Back-to-back wins against Western Canadian teams gave the Montreal Canadiens a little bit of breathing room coming into Edmonton on Saturday night. Claude Julien chose to stick with the same lineup that had beaten the Calgary Flames in overtime on Thursday, meaning Mikey Reilly stayed paired up with Cale Fleury, while Riley Barber and Ryan Poehling flanked Nate Thompson on the fourth line.
Standing between Carey Price and a third consecutive win? A top-heavy Oilers team led by the league’s most dynamic duo Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, a team currently placed third in the Pacific, with their hopes set on a playoff run. Edmonton has chosen to split the goaltending duties between Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen this year, with Koskinen getting the nod last night from coach Dave Tippett.
Montreal emphasized before the game how important it was to not attract unnecessary penalties. The Oilers rank second in the league on the power play, with a scoring efficiency which borders on 30%. A duo like McDavid and Draisaitl doesn’t need additional help, considering how difficult they are to stop already at five-on-five.
Less than two minutes into the first period they demonstrated exactly how difficult they are to stop even at full strength. A breakaway in the neutral zone led to a two-on-two opportunity against Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot. McDavid served Draisaitl right on the blade, the puck found its way in behind Carey Price, and Montreal was down a goal early.
The first penalty of the game was dispensed to Jordan Weal when his stick unfortunately got stuck between the legs of an Oilers defenceman, resulting in a tripping call. It was an opportune moment for the home team to double its lead, but the Habs’ penalty kill made one of their best efforts of the season, not only stopping Edmonton from scoring but actually refusing to concede a single shot against Price during the two minutes. Instead, Artturi Lehkonen had a good chance to tie it up after a line change gave him free space in the offensive zone. Koskinen was able to make the save that time after an initial flub, but overall the penalty kill showed a positive sign for the Canadiens.
That joy was, however, shortlived. Near the middle of the period, Max Domi lost control of the puck as he was trying to bring it out into the neutral zone. His team was also on the move, causing major problems on defence. Chaos erupted in the Montreal crease. The defenders were unable to clear the puck which eventually found its way out to Ethan Bear. Bear shot it back in toward the net where Josh Archibald had his blade in the right place to beat Price.
Half a minute after the 2-0-goal, Phillip Danault got called for holding right after a faceoff and things were looking mighty bleak for the guests from Québec. This time, surely the stars would align and provide a third goal of the night.
On cue, a third goal was about to come. But not of the kind we were expecting. Former Oiler Jeff Petry took care of a mistimed cross-ice pass and took off in the offensive direction. Being a three-on-one, most people, including Koskinen, were expecting Petry to move the puck over to either of his teammates. Instead, he released a quick wrister toward the far post that Koskinen let in beneath his glove.
With the short-handed goal, the Habs were right back into a game which had felt lost for most of the first period. But that is the beauty of this Montreal team: they never quit.
Montreal picked up their game toward the end of the period, fueled by their goal. Momentum continued into the second, where they held Edmonton without a single shot on net for the first eight minutes.
Nick Cousins drew a penalty on Caleb Jones, when the latter held the former up against the boards behind the goal. During the power play, their first of the night, the Canadiens would tie the game up at two. Petry, traded from Edmonton to Montreal for a bag of peanuts in March of 2015, showed his true value once again when he blasted one from the blue line into the havoc in front of the Oilers’ net. Danault got the goal, his eighth of the year, steering Petry’s shot past Koskinen in mid-air. Both of Montreal’s goals thus far had come on special teams; one each on the penalty kill and the power play.
In an effort to get his team to wake up, Zack Kassian picked a fight with Ben Chiarot, ending with both of them sitting out the following five minutes. Once their punishment was over, Weal got sent to the box for a second tripping minor of the night. This time, Connor McDavid got his chance and he took it. Weber tried to clear the puck by passing it up the zone. Once the pass was intercepted, Draisaitl found McDavid in the neutral zone straight in front of the net. Neither Danault nor Weber could keep up with McDavid’s pace, and once alone with Price he made no mistake.
The Canadiens ended the period with massive pressure against the Oilers’ defence, spending the vast majority of the last two minutes well established in Edmonton’s zone. Unfortunately, the pressure did not lead to a change on the scoreboard, meaning that the home team would enter the third period with a 3-2-lead.
That lead would not last for long. Lehkonen found Max Domi on a surge forward. Demonstrating silky smooth hands, Domi pushed himself and the puck in between Bear and Darnell Nurse before snapping a wrister past Koskinen. The Habs had bounced back from a late-game deficit once again. The second assist went to Petry, thereby registering his third point of the night.
Next up: another tripping call against Montreal and Cale Fleury. Just as the penalty was ending, a shot from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was tipped by Price back up toward his own goal. First, the referee signaled that the puck had gone in off the deflection and the Edmonton fans cheered. The following replay proved a clear ricochet off the crossbar followed by a Price recovery. The goal was revoked and Montreal’s fans cheered instead.
Edmonton would eventually get their fourth goal of the night, as a strange backspin bounce gave Archibald and Riley Sheahan a two-on-one against Brett Kulak. Sheahan got the score, giving him only his third of the year but his second this week.
Montreal did their best trying to tie it up for a third time, but Sheahan’s goal would prove to be the decisive one. It also did not help having to play an additional two minutes on the penalty kill, after Cousins had been called for interference behind his net on breakout. The Canadiens fell for the first time on their road trip, a 4-3 defeat.
The Habs will now have to reload and recharge for their last outing before Christmas, facing off against the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place on Monday night.
Golf-Olympic gold medallist Schauffele pumped for Zozo Championship in Japan
AmericanXander Schauffele returns this week for the Zozo Championship in Japan nearly two and half months after winning the gold medal at the Tokyo Games and the 27-year-old said he is looking to grab a “special” victory at the PGA Tour event.
The tournament returns to Japan at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on Thursday after last year’s edition was moved to California due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The $9.95 million event will feature Asia’s first Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, two-time major winner Collin Morikawa and Schauffele, who won gold for the United States at the Tokyo Olympics in August with a one-stroke victory.
Schauffele, whose grandparents reside in Japan, said winning at the Zozo Championship would be a huge honour for his family.
“I’m very excited,” Schauffele, who also won the Ryder Cup with the United States last month, said on Wednesday.
“Winning here would be really cool. It would be really special to sort of win twice in Japan, especially since I don’t live here.
“I think it would be a huge honour for my family if I was able to do that and I’m going to do my best this week.”
American Morikawa, whose father is of Japanese descent, said he is looking forward to playing in front of an energetic crowd with 5,000 spectators allowed each day.
“These are some of the best fans,” Morikawa said. “I remember my first tee shot out here two years ago when there were fans on stools and lined up five, six people deep.
“They would cheer for you walking to tee boxes, hitting every tee shot whether it’s good or bad.
“They bring so much energy. I’ve said it since we returned from COVID, it’s just really good to see people out here again.”
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; editing by Kim Coghill)
NHL suspends Evander Kane for 21 games over COVID-19 vaccination status – Global News
The league on Monday announced the suspension without pay and said Kane will not be eligible to play until Nov. 30 at New Jersey. Kane will forfeit about US$1.68 million of his US$7 million salary for this season with the money going to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
The league also announced that a concurrent investigation into allegations of sexual and physical abuse made against Kane by his estranged wife, Anna, could not be substantiated.
“I would like to apologize to my teammates, the San Jose Sharks organization, and all Sharks fans for violating the NHL COVID protocols,” Kane said in a statement. “I made a mistake, one I sincerely regret and take responsibility for. During my suspension, I will continue to participate in counseling to help me make better decisions in the future. When my suspension is over, I plan to return to the ice with great effort, determination, and love for the game of hockey.”
The Sharks have not said what Kane’s status will be after the investigations. Kane had not been around the team since the start of training camp while these investigations were ongoing in an agreement between him and the team.
“While we are encouraged by Evander’s commitment to moving forward, we are extremely disappointed by his disregard for the health and safety protocols put in place by the NHL and the NHLPA,” the team said in a statement. “We will not be commenting further on Evander’s status prior to the conclusion of the NHL’s mandated suspension.”
Kane had previously been cleared by the NHL in an investigation into allegations made by Anna Kane that he bet on hockey games, including some against the Sharks.
Edmonton Oilers fans enter Rogers Place for 1st time amid new COVID-19 protocols
But the league did determine that Kane violated the COVID-19 protocols. A person familiar with the investigation said earlier this month that the league was looking into allegations that Kane submitted a fake vaccination card. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details weren’t made public.
Using a fake vaccination card is illegal in both the United States and Canada, as well as against NHL rules.
Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week that only four players on active rosters hadn’t been vaccinated.
Kane, 30, is three seasons into a $49 million, seven-year contract. He’s with his third organization after being drafted by and debuting with Atlanta/Winnipeg and a stint in Buffalo.
Last season, he had 22 goals and 27 assists in 56 games.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
2021–22 NBA Season Predictions: MVP, championship picks and more – Sportsnet.ca
The 2021-22 NBA season gets going Tuesday night.
Returning to a regular 82-game schedule after last season’s 72-game affair, and many teams who appear poised and ready to chase after a ring, this could be one of the most wide-open seasons in recent memory.
There are, of course, the true powerhouses and bottom-feeders in the league. But heading into this new season, it looks like there could be more teams than usual who make the leap up into true contender status.
In an attempt to make sense of what could come, Sportsnet polled some of its basketball experts to try to predict some of the major award winners and who will win it all.
Sixth Man of the Year
Donnovan Bennett, staff writer and digital host: Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors
Michael Grange, senior basketball insider: Patty Mills, Brooklyn Nets
William Lou, Raptors Show host on Sportsnet 590 The FAN: Alex Caruso, Chicago Bulls
Steven Loung, NBA section editor: Patty Mills, Brooklyn Nets
Blake Murphy, co-host of the FAN Morning Show on Sportsnet 590 The FAN: Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz
Eric Smith, Raptors play-by-play announcer on Sportsnet 590 The FAN: Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz
Coach of the Year
Bennett: Ime Udoka, Boston Celtics
Grange: Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat
Lou: Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors
Loung: Steve Nash, Brooklyn Nets
Murphy: Steve Nash, Brooklyn Nets
Smith: Steve Nash, Brooklyn Nets
Most Improved Player
Bennett: Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors
Grange: OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors
Lou: Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
Loung: Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
Murphy: Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
Smith: Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
Defensive Player of the Year
Bennett: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Grange: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Lou: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Loung: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Murphy: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Smith: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Rookie of the Year
Bennett: Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic
Grange: Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons
Lou: Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons
Loung: Jalen Green, Houston Rockets
Murphy: Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons
Smith: Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons
Bennett: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
Grange: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
Lou: Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Loung: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
Murphy: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
Smith: Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Biggest sleeper team
Bennett: Chicago Bulls
Grange: Golden State Warriors
Lou: Toronto Raptors
Loung: Golden State Warriors
Murphy: Cleveland Cavaliers
Smith: Golden State Warriors
Bennett: Brooklyn Nets vs. Golden State Warriors
Grange: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Golden State Warriors
Lou: Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Loung: Brooklyn Nets vs. Golden State Warriors
Murphy: Brooklyn Nets vs. Denver Nuggets
Bennett: Golden State Warriors
Grange: Milwaukee Bucks
Lou: Brooklyn Nets
Loung: Brooklyn Nets
Murphy: Brooklyn Nets
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