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Canucks can’t catch Lightning in a bottle

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It was a meeting between the two hottest teams in the NHL. Both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vancouver Canucks were on seven-game winning streaks, just the second time in NHL history that two teams with active winning streaks of at least seven games have met, according to the inimitable Jeff Paterson.

One of these two teams was going to see their streak cut short, while the other would leave with an even more impressive eight-game winning streak.

Anyone hoping for an evenly-matched clash between two titans was in for a rude awakening, not to be confused for la rue d’awakening, which is when you’re driving down the road and you nearly fall asleep and suddenly startle awake when you almost get in an accident. Also, it’s a great episode of the cult classic cartoon Clone High.

Until there were five minutes left in the second period, you could convince yourself that these two teams were on even footing, that the Canucks were on par with one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, a legitimate Stanley Cup Contender-with-a-capital-C. The game was tied 2-2, the shots were even at 16 apiece, and the Canucks even had the momentum, having just scored the tying goal.

And then it all went to hell and no one even bothered to provide the Canucks with a handbasket.

In the space of three minutes, the Lightning scored four goals. Really, they scored five goals, but one of those goals was disallowed, on account of them scoring a goal earlier in the shift that got missed.

If you missed those three minutes, you must have been wildly confused when you returned to your television. When you left, the game could go either way, but it was likely to be a tight, one-goal affair, with neither team giving an inch. When you got back, the Canucks had given 63,360 inches.

You might be worried that you won’t know what to say to your Canucks fan friends on Wednesday if you did miss those few minutes or, heaven forfend, the entire game. Never fear. You can either just say, “Did you see that ludicrous display last night?” and you’ll be fine, or you can read the rest of this article, because I watched this game.

  • The Canucks lost by seven to end their seven-game winning streak, which is, in one sense, a good thing. If you’re going to see a winning streak cut short, you might as well go all out. Blow it all to pieces. 9-2? That’s not enough: they should have lost 10-2 or 11-2. Let it be the kind of performance that jolts the team awake instead of lulling them into a false sense of security.
  • What is somewhat alarming is that, despite the streak, it took just one loss for Canucks to once again be outside the playoff picture. They’re currently sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference, behind the Winnipeg Jets for the final Wild Card spot. It turns out a bunch of the other teams in the West have also been winning games, which is just bad manners if you ask me. Quite rude.
  • (The Canucks have two or three games in hand on most of the teams ahead of them in the standings, so don’t flip any pools just yet)
  • It really felt like two completely different games. The first game, even though the Lightning had some long shifts in the Canucks’ zone, the two teams looked pretty even. The Canucks created some great chances: Bo Horvat hit a crossbar on the power play in the first period and J.T. Miller got robbed by Andrei Vasilevski on a great setup by Elias Pettersson in the second period. If either of those two chances went in, we’re talking about a very different game.
  • Then the Lightning completely took over the game. The goals came quick as some sort of incredibly speedy thing, like an electrical discharge or something. Jacob Markstrom, who had been instrumental in the Canucks’ streak, suddenly looked fallible, but it was hard to blame him too much, given the turnovers and defensive breakdowns in front of him.
  • Let’s start with the good: Pettersson opened the scoring late in the first period for the Canucks on an odd play. He tried to set up Brock Boeser at the backdoor, but his saucer pass plunked the sprawling Jan Rutta directly in the face. Pettersson, as is his way, made sure Rutta was okay and apologized before skating away. Rutta, assured that Steven Stamkos would get the puck out, went to the bench for a line change, leaving Pettersson all alone. Whoops.
  • Stamkos failed to get the puck out, as Boeser chased him down and intercepted his pass. He turned and fed the wide open Pettersson, who faked a deke to the backhand and tucked the puck under Vasilevski’s right pad as soon as the goaltender lifted it to push across. It was a lovely goal, made possible by a puck to the face.
  • The Lightning’s first goal came off a turnover when Alex Edler sent a suicide pass to Jay Beagle. Instead of blowing up Beagle, Victor Hedman instead poked the puck to Ondrej Palat, who set up Tyler Johnson for the goal. Markstrom got a piece of the shot and the puck went off the crossbar, only for Johnson to get his stick behind Markstrom and backhand it in.
  • The second Lightning goal came off a faceoff win on the power play directly to Stamkos on the left side of the faceoff circle and he generally doesn’t miss from there. That power play lasted two seconds, mainly because Tim Schaller stepped towards the faceoff dot instead of heading straight for Stamkos as soon as the puck was dropped. I’m not a penalty kill coach, but stopping one of the best goalscorers of his generation seems like a bit of a priority.
  • The Horvat line stepped up to tie the game a few minutes later. Tanner Pearson chased down a dump-in, but couldn’t handle the puck. That turned to their advantage when Horvat faked a big slap shot and instead centred for Loui Eriksson, who got both his stick on the puck and a little lucky. His deflection careened off Hedman’s skate and in.
  • Then things got ugly. Tyler Myers whiffed on a puck at the blue line, giving Alex Killorn a breakaway for the 3-2 goal. Then Oscar Fantenberg badly misplayed a 3-on-2 and Carter Verhaege ripped a shot off the back bar of the net, which was initially missed until Mitchell Stephens scored another goal seconds later. Stephens’ goal was wiped out, Verhaege’s counted, and the clock reset with the scoe 4-2.
  • 31 seconds later, the Lightning made it 5-2 on a goal similar to their second: Beagle lost a faceoff in the defensive zone and Nikita Kucherov fired a shot from the top of the faceoff circle off the post, off the back of Markstrom, and in.
  • 25 seconds after that, Erik Cernak made it 6-2, second a slap shot from the point through traffic to beat Markstrom. There was so much traffic it was like the Lightning was DDoS’ing the Canucks’ net.
  • That was it: 4 goals in a 2:55 span. Markstrom understandably got pulled, bringing in Thatcher Demko to mop up what was left. It didn’t get any better for him in the third: a blocked pass gave Brayden Point room to make it 7-2. A pass from Troy Stecher to Edler was just off the mark and no one picked up Verhaege at the back door and he made it 8-2. Then, to cap it off, the Lightning got a 5-on-3 power play and set up Verhaege for the hat trick to make it 9-2.
  • The Canucks’ defence looked disorganized, disheveled, and disarrayed. The pairing of Tyler Myers and Oscar Fantenberg looked particularly troubled, but every pairing had their issues transitioning the puck up ice and avoiding turnovers, and the Lightning’s forward depth wreaked havoc on their in-zone coverage.
  • To make it even more painful, the Canucks couldn’t score on their own extended 5-on-3, with Vasilevski robbing Pettersson and Boeser on their chances. Boeser’s was the better of the two, though he had to take Horvat’s pass off his skate and couldn’t get the shot off as quickly as he would have liked, Vasilevski still had to make a marvelous blocker save.

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  • The game got testy near the end, as blowouts often do. I was honestly surprised that Edler’s big hit on Yanni Gourde didn’t lead to anything: he took a healthy run at the 5’9” Gourde and sent him flying, but nothing came of it.

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  • Instead, the match that lit the fuse was a hit by Jake Virtanen on Ondrej Palat. The hit looked a lot worse than it really was. While it initially looked like a hit to the head, Virtanen pretty clearly caught Palat on the shoulder on the replay. The worst thing you could say is that it was, as soccer announcers would say, a very cynical challenge. Virtanen blew up Palat and headed straight off for a line change, avoiding the ensuing scrum entirely.

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  • Poor Chris Tanev got the worst of it, as Tyler Johnson went after him while he was already in a headlock from Rutta. Johnson likely thought Tanev had delivered the hit, possibly confusing Virtanen’s 18 for Tanev’s 8.
  • Virtanen initially was given a five-minute major, as the referees surely thought Virtanen had hit Palat in the head. They reviewed the replay, however, and reduced it to a minor penalty for charging. You could argue it wasn’t a penalty at all, but in a 9-2 game, taking Virtanen off the ice to ease tensions was probably the right call.

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LeBron Saves Team USA in Thrilling Exhibition Against South Sudan at O2 Arena

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LONDON — In what could have been one of the most monumental upsets in international basketball history, Team USA narrowly escaped with a 101-100 victory over a spirited South Sudan team at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday night. This exhibition match, serving as a tune-up for the 2024 Olympics, showcased the rapid rise of South Sudanese basketball and the indomitable spirit of the American team led by LeBron James.

The atmosphere at the O2 Arena was electric, with fans witnessing a game that turned out to be far more competitive than expected. South Sudan, a team composed largely of refugees and players from the diaspora, pushed the heavily favored Americans to their limits.

First Half Highlights:

  • South Sudan came out firing on all cylinders, building a surprising 16-point lead in the second quarter.
  • Team USA struggled with their three-point shooting, missing 12 of their first 13 attempts from beyond the arc.

Despite the odds, South Sudan’s players, many of whom have overcome significant personal and professional challenges, played with remarkable cohesion and determination. Their performance was a testament to the rapid progress the team has made under the guidance of former NBA star Luol Deng.

With the game hanging in the balance, LeBron James demonstrated why he remains one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Benched at the start of the third quarter, James returned to the floor with a determination that was palpable.

Key Moments:

  • Third Quarter: Anthony Davis’ defensive prowess helped shrink the deficit. LeBron’s return brought stability and focus back to Team USA.
  • Final Minute: With just 20 seconds left, JT Thor of South Sudan scored over LeBron, giving his team a one-point lead.
  • Game-Winning Shot: LeBron drove to the basket, scoring the decisive layup with eight seconds remaining.

South Sudan’s journey to this point has been nothing short of inspirational. The country gained independence from Sudan in 2011, and the basketball program, still in its infancy, has quickly become a source of national pride.

Notable Contributions:

  • Carlik Jones: Delivered a triple-double with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists.
  • Wenyen Gabriel: LeBron’s former teammate with the Lakers, contributed 11 points.
  • Marial Shayok: Led South Sudan with 24 points.

The team’s formation and rise have been spearheaded by Luol Deng, who played a pivotal role in recruiting and funding the program. His efforts have culminated in South Sudan qualifying for the Olympics, marking a historic achievement for the young nation.

Stephen Curry: “Wild game. They played really intense. It was nice to see how we responded. LeBron with a great finish down the stretch.”

Steve Kerr: “The whole team was embarrassed at halftime. We were challenged today, and it was good for us to feel that now. This was a reminder that we need to bring our best every game.”

Luol Deng: Expressed immense pride in his team’s performance, emphasizing the significance of their journey and the obstacles they have overcome.

This exhibition game was more than just a pre-Olympic warm-up. It highlighted the potential for underdog stories in sports and underscored the global reach and impact of basketball. Team USA, despite the narrow escape, was reminded of the importance of every game and the challenges that lie ahead.

South Sudan, on the other hand, has cemented its place on the international stage, showcasing that with determination and the right support, even the newest teams can compete with the best in the world.

As both teams prepare for the Olympics, this game at the O2 Arena will be remembered not only for its thrilling finish but also for the remarkable stories of resilience and ambition that played out on the court.

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UFC Vegas 94: Amanda Lemos vs. Virna Jandiroba – Main Event Recap

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In a thrilling main event at UFC Vegas 94, strawweights Amanda Lemos and Virna Jandiroba faced off on Saturday night. After an evenly matched first round, Jandiroba secured a dramatic submission victory in the second round, just moments before the bell.

Fight Summary:

  • First Round: The opening round was highly competitive, with both fighters showcasing their skills and maintaining a close contest.
  • Second Round: In the final seconds of the second round, Jandiroba managed to secure a submission, forcing Lemos to tap out. The win marks an impressive fourth consecutive victory for Jandiroba.

Post-Fight Remarks:

  • In her post-fight interview inside the Octagon, Jandiroba confidently called out UFC President Dana White, declaring, “Dana, I’m the next one. Dana, I’m your next champion.”

Future Implications:

  • With this victory, Jandiroba has positioned herself as a strong contender for the strawweight title. Tatiana Suarez, who was the rightful next contender for Weili Zhang, has been sidelined due to an injury. Jandiroba’s current four-fight win streak and her dominant performance at UFC Vegas 94 make a compelling case for her title shot.

Stay tuned for more updates as the UFC strawweight division continues to evolve, and see if Virna Jandiroba will indeed become the next challenger for the championship belt.

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Jake Paul vs. Mike Perry: Fight Night Updates

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Jake Paul is back in the ring, and he’s promising fireworks as he takes on former UFC star Mike Perry at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. The fight will be broadcast live on DAZN. Originally, Paul was set to fight Mike Tyson, but Perry stepped in after Tyson suffered an injury.

Fight Details:

Jake Paul (9-1, 6 KOs)

  • Paul is coming off a first-round TKO of Ryan Bourland in March.
  • He has promised that Perry won’t survive the second round.
  • Paul is more experienced in boxing but still relatively new to the sport.

Mike Perry (0-1)

  • Perry, known as “Platinum,” brings over a decade of fighting experience, mainly in MMA and bare-knuckle fighting.
  • He believes Paul is still green in the fight business and intends to use his experience to pull off an upset.

Main Event:
Jake Paul vs. Mike Perry

Live Updates: Follow DAZN for all the live updates, results, and highlights from the Paul vs. Perry pay-per-view main card.

Main Card Results:

Amanda Serrano def. Stevie Morgan via TKO

  • Round 2, 0:38
    • Watch the finish

Lucas Bahdi def. H20 Sylve via knockout

  • Round 6, 2:27
    • Watch the finish

Corey Marksman def. Tony Aguilar via majority decision

  • Scores: 76-76, 77-75, 78-74

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. def. Uriah Hall via unanimous decision

  • Scores: 59-55, 59-55, 58-56
    • Recap

Stay tuned for the main event updates and see if Jake Paul can deliver on his promise of another highlight reel knockout or if Mike Perry will teach him a lesson and pull off a major upset.

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