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Canucks getting Jacob Markstrom at his best when they need it most – Sportsnet.ca

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VANCOUVER – Four weeks after turning a three-goal lead into their most embarrassing night of the season by disintegrating and letting the Pittsburgh Penguins pour in five goals in the final 14 minutes, the Vancouver Canucks took a conservative approach in the rematch with Evgeni Malkin’s team on Saturday.

They did not allow the Penguins a first-period shot.

Malkin finished with one point instead of five, and the Canucks beat the Penguins 4-1 at Rogers Arena. Those two things were directly related.

But the story underlying both continued to be goalie Jacob Markstrom, who made 28 saves in his seventh straight start. Six of those have come since Canucks backup Thatcher Demko suffered a concussion from friendly fire during practice.

When the Canucks have needed Markstrom the most, the goalie has played his best stretch of the season.

Vancouver is only 3-4 in those seven games, but it’s possible the Canucks wouldn’t have won any had Markstrom not been in supreme form. He has stopped 216 of 234 shots for a save percentage of .923.

And he is doing this after an emotionally-agonizing autumn when Markstrom’s father lost his battle with cancer back in Sweden.

“I don’t think he ever really got in a rhythm just with the way his year has gone,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “Unfortunately, with what happened to him, he has left the team a few times and that probably has derailed him from getting into a rhythm a bit. He’s definitely in one right now.”

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Veteran centre Jay Beagle said: “This guy, he battles so hard in practice. He works hard off the ice. He’s just a true pro; I only have good things to say about him and his game. It’s hard for anyone, obviously, to be in and out of the lineup. You do get rolling once you play some consecutive games. There is a certain thing where rhythm makes a big difference. He’s playing more now and looking like himself. He’s won us a lot of games.”

The Canucks have won two games this homestand when it seemed possible a few days ago they’d win none.

The team was teetering towards a full-blown crisis when it opened with a 3-1 loss on Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens, the Canucks’ fourth defeat in five games.

But the Canucks won 5-4 in overtime Thursday against the Vegas Golden Knights, who they had beaten only once since the National Hockey League opened an outlet in Nevada, and on Saturday managed their win against a Pittsburgh team that was 7-1 in its previous eight games.

You just never know with these Canucks.

“Of course that last game (in Pittsburgh) was in the back of our heads,” centre Elias Pettersson said after scoring for the fourth time in four games. “We didn’t want to think about it too much, but we used it as fuel tonight.”

After a shotless opening 10 minutes, the Penguins must have gotten bored because they started taking penalties to get the game going.

Starting with a high-sticking double-minor to Dominik Simon at 12:24, the Penguins took eight minutes in penalties in a span of 87 seconds, leaving the Canucks with a two-minute five-on-three and an uninterrupted power play of 4:36.

By the time the Penguins’ penalty box was empty, the Canucks led 2-0.

After an opening goal by J.T. Miller was wiped out by a coach’s challenge — Quinn Hughes put himself offside 62 seconds before Miller scored at 14:05 — Jake Virtanen’s one-timer at 15:10 was as beyond doubt as it was beyond Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray’s catching glove.

Miller doubled the lead at 17:00 with a second power-play goal, a deft, top-shelf redirection of Oscar Fantenberg’s shot-pass to the high slot.

The Canucks did not allow a shot on goal in the first period, marking the first time since 2002 that the Penguins did not test the opposition goalie at least once during a 20-minute frame.

Markstrom required that 20 minutes of rest in order to play the second period, when the Penguins had two more power plays and outshot the Canucks 20-6.

Jake Guentzel guided a rebound into the net from Jared McCann’s power-play blast to halve the Canucks lead to 2-1 at 15:28.

But the Canucks, who collapsed when the Penguins leaned on them late in that dismal 8-6 loss on Nov. 27, displayed impressive resilience by answering just 44 seconds later when Pettersson roofed a Tyler Myers rebound after getting free from Penguins defenceman Marcus Pettersson (no relation).

Three of Elias Pettersson’s last four goals have been greasy. The 21-year-old is learning to play in hard areas.

“If I was accepting, like, being stamped out, boxed out, I wouldn’t be able to score that goal,” he said. “So I’m always trying to be hard on myself and work hard.”

“I think he’s evolving,” Green said. “He’s a very bright, young player. He listens. In hard games, he knows he’s got to go to hard areas, and he is. All the top players in the league, they play in those types of games and they go to hard areas.”

Brock Boeser made it 4-1 with 5:29 remaining, intercepting a Pittsburgh clearance before working a give-and-go with Pettersson.

“We did a lot of good things and it was nice to get the win,” Beagle said. “But we’ve got to continue to build here. We’ve got to be better. We can’t be satisfied with 14 shots (and) Marky standing on his head.”

Well, the goalie-standing-on-his-head part is pretty good.

The Canucks finish their pre-Christmas homestand Monday against the Edmonton Oilers.

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Bryson DeChambeau wins U.S. Open for first career major victory – Sportsnet.ca

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MAMARONECK, N.Y. — What was supposed to be a typical U.S. Open produced a most unconventional champion.

Bryson DeChambeau was not the least bit concerned by the narrow fairways or the ankle-deep rough that shape Winged Foot into historically the toughest of all U.S. Opens. With his extra 40 pounds of muscle and mass, he wanted to pound it into submission with his driver, even if his errant shots were buried in deep grass.

That’s how he plays the game. And for skeptics who said that wouldn’t work in a U.S. Open at Winged Foot, just look at that shiny silver trophy he kissed, and the record score he posted Sunday in a six-shot victory.

This victory was as much about validating his out-of-the-box approach to the royal and ancient game.

“One hundred per cent, no doubt,” DeChambeau said. “For me, it’s about the journey of can I executive every shot more repeatable than everybody else. I was able to do that this week. That’s why I won by six.”

Part of this course’s fame is the “Massacre of Winged Foot” in 1974 when the winning score was 7-over par.

This was a massacre, all right.

DeChambeau rolled in a 7-foot par putt and thrust those powerful arms in the air when he capped off a 3-under 67 on a course that didn’t allow another round under par. Two shots behind Matthew Wolff at the start of a chilly September afternoon, he caught him in four holes, passed him in five and pulled away along the back nine.

From the fairway. From the rough. It didn’t matter.

“I don’t really know what to say because that’s just the complete opposite of what you think a U.S. Open champion does” Rory McIlroy said. “Look, he’s found a way to do it. Whether that’s good or bad for the game, I don’t know, but it’s just not the way I saw this golf course being played or this tournament being played.”

Call him a mad scientist in a tam o’shanter cap. Call him a game-changer in golf.

Any description now starts with U.S. Open champion.

Taylor Pendrith of Richmond Hill, Ont., was the top Canadian following a 70 that left him 10 over, good for 23rd spot. Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., struggled to an 80, finishing at 19 over.

Wolff, trying to become the first player since Francis Ouimet in 1913 to win the U.S. Open in his debut, closed with a 75. He made a 10-foot eagle putt on the par-5 ninth to stay within one shot. That was his only hole under par. Wolff finished at even-par 280, a score that would have won four of the previous five U.S. Opens at Winged Foot.

It didn’t stand a chance in this one.

“You can’t take Bryson out because obviously he won, but shooting even par for four rounds at Winged Foot is pretty exceptional,” Wolff said.

That describes DeChambeau this week. It was a breathtaking performance, four rounds at par or better, the first player to manage that at Winged Foot.

His victory really began last October, when he closed out his 2019 season in Las Vegas and said with a mischievous grin, “I’m going to come back next year and look like a different person.” He added 40 pounds through intense workout and a diet of 6,000 calories a day.

The COVID-19 pandemic shut down golf for three months, leading to the U.S. Open being postponed from June to September. It also gave DeChambeau more time to execute his plan of swinging faster and harder, stretching the limits.

His work ethnic borders on insanity, and the eve of the final round was no exception. Unhappy with how he played Saturday, hitting only three fairways, DeChambeau had the lights turned on so he could stay on the range well past 8 p.m., pounding driver, searching for the right swing. Temperatures were in the 40s. He was in a short-sleeve shirt.

He didn’t find fairways, but he seemed to miss in the right spots. That was key for a player who hit only six fairways on Sunday, 23 out of 56 for the week.

Skepticism turned into admiration, with a healthy dose of disbelief.

“It’s a game we’ve never really seen before,” said Harris English, who shot 73 and finished fourth.

Louis Oosthuizen birdied the 18th to finish alone in third.

“I don’t think they can set it up for him, to be honest,” Oosthuizen said. “I don’t know what they can do really, because he’s hitting it so far. He’s so strong out of the rough. And he’s probably one of the best putters out there, which a week that he really putts well, you’re going to have a lot of trouble.”

In six U.S. Opens at Winged Foot among 894 competitors, DeChambeau is only the third to finish a tournament under par. His 6-under 274 was the lowest score, and no one saw it coming this week.

Wolff, the 21-year-old Californian who can drive it past DeChambeau with a lower flight and more roll in the fairway, gave him a good run in his quest to become the youngest U.S. Open champion since Bobby Jones in 1923.

The U.S. Open was still up for grabs for a fleeting moment around the turn. DeChambeau and Wolff each got out of position on the eighth hole and made bogey. DeChambeau was at 3 under, one shot ahead of Wolff. Ahead of them, Oosthuizen and Xander Schauffele were lurking at even par.

Still to play was the back nine, where so much has gone wrong at Winged Foot over the years.

Not this time.

DeChambeau and Wolff blasted drives down the fairway on the par-5 ninth. DeChambeau rolled in a 40-foot eagle putt with perfect pace. Wolff, who had pitching wedge for his second shot, matched his eagle with a 10-foot putt.

Just like that it was a two-man race.

And then it was a one-man show.

Wolff’s tee shot on the par-3 10th rolled left into the thick collar of the bunker, a spot so precarious he had to stand in the deep bunker and grip halfway down the steel shaft of his sand wedge. He chipped 10 feet by the hole for a bogey to fall two shots behind.

From the fairway on the 11th, however, Wolff hit wedge that was chunky and went into the right rough, and he had to scramble for par instead of setting up a reasonable birdie chance. DeChambeau from the right rough came up short, but he used putter from off the green for birdie from 15 feet away.

With a three-shot lead, DeChambeau kept blasting away as if he were chasing, not leading, just like he said he would. He saved par from the left rough on the 14th and a perfect pitch from deep grass behind the green. He downed another protein shake walking down the 15th, marching along to a major title that affirms his position in the game as a pioneer.

Imagine the USGA, which has been studying the impact on distance, getting together for a debriefing after this performance. What would they say?

“He’s hitting it forever,” DeChambeau said with a laugh.

The last laugh.

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Final Preview: Novak Djokovic, Diego Schwartzman Chase Career Milestones In Rome – ATP Tour

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When Novak Djokovic and Diego Schwartzman meet for the fifth time in their ATP Head2Head series (Djokovic leads 4-0) in Monday’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia final, both players will not only be fighting for the Rome trophy, but also a personal milestone.

Following the completion of his second Career Golden Masters at the Western & Southern Open last month, Djokovic is the joint Masters 1000 titles leader alongside fellow 35-time champion Rafael Nadal. The Rome final presents Djokovic with an opportunity to overtake his rival by lifting a 36th trophy at the level.

Most ATP Masters 1000 Titles

On the other side of the net, Schwartzman is one win away from cracking the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time in his career. The Argentine can achieve the feat by defeating Djokovic for the first time to claim his maiden Masters 1000 trophy.

Djokovic has dropped just one set en route to his 10th final in the Italian capital, improving his match record to 30-1 this year. The 33-year-old has been tested throughout the week in each of his three most recent clashes in Rome.

<img src="https://www.atptour.com/-/media/images/news/2020/09/20/22/07/h2h_m1000_rome_sf_djo_sch.jpg" alt="Novak Djokovic is unbeaten in four ATP Head2Head matches against Diego Schwartzman.”>

Djokovic played an 87-minute set against Filip Krajinovic in the third round, survived a three-set quarter-final battle against Dominik Koepfer and saved two set points in the first set of his semi-final clash against Casper Ruud. The Serbian has consistently produced his best level under pressure to close in on a fifth trophy at the Foro Italico.

Djokovic’s victory against Ruud improved his semi-final record in Rome to 10-1, but the Serbian has not fared as well in championship matches at the Masters 1000 event. Djokovic owns a 4-5 record in Rome finals, which includes losses in his past three championship matches (2016-’17, ’19).

An opportunity to overtake Nadal and make further history in Rome are huge motivational factors for the World No. 1. The four-time champion is still as ambitious as he was the first time he arrived at the tournament, where he has enjoyed consistent success since 2007. Djokovic has reached the quarter-finals or better in each of his 14 appearances at the Foro Italico.

“The 1000 Masters events are as important as it gets on the Tour,” said Djokovic. “These are the events where I want to perform my best other than Grand Slams and the [Nitto ATP Finals]… Finals at such big events mean a lot even after 15 years [of] being on the Tour. I still am as motivated to get my hands on the trophy. This is what I work for as much as anybody else, really, on the Tour.”

Standing between Djokovic and the Masters 1000 titles record is a first-time finalist at the level: Diego Schwartzman. Djokovic enters the contest with a 4-0 ATP Head2Head record against the 28-year-old, but will be well aware of the threat the Argentine poses. The pair met in the semi-finals at this event last year, with Djokovic eventually prevailing in three sets after two hours and 31 minutes.

Djokovic will face an opponent with peak confidence levels on Centrale. Schwartzman dropped just one set en route to the quarter-finals, where he earned his first victory in 10 matches against nine-time champion Rafael Nadal. Schwartzman described the straight-sets win as his “best match ever” and his final opponent was equally impressed.

“Diego played the match of his life [against Nadal]… He was so impressive,” said Djokovic. “And that proves that anything is possible, even [against] Nadal who is probably the toughest challenge in our sport, playing Nadal on clay. But he managed to win in straight sets, so that proves his quality.”

The opportunity to enter the Top 10 for the first time and lift the biggest title of his career with a single victory perhaps makes Monday’s final the biggest match of Schwartzman’s career. The World No. 15 is prepared to push himself to the limit to realise two dreams at the Masters 1000 tournament.

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“I have two dreams tomorrow. One is winning a tournament like this and the second one: be Top 10,” said Schwartzman. “Both are there tomorrow on court against Novak. I know it’s very difficult. I almost need to play more than my 100 per cent.

“I don’t want to say impossible, because it’s not impossible. I know can beat him. But it’s going to be very difficult. But the chances are there tomorrow… I’m going to do everything to be more than my 100 per cent tomorrow on court.”

After his victory against Nadal, Schwartzman was able to maintain his level and earn another milestone win just 24 hours later on Centrale. The Argentine trailed by a break on three occasions in the deciding set of his semi-final clash against Denis Shapovalov, but fought back to claim a memorable final-set tie-break win after three hours and 15 minutes.

“At the end, maybe the third set we were playing for many things: for the final, for the Top 10, for the match… The nerves were there. It was difficult,” said Schwartzman.

“But I think I took my chances when he was thinking about [the] win and nothing else, when he was serving for the match and [a] break up in the third.”

Having already ended a winless streak against Nadal, Schwartzman will now attempt to do the same against Djokovic. The rewards for victory in Rome are clear to both men. But who will be able to take their chance on Monday and place their name in the history books?

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Djokovic gets obscenity warning in semifinal win at Italian Open – Sportsnet.ca

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ROME — Novak Djokovic knows it isn’t model behaviour when he loses his cool on the tennis court.

Yet he just can’t help himself.

Exactly two weeks after he was defaulted from the U.S. Open, and a day after he was warned by the chair umpire for breaking his racket in a fit of rage, Djokovic received an obscenity warning midway through a 7-5, 6-3 win over Casper Ruud in the Italian Open semifinals Sunday.

The obscenity came in the third game of the second set, by which time Djokovic had a running dialogue with the chair umpire over a series of contested calls.

“I deserved the warning,” Djokovic said. “I didn’t say nice things in my language.

“I had a couple of disputes with the chair umpire with those calls,” Djokovic added. “As I understood, I was three out of three right, but doesn’t matter. Everybody makes mistakes. It’s fine. It was a kind of the heat of the battle. There is a lot of intensity on the court. A lot of pressure for him, for both players. It’s kind of whatever happens, happens.”

As opposed to his previous two outbursts, this time there were fans in the stands who could clearly hear how Djokovic dealt with his frustration.

With 1,000 spectators allowed in to the Foro Italico for the first time this week, a large proportion of those in attendance were children.

“I don’t want to do it, but when it comes, it happens,” Djokovic said Saturday. “That’s how I, I guess, release sometimes my anger. And it’s definitely not the best message out there, especially for the young tennis players looking at me. I don’t encourage that — definitely.”

Ruud was Nick Kyrgios’ opponent during last year’s Italian Open when the Australian walked off the court and threw a chair onto the red clay, leading to him being defaulted and fined.

“Some players, or especially Djokovic, (are) very passionate,” Ruud said. “Some players just by nature can show more emotions than other ones. That’s part of the game.”

Djokovic’s behaviour once again overshadowed his performance, in a match where he had to save two set points when Ruud served for the first set at 5-4 — one of them with a delicate backhand drop-shot winner.

The top-ranked Djokovic also served five aces in a single game to take a 6-5 lead in the first.

Ruud, 21, the first Norwegian player to contest a Masters 1000 semifinal and a product of Rafael Nadal’s academy, put up plenty of resistance and also produced the shot of the day: a leaping over-the-shoulder hook shot for a winner as he raced back to chase down a lob — earning a thumbs-up from Djokovic.

“He has that pattern of play on clay with a lot of spin,” Djokovic said. “I’m sure we will see more of him in the big tournaments, especially on this surface. He’s got the game.”

Djokovic improved to 30-1 this year. His only loss came when he was thrown out of the U.S. Open for unintentionally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball during his fourth-round match against Pablo Carreno Busta.

In Djokovic’s 10th Rome final — he has won four — he”ll face either eighth-seeded Diego Schwartzman or 12th-seeded Denis Shapovalov.

Schwartzman beat nine-time Rome champion Nadal late Friday.

In the women’s final, top-seeded Simona Halep will face second-seeded Karolina Pliskova, the defending champion.

Halep reached her third Rome final by beating Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to improve her record in tennis’ restart to 9-0. Pliskova defeated fellow Czech and last year’s French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova 6-2, 6-4.

Muguruza struggled with her serve and double faulted on the final two points of the 2 hour, 16-minute match.

Halep lost to Elina Svitolina in the 2017 and 2018 finals.

“I’m not playing (Svitolina), so I have a plus,” Halep said. “I have just to manage it a little bit better than previous years. … Now I’m more mature. So let’s hope that I can be better tomorrow and to win it.”

The second-ranked Halep is 13-0 overall stretching back to February, when she won a title in Dubai. After the tour’s five-month break due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Romanian returned by raising another trophy in Prague last month. She then skipped the U.S. Open due to travel and health concerns.

Pliskova dictated play against Vondrousova with her serve, hitting six aces to Vondrousova’s one and saving five of the seven break points she faced.

The French Open starts next weekend.

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