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Chiefs rally from 24-0 hole to beat Texans to reach AFC Championship – Sportsnet.ca

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes stalked up and down the sideline like a field marshal rallying his troops, the brilliant young quarterback imploring the Kansas City Chiefs to stay together even as the Houston Texans were on the verge of taking them apart.

The Chiefs already faced a 24-0 hole, bigger than any deficit they had overcome in franchise history.

“The biggest thing I was preaching,” Mahomes said later, “was, `Let’s go do something special. Everybody is counting us out. Let’s go out there and play by play put it out there.’ And play by play, we did what we were supposed to do.”

Beginning with the first of his five touchdown passes, Mahomes and the Chiefs slowly chipped away at Houston’s seemingly insurmountable lead. They continued to pick up momentum, outscoring the Texans 28-0 during the second quarter alone, and eventually reeled off 41 consecutive points before cruising the rest of the way to a 51-31 victory Sunday that propelled Kansas City back to the AFC championship game for the second consecutive season.

In doing so, the Chiefs (13-4) became the first team in NFL history to win a playoff game by at least 20 points after trailing by at least 20. They matched the fourth-biggest comeback in playoff history while winning a post-season game in back-to-back seasons for the first time. Travis Kelce and Damien Williams scored three touchdowns apiece, joining the 49ers’ Jerry Rice and Ricky Waters in Super Bowl 29 as the only teammates to score that many times in a post-season game.

Meanwhile, Mahomes led by example as much as by voice. He finished with 321 yards passing, becoming the first player in post-season history with at least 300 yards passing and five touchdowns while running for at least 50 more yards.

“You saw him going up and down the bench, he was talking to everybody, — `Just settle down,”’ Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “As a head coach, you can’t ask for more than that. When he’s the leader of your team and he’s going, `Hey, we’re going to be fine. Let’s not wait for the fourth quarter. Let’s go!’ And he did that.”

Now, after losing to the Patriots in overtime in last year’s conference title game, the Chiefs are back on the brink of their first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years. They will host Tennessee next Sunday in a rematch from earlier this season after the Titans upset Lamar Jackson and the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night.

“We’ve already played them and we know they’re a tough team,” Mahomes said. “They’re a team that battles all the way until the end. They’re a team that’s really hot, playing really good football right now, so we know it’s going to take our best effort. And, whatever way, we’ve got to find a way to win.”

Deshaun Watson, meanwhile, threw for 388 yards and two touchdowns while running for another, but not even his heroics could bail out the Texans (11-7) after their calamitous second quarter and dismal third. The result: The reborn Houston franchise is 0-4 in the divisional round and has never won a road playoff game.

“I definitely thought we were going to have to score more than 24,” said Texans coach Bill O’Brien, who made a series of debatable calls during the collapse. “I think that they’re, obviously, a very explosive team and it just didn’t work out.”

The Chiefs certainly gave Houston a chance to end their frustrating playoff streak in the first quarter.

On defence, Kansas City blew coverage on Kenny Stills on the opening possession, allowing him to walk into the end zone from 54 yards. On offence, they wasted timeouts, dropped a series of easy passes and managed just 46 yards. And on special teams, the Chiefs had a punt blocked for a score and fumbled a return that set up another touchdown.

Indeed, the Texans kept humming right along after finishing on a 22-3 run to beat Buffalo last week, while the mountain of miscues made by the Chiefs made them only the fourth home playoff team to trail 21-0 after the first quarter.

Things turned around on a series of plays — and a call by O’Brien in particular — that will be debated for a while.

After the Texans stretched the lead to 24-0 early in the second quarter, the Chiefs began to nip into their deficit with a quick touchdown drive. And the comeback really gained momentum when O’Brien called for a fake punt at the Houston 31-yard line and the Chiefs stuffed it, giving them a short field and setting up another easy touchdown.

“We had that play ready for a variety of different teams and situations,” said the Texans’ Justin Reid, who took the snap and was stopped short of the first down. “Credit to them, they made the play.”

As the Chiefs continued to take off, the Texans continued to stumble.

On the ensuing kickoff, Houston return man DeAndre Carter had the ball pop loose and into the arms of Darwin Thompson, whose recovery set up a second Mahomes-to-Kelce touchdown in a matter of seconds. And their third came after the Chiefs forced a punt — a successful one, for a change — and they drove 90 yards to take a stunning 28-24 halftime lead.

“I mean, it was an amazing thing. Everything was working,” Mahomes said. “The play calls were open, everybody was getting open against man-coverage which we’ve been preaching all season long, and guys were making plays.”

The comeback became a clobbering by the time the third quarter ended.

The Chiefs breezed downfield to start the second half, and Williams finished the drive with his first TD run. Their overhauled defence under co-ordinator Steve Spagnuolo sacked Watson on fourth down to get the ball right back, and Mahomes and Co. required just six more plays to position Williams for another TD run and a 41-24 lead.

The 41 consecutive points, spanning most of the second and third quarters, were the most since the Jets had the same against the Colts in the 2002 wild-card round.

Even when the Texans finally cracked the scoreboard, when Watson scrambled to his left and dived over the pylon, the Chiefs rendered the touchdown moot. In four plays they went 72 yards to set up the fifth TD pass by Mahomes, the strike to little-used tight end Blake Bell giving coach Andy Reid’s team a post-season-record seven straight TD drives.

It also gave a festive crowd that turned out early in freezing weather and a slight drizzle a chance to celebrate early.

“We’ve got full confidence not only in the players but the game plan going into it. Just got to deal with what’s going on in the game — what’s real and what’s not — and what was real was we were hurting ourselves early,” Kelce said. “With that, you just rally the troops, lean on the leaders of this team and make plays. That’s what we did.”

INJURIES

Houston played without S Jahleel Addae (hamstring) and TE Jordan Akins (hamstring). They also lost RT Chris Clark to a knee injury early in the game, and backup Roderick Johnson struggled against the Chiefs pass rush the rest of the game.

Kansas City sat defensive tackle Chris Jones, who strained his calf muscle late in the week and couldn’t make it through pregame warm-ups. WR Tyreek Hill left briefly after a hard hit but eventually returned to the game.

UP NEXT

The Texans will spend the off-season wondering how they let a 24-0 lead slip away, and the Chiefs will begin preparing for the Titans in the AFC title game. Kansas City lost lost 35-32 at Tennessee in Week 10, when Derrick Henry ran for 188 yards and two touchdowns against them. It was the Chiefs’ most recent loss.

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McDavid declined surgery to play this season for Oilers – NHL.com

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ST. LOUISConnor McDavid said he was able to play in the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game because he chose to not have knee surgery nine months ago.

“I feel real good,” the Edmonton Oilers center said Friday. “I don’t think I would be sitting here at the All-Star Game if I wasn’t. … I feel good on the ice and feel happy to be playing.”

McDavid, who is captain of the Pacific Division for the 3-on-3 tournament held at Enterprise Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS), was told surgery would have caused him to miss the entire 2019-20 NHL season.

“Obviously I was a 22-year-old kid at the time, and you never want to miss a season,” he said. “You never want to go through a surgery — I’m not going to call it risky — but there were a lot of questions. It’s not like it’s an ACL where doctors can almost do that in their sleep. It’s a PCL. Only a few doctors have done that and it’s not like it’s been mastered.”

McDavid injured his left knee slamming into the goal post during the Oilers season finale against the Calgary Flames on April 6. The damage included multiple tears in the knee and a broken tibia.

He turned to those he was closest to for advice, a small group that included his family and his fitness trainer, former NHL forward Gary Roberts. Working with Dr. Mark Lindsay and a team of physiotherapists, McDavid focused on a rehab program with the goal of being back for the start of the season.

“There were days when it didn’t feel that good going through that process,” McDavid said. “You’re like, ‘Uh, I wonder what the MRI is going to look like? Should we go back and do the surgery and start over?’ But it just kept progressing and progressing and ultimately we didn’t have to go through the surgery route.”

McDavid leads the NHL with 76 points (27 goals, 49 assists), one point ahead of linemate Leon Draisaitl. Edmonton, which has not made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2017, its only appearance since 2006, is tied for second in the Pacific Division, one point behind the Vancouver Canucks.

“We’re having some success,” he said. “Just to be on the ice and be a part of it, it’s fun.”

Video: EDM@VGK: McDavid pots Draisaitl’s feed for PPG

McDavid’s recovery story became public during a promo for the documentary “Connor McDavid: Whatever It Takes,” which aired in full on Sportsnet after the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills presented by New Amsterdam Vodka on Friday.

“The main focus was to get healthy,” he said. “Didn’t want any more pressure, the media, any more questions. … It was actually really nice just to focus on myself and not have to answer any questions and the pressure of all the media. 

“Different way to go about it. I understand that rubbed some media the wrong way. It’s not like we were trying to hide anything. And ultimately we didn’t know all the answers to all the questions. It was a process that was always progressing, always moving.”

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Bieksa has fun with Canucks players at NHL All-Star Skills Competition | Offside – Daily Hive

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There was a Vancouver flavour to the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in St. Louis on Friday night.

Three Canucks players took part — Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Jacob Markstrom — which is more than the team has sent to the mid-season event in eight years.

Vancouver Police Department’s Meghan Agosta also suited up, as one of 20 female players who participated.

Even Canucks public address announcer Al Murdoch was there, calling the action for fans at the NHL event.

But perhaps the most entertaining Vancouver connection was on the Sportsnet broadcast, as former Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa helped out at ice level.

Pettersson juggling the puck

Bieksa put Pettersson’s hand-eye coordination to the test.

“Can you juggle and talk at the same time?” Bieksa asked.

Here’s your answer:

Markstrom takes Bieksa’s money

Sportsnet had Markstrom mic’d up during the Save Streak competition. Bieksa told the Canucks goaltender that he’d give him $100 if Markstrom could stop five shootout attempts in a row.

He did, so he cashed in.

Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington won the event with 10 straight saves, but the real winners were Anze Kopitar’s kids, who Markstrom gave the money to.

Mama Markstrom proud of her boy

Markstrom’s mother Lena made the trip to St. Louis, snapping a selfie with her son on the red carpet.

Markstrom was one of the best dressed players at his first All-Star Weekend, rocking this suit:

Here you go, officer

Agosta and Team Canada beat the Americans 2-1 in the three-on-three game. Don’t let the low score fool you though, it was a back-and-forth game with all sorts of breakaways and scoring chances.

Prior to taking the ice, the three-time Olympic gold medallist met the trio of Canucks All-Stars, receiving a team jersey with her name and number on the back.

Hughes in the fastest skater competition

Hughes is a great skater, but he’s not the fastest in the league. The rookie defenceman finished in last place in the fastest skater competition.

New York Islanders forward and Coquitlam native Mathew Barzal won the competition in a major upset over Connor McDavid.

Pettersson surprises in hardest shot

Pettersson didn’t win the hardest shot competition, but he definitely turned heads.

As the only forward and smallest player in the competition, Pettersson came in third place with a 102.4 mph slap shot.

Shea Weber won the event with a 106.5 mph bomb, finishing ahead of last year’s winner John Carlson, who clocked in at 104.5 mph.

The all-time king of this competition, Al MacInnis, made an appearance as well. The 56-year-old Hall of Famer’s shot (allegedly) hit 100.4 mph with a wooden stick.

Other Blues greats made appearances as well, including Wayne Gretzky, Bernie Federko, Keith Tkachuk, and Brett Hull.

Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Jaccob Slavin was the surprise winner of the accuracy shooting event, while Patrick Kane won the new Shooting Stars Competition.

The All-Star Game takes place on Saturday night, at 5 pm PT on CBC and Sportsnet.

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Canadian NHL teams well represented in net at All-Star weekend – Sportsnet.ca

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ST. LOUIS — For David Rittich, a trip to all-star weekend amounts to a dream come true.

“If you’re going to look back four years ago, no one even from you guys knew my name and right now I’m standing right here in St. Louis and we’re doing all-star media,” he said. “I’m not a guy who could expect to be in the all-stars and be somebody like that.”

For Connor Hellebuyck, this is about affirmation for the work he’s put in.

“It’s blissful. You have that moment of ‘I’ve done something and I’m going the right way,”’ he said. “It’s more encouragement that all of the hard work up to this moment is now showing and now you know you’re going on the right path and you’re not just guessing any longer.”

For Jacob Markstrom, this is the reward for a difficult season where he’s managed to find a clear mind on the ice.

“It’s humbling and it’s an honour to represent Vancouver here,” he said.

For Frederik Andersen, this is an overdue acknowledgement about his place in the game.

“It’s not a single goal I have [to be an all-star], but in a way it is because I want to play well and I want to be a goalie that’s deserving to be here,” he said. “These things are just extra bonuses that come along the way if you do well.”

Four goaltenders that control the crease in Canadian markets and earned a place among the league’s best. Four that will have a large say in where these Flames, Jets, Canucks and Maple Leafs seasons ultimately end up.

Only Hellebuyck had previously been selected as an all-star — in 2017-18, during a season where he finished second in Vezina Trophy voting — and the Winnipeg goaltender believes he’s currently at an even higher-level right now.

“I just feel way more in balance and patient,” he said. “I just feel on top of my game a lot more and I feel way more consistent.”

Markstrom’s all-star season arrives with Vancouver surprisingly on top of the Pacific Division and pushing for a playoff berth for the first time in five years. Not only did he lose his father, Anders, to cancer in November, he’s currently playing in the final year of his contract and facing the possibility of unrestricted free agency.

Still, he’s found some solace in the game.

“I don’t talk about, I don’t think about it, I just play hockey,” said Markstrom, when asked about his contract. “The most important thing for me is to have a clear mind when I step on the ice and just try to maintain that.”

When he spoke with reporters on media day here, a ringing phone briefly interrupted the scrum. Markstrom reached into this pocket: “Oh my god, sorry. It’s my mom. She just landed.”

It’s an exciting time for a 29-year-old who has spent parts of seven seasons in Vancouver. It’s been a journey for both he and the organization and finally it feels like bigger things on the horizon.

“It’s never fun to be in a rebuild process,” said Markstrom. “As a goalie, too, it’s frustrating — you want to win hockey games. It’s frustrating for every guy on the team, for the coaches, for the fans and for the city, too. Now we’ve kind of got a little flash. People are excited around town and at the rink it’s super exciting.

“You definitely want to be part of something in a Canadian market and be a successful team.”

Rittich is the sort of guy who never seems to have a bad day. He signed with Calgary as an undrafted free agent out of the Czech League in 2016 and is among the busiest goaltenders in the league this season with 36 starts already.

Given his unlikely path to the NHL’s showcase event, he was in a reflective mood after making his way to St. Louis.

“I’m proud of myself and I’m proud of everyone who helped me here,” he said.

In case there was any question about what this meant for Andersen, he had artist David Gunnarsson paint a fresh mask with fellow Maple Leafs and Atlantic Division All-Stars Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner on it.

He plans to keep that in his personal collection afterwards.

Even if Saturday night’s all-star 3-on-3 tournament is likely not going to be a venue to show off his best work, he’s thrilled to get the chance to experience it first-hand.

“I think everyone knows it’s not really made for goalies,” said Andersen. “Just enjoy, have some laughs and take it in.

“These are memories you get for life.”

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