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Bills outlast Colts for first playoff win in 25 years – TSN

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills earned their first playoff victory in a quarter-century on Saturday when Josh Allen threw two touchdown passes, scored another rushing, and Micah Hyde batted down Philip Rivers‘ desperation pass for a 27-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts in a wild-card game.

Buffalo snapped an 0-6 post-season skid by winning its first playoff game since a 37-22 win over Miami on Dec. 30, 1995. And it came in the Bills’ first home playoff game in 24 years, with a limited number of 6,700 fans in attendance for the first time this season.

Allen finished 26 of 35 for 324 yards, with a 5-yard touchdown to Dawson Knox and a 35-yarder to Stefon Diggs.

The game wasn’t decided until the final play, when Rivers faced fourth-and-11 from Buffalo’s 47. Rivers heaved a deep pass for T.Y. Hilton, who was surrounded by defenders in the right side of the end zone. Hyde broke through the crowd of bodies, leaping up and batting the ball to the ground.

It just so happens, Hyde was one of three Bills defenders that failed to do the same thing in allowing DeAndre Hopkins‘ 43-yard leaping catch in the final seconds of Arizona’s 32-30 win over Buffalo on Nov. 15.

Buffalo (14-3) has won seven in a row since that loss.

Rookie kicker Tyler Bass accounted for the decisive points by hitting a 54-yard field goal to put Buffalo up 27-16 with 8:08 remaining.

The Bills added a new entry to a season in which they’ve busted numerous slumps. Buffalo won its first AFC East title in 25 years, and matched a single-season record in victories set in both 1990 and ’91.

The Colts (11-6) ended a season in which they won 11 games for the first time since 2014, and reached the playoffs for the second time in three years under coach Frank Reich.

Rivers finished 27 of 46 for 309 yards and had his career playoff record drop to 5-7 in completing his first — and potentially last — season with the Colts as he ponders retirement.

MR. EVERYTHING

With his 5-yard TD rushing and TD completion to Knox, Allen became the fifth player since at least 1940 to score a touchdown rushing, passing and receiving in his playoff career. Allen scored on a 16-yard catch from John Brown in a 22-19 OT loss at Houston a year ago.

Allen joined Nick Foles, Kordell Stewart, Freeman McNeil and Julian Edelman

FAN-DEMONIUM

The Bills finally had a chance to play in front of their fans this season. State guidelines required each person, including stadium staff and media, to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of kickoff before entering.

Fans were limited to sitting in groups of two and four and scattered throughout the 70,000-seat facility.

They cheered everything from the Bills taking the field for pre-game warmups to Buffalo winning the coin toss.

UP NEXT

Colts: Their season is over after losing in the wild-card round for the first time since 2012.

Bills: They advance to the divisional round for the first time since the 1995 playoffs.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Player grades: Adam Larsson leads Edmonton Oilers with stifling defence in 3-2 over Ottawa Senators – Edmonton Journal

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The Edmonton Oilers came out in iffy fashion, with goalie Mikko Koskinen letting in a nothing shot, but the team battled back.

The Oilers got an outstanding defensive effort from most players, Adam Larsson in particular, and thwarted the Ottawa Senators and most every turn in a 3-2 win, a score that flattered the Sens somewhat.

Edmonton had more Grade A chances in the second period, 10, than they had in any one game against the Toronto Maple Leafs in three losses.

Overall, the Grade A chances were 15 for Edmonton, and just six for Ottawa (running count).

Connor McDavid, 7. The power line had its moments, including a thrilling McDavid breakaway in the third. It was his ninth breakaway chance of the year. After a solid first period, McD also took a Draisaitl pass hard to the net on the power play early in the second. He made a swift pass to send Alex Chiasson in on his goal, his second assist of the game. Overall his Power Line out-shot the Sens 16 to 8 at even strength. McDavid made six major contributions to Grade A chances in the game, which is about his average on the season.

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Leon Draisaitl, 7. He and McDavid threatened to score all game. He made a gorgeous backhand pass to free McDavid for a rush in the first. Beat Joey Daccord with a sniper’s snipetty snipe snipe in the second, where the puck was on and off his stick in a tick. He did some great forechecking when Ottawa had pulled its goalie but missed a near open net shot.

Kailer Yamamoto, 6. Went to the kill floor where the damage is done and tipped in Darnell Nurse’s shot in the first. Otherwise played a quiet game, effective but quiet.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 6. A high-event game for Nugent-Hopkins. He had some good work on the power play, but not so much at even strength. If he’s going to lead his own line to success, he’s going to have to dig in a bit harder. His line got worked over by Ottawa’s vicious cycle in the first, culminating in two rapid Grade A chances against. Took a hard slash to the face from Mike Reilly. He worked his way in for a sneaky hard wrist shot on the power play that rang off the post in the second. A moment later he set up Alex Chiasson near the crease for two jam shots. Nugget then somehow failed to cash in on a stupendous steal and feed from Puljujarvi in the second, with the Ottawa goalie Joey Daccord on his belly. His line got outshot four to eight.

Jesse Puljujarvi, 6. He led the team with five hits. He came out fast and feisty, throwing a hard hit early on. He took an ill-advised penalty for putting the puck in the stands, even as he wasn’t under great pressure just then. He made a gritty puck protect move on a board battle in the second to get out the puck from Edmonton’s end. A moment later he came close to jamming in a shot off an Adam Larsson rush. Excellent hustle and skill play to set up RNH in the second, but Nuge couldn’t score.

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Tyler Ennis, 4. Quiet game, kind of like the guy he replaced in the line-up Dominik Kahun. Too quiet. He was out of position to stop a wicked third period point blast that was almost deflected in.

Jujhar Khaira, 6. Part of a solid defensive effort with his customary physical play. His semi-legal hit on Josh Norris led to a hard fight with nasty Erik Gudbranson. The refs called him on a super iffy trip call in the third.

Kyle Turris, 7. He made his sweetest play of the season setting up Alex Chiasson for a one-time cross-seam shot in the first. Turris followed that up by winning a battle and setting up Khaira for a Five Alarm slot shot. He kept the good times rolling early in the second, driving a Devin Shore cross-seam pass on net. He got some justice for all that good work, setting up Draisaitl’s goal with a clean feed. His run of good play ended when he gambled for a steal and allowed a three-on-two in late in the second, with Stutzle scoring on a hard wrister through a double screen.

Devin Shore, 6. He and Bear got beat by a Brady Tkachuk pass leading to a dangerous Tim Stuzle power play chance in the first. Hustled hard all game and was in on a few good plays.

Gaetan Haas, 6. Lots of speed, lots of hustle, not much in the way of results. Some solid work on the PK, including a key third period clearance.

James Neal, 5. Hustled hard, won some battles.

Alex Chiasson, 7. A typically solid game from Chiasson, where he played to his strengths, screening, battling and. shooting. Failed to score on a golden chance in the first, and also on two jam shots on the power play in the second. But the fourth time pays for all, as he lasered in a wrister a moment later, the sixth Grade A chance of that particular power play, so a bit of justice in the dice there. He led the team with six shots.

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Darnell Nurse, 8. Twenty-six solid minutes where he gave up pretty much nothing to the Sens, but made numerous strong plays with the puck. Doug Harvey in his rocking chair.

Tyson Barrie, 7. His eyes-up stretch pass kicked off Edmonton’s third goal scoring sequence. He deflected in Ottawa’s second goal, but a bit of hard luck play there.

Adam Larsson, 8. He’s playing excellent shut-down defence, game after game.  He also submarined in on a rush in the second to set up Puljujarvi for a Grade A shot. He got a key clearance on the kill in the third. A moment later he wiped out Tkachuk with a body blow on a late Ottawa rush.

Kris Russell, 7. He’s now in mid-season form and is looking faster again just now. Another fine defensive game.

Caleb Jones, 5. He was hammered hard with a check in the first. His puck handling and defending was a bit shaky, but to give him credit, he was generally in bend-but-do-not-break mode. He made a nice pass on a scoring chance sequence early in the second.

Ethan Bear, 6. Looked a bit more solid than his partner on defence, Jones. He won a board battle on the kill in the third, leading to a Haas clearance. Looks like he’s finding his “A” game again, which is big for the Oilers, especially if he’s going to play ahead of Evan Bouchard.

Mikko Koskinen, 5. In terms of this game, that first Ottawa goal against was the Titanic hitting an iceberg. It was the second time this year he’s let in that same kind of goal where he’s failed to hug the post on an easy outside shot. But he didn’t sink, making a rebound save off Stuzle a few shifts later. He fought off a Stuzle’s power play chance late in the first as well. He almost made up for that early gaffe with a heads up pass on the power play that kicked off the Chiasson’s scoring drive. Ottawa’s second goal was tough as it deflected off Barrie’s stick. In the third he stopped a tough redirected shot Ryan Dzingel. A moment later he put up a wall on a tricky Matthew Peca shot. He did enough for his team to win.

At the Cult

STAPLES: Mysteries of the Edmonton Oilers revealed! Who is the team’s top power couple and how can they drive success?
STAPLES: Ennis is back
LEAVINS: 9 Things, including memories of Walter Gretzky and other hockey dads
MCCURDY:  The Oilers snap a 3-game skid with a BOA win – Player Grades

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Canucks tie it late, beat Canadiens in shootout – TSN

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VANCOUVER — Bo Horvat scored in the shootout Monday, giving the Vancouver Canucks a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.

The Canucks captain was the lone player to beat Carey Price in the shootout, sending a wrist shot past the Canadiens goalie and into the top-left corner of the net.

The Habs (11-6-7) nearly took two points in regulation after getting a power-play tally from Jeff Petry early in the first period.

Vancouver’s Adam Gaudette forced extra time, scoring with 40.5 seconds left on the game clock. Horvat registered an assist on the goal.

Price had 28 saves for the Canadiens and Thatcher Demko stopped 29 shots for the Canucks (12-15-2).

The result extends Vancouver’s win streak to three games.

Brock Boeser nearly eked out a win for the Canucks in extra time but Price stretched out the length of his crease to make a glove save and force the shootout.

Gaudette’s goal 19:19 into the third ensured overtime on Monday.

He ripped a shot from the left face-off dot, ringing it off the post and in to knot the score with his third goal of the season.

Vancouver pulled Demko with 1:20 left on the clock in a bid to net the equalizer, and nearly took its second too-many-men penalty of the night in the process. Horvat jumped over the boards before the officials noticed the errant forward.

A sloppy line change proved costly for the Canucks early in Monday’s game.

Vancouver was called for too-many men, giving Montreal a power play and Petry capitalized, using a screen by Corey Perry in front of the net to sneak a long shot past Demko and open the scoring 4:37 in.

The Habs were 1-for-2 with the man advantage. Vancouver failed to convert on three power plays, despite getting a minute and 25 seconds of 5-on-3 hockey midway through the first period.

Tyler Toffoli nearly gave Montreal a two-goal lead early in the second, firing a pair of slap shots at Demko.

The Canucks goalie stopped both, but a rebound on the second attempt popped up as he fell back into the net and landed in the corner of the crease, dangerously close to the goal line. Defenceman Tyler Myers swept it out of harm’s way.

Gaudette had two prime chances to even the score for Vancouver in the second.

A wraparound shot from teammate J.T. Miller pinged off Gaudette’s shin and just wide of the post around the eight minute mark. About two minutes later, the Canucks forward blasted a slap shot from the slot, only to see it swallowed up by Price. Gaudette responded by looking skyward.

Moments later, Montreal’s Joel Armia picked the puck off Vancouver defenceman Quinn Hughes in the neutral zone and got a breakaway. Demko got just enough of the ensuing shot to send it careening wide of the net.

The Canucks and Canadiens will battle again in Vancouver on Wednesday.

NOTES: Vancouver defenceman Jordie Benn was injured early in the third period and did not return. … Demko was named the NHL’s second start of the week earlier on Monday. He posted a 3-0-0 record last week with a 1.00 goals-against average and .969 save percentage. … Montreal equipment manager Pierre Gervais worked his 3,000th game. An announcement of the feat elicited stick taps from both teams.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2021.

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What made Rheal Cormier one of Canada’s greatest baseball players – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – Early in the 2000 season, Rheal Cormier and the Boston Red Sox were visiting Jason Dickson and the Anaheim Angels, as they were known then, bringing the New Brunswick pitchers together for the first time.

“The bullpens are stacked (at Angel Stadium), one on top of the other, and that’s where we struck up a conversation through the fence,” recalls Dickson. “I’ll never forget meeting him that first time. I’m the one that probably should have went up to him and introduced myself. I was too nervous to, but he didn’t hesitate to come up and congratulate me on being in the big leagues, ask how my family was doing, ask if I talk to people at home, get into a discussion around New Brunswick and senior baseball and fishing and hunting and all those things that make you a Maritimer. It was just like talking to one of the guys at home.”

Their shared roots made them a rarity in the majors, not only as Canadians, but as two of the three New Brunswick natives at the time enjoying success at the sport’s highest level, along with slugger Matt Stairs of Fredericton.

Cormier, from Cap-Pele, was five years older than Dickson, from Chatham, so the two didn’t cross paths on their way up to the majors. By the time they did meet, Cormier was establishing himself as one of the steadier left-handed relievers in the majors after Tommy John surgery ended his days as a starter, while Dickson was trying to return after a year lost to shoulder surgery.

“You’d hear the stories about Rheal, just like blue-collar work ethic, chopping wood, doing his thing — very grounded with who he was. Just unassuming, kind and generous,” says Dickson, who is now Baseball Canada’s president. “The last time I saw him was at Senior Nationals in Miramichi — I was there for Baseball Canada, and Rheal kind of snuck in late to the game. He wanted to see some people, but no big entry, no big whatever. I gave him a hug, asked him how he was doing, and that was so him, so unassuming. The guys he played with often talked about how hard he worked, didn’t take anything for granted, and I think that sums him up.”

Those are some of the lasting memories of Cormier, who passed away Monday after fighting pancreatic cancer. He was 53.

Quietly, Cormier enjoyed one of the greatest careers by a Canadian in MLB history, with his 683 games second only to Paul Quantrill’s 841 among Canuck hurlers. In 2012, he was inducted to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

Cormier posted a 4.03 ERA over 1,221.2 innings while producing 12.8 WAR as calculated by FanGraphs, logging a career-best 186 frames during his first full season in the majors with the 1992 St. Louis Cardinals, who chose him in the sixth round of the 1988 draft.

Trades to Boston in 1995 and then Montreal in 1996 allowed him to log 159.2 innings over 33 games for the 1996 Expos team that went 88-74 and finished second in the National League East. But his elbow blew the next year, Tommy John surgery followed and in 1999 he rejoined the Red Sox, where he transitioned to the bullpen and posted a 3.69 ERA in 63.1 innings.

During the ’99 playoffs, he logged 7.2 innings over six appearances without allowing a run.

After the 2000 season, Cormier joined the Philadelphia Phillies, with whom he logged a 3.62 ERA over 363 games until a 2006 deadline deal sent him to the Cincinnati Reds, where his performance dipped. In May 2007, the Reds released him after just six appearances, though he joined Atlanta on a minor-league deal afterwards, and finished his professional career with five games for triple-A Richmond.

And though his MLB days were done, Cormier did pitch for Canada at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a full-circle achievement after being on the 1988 team at the Seoul Games when baseball was a demonstration sport. Cormier also represented Canada at the 1987 Pan Am Games and Intercontinental Cup, and 2006 World Baseball Classic.

“Rheal probably doesn’t get as much credit as he should,” says Dickson. “I always go to the different websites and pull up Rheal’s stats to show people, and they’re shocked to see how long he played and how well he did it. That’s just him, just kind of flying under the radar.”

Cormier is survived by his wife, Lucienne, and two children, Justin and Morgan.

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