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About Last Night: Semi-Ducharmed kind of life as Habs down 3-0 in final – Montreal Gazette

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Coach Dominique Ducharme’s return behind the bench fails to spark the Canadiens as Montreal on verge of being swept.

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The Montreal Canadiens lost the first Stanley Cup final game in Bell Centre history 6-3 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 on Friday night, and are now a Game 4 loss away from being swept by the defending champions. The Lightning scored two goals in the opening four minutes of both the first and second periods in coach Dominique Ducharme’s return to the bench.

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The Canadiens wanted to take advantage of last change on home ice by putting defensive centre Phillip Danault against Tampa scorer Brayden Point, but Point was in front of the net screening Carey Price on the opening goal 1:52 in the first. Tampa got the matchup they wanted after an icing, with Jan Rutta scoring from the point on a seeing eye shot.

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With Eric Staal in the box after flipping the puck over the glass, Victor Hedman was left alone at the point with the Habs penalty killers looking for the cross-ice pass. Hedman’s deliberate slapshot squeezed past Price, putting the Lightning up 2-0 only 3:27 into the contest. Ducharme, coaching for the first time in these finals after a positive COVID test during the Vegas series, called a timeout to calm his group.

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The timeout worked, as the Canadiens settled down afterward. Cole Caufield nearly had one, carrying the puck through the middle and ripping one off the post.

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Just past the midway point of the first, Danault scored his first of the post-season. He and Brendan Gallagher escaped their zone together and went down the ice. Danault waited for Gallagher to skate in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy and fired through the screen off the post and in to make it 2-1 Tampa Bay. Danault was the first Quebec-born player to score for the Habs in a final since Stéphan Lebeau in 1993. The period ended with the Habs down a goal, but they outshot the opposition 17-12 and recovered after digging themselves an early hole.

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The second period proved just as disastrous early on as the first. At 1:40 in the period, Erik Cernak caught the Canadiens on a line change, sending a stretch pass to Ondrej Palat for a 2-on-0. Palat passed to Kucherov, who flipped the backhand over Price to restore Tampa’s two-goal lead.

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Less than two minutes later, Tampa Bay extended its lead to 4-1. Mathieu Joseph raced down the left side and made the first attempt. Price made the save, but Tyler Johnson was able to swoop in and backhand the rebound for the quick-strike goal.

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With under two minutes left in the second period, the Canadiens made it 4-2. Nick Suzuki carried the puck by himself from the blue line down the right side and caught Vasilevskiy flat footed with a snapshot to give the Habs some life heading into the third.

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Unlike the previous two periods, the Canadiens held the Lightning off the scoresheet in the opening minutes of the third. But the Habs also couldn’t generate momentum through the neutral zone as the Bolts clogged the ice. Hard for the Habs to maintain composure with their season on the ropes.

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Late in third, the Habs needed to take chances on offence, but an Erik Gustafsson pass up the middle to Johnson was likely not what they had in mind. Johnson entered the zone alone and made the first shot on Price, which the goalie had trouble with, then Johnson potted his own rebound to make it 5-2.

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Under a minute later, with Price on the bench for an extra skater, Corey Perry patiently waited out the defenceman by carrying the puck out front from behind the net. His wide angle shot was enough to beat Vasilevskiy high and once again put the Habs within striking distance at 5-3 with just over four minutes remaining.

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With Price still pulled, Blake Coleman scored in the empty net to give the Lightning a 6-3 lead, which is how the game ended. The Canadiens and Lightning meet again for Game 4 on Monday at the Bell Centre, with the Habs hoping to keep their season alive with a win. The Tampa Bay Lightning are formidable, and have a second straight Cup victory in their sights. The Montreal Canadiens have battled adversity all season, and now they’ll face their tallest mountain on Monday. The Liveblog commenters didn’t give me much to work with afterwards, but there were some nuggets of wisdom early in the night.

3. “Feels like ‘95” -Justin Miller

2. “I’m old, so the Habs have won 17 Cups during my lifetime. However, I can’t remember ever being so anxious and hopeful for another Cup as I am this year. Go Habs Go!” -Bob Taylor

1. “It was a great run. Tampa is playing their best. They have too much to deal with. This team gave so much to get here. Defense is better, attack is much better. Vasilevskiy is playing better than Price. He is probably a better goalie at this stage in their careers. Tampa is the current champion and their luck made it so they could have an even better team this season. I’m super proud of our boys and will watch right up until the last minute. We simply don’t have what it takes. I love that they don’t quit.” -Joseph Barrie {“_id”:””,”type”:”raw_html”,”shortcode_tag”:”related_links”,”shortcode”:”[related_links /]”,”content”:”

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Just the beginning? Why Canada’s soccer stars could be better yet in 2026

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When the hosting of the 2026 soccer World Cup was awarded to a tri-nation bid of the USA, Canada and Mexico, there was no shortage of eyebrows raised at one of those names. Given that a qualifying place is automatically bestowed upon a host nation, there were plenty of people ready to argue that Canada’s spot in the tournament presented a risk of becoming a farce. Granted, the fact that this year’s version of the four-yearly classic is being hosted in Qatar softened that line of attack, but the general feeling was that while the USA and Mexico could justify their place, the same was not true of their co-host.

It was with a mixture of relief and cheerful vindication, then, that the Maple Leafs topped CONCACAF qualifying for the 2022 competition and will therefore be in Qatar not only as qualifiers on merit but as an intriguing dark horse to progress beyond the pool stage. As for 2026, their place as hosts is not just reinforced as a deserved spot, but may be a springboard for a team that has a chance to become a big fish in the CONCACAF pond. This 2022 Canadian side is good – but there are reasons to think it could be better next time.

 

The talent isn’t just good: it’s young, too

Perhaps the most recognisable name in the present Canadian national team is Alphonso Davies. Aged 21, he has made a place in the Bayern Munich side his own, and already has a Champions League winner’s medal. And let’s reiterate: he’s only 21. Few would argue with the statement that Davies is one of the best left-backs in Europe, and he has time on his side to get better. By the time his country kicks off in its first World Cup finals game on home soil, he’ll still be just 25, which is still a few years short of the prime age for a player in his position.

In attack, the strike partnership of Cyle Larin (27) and Jonathan David (22) is also youthful, and that’s without mentioning Tajon Buchanan, who’s completed his first season with Club Brugge and is considered to be a contender for a move to a bigger European club, possibly off the back of this year’s tournament. It’s no exaggeration to say that any one of those four would walk into the USMNT right now – and have the potential to get local fans seeking out a list of the best legal betting sites in Ontario to back them for glory in the short and medium term.

 

There are more prospects waiting to make an impact

Let’s not get carried away by saying there are names in the frame who are better than the four mentioned above – the thing about potential is that it doesn’t always come to fruition. However, it’s fair to say that the production line that gave us Davies, Buchanan and co. hasn’t been resting on its laurels. Hot on their heels is Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, a right-sided attacker who featured heavily for Toronto FC early this season before requiring surgery that kept him out for a while. He’s just 18, and has already been selected for national squads – but it is possible that this year’s big tournament might be too early for him.

Ralph Priso, a defensive midfielder from the same club, and Liam Millar, who has enjoyed a very decent season at Swiss club Basel, are also seen as solid prospects who could add to the riches Canada will have at its disposal in 2026. At 19 and 22 respectively, they could yet make an impact this year.

 

2022 will bestow experience

Last, but by no means least, the fact that Canada will be in Qatar this winter has benefits beyond simply being there. Playing in matches of this level of prestige is an invaluable experience that players can call on in the future. Facing Belgium, Croatia and Morocco, they’ll already be playing against better opposition than they’ve beaten to qualify. Even if they make it no further than the first round, it will improve them as players to be at a World Cup. With their qualification for 2026 already ensured, they can focus on building from that.

A lot can happen in four years. Maybe in 2026, we’ll be looking at the national team and wondering why they haven’t kicked on. Nothing is certain. However, given the excellent development we’ve already seen John Herdman achieve with this team, there are more reasons to be optimistic than pessimistic.

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Returning Serena Williams ousted at Wimbledon after shocking 1st round loss – CBC Sports

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Serena Williams began — and ended — her comeback at Wimbledon after 364 days out of singles competition looking very much like someone who hadn’t competed in just that long. She missed shots, shook her head, rolled her eyes.

In between, there were moments where Williams played very much like someone whose strokes and will have carried her to 23 Grand Slam titles. She hit blistering serves and strokes, celebrated with arms aloft.

Returning to the site of her last singles match, which she had to stop after less than a set because of an injury on June 29, 2021, and seven of her major championships, the 40-year-old Williams came within two points of victory. But she could not finish the job against an opponent making her Wimbledon debut and bowed out with a 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7) loss to 115th-ranked Harmony Tan of France.

“It’s definitely better than last year,” Williams said. “That’s a start.”

Asked whether this might have been her last match, Williams replied: “That’s a question I can’t answer. I don’t know. … Who knows? Who knows where I’ll pop up?”

With her older sister, Venus, jumping out of a guest box seat at Centre Court to celebrate the best points, Serena Williams was oh-so-close to pulling out a topsy-turvy match that lasted 3 hours, 11 minutes and was contested with the retractable roof shut for the last two sets.

‘When I saw the draw, I was really scared’

“For my first Wimbledon, it’s: Wow. Just wow,” said the 24-year-old Tan, who recalled watching Williams on TV as a youngster.

“When I saw the draw, I was really scared,” Tan said with a laugh, “because it’s Serena Williams. She’s a legend. I was like, `Oh, my God, how can I play?”‘

This is one indication of how things were at the get-go: Of Tan’s first 11 points, only one came via a winner she produced. Others came via errors by Williams, either forced or unforced.

While Williams — who wore two pieces of black tape on her right cheek; the reason was not immediately clear — recovered from dropping the opening two games to lead 4-2, she reversed course again and allowed Tan to quickly climb back into that set with her mix of spins and slices.

When Tan pulled even at 4-all by striking a down-the-line backhand winner, she celebrated with a yell; that shot was so good that even Williams felt compelled to applaud.

Tan came into the day with a 2-6 career record at all Grand Slam tournaments. Clearly enjoying herself — and the setting, the moment, the way it all was going — she broke to lead 6-5 with the help of a cross-court forehand winner, looked at her guest box, raised a fist and waved her arms to ask for more noise from a crowd that was loudly backing Williams.

Soon enough, a forehand passing winner gave Tan that set. At that point, it seemed reasonable to ask: Could Tan pull off by far the biggest victory of her career? Might Williams exit a major in the first round for only the third time in 80 appearances (the previous were a loss at the 2012 French Open and that mid-match retirement at Wimbledon last year)?

The latter is what happened, of course, although Williams certainly played spectacularly in the second set. She won a monumental game to lead 2-0, breaking after 30 points and 12 deuces across almost 20 minutes when Tan shanked a forehand into the chair umpire’s stand.

In a blink, then, it was 5-0 and sure seemed as if Williams was on her way.

Her serves picked up pace and became more accurate, too: After winning just 57% of her first-serve points in the first set, she claimed 80% in the second. Her other strokes were better-calibrated: After making 22 unforced errors in the first set, she made 13 in the second.

In the third set, Williams was two points from advancing while serving for the match at 5-4 but couldn’t get closer.

Williams has spent more than 300 weeks ranked No. 1 but currently is 1,204th on account off all of that time off and thus needed a wild-card invitation from the All England Club to enter the bracket.

“If you’re playing week in, week out, or even every three weeks, every four weeks, there’s a little bit more match toughness,” she said. “But with that being said, I felt like I played pretty OK on some of `em. Not all of ’em. Maybe some key ones I definitely could have played better. You’ve got to think if I were playing matches, I wouldn’t miss some of those points.”

Still, Tan was a point from victory at 6-5, and Williams erased that with a forehand winner — beginning a seven-point run that not only sent the match to a tiebreaker but put her ahead 4-0 in it.

Yet Tan would not go gently. She grabbed five points in a row for a 5-4 lead in the new final-set tiebreaker format adopted this year by all four tennis majors: first to 10 points, win by two.

At crunch time, when Williams has excelled so often on so many big stages, she faltered. Tan came through.

Next for Tan is a second-round match Thursday against No. 32 seed Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain. Sorribes Tormo advanced by defeating American qualifier Christina McHale 6-2, 6-1.

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Vlad Gets Walk-Off Single, Jays Beat Red Sox – Bluebird Banter

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Red Sox 5 Blue Jays 6

What a great bottom of the ninth. Down a run:

  • Alejandro Kirk, pinch-hitting, led off with a single. He’s having a fairy tale season.
  • Bradley Zimmer pinch-ran for Kirk. Zimmer is worth the roster spot for this role.
  • Springer walked to move Zimmer to second. Great at-bat.
  • Bo singles the other way on the first pitch of his at-bat. Tie game. Just amazing.
  • And Vlad gets the walk-off single, after taking two balls off the plate. One of those wonderful moments that we’ll remember all season.

Before the ninth, there were good parts to that game, just not enough of them.

Ross Stripling was very good. 5 innings, 5 hits, 2 earned, 1 walk with 3 strikeouts. He did give up a home run to Trevor Story (a line drive that I didn’t think would stay high enough to clear the wall). And a run in the fifth, Christian Vazquez led off with a single, Franchy Cordero followed with a double. But Ross got a pop out, ground out (scoring the run) and pop out.

He was helped out by some nice defense. In the first, Gabriel Moreno threw out Rob Refsnyder trying to steal second, for a nice strikeout/throwout double play. And in the second inning , Raimel Tapia made an amazing catch on an Alex Verdugo line drive. Tapia ran a long way to make a great diving catch. I don’t think there is any way George Springer could have made the same catch starting from the same spot.

And we did well against Michael Wacha, scoring 4 runs off 7 hits and 3 walks in 5 innings against a guy who came into the game with a 2.34 ERA.

We scored:

  • Three in the first: Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero each took a one-out walk. Teoscar Hernandez doubled home Bo (just a foot short of a home run, and a few inches above Alex Verdugo’s glove (see picture above). And Matt Chapman doubled home two more.
  • One in the third: Lourdes Gurriel led off with a double. A Santiago Espinal single moved him to third and he scored on Gabriel Moreno’s single. It would have been nice to score more but Tapia struck out.

We had runners on most innings. Tapia led off the second with a walk. Teoscar singled to lead off the fifth (but then was doubled off first when he, running on a pitch that was popped up, didn’t get back to first very quickly). Tapia and Springer had back-to-back two-out singles in the sixth. Vlad led off the seventh with a single. But we didn’t bring any of them home.

We had 13 hits. Everyone in the starting lineup had a hit. Santiago (ending a long 0 for), Vlad and Teoscar had two hits each.


Things didn’t go so well for our bullpen:

  • Adam Cimber allowed just a hit in his inning.
  • Trent Thornton gave up a two-run home to Rob Refsnyder, which tied the game. Refsnyder hitting a home run is hard to believe. He was useless with the bat for us.
  • Tim Mayza got the last out of Trent’s seventh. But he gave up 3 hits and the go-ahead run in the eighth.
  • Matt Gage got the last two outs of the eight on one swing. Christian Arroyo lined one that Espinal caught and tossed to second to double up the other Christian Red Sox player.
  • Jordan Romano pitched a scoreless ninth, giving up just a walk.

Jays of the Day: Bo (.265 WPA), Vlad (.245), Springer (.149), Kirk (.134, all on the pinch hit), Springer (.091) and Gage (.087). Let’s give honorable mentions to Tapia for that catch and Espinal for the catch on the lineout in the eighth. That was huge.

Suckage: Mayza (-.261), Thornton (-.249) and Gurriel (-.147, leaving 4 runners on base).


Tomorrow night we go for the sweep. Alek Manoah (9-2, 2.05) vs. Nick Pivetta (8-5, 3.25). Pivetta, being a good Canadian boy should let the Jays win.

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