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Canadiens’ late-period woes continue in devastating loss to Lightning – Sportsnet.ca

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A final thought from Nate Thompson, offered right before his Montreal Canadiens took off for Tampa Bay on Friday, resonates in the wake of a 5-4 loss to the Lightning.

“There’s so much parity, you go from second to sixth in the division in a night or vice versa,” Thompson said. “All we can do is take care of ourselves. Every game is crucial. All the points are very important, even with 45 games to go.”

On this night, the Canadiens allowed two points to slip through their fingers and dropped from third place in the Atlantic Division to fifth.

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The Lightning, who have two games in hand on Montreal, erased an early 2-0 deficit—and an 18-0 shot advantage the Canadiens held through the first 12:24 of the game—and prevailed in regulation to leap from sixth into fourth.

There are big games, and then there are games that offer you an opportunity to distance yourself from a divisional rival nipping at your heels in the standings. You know, in other words, huge games.

To say the Canadiens failed to take care of themselves in this one would be understating it.

Meanwhile, in another part of Florida, the Panthers took care of their business against the visiting Detroit Red Wings and also jumped over the Canadiens into third place in the Atlantic.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

Elsewhere, the Toronto Maple Leafs earned a point in an overtime loss to the New York Rangers to remain in second place in the Atlantic and open up a five-point lead on Tampa and Montreal.

Speaking of five-point leads, that’s what the Philadelphia Flyers have—along with a game in hand—on the Canadiens. They’re in the second wild-card position in the Eastern Conference.

All to say, the loss to Tampa was a killer for a Canadiens team that had gone to the Christmas break with wins in three of four games and seven in its last 10.

Late-period goals killing Canadiens

When Alex Killorn beat Shea Weber to the net and put the Lightning on the board with 59 seconds remaining in the first period, it was the 14th time the Canadiens had allowed a goal in the final minute of a period (according to hockey-reference.com).

Whether it’s a lack of focus, or inexperience, or bad luck, this is a big part of the reason the Canadiens are approaching the halfway point of the season on the playoff bubble. They have now lost seven of 11 games in which they’ve allowed a goal in the final minute of a period (they allowed two goals against in the final minute of a period in three games this season).

Credit the Lightning for bouncing back from the way they started the game—on their heels and just watching the Canadiens skate circles around them—but they had nothing threatening going before a cross-zone pass got to Steven Stamkos. The Lightning captain then bounced the puck off Ryan McDonagh and it eventually landed on Killorn’s stick for the goal that turned this whole game around.

With momentum firmly on their side, the Lightning opened the second period determined. Stamkos then notched the 800th point of his career by collecting the rebound off a shot he zipped off the glass, and less than two minutes of the middle frame had expired when it went in.

Mitchell Stevens made it 3-2 Tampa at 4:57 of the second, and Killorn scored again to make it 4-2.

The Canadiens pushed back immediately with a goal from Ben Chiarot after coach Claude Julien called timeout.

But Tampa’s Anthony Cirelli scored the winner 55 seconds into the third period.

That would be the sixth goal the Canadiens have allowed in the first minute of a period this season, which is troubling, but not quite as troubling as the aforementioned trend that is clearly costing them valuable points in the standings.

By the way, five of those seven losses when allowing goals in the final minutes of periods have come against divisional rivals (one to Boston, two to Detroit, and now two to Tampa).

QUICK HITS

• Jesperi Kotkaniemi, playing in his first game since suffering a concussion on Dec. 5, opened the scoring 2:08 into the first period. It was the 19-year-old’s third goal on the road this season after not scoring any in his rookie season.

• Max Domi extended his goal streak to four games to make it 2-0 Montreal, but he finished the game minus-3 after being on the ice for the four goals the Lightning scored from the second period onward.

• Carey Price allowed five goals against for the first time in December. It was his 10th start of the month, and he’s allowed two goals or less in six of them.

Meanwhile, with the loss, Price dropped to 2-5-2 this season on three days of rest or more.

UP NEXT:

The Canadiens will take on the Panthers in Sunrise, Fla., on Sunday.

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Warriors top Mavs in Game 5, advance to NBA Finals – TSN

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — As the clock ticked down the final seconds, Klay Thompson began dancing on the sideline before nearly being moved to tears during a celebration with his teammates.

After two major surgeries and two years of grueling rehabilitation, Thompson is rounding back into form and shot the Golden State Warriors back into the NBA Finals.

Thompson shimmied his way to 32 points and the Warriors advanced to their sixth finals in the past eight seasons by beating the Dallas Mavericks 120-110 in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday night.

“It’s hard to put into words really,” Thompson said. “This time last year, I was just starting to jog again and get up and down the court. Now to be feeling like myself, feeling explosive, feeling sure in my movements, I’m just grateful.”

Thompson tore his left ACL during a season-ending Game 6 loss in the 2019 NBA Finals against Toronto and then tore his right Achilles’ tendon just before the start of the 2020-21 season. After Golden State missed the postseason in both seasons he was sidelined, Thompson finally returned to action in January.

The performance against the Mavericks showed he is getting close to returning to his old level of stardom.

Thompson scored 19 points in the first half, including a 3-pointer that he punctuated with teammate Stephen Curry‘s signature shake as the Warriors raced out to a 17-point halftime lead and coasted the rest of the way.

“You could see how much was missing the last couple of years,” Draymond Green said. ”We’re lucky to have the Klay Thompson we know back because we know how good he is.”

Andrew Wiggins added 18 points and 10 rebounds, Green scored 17 points and Curry had 15 points and nine assists. He was named the MVP of the series.

Luka Doncic overcame a slow start to score 28 points for the Mavericks. Spencer Dinwiddie added 26.

After missing the playoffs in 2020 and ’21 in back-to back injury-plagued seasons, the Warriors are returning to a familiar stage. They join the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls of the 1990s, Magic Johnson’s Lakers in the 1980s and Bill Russell’s Celtics in the 1950s and ’60s as the only franchises to make it to the NBA Finals at least six times in an eight-year span.

“For our team, our guys, especially the core group, to be part of that six times in eight years, I don’t even know what to say,” coach Steve Kerr said. “It just takes an enormous amount of skill and determination and work.”

Golden State will host the winner of the Eastern Conference finals between Boston and Miami on June 2 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The Celtics hold a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 at home on Friday night.

The Warriors followed their pattern from the first two rounds by bouncing back after squandering a chance to end a series on the road by winning at home. Golden State is now 9-0 at the Chase Center this postseason, tying the 2017 team for the the most consecutive home wins in a single postseason in NBA history.

After making just seven 3-pointers in the first four games of the series, Thompson had eight this game for the record-setting fifth time in the playoffs.

The last two have come in clinchers the last two rounds against Memphis and Dallas, prompting the question on whether his nickname should switch from “Game 6 Klay” for his history in that game to “Clinching Klay.”

“I’m satisfied with ‘Game 6 Klay.’ I don’t need another nickname,” Thompson said with a smile. “It’s nice not having to bring him out yet.”

Thompson gave the Warriors a 13-point lead in the first half when he hit one from the corner before dancing and added two early in the third quarter for a 23-point lead.

Dallas cut a 25-point deficit down to eight in the final minute of the third quarter but couldn’t get over the hump in the fourth.

“I don’t like losing, especially not like this,” Doncic said. “I played terrible. But if we’re talking about our season, I’m really proud of this team. … Nobody had us here. But I promise we fought until the end.”

SLOW START

Doncic had a rough start, shooting 2 for 10 in the first quarter. His eight misses were tied for the most in the opening quarter of a playoff game since LeBron James missed all nine of his attempts in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against Atlanta in 2015.

Doncic was held to six points in the first half, his lowest opening half of his postseason career, on 2-for-12 shooting before finding his stroke in the third quarter.

“We need Luka to go big a lot of nights just to give us a chance, and unfortunately the ball just didn’t go for him tonight,” coach Jason Kidd said. “I think he carries the load as well as anyone, and I think for us as an organization, we’ll help lighten that load as we go forward.”

MOODY MANIA

With Otto Porter (left foot) sidelined for a second straight game, the Warriors got a big boost in the first half from 19-year-old rookie Moses Moody.

Moody scored all of his seven points in the second quarter with his 3-pointer giving Golden State a 56-38 lead. Moody scored just six points the first three games of this series for the Warriors before scoring 17 the past two games with Porter sidelined.

___

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Avalanche fan makes signs to support Kadri – NHL.com

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DENVER — Adrienne Ruth wanted to let Nazem Kadri know she and all Colorado Avalanche fans had his back and decided to do something about it.

Ruth, an Avalanche season ticket holder, painted a sign with a personal message for the forward, and printed up 300 flyers at her local Office Depot saying “Stand With Naz” for Game 5 against the St. Louis Blues at Ball Arena on Wednesday.

The signs were placed on seats before the game, and fans held them during the 5-4 overtime loss. They were Ruth’s response to taunts and threats directed at Kadri after Game 3 of the series in St. Louis on Saturday.

In that game, Blues goalie Jordan Binnington sustained a lower-body injury at 6:45 of the first period after being knocked over by teammate Calle Rosen and Kadri, who was skating hard for a rebound.

“After everything that happened before Game 4, I was upset,” Ruth told NHL.com on Thursday. “I usually have a sign for Naz for most games, so I knew I was going to have something [for Game 5], and I had a few people in the Avs community reach out and ask, ‘Do you have any ideas?'”

Ruth’s personal sign read: “The ultimate measure of a person is not where one stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where one stands in times of challenge and controversy. #StandWithNaz” It’s a slight reworking of a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kadri had his first career Stanley Cup Playoff hat trick in Game 4, a 6-3 Avalanche win on Monday.

“We take threats made to any of our players or other club personnel seriously,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told Darren Dreger of TSN on Monday. “We are in touch with the St. Louis Police Department and they are employing enhanced security procedures both at the arena and in the hotel.”

The Avalanche lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 heading into Game 6 in St. Louis on Friday (8 p.m. ET; TNT, CBC, SN, TVAS). With a win, they would reach the conference final for the first time since 2002. 

Ruth, who also makes and sells Avalanche-related goods through Etsy, said Kadri’s wife, Ashley, reached out to her thanking her for her support.

“I’ve gotten to know her. I told her, ‘I’m planning on doing this, just so you know,'” Ruth said. “She said it was awesome to see.”

Ruth said the overall response has been “phenomenally positive.”

“To quote Naz, for those who hate, there are still going to be haters. There are still going to be those who disagree with it, don’t understand it or try to make it about something else but that’s pretty small voiced,” she said. “I’ll say even with the devastating loss (in Game 5) I woke up with a pretty full heart. Our news cycle is full of the bad. It’s nice to see the goodness making the news cycle.” 

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‘Play La Bamba, baby’: Edmonton erupts as Oilers return to final four – Sportsnet.ca

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The last time the Edmonton Oilers played in the Western Conference Final, Connor McDavid was all of nine years old, head coach Jay Woodcroft was a first-year video coach with the Detroit Red Wings and goalie Mike Smith was cutting his pro teeth in that noted hockey hotbed of Iowa.

Sixteen years after the Oilers’ most recent trip to the NHL’s final four — which ended with a Game 7 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Final — Edmonton is going back to the Western Conference Final after a dramatic 5-4 overtime win in Calgary against the Flames on Thursday.

After years of playoff heartbreak and frustration for fans with the star-studded team unable to do much in the post-season, the win in Game 5 in the Battle of Alberta set off huge celebrations three hours north of the Saddledome.

The hockey community was abuzz on social media after McDavid’s OT winner.

Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies, who grew up in Edmonton, was celebrating the victory after a rough day for the national program — which saw Canada cancel a friendly against Iran in the aftermath of major political pressure. He engaged in a little trash talk with Calgary’s Sam Adekugbe, a Canadian teammate.

It also was a special day-before-birthday present for young Ben Stelter, the Oilers’ superfan who is battling brain cancer.

The win also was a boost for a city that had negative news headlines earlier in the day when Alberta’s government invoked the province’s Police Act to force Edmonton City Council to come up with a plan in the next two weeks to tackle a spike in crime.

Now, the Oilers become Canada’s last hope to win the country’s first Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens hoisted the trophy in 1993.

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