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Canucks let down by ineffective power play, top six in loss to Lightning – Sportsnet.ca

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Turns out Alligator Alley is as pleasant as it sounds – especially when you’re making the trip on foot, through the swamp in flip flops, dangling pork hocks from your pockets.

In crossing the grating state of Florida for road games against the NHL’s best two teams, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, the Vancouver Canucks played as well as anyone could reasonably expect given the unideal preparation of a nine-day layoff.

The Canucks scored twice in each game and outshot the Stanley Cup contenders, limiting the two-time champion Lightning to just 21 shots on Thursday. Tampa had 11 even-strength shots through two periods.

But the Lightning still beat the Canucks 4-2, two nights after the Panthers dumped them 5-2.

In Sunrise, Fla., it was a pair of Vancouver lulls that allowed quick-strike, two-goal outbursts by Florida to sink the Canucks. And on Thursday, across Alligator Alley and up the Gulf Coast, it was a futile power play that hurt them as much as Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

At even strength, the Canucks slightly outplayed the Lightning. But the Tampa power play generated an early goal for Steve Stamkos, and the Vancouver power play was 0-for-4 and forced only one actual save from Vasilevskiy.

Let’s accept that the Canucks, who started the season 6-14-2 but hadn’t lost in regulation under new coach Bruce Boudreau until the team ventured to Florida, simply aren’t as good as the Panthers and Lightning. But the Canucks can compete – as they showed this week.

But to actually win these games, Vancouver needs to be closer to perfect. There is little or no margin for error for the Canucks if they hope to win any games on this five-game exam that continues Saturday afternoon in Carolina against the NHL’s No. 3 team, the Hurricanes, who will be all fired up after getting embarrassed 6-0 Thursday by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“Definitely the margin of error is really little,” fourth-line winger Matthew Highmore, whose first-period goal briefly lifted the Canucks into a 1-1 tie, told reporters on Zoom. “They’re tight-checking games, they’re not wide open. You have to take your chances when you get them. We’re knocking on the door. We didn’t get the win last night or tonight, but we have to continue to do the right things.

“Honestly, I think urgency from a month ago and to the end of the year is going to be the same. We need to win, and we’ve got to find a way on this road trip to get some wins.”

It would help if the Canucks’ best line on Saturday is not Highmore, Juho Lammikko and Tyler Motte – the energy trio who have generated three of four Vancouver goals on this trip.

The Canucks’ best forwards – J.T. Miller and Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson and Conor Garland – need to contribute something.

“I thought they played great,” Boudreau said of his fourth line. “But they can’t be our best offensive line out there. We’ve got to get more production and, at the same time, play the same way. I thought we were really good tonight. It’s not a victory, and I’m not happy about not winning the game. But if you look at the points of us playing well, I thought there was a lot of good things.”

The power play was not one of them. Reborn after the Canucks coaching change five weeks ago, the power play felt like November on Thursday. It was dismal at critical moments – like at the start of both the second and third periods when there was clean ice and rested players, and late in the final frame when a Lightning penalty for too many players gave Vancouver a chance.

Motte scored brilliantly at 15:46, reversing his stick between his legs to bring the Canucks within 3-2, but Brayden Point scored past Quinn Hughes and into an empty net with 1:16 remaining.

Boudreau was displeased by the power play, which finished 0-for-7 in Florida.

“I thought we were much better than the other night for sure,” Boudreau said, now trying to work out of his first losing streak with the Canucks. “Anytime you can limit that team to 21 shots. . . I think you’ve done a good job. But at the same time, we have opportunities and we have four power plays and we don’t get anything. That’s my fault for putting the same guys back out there all the time. But I mean, I think that’s got to get better. We’re a team that needs to have some success on the powerplay and we didn’t get it.”

Asked about the lack of shots, which evoked uncomfortable memories of the Canucks’ awful start, Boudreau said: “I’ve always been in favour of a shooting power play. We don’t have the guy with the bomb from the point but, at the same time, if you shoot and you get inside on the power play, you’re going to score goals. You’ve just got to get pucks through, and I think sometimes we’re trying to be too cute. And that’s got to change.”

They actually have a guy with a bomb in Pettersson, but the Swede’s ferocious one-timer is just a rumour to Boudreau, who deployed the struggling star in front of the net on the power play and on Horvat’s left wing at even strength.

Pettersson, who was in COVID quarantine last week, has a single assist over his last five games, and just six shots on target in the last four.

“I thought he did a good job at left wing,” Boudreau said. “He had two partial breakaways and he set up a couple of really good plays. I would have bet money after about a period and a half that that he was going to break through, and he didn’t. But sometimes you don’t break through on your first chance when you play a good game; it’s your second or third game.”

On this trip, against these opponents, the Canucks don’t have the luxury of waiting on their best players.

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Canada's Jacob Panetta suspended by ECHL, cut from team for apparent racist gesture – CBC Sports

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Warning: Content may distress some readers

The ECHL acted swiftly on Sunday, suspending defenceman Jacob Panetta indefinitely pending a hearing, for an apparent racial gesture toward opponent and fellow Canadian Jordan Subban of South Carolina Stingrays during Saturday night’s game.

Jacksonville Icemen later released Panetta, a 26-year-old from Belleville, Ont., who was in his second season with the team.

“To be clear, our core values as an ownership group include … zero tolerance for racism or any other forms of hate against any group,” Icemen chief executive officer Andy Kaufmann said in a statement. “We apologize to anyone who was offended and look forward to beginning the process of healing together as one.”

Video of the incident 23 seconds into overtime in the Florida city shows Panetta appearing to raise his arms toward his side while looking at Subban, also a defenceman and a Toronto native.

According to the Florida-Times Union newspaper in Jacksonville, the game report indicates the officiating crew assessed two game misconduct penalties to Panetta for continuing an altercation and for “inciting,” under ECHL Rule 75.5, which applies to “obscene gestures on the ice or anywhere in the rink before, during or after the game.”

After the game, Subban accused Panetta of making a monkey gesture.

His older brother P.K. Subban, an NHL defenceman with New Jersey Devils, took to Twitter to react to the incident at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

“We all know what’s ok and what’s not,” the elder Subban wrote. “Even your own teammates wanted to see you get your clock cleaned. This happens a lot and it never gets exposed in the lower leagues. One thing that I love about this is Jordan’s teammates standing in there and showing support. Love that.”

Subban, pictured being held back by an official during Saturday’s skirmish, responded to Panetta’s apparent racial gesture on Twitter, saying ‘[Panetta] was too much of a coward to fight me.’ (Submitted by Andrew Fielder/AndrewFielderPhotography.com)

Jordan Subban, also 26, further shared some thoughts on social media.

“More like [Panetta] was too much of a coward to fight me and as soon as I began to turn my back he started making monkey gestures at me so I punched him in the face multiple times and he turtled like the coward he is,” Subban 
wrote on his Twitter account.

‘Suspend that kid for life’

“When is this ever gonna end … suspend that kid for life,” retired NHL player Georges Laraque, an inspirational figure in the effort to rid hockey of racism, wrote on Twitter Sunday before speaking with CBC News Network.

WATCH | Laraque says the ECHL is under pressure to mete out appropriate punishment:

Canadian hockey player cut from team after apparent racist gesture on ice

2 hours ago

Duration 7:19

The ECHL indefinitely suspended Canadian hockey defenceman Jacob Panetta, pending a hearing, for an apparent racist gesture toward fellow Canadian player Jordan Subban. Retired NHL player Georges Laraque shares his reaction and how the incident could affect racialized kids playing the sport. 7:19

Jacksonville currently has no Black players on its active roster after goalie Charles Williams was summoned to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League earlier this month.

Last September, American defenceman Jalen Smereck was the target of a racist taunt during a Ukrainian Hockey League game last September when an opponent mimed peeling a banana and eating it. Smereck, who is Black, later reached a “mutual agreement” with HC Donbass to terminate his contract, according to the team.

Smereck also shared his thoughts of Saturday’s occurrence on social media.

On Friday, the AHL barred San Jose Barracuda forward Krystof Hrabik for 30 games following a racial gesture toward another player earlier this month.

Earlier in the week, Boston Bruins retired the No. 22 jersey of 86-year-old Fredericton native Willie O’Ree, the first Black player to appear in an NHL game well known for trying to combat racism that still exists in the league.

The ECHL, formerly called the East Coast Hockey League, is a mid-level professional loop comprising 25 American teams and two in Canada — the St. John’s-based Newfoundland Growlers and Trois-Rivières Lions in Quebec.

The longest suspension in Icemen history is 16 games, according to the Times-Union. It was handed to Emerson Clark in January 2020 for physical abuse of an on-ice official.

The Icemen said the organization is co-operating with the ECHL’s review of the incident.

“As an organization, our fans, partners, and sponsors know our core values and we intend to make comments and decisions after completion of league review,” the team said in a statement.

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49ers stun Packers with second-half comeback, advance to NFC Championship – Sportsnet.ca

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Robbie Gould continued his playoff perfection and moved the San Francisco 49ers one step away from their second Super Bowl appearance in three seasons with a 45-yard field goal as time expired for a 13-10 upset of Green Bay on Saturday night.

On a field littered with snow flurries, Gould’s kick knocked off the top-seeded Packers and possibly ended Aaron Rodgers’ tenure in Green Bay.

The 49ers (12-7) continued their postseason hex on Rodgers and advanced to an NFC championship game matchup Jan. 30 at either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14-4) or Los Angeles Rams (13-5). Those teams play Sunday in Tampa.

Rodgers dropped to 0-4 in career playoff matchups against the 49ers. San Francisco beat the Packers 37-20 in the NFC championship game two seasons ago before losing 31-20 to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

The Packers (13-5) earned the NFC’s top seed for a second straight season but again failed to reach the big game as the 49ers rallied by scoring 10 unanswered points in the final five minutes.

San Francisco tied the game with 4:41 left thanks to a breakdown by Green Bay’s special teams, the Packers’ biggest weakness all season.

Jordan Willis’ outstretched left hand blocked a punt by Corey Bojorquez, who was kicking from the front of his end zone. Talanoa Hufanga picked up the ball at the 6-yard line and ran it in to make it 10-10.

After the Packers went three-and-out, the 49ers got the ball back at their 29 with 3:20 left and drove into field-goal range. Deebo Samuel delivered a 9-yard run on third-and-8 from the Green Bay 38, and the 49ers ran down the clock to set up Gould.

A.J. Dillon’s 6-yard touchdown run capped a 69-yard drive on the game’s opening possession that put the Packers ahead 7-0. Green Bay’s offense didn’t do much of anything after that.

The temperature at kickoff was 14 degrees with a wind chill of zero, making it the fifth-coldest playoff game in Lambeau Field history. The second half was played amid snow flurries.

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Edmonton Oilers stop bleeding with monster comeback victory against Calgary Flames – Edmonton Sun

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On a seven-game losing streak, with their coach on the hot seat, their goalies being roasted at the stake and the season slipping through their fingers, a centre stage Battle of Alberta was the fork in what has been a long and bumpy downhill road

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There are certain games in a hockey team’s season that mean much more than two points. They are watershed moments that tell us who they are and where they are going.

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Saturday night against the Calgary Flames was one of those games for the Edmonton Oilers.

On a seven-game losing streak, with their coach on the hot seat, their goalies being roasted at the stake and the season slipping through their fingers, a centre stage Battle of Alberta was the fork in what has been a long and bumpy downhill road.

In the end, the Oilers took the road less travelled — one that actually led to a win.

They came back from down 2-0 and rode two goals from Evan Bouchard, an outstanding night from Mikko Koskinen and a third-period winner and empty-netter from Leon Draisaitl to post a life-preserving 5-3 victory.

“It feels great,” said Draisaitl, who also chipped in two assists for a four-point night. “Losing is awful. It sucks. It is not fun. It feels like there is always a cloud around you. We are not where we want to be yet, but this is a start and you have to start at some point. (Koskinen) was amazing. It was a full team effort, a good game for us.”

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For reasons unexplained, the Sportsnet crew only saw fit to name Koskinen the third star, but his 44-save performance was the foundation that made everything else possible.

“He saved the game for us,” said Draisaitl. “He was our best player, not even close tonight. It is great for him. We love him in the dressing room and we love playing for him. He was amazing.”

The Oilers, who came in with six points to show for their previous 15 games (2-11-2), needed this game more than they’ve needed a regular season game in a looong time.

That they might have righted their season at the expense of Calgary makes it sweeter.

“It makes it extra special,” said Draisaitl. “It’s always fun beating our biggest rival in the league. But to be honest, it doesn’t really matter at this point when you are that deep into a slump.

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“You are just looking to get that first win out of the way, it doesn’t really matter who it is against. But it does make it a little bit extra special, for sure.”

Not that the Flames were exactly tearing things up. Prior to their 5-1 win over Florida this week they lost nine of their previous 10 games (the only win coming over lowly Seattle) and were outscored 43-22. So they were at a bit of a crossroads themselves.

But when the flag dropped, Calgary hit the gas first.

It was a miserable start for the Oilers, who were losing puck battles and leaving guys wide open around their net en route to a well-deserved 2-0 deficit after 20 minutes. That made it 13 goals against in the last five periods dating back to the five-goal third-period collapse against Ottawa.

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Things looked pretty bad at this point.

It turned in the second, though, starting with a pair of point shots on the power play from Bouchard.

“I thought our second period was good,” said Connor McDavid, who ended his three-game drought with a pair of assists. “We really dictated the pace of the period, drew a few penalties and our power play was able to capitalize.

“The power play is big part of the game and we were able to get ourselves back in it, to just scratch and claw to find a way to get a win.”

Brendan Perlini and Noah Hannafin traded goals before the second intermission and it was 3-3 after 40.

All the Oilers had to do was win the final period. That was no gimme after giving up nine goals in the third period of their last two games, but the game was still up for grabs.

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The Flames pushed first, outshooting Edmonton 8-2 through the first 11 minutes, but Koskinen kept it 3-3 with a handful of key stops, none better than a diving save for the ages on Dillon Dube.

“I think it is my top save in the NHL,” he said. “When you think about the situation and where we are, we really needed the win and we got it so we have to be happy for that.”

That set the stage for Draisaitl’s winner on a brilliant rush at 14:29.

“We were down 2-0 after the first, but we kept talking that we believed and that we were gong to come back and that is what happened,” said Koskinen. “It was a full team effort. I was really proud of the team.”

SIDELINE NEWS

In what seems like a never-ending drip of injuries and illnesses, the Oilers were without Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (leg), Zach Hyman (protocol) and defenceman Tyson Barrie (upper and lower body injuries, but the middle is said to be OK). Zack Kassian also sat this one out with a non-COVID illness.

Stuart Skinner emerged from COVID protocol in time for the game but they kept him on the bench as a backup given that he hadn’t been on the ice in six days.

Twitter.com/rob_tychkowski
rtychkowski@postmedia.com

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