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Alex Pietrangelo lifts defending champs past Leafs

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The Toronto Maple Leafs gave the defending Stanley Cup champions all they could handle for long stretches Monday.

And the St. Louis Blues responded with what won them their rings last June — in the end, they found a way.

Alex Pietrangelo scored the winner in the third period and Jordan Binnington was stellar in making 32 saves as St. Louis downed Toronto 3-2.

The Leafs held a 77-51 edge in shot attempts and jumped into a 2-1 lead when Frederik Gauthier and William Nylander scored 24 seconds apart in the second period. But the Blues stayed with their tried and true formula of patience and persistence.

St. Louis got an equalizer 47.3 seconds before the intermission and then ground out the victory over the game’s final 12 minutes after Pietrangelo put the visitors ahead.

“Good teams find a way to win,” Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said. “They found a way to get one and we didn’t.”

Oskar Sundqvist and Brayden Schenn had the other goals for St. Louis (2-0-1).

Toronto (2-1-1) got 27 saves from Frederik Andersen, who returned to the crease after watching his team blow a 4-1 third-period lead in Saturday’s 6-5 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the second game of a back-to-back.

“We played pretty good,” Andersen said. “Unfortunately it didn’t go our way.”

Pietrangelo records 400th point of his career

The visitors snapped that 2-2 deadlock at 7:51 of the third when David Perron found a pinching Pietrangelo, and he beat a down-and-out Andersen from a tight angle.

The goal was the second of the season for the Blues captain, the 400th point of his career and his 23rd game-winner to break a tie with Al MacInnis for the most by a defenceman in franchise history.

“We’re playing with a lot more movement,” Pietrangelo said. “We did that in the second half of [last season]. We’re moving a lot more on the blue line, we’ve got defencemen that can make plays.

“The more movement we have, the better we are.”

St. Louis had a chance to put the game away when Toronto defenceman Jake Muzzin was penalized for slashing with 4:57 left in regulation, but the Leafs had the best opportunity when Binnington robbed Ilya Mikheyev with his right pad off the rush.

Toronto pressed with Andersen on the bench for the extra attacker, but couldn’t find a way past Binnington and the Blues’ stout, playoff-tested defence.

“The boys have been battling,” said Binnington, a native of nearby Richmond Hill, Ont., who had dozens of family and friends in the stands for his first start at Scotiabank Arena. “That was another good comeback victory.”

‘A save I’ve got to have’

The Blues opened the scoring at 8:30 of the second when Sundqvist — the Blues’ fourth-line centre — moved in on Andersen and blasted a slapshot that Leafs defenceman Tyson Barrie tried to block with his stick.

“I wanted to make that save,” Andersen said. “But if you’ve ever stopped a hockey puck you’d know it’s tough when there’s stuff going on in front of the puck.

“But obviously a save I’ve got to have.”

The Leafs responded with a spirited fourth-line shift of their own to tie the score when Jason Spezza batted a puck out of the air to Gauthier, who banged home his second of the season at 11:34.

A healthy scratch for two of Toronto’s first three games, Spezza suited up at home for the first time in blue and white, and registered his first point with the Leafs after signing for the league minimum in free agency on July 1.

“It’s a huge honour to play here,” said the 36-year-old. “It was nice to play in front of the home crowd … something I was looking forward to all summer.”

Fans were on their feet again 24 seconds later when Nylander finished off a beautiful passing play with Cody Ceci and Andreas Johnsson for his second to put the Leafs up 2-1.

WATCH | Ranking the 7 Canadian teams:

Rob Pizzo looks at which teams have the best chance to win Canada’s first Stanley Cup since 1993. 3:43

Following a long contract impasse that dragged into December, it took Nylander until his 24th game to score his second goal of the 2018-19 campaign.

But the Blues, who went from last in the overall standings in January to winning the franchise’s first title, pushed back late in the period and got the equalizer when Schenn beat Andersen between the pads after Morgan Rielly turned the puck over.

‘They just have so much skill’

“They’re the champs, they’re a very patient team,” said Spezza, whose team hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. “We hung with them all night and a bounce here or there could have been a different story.”

The 26-year-old Binnington, who beat the Leafs 3-2 in overtime at Enterprise Center on Feb. 19 after taking over the No. 1 job the previous month, was helped out by two posts in a busy first.

Toronto centre Alexander Kerfoot found iron just two minutes in and Auston Matthews, who entered with five goals in three games to open the campaign, then chimed another shot off the post behind Binnington on a Toronto power play before Nylander couldn’t quite control a loose puck.

“They just have so much skill,” Binnington said. “They move the puck and they want to go forward. It’s probably fun to play in that system, but we handled it.

“Both teams played well. I’m happy we came out on top.”

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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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