to end the inning.

In the fourth, Muncy singled leading off. Corey Seager followed with a hit that got past a diving Kendrick at first and rolled into right, sending Muncy to third. But then Corbin settled down and retired the next three batters to end the inning.

The Nationals loaded the bases in the fourth on three walks by Buehler. He escaped when Asdrubal Cabrera tapped the ball back to the mound and Buehler flipped to first to end the inning.

Juan Soto, who had the key hit in the wild-card win over Milwaukee, singled in the second and Trea Turner singled in the ninth off Joe Kelly for the Nationals’ only hits.

It was a quiet offensive night for each team’s MVP contender. Rendon, who hit .319 in the regular season, went 0 for 2 with two strikeouts and a walk. Bellinger, a .305 hitter, struck out twice and walked twice.

It was the fourth shutout in games between the teams this season, and third by the Dodgers.

Los Angeles won its eighth in a row dating to the regular season. Washington’s nine-game winning streak, including the wild-card victory, ended.

IN THE CROWD

Magic Johnson and Billie Jean King, part of the Dodgers’ ownership group, shared a box with principal owner Mark Walter, Sandy Koufax and Tom Lasorda. … Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, former Dodger Matt Kemp, former Dodgers manager Joe Torre and actor Jason Bateman attended.

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Coming off the first relief appearance of his career, Washington RHP Stephen Strasburg will start Game 2 against Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw on Friday. Strasburg tossed three shutout innings in a dramatic wild-card victory over Milwaukee. He’s under no limitations returning two days later. “My arm’s felt great all year,” Strasburg said. He would be available to return on normal rest for a potential Game 5 next Wednesday in Los Angeles. By starting Kershaw in Game 2, the Dodgers could possibly use him out of the bullpen if Game 5 is necessary.

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Kipchoge shoes spark backlash

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Early Saturday morning, Eliud Kipchoge became the first person to run under two hours for the marathon. The run accomplished something that many believed to be years away from happening, but this accomplishment has been met with criticism from some experts and spectators in the running community.

There are some who believe that Kipchoge’s attempt was too calculated, too contrived and too much about the shoes. Ross Tucker and Steve Magness are two running experts who have expressed that they believe this accomplishment is about leaps in technology as opposed to leaps in raw marathoning ability. Even Yannis Pitsiladis, who was one of the main scientists behind the initial sub-two push, said to The Times that he couldn’t get behind Saturday’s run, calling it “meaningless.”

Pitsiladis said, “I think it’s all about the shoe now. My life has been dedicated to the sports integrity, but this is the complete opposite. My advisors tell me not to be negative when I talk about this, but it’s not about being negative, it’s about being accurate.”

Magness pointed out in a series of tweets that a jump like this has to be attributed to technology. “That’s not taking away from Kipchoge, but the marathon has taken a quantum leap in the last couple of years thanks to changes in shoe technology. The same athletes who were running roughly 2:04 to 2:05 three to four years ago are now running significantly faster. We saw it with Kipchoge. We just saw it with Bekele. More will follow. Should the shoes be banned? Most likely.”

The IAAF has banned shoes before. The organization’s shoe rules are as follows: “Athletes may compete barefoot or with footwear on one or both feet. The purpose of shoes for competition is to give protection and stability to the feet and a firm grip on the ground. Such shoes, however, must not be constructed so as to give athletes any unfair assistance or advantage.”

They continue, “Athletes may not use any appliance, either inside or outside the shoe, which will have the effect of increasing the thickness of the sole above the permitted maximum, or which can give the wearer any advantage which he would not obtain from the type of shoe described in the previous paragraphs.”

Kipchoge wore a speciality shoe for the marathon on Saturday. This shoe isn’t available to the public, and it wasn’t even given to his 41 pacers. Kipchoge’s shoe was more built-up than previous Vaporflys. The midsole was still cushioned with a carbon-fibre plate and Nike’s ZoomX foam, but there was also a new compartment in the front of the shoe.

Kipchoge shoes spark

Runner’s World reported on an interesting discussion of the shoe on the Believe in the Run site, published last week, who found a 2018 patent application by Nike for something that looks a lot like what Kipchoge wore on Saturday. While cautioning that we can’t be certain this is what he wore, it’s worth taking a closer look at the technology in the patent-application shoe (which Nike calls the alphaFLY), since it goes far beyond either the Vaporfly 4% or the NEXT% (which was worn by the 41 pacers during the run). Not only is the foam midsole more built-up–it contains as many as three layers of carbon-fibre plates, and there are also two stacked chambers in the forefoot which may be filled with air, fluid or foam (or some combination thereof). The site refers to this arrangement as a “club sandwich” of cushioning, and compares the effect to that of a diving board.

It’s hard to quantify exactly how much the shoe is giving to the runner, but based on the volume of criticism, the Nike shoe could face serious scrutiny in the near future.

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Maple Leafs send Rasmus Sandin to the Marlies, recall Kevin Gravel

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Kyle Dubas never takes a day off. Even Thanksgiving. While you are busy prepping your dinner, he made a swap of defenceman with the Marlies. Rasmus Sandin has been sent down to the AHL while they have called up Kevin Gravel.

Kevin Gravel is a 27 year-old, 6’4 left shooting defenceman. He was drafted in 2010 and has appeared in 106 NHL games over that time for both the Kings and Oilers. He has played in three games for the Marlies so far this season.

Rasmus Sandin is the top prospect for the team right now. He’s been used in limited minutes so far this season by Mike Babcock.

Sandin is waiver exempt and could be recalled at any time. Kevin Gravel cleared waivers and will now remain waiver exempt for nine NHL games played or 29 days on the NHL roster.

The move creates more LTIR room — there should be just under $400,000 when the assignments are final — but was not necessary to allow the eventual recall to active duty of Travis Dermott. It is worth noting, that at $700,000 in AAV, Gravel is the lowest-cost defender after Justin Holl.

Sandin has now accrued six NHL games played. More than three more, and this season will “burn a year” of his ELC and it will not slide. If he stays in the AHL, his contract will expire in 2023 instead of 2022. If the assignment to the AHL is permanent, or is meant to last at least until the NHL trade deadline, we should expect to see Sandin loaned in December to the Swedish national team for the World Junior Championship.

Sandin had a highly successful season with the Marlies in 2018-19, earning 28 points in 44 games, most of that time as only an 18 year-old.

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The Marlies’ next game is Wednesday. The Leafs play the Wild at home tomorrow.

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Flames losing to Vegas Golden Knights

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LAS VEGAS — If you make at least two trips each year to Sin City, you’ve gotta win eventually.

Right?

That’s certainly what the Calgary Flames are hoping.

After Saturday’s 6-2 thumping from the Vegas Golden Knights, the Flames are now winless in five all-time visits to T-Mobile Arena, home to a skilled and speedy team that always seems to get a boost from a boisterous and boozy crowd.

There are other NHL squads that have never picked up two points on The Strip, but not with so many cracks at it.

The Flames are the only Pacific Division posse that has never left Vegas a winner.

They have scored a grand total of six goals in this raucous rink. They have allowed 21.

This could be their new Anaheim.

“We didn’t play hard enough,” seethed Flames head coach Bill Peters after Saturday’s shellacking. “Until we start to play hard, and play hard for 60 minutes, it’s going to be up in the air all night long or you’re going to get blown out. We’ve got to develop a little bit of a work ethic here.

“We’re disappointed the way we’ve played. We haven’t played hard enough. We’re well aware we haven’t played hard enough and we haven’t played hard enough on a consistent basis.”

The Golden Knights’ fifth goal Saturday really summed up this evening.

A pair of Flames forwards, Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski, crashed into each other in the defensive zone and both tumbled to the ice.

Amidst that chaos, Rasmus Andersson’s breakout pass missed the target.

Moments later, fourth-line thumper Ryan Reaves squeaked a shot through the five-hole on what should have been a routine stop for David Rittich.

This 24-save showing was Rittich’s worst performance of the fall. He had company.

“If you make mistakes against a team like that, they’re going to punish you. And that’s what they did,” Andersson said, taking the blame for Reaves’ goal. “We have moments where we’re really good, but we haven’t really found our game for 60 minutes yet.”

Tomas Nosek, Mark Stone, William Carrier, Paul Stastny and Cody Glass also rippled twine for the Golden Knights, while Andersson and Johnny Gaudreau were the only guys who could solve Marc-Andre Fleury at the other end.

The Flames insisted that a solid start would be key to snapping out of their Sin City skid, but the hosts managed to crank the volume just 3:24 in, with a crease-crashing Nosek cleaning up the leftovers as Rittich searched for the puck after a save on Carrier’s initial effort.

Andersson evened it up early in the middle stanza, jumping into the attack and ripping a short-side shot past Marc-Andre Fleury on a two-on-one rush.

Only 33 seconds later, Gaudreau tried to thread a pass to linemate Elias Lindholm, but a back-checking William Karlsson instead deflected the puck into the back of his net.

That lead lasted barely two minutes before Stone — his older brother, Michael, patrols the blue-line for the Flames — swatted home his own rebound for the equalizer.

It was all Golden Knights from then on.

The locals pulled ahead on Carrier’s top-shelf backhander, then started to pull away when Stastny found the five-hole for a marker that could cost Rittich a few winks of sleep.

Reaves’ third-period strike, which completed a hat-trick for the Golden Knights’ fourth line, wasn’t any better. The late goal by Glass glanced off Calgary’s captain Mark Giordano.

“I think we started playing the right way for a couple of minutes, and we got rewarded for it, and then we went kind of back to cheating for offence,” said Flames off-season addition Milan Lucic. “And once we started turning the puck over and not covering up, we gave up some odd-man rushes and it ends up in the back of our net. You know, it’s one of those games early on that you can learn a lot from, and that’s what we need to do with a quick turnaround.”

Backup netminder Cam Talbot will be between the pipes as the Flames cap this three-game roadie with Sunday’s clash against the Sharks in San Jose (8 p.m. MT, Sportsnet One/Sportsnet 960 The Fan).

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