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'Fight the panic': Leafs hope blown late leads just a 'funny week' – TSN

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TSN Toronto reporter Mark Masters checks in daily with news and notes on the Maple Leafs, who practised at Ford Performance Centre in Toronto on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes.

Sheldon Keefe isn’t reading too much into Toronto’s blown leads in the third period last week. 

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“It’s important that we don’t overreact and try to create much of a complex around here,” the coach said. “Just continue to go out and work and look at the greater sample and trust ourselves.”

Prior to last week, the Leafs had been 17-1 under Keefe when holding a lead in the final period. Then last Monday against the Florida Panthers they squandered a 3-1 lead in the third, losing in regulation after Andersen exited with the injury. On Friday, Toronto also blew a 3-1 advantage against the Anaheim Ducks before salvaging the win in overtime. On Saturday, Toronto grabbed a 1-0 edge in Montreal early in the third before surrendering a late equalizer and losing to the Canadiens in overtime. ​

“The trend, of course, is that they’re all third periods and all that, but when we look at the issues in each of the games there’s no real trend there for us,” Keefe said. “So, we’re hoping it’s just a funny week and the way things worked out.”

After Friday’s loss, Keefe said the Leafs played like a “fragile group.”

“We just got to get our swagger back,” said winger Kasperi Kapanen. “We’re a great hockey team and we’ve been working really hard on our D-zone and trying to be better there and I think we have, but the third period comes around and we get a bit nervous.”

In the last two third periods, Toronto has been outshot 31-5, including 16-1 on Saturday, but Keefe was actually happy with how his team defended against the Canadiens. 

“Defensively, we did a really good job and that’s been a big focus of ours,” Keefe said. “We scored early and then kind of got on our heels … but we felt all the shots, including the goal, were from the outside and that’s a positive for us relative to what we were giving up in the past.”

So, what happened? A team oozing with high-end skill suddenly started misfiring. 

“I just think we’re getting away from our game,” said Marner. “We’re not playing with the confidence we need … We’re not getting in the offensive zone enough. To go in and only get one shot is unacceptable. I felt like we gave the game to them in the third.”

One of the rallying cries for Keefe since taking over is “Fight the panic” and hold onto the puck more.  

“It’s just supporting each other,” explained defenceman Travis Dermott, “and then if they do get a little momentum swing it’s not breaking down, it’s coming back to the net, staying deep, supporting each other, not getting too stretched out, talking and then kind of working it through that way instead of panicking, shooting the puck out of the zone, giving it back to them and letting them come right back at us. It’s sometimes hard to fight that panic.”

Keefe’s possession-based system works best when the team takes care of the puck, but on Saturday night in the third period the Leafs seemed to slide back into some bad habits. 

“It feels like we’re forcing plays that we usually don’t and we’ve gotten away from,” noted Marner, “trying to just force stuff up the middle or to a stretch guy who’s by himself on an island. We know what we got to do to be better so tomorrow’s going to be a better showing for us, let’s hope.”

‘Fight the panic’: Leafs hope blown third period leads just a ‘funny week’

The Maple Leafs have given up third period leads as of late and they believe it could be an issue of confidence and some nerves. The team insists as long as they support each other, they will eventually figure it out. Mark Masters has more.

Frederik Andersen participated fully in practice for the first time since sustaining a neck injury last Monday. 

“It’s feeling good,” the goalie said after the session. “First practice back with the team today was pretty positive.”

Andersen had his own net during most of the workout while Jack Campbell and Michael Hutchinson rotated at the other end. If Andersen isn’t ready, then Campbell will start against Arizona. 

Andersen got bumped a couple times in the game against the Panthers, but wouldn’t list one hit that led to the injury. 

“I can’t tell you which one was the worst,” Andersen said. 

Some injuries you can play through, but the nature of this neck injury makes it tough, Andersen said. 

“I don’t want to go into specifics, but just making sure that I can play to the level I need to be at and making sure there are no symptoms … make sure we don’t rush anything.”

Andersen refused to answer when asked if he’s dealt with this type of injury previously. 

After going 1-2-1 last week and with four more games in the next six days, the Leafs are eagerly anticipating Andersen’s return. 

“Freddie’s been unbelievable so it’s big news if he is back,” said winger Mitch Marner, “and brings a little more confidence to our team.”

TSN’s Kristen Shilton has more on Andersen’s status here

‘It’s feeling good … pretty positive’: Andersen possible to return Tuesday

Frederik Andersen didn’t want to go into detail about his injury but did say he is feeling good and a return on Tuesday has not been ruled out. The Maple Leafs goaltender also said it is important that he isn’t rushed back and he believes the medical staff is ensuring that does not happen.

William Nylander returned to practice after missing the last two games due to an illness. 

“I feel way better today, that’s for sure,” the 23-year-old said while holding a cup of chicken broth. “I don’t know what exactly it was, just high fever and just felt terrible.”

Monday’s practice was the first time Nylander skated since Wednesday’s game. 

“Legs felt fine,” he insisted, “it was more so (about my) breathing after not doing anything.”

“I thought he looked fine,” said Keefe. “Willie’s a guy that loves to skate all the time and stay with that consistently so I’m sure he didn’t feel (like) himself, but we’re happy to see him back in the building.”

Nylander had been on a nine-game point streak with six goals in that span before getting sick. Is he worried some of the momentum will be lost? 

“No,” he said with a grin, “I’m not too worried about that.”

‘I’m not too worried’: Nylander doesn’t expect illness absence to slow momentum

William Nylander was enjoying a good stretch personally before falling ill but he doesn’t expect any momentum that he has gained on the ice to be impacted by his brief absence.

The flu bug seems to be making its way through the dressing room, with centre John Tavares and defenceman Justin Holl the latest to get sick. Both missed practice, but Keefe is optimistic they’ll play Tuesday night. 

“I am expecting them, yes,” Keefe said. “However, it’s an illness and you don’t know how that’s going to affect our guys so a lot of those people will be game-time decisions and, of course, we’re hoping it’s something that doesn’t spread.”

Precautions are being made. 

“Everyone’s just got to make sure they’re taking care,” Marner said, “and when they’re at the rink taking all the vitamins and stuff like that. It happens every year and it’s something that sucks.”

Dermott, who missed a recent game due to food poisoning, noted that players are leaning on Margaret Hughes, the team’s lead performance dietician, to help them get through the flu season. 

Leafs Ice Chips: Tavares, Holl miss practice as illness hits the room

There were plenty of missing bodies at Maple Leafs practice on Monday as an illness has made its way through the room. Mark Masters has more on the sick players and who else was missing from the morning skate.

Toronto’s offensive struggles on Saturday extended to the power play, which had a rare off night producing just two shots in two missed opportunities. 

“Some of our spacing and decision-making coming out of our zone was an issue,” Keefe said. “So, you don’t get that right coming out of your zone then you’re going to end up getting jammed up at the blueline as you’re trying to enter. That’s something we had to do better.”

There was a focus on zone entries during the video session.  

“Tyson (Barrie), a couple times coming out, was a little indecisive with what to do with the puck and then that stalled us,” Keefe added. 

There was a radar gun present at practice on Monday with shot speeds getting displayed on a monitor near the bench. 

“I just noticed it when Kappy was shooting,” Andersen said with a smile. “I think he got it up to 60. I don’t know if he was holding back a bit.”

“It doesn’t work well for me,” a deadpan Marner said. “I don’t like it.”

Marner won’t have to worry about it moving forward, it appears. It seems like the radar gun’s presence was simply a fluke. 

“I don’t know where it came from or whose idea it was, but it doesn’t interest me much,” said Keefe. 

The presence of the monitor, for one day at least, did lead to some questions about which Leaf owns the hardest shot. 

“Pierre (Engvall) actually has a very hard shot,” said Andersen, who would arguably know best. “Pierre’s is sneaky hard and comes at you heavy.”

“It depends what kind of shot,” said Nylander. “Wrist shot, probably Auston (Matthews).”

“It’s a tough question,” Kapanen said. “(Jake Muzzin) is probably up there or my centreman (Jason Spezza), he’s got a pretty heavy slap shot so I’d have to pick Spezz.”

Random radar gun at Leafs practice raises the question: Who has hardest shot?

A radar gun crept its way into Maple Leafs practice and although some players didn’t even notice, a few did, and it opened up some chirping possibilities. It also brought up the opportunity to wonder which player on the team has the hardest shot.

Dealing with some bumps and bruises, winger Zach Hyman stayed off the ice on Monday for maintenance. Newly-acquired winger Kyle Clifford missed the workout to attend his grandfather’s funeral. And, at one point, Barrie briefly left the ice. 

“It was a challenge,” a smiling Keefe said of running practice. “At one point we might [have] had as many goalies as we had defencemen. Coming from the American League you’re used to having different challenges such as this and guys adjusted just fine.”

Lines at Monday’s practice: 

Nylander – Matthews – Marner
Johnsson – Spezza – Kapanen
Kerfoot – Gauthier – Timashov
Timashov – Engvall – Aberg

Muzzin – Marincin
Dermott – Barrie
Sandin – Liljegren

Andersen
Campbell
Hutchinson

Injured: Rielly (foot), Ceci (ankle), Mikheyev (wrist)
Sick: Tavares, Holl
Maintenance: Hyman
Personal: Clifford ​

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Canucks keep surprising with ‘inexplicable’ comeback vs. Canadiens

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VANCOUVER – Two weeks into his Calder Trophy season four years ago, Elias Pettersson was thrown violently to the ice in Florida by defenceman Mike Matheson, who had been embarrassed by the rookie Vancouver Canuck earlier in the shift.

Pettersson suffered a concussion, Matheson a two-game suspension and the incident set off an inferno of debate about the culture of both the Canucks and the National Hockey League.

But even then, as a 19-year-old with the physique of a 2-iron, Pettersson was tougher than he seemed. Tougher mentally and physically. Four years later for Pettersson and two teams later for Matheson, the Canucks’ elite two-way centre victimized the Montreal Canadiens’ defenceman in overtime to give Vancouver an inexplicable 7-6 victory in front of fans who have rarely been so entertained.

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Pettersson may or may not have caused Matheson to blow a tire and lose the puck by touching the defenceman’s leg with his stick, but there was little doubt about the significance of the goal it caused – for the Canucks and Pettersson.

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Stronger in every sense than he was four years ago, Pettersson skated the puck to the net from a sharp angle as Matheson retreated and tucked a forehand deke through the pads of Montreal goalie Sam Montembeault.

Asked after the game if he realized in the moment whom he had just pilfered and embarrassed, Pettersson looked a long time at the questioner before deadpanning: “I’m going to say, ‘No comment.’” He knew.

This was Pettersson’s revenge.

At least that’s the storyline we’re going with in a game that could have spawned an alternate universe. For the first time since 1973, the Canucks rallied from a four-goal deficit to win. After the Canadiens scored four times in the first period, the Canucks eventually blew a 5-4 lead late in the third, trailed 6-5, then tied it on Andrei Kuzmenko’s power-play goal with Vancouver relief netminder Collin Delia on the bench for an extra attacker.

And then Pettersson won it 13 seconds into overtime.

“If they had called a penalty there, I would have been upset,” he said. “I didn’t touch his skates. I saw that I had an open lane (to the net). And I saw their goalie had one knee down at the post and it looked like if I made a long move, I might be able to get it through.”

Later, in his press scrum, Pettersson told reporters: “I don’t know if it was relief to score a goal or whatever, but just, overall, the emotion all game, to be down four and come back, be down one again and then tie it at the end, it was a game that had a lot of emotions and I’m glad we came up on top tonight.”

Canucks’ Pettersson hoping team can build off come from behind win over Canadiens

A game with 13 goals deserves that many clauses in one sentence.

“Man, we got the two points; that’s all I can say,” Canuck captain Bo Horvat said. “At the end of the day, I don’t care how we did it, we got it done. Obviously, it was not pretty. We made it pretty hard on ourselves but we showed a lot of resilience tonight. And Dells stepping in (for starting goalie Spencer Martin) and playing as well as he did … it was a fun one. It was a Monday Night Football game.”

Maybe the Canucks would be good at football. They appear to have some flaws as a hockey team.

Unable to figure how to defend leads and win, now they don’t even know how to lose properly. Canuck teams don’t come back from 4-0 late in the second period. They don’t score seven goals in the final 23½ minutes.

They don’t finish a four-game homestand at 2-2 when they led for less than seven minutes in more than four hours of hockey.

“That’s just the rollercoaster of emotions — kind of how you do not want to play the game, really,” Canuck veteran J.T. Miller said. “You want to play even-keel. But when you give up four that quickly, it was kind of a shell shock because … we had been absolutely dominant. Shots were 9-0 (at the start). A couple breakdowns and we’ve just got to get out of that habit of giving them up bang, bang, bang, bang. You’re not going to come back from 4-0 every day. But we talked about getting two in the second (period). But we had so many guys step up. Petey’s line was awesome; Petey was dominant.”

After Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win against Arizona, when the Canucks chased the mighty Coyotes all game, Pettersson’s line was reconfigured by desperate coach Bruce Boudreau. Brock Boeser, who went from being a healthy scratch to outed on the trade block to goal-scoring hero in one eventful Saturday, was deployed Monday alongside Pettersson and winger Ilya Mikheyev.

Mikheyev scored twice on perfect passes from Pettersson, who finished with three points, giving him 32 in 26 games this season.

Canucks’ Pettersson slips game winner five-hole to cap OT thriller vs. Canadiens

Horvat, Conor Garland and Jack Studnicka, with the Canucks’ first go-ahead goal at 8:49 of the third period, also scored for Vancouver.

It was impossible to foresee when the score was 4-0 that Studnicka and Delia would become key figures in a Canuck victory. But most of their season has been a surprise. The Canucks are Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.

“It’s funny, I feel like every game, it’s so live or die,” Miller said. “It’s 82 games. We’ve won a lot of games in the last 15 or 20 (but), it’s a process. It’s not going to be pretty every night. I’m just proud of the group. We had a lot of different guys step up tonight, which is awesome.”

The Canucks have lost seven games this season after leading by two or three goals. But now they’ve won one when they trailed by four.

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Darnell Nurse sounds off on Edmonton Oilers slow starts after Stuart Skinner faces 50 shots

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Another slow start for the Edmonton Oilers wasn’t their undoing against the Washington Capitals in Monday’s 3-2 loss, but it certainly didn’t help either.

The Oilers were outshot 22-12 in the opening frame, with Stuart Skinner turning aside all 22 in his eventual 47-save performance in the loss.

“We come in here and we talk about it every day,” Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse said of his team’s starts. “We sit here after the game, talk about it over and over and over. … We want to have good starts each and every night but, you know, we’re sitting here and it’s a part of our game. We’re almost a quarter of the way through the season.

“The more we just talk away and pester at it, we need to just show up and play. Relax, pin our ears back and come out on the on the attack.”

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The Oilers were outshot 50-30 on Monday, including 19-7 in the second period, when Skinner allowed two goals.

“We weren’t as quick and physical as we wanted to be in the defensive zone,” Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft said. “Our goalie stood tall. We’re 2-2 going into the third period. We made a critical error, and it ended up in the back of our net.”

Skinner Unfazed as Oilers Allow 50 Shots

Skinner, who has moved into the starting role ahead of Jack Campbell over the past month, saw his record drop to 7-6 on the season, with a .916 save percentage and a 2.93 goals-against average.

The 50 shots faced against the Capitals were a season high for Skinner, who said the early barrage helped put him the zone.

“I think if you get a few [early] chances on you and make all the saves, it’s a little bit of a confidence booster,” Skinner said. “They got on the power play and I got a few shots on the power play, so after that I was ready to go.”

The loss dropped the Oilers to 14-12-0 on the season as the team currently sits in the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

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Recap: Brazil vs South Korea – World Cup 2022

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Neymar has returned from injury to help Brazil thump South Korea 4-1, setting up a World Cup quarter-final clash against Croatia.

Four unanswered Brazilian goals in the first half at Stadium 974 on Monday set an imperious tone for a team with their sights firmly on a sixth World Cup title.

And while the game settled in the second period, it was never sluggish or scrappy, and a spirited South Korea fought hard to score a consolation goal in the 76th minute.

It took just seven minutes for Brazil to get off the mark, with Raphinha picking up the ball just outside the box and rushing in on the right side, sending in a pass to Neymar. The Paris Saint-Germain number 10 was brought down by his marker and the ball ended up at the feet of Vinicius Jr, in acres of space.

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The Real Madrid star steadied himself before placing it to the right of Kim Seung-gyu in the South Korean goal.

Brazil celebrating their third goal, with goalscorer Richarlison in the centre [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Just three minutes later, Richarlison was brought down by Jung Woo-young inside the box, and the referee pointed to the spot. Neymar, who had reportedly flown his barber out to Qatar to dye his hair blonde following previous victories over South Korea with bleached hair, wasted no time in slotting it into the bottom-right of the net. Brazil was up two-nil with less than 15 minutes on the clock.

South Korea had their share of chances, with Hwang Hee-chan, fresh off scoring the winner against Portugal, having a go from a distance but sending the ball comfortably over the bar. Moments later, Allison was forced to make a diving save to his left, his first save of the tournament.

But Paolo Bento’s men were simply outclassed in every part of the pitch.

A remarkable piece of skill in the 26th minute saw Richarlison juggling the ball, heading it to himself three times while evading defenders on the edge of the South Korean box. He then passed the ball before running through on goal to receive the return, firing the ball in for Brazil’s third.

Just 10 minutes later, Vinicius Jr set up Lucas Paqueta with a cheeky chip, and the midfielder shot low and right. Kim Seung-gyu could do little but look at the ball nestling in the back of the net.

With four goals before half-time, Brazil was putting down a marker for any teams who think they might have a chance of lifting the trophy on December 18.

Son Heung-min nearly clawed one back for South Korea straight after the restart, but Alisson — who must, through this game alone, be in contention for the Golden Glove — got enough of his arm onto the shot to tip it wide.

Faced with the intensity of Brazil’s onslaught, South Korea tried to slow the game, but more chances for Raphinha and Vinicius Jr followed despite the best efforts of the men in red.

Then came the 77th minute, and out of nowhere, Paik Seung-ho scored from outside the box. A free kick for South Korea was bundled clear by the Brazilian defence, falling to Paik, who belted it past Alisson’s dive to find the top-right corner. Finally, the South Korean fans had something to cheer about.

South Korea continued to work hard in defence and create chances in attack, but that goal was to be their only score, and they head home having been soundly beaten by one of the best teams in the world.

Brazil will face Croatia in the quarter-finals at Education City on Friday.

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