VANCOUVER – In the first game of his rookie season with the Vancouver Canucks, about 55 minutes before he was scorched by Connor McDavid on the Edmonton Oilers’ game-winning goal, Quinn Hughes turned to defence partner Chris Tanev before the opening faceoff and asked if they were staying out against the superstar once the puck was dropped.
Tanev told him yes. And the then 19-year-old Hughes, according to Tanev, replied: “OK, let’s go.”
Less than three months later, Hughes didn’t have to ask on Monday.
Matched most of the game against the McDavid-Leon Draisaitl line, Hughes not only helped hold the National Hockey League’s top two scorers to three shots on net and a one assist apiece (on the power play), he also blasted in the third-period game winner as the Canucks rallied to beat the Oilers 4-2.
“It’s good, but at the same time it’s humbling,” Hughes, who turned 20 two weeks after that Oct. 2 loss in Edmonton, said of shutting down McDavid. “I know that on any given night, those guys could make me (minus) three. I just try to play my position when I play those guys. It’s a good feeling.”
Checking centre Jay Beagle has had his whole NHL career to train for assignments like defending against McDavid and Draisaitl. Including the five he played for the Canucks straight out of University of Michigan at the end of last season, Hughes had 41 NHL games before Monday.
“For sure, he surprises me,” Beagle said. “I knew he was a great skater coming in. You could tell that from Day 1. Great with the puck. But there are obviously things that you learn about a guy just from playing more games with him, (and) his play away from the puck and his reads, it takes a long time for some guys to get that. He has it right away, which is good for us.”
Only a week ago, the laid-back West Coast (except when it comes to the Canucks or pipelines) was fiercely divided over whether coach Travis Green or general manager Jim Benning should be the first one fired after Vancouver lost four of five games to fall four points adrift of the final wild card playoff spot.
They’ve suddenly built their most impressive three-game winning streak of the season with a cathartic OT win against the Vegas Golden Knights, followed by victories against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Oilers, whose standings lead on the Canucks is down to two points.
But the tying goal on Monday was exceptionally controversial, since it involved the highly-subjective and mysterious “kicking motion” rule, the NHL war room in Toronto, a coin flip and a Ouija board before Bo Horvat’s right-footer was allowed to count for the Canucks.
Goal-less at home this season, which meant he hadn’t scored in Vancouver since he was named the Canucks’ captain on Oct. 9, Horvat clearly turned his right skate to guide the generous rebound from Tanner Pearson’s shot into an open net behind Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen at 4:12 of the final period.
There are less footsy goals in soccer than the one Horvat scored, which is why his celebration was muted. He actually looked guilty putting his arms in the air.
“I wasn’t going to get my hopes up until we went to centre ice and the puck was dropped,” Horvat said. “I came back to the bench and I was like: ‘You know what, with my luck at home right now, this probably isn’t going to count.’ Definitely wasn’t a kicking motion. I’m happy it went in. It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
It was hard to tell post-game which interpretation of the rules was more disappointing to Edmonton coach Dave Tippett: Horvat’s kick or the kick in the teeth of a too-man-men call that preceded Hughes’ power-play winner at 13:48.
“Borderline at that stage of the game,” Tippett said of the penalty. “You get some breaks like that, but ultimately you gotta take care of things like that. It’s the details in winning. If you’re not willing to do them enough, you’re going to lose some games and that’s what happened tonight.”
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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom scored to build a 2-1 lead for Edmonton, which had been 13-0-1 in games they led into the third period. Draisaitl and McDavid each finished minus-three, and the Oilers are just 2-6-1 in their last nine games.
Tyler Motte and Loui Eriksson, into an empty net, scored the other Vancouver goals.
A week ago, nobody foresaw the Canucks going into the Christmas break with this much good cheer.
“We never lost confidence,” Hughes said. “We’ve got a good team. We know it. Our coaching staff knows it and our management knows it. We believe in ourselves.”
Motte said: “Winning fixes a lot of things. The momentum going into the break is good.”
The Canucks’ next game is Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings. The Oilers play Friday against the Calgary Flames.
Astros erupt for seven runs in ninth, beat Red Sox to tie ALCS – Sportsnet.ca
BOSTON — Six outs from falling behind 3-1 in the AL Championship Series and facing elimination in Game 5 in Boston — where the Red Sox had yet to lose this postseason — the Houston Astros offence awakened.
After tying it in the eighth inning on Jose Altuve’s solo homer, the Astros bullied the Boston bullpen for seven runs in the ninth to win 9-2 on Tuesday night and even the best-of-seven playoff at two games apiece.
“This is one of the great things about baseball,” said the Astros’ 72-year-old manager, Dusty Baker. “When you’re dead in the water and things aren’t going good, and then all of a sudden, boom, boom, boom, and you got seven runs.
“That’s what they’ve been doing to us this whole series,” he said. “And we’re capable of doing that as well.”
Jason Castro looked off a potential third strike from Nathan Eovaldi before driving in watch-tapping Carlos Correa with the go-ahead run in the ninth, then the AL West champions kept on scoring to guarantee themselves at least one more game back home.
Game 5 is Wednesday in Boston, with Games 6 and 7 back in Houston on Friday and, if necessary, Saturday.
The Red Sox are 5-0 after playoff losses under manager Alex Cora.
“We’re feeling pretty confident,” said Eovaldi, the Game 2 winner who made his first relief appearance since 2019. “That’s been one of our strengths is being able to turn the page and come in tomorrow.”
In a series that had been dominated by offence — especially Boston’s, which has hit 10 homers in the series, including a record-setting three grand slams to turn Games 2 and 3 into routs — the teams traded first-inning home runs.
Alex Bregman hit a solo shot into the Green Monster seats, then Xander Bogaerts topped it with a towering, two-run drive onto Lansdowne Street in the bottom half to give the Red Sox a 2-1 lead.
Then, the pitchers took over.
It was still 2-1 when Altuve homered against Garrett Whitlock to tie it in the eighth. It was his 21st career postseason home run, breaking a tie with Derek Jeter for third-most in baseball history and trailing only Manny Ramirez (29) and Bernie Williams (22).
Eovaldi, making his first relief appearance since he was coming back from an injury two years ago, came on for the ninth and gave up Correa’s leadoff double.
The Red Sox thought they were out of the inning when Eovaldi’s 1-2 breaking ball appeared to catch the plate for strike three on Castro. Still alive, Castro singled in Correa to give Houston the lead.
“Yeah, a lot of people thought it was a strike,” Cora said. “It was a good game until the end, right? We were one pitch away from ending that inning, and it didn’t happen, and then they scored seven.”
Michael Brantley hit a three-run double off Martin Perez. Yordan Alvarez added an RBI single. Perez’s throwing error on Correa’s infield single allowed a run to score, and Kyle Tucker singled in another run.
Houston has scored 36 runs with two outs in the postseason, including 18 of its 22 in this series.
“We knew with this team that we’re playing we wanted to pad the lead,” Baker said. “And pad the lead we did, you know what I mean? That one run might not have stood up, especially in this ballpark.”
The Red Sox, who were the first team in major league history to have double-digit hits six straight times in a single postseason, had just five on Tuesday — two of them when already trailing by seven in the ninth.
Nick Pivetta allowed just one more hit after Bregman’s homer before leaving with a 2-1 lead through five innings. Eovaldi took the loss, allowing four runs while getting just two outs.
Kendall Graveman, the fifth Houston pitcher, threw two scoreless innings for the win. The Astros had special praise for Cristian Javier, who pitched three scoreless innings to get them through five as Houston’s bullpen delivered 7 2/3 shutout innings.
“What the relievers did today was amazing,” Altuve said.
It was the third straight game the Red Sox got five or more innings from a starter, and the third straight that the Houston starter didn’t make it out of the second inning; Zack Greinke got just four outs on Tuesday.
Astros: CF Jake Meyers, who injured his left shoulder crashing into the wall in the Division Series clincher, was originally listed in the starting lineup but “wasn’t quite ready yet,” Baker said. Chas McCormick started in centre instead.
Red Sox: Schwarber appeared to tweak his left hamstring on a swing in the fourth inning. He limped out a groundout and remained in the game.
Game 5 is Wednesday at 5:08 p.m. Chris Sale will start for the Red Sox after allowing one run over 2 2/3 innings in Game 1. Framber Valdez goes for Houston. He gave up two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings during the series opener.
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
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