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Gaudreau gets SO winner; Flames beat Jets in thriller – TSN

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WINNIPEG — Johnny Gaudreau put in a little extra work to keep his hot start going.

The winger scored in regulation to extend a season-opening point streak to eight games before sealing Calgary’s shootout victory Monday as the Flames beat Winnipeg 4-3.

After Sean Monahan buried one for Calgary and Kyle Connor responded for the Jets, Gaudreau wove into the offensive zone and performed a series of dekes that tied Connor Hellebuyck in knots for the winning margin in the fourth round.

On the heels of the worst offensive output of his career in 2019-20 — 58 points in 70 games — the 27-year-old Gaudreau already has six goals and four assists in this pandemic-shortened campaign.

“I feel really comfortable,” he said. “Me and (Monahan) are playing really good in our defensive zone. We’re being smart. I don’t think we’ve been out on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal (against).

“And we’re getting our chances offensively.”

Flames head coach Geoff Ward said Gaudreau’s details in his own end and Calgary’s success on the power play, which runs though the diminutive forward, have been crucial to the early success.

“He’s having fun, he’s smiling coming to the rink,” Ward said. “When he gets time and space with the puck he can usually do good things.

“It’s been a great start.”

Andrew Mangiapane and Christopher Tanev — on a fluke goal from inside his own blue line — also scored in regulation for Calgary (4-3-1). Jacob Markstrom turned aside 25 shots, while Elias Lindholm had two assists.

Markstrom, who left the Vancouver Canucks for the Flames in free agency, made a couple big saves in overtime before denying three Jets in the shootout, including a desperation toe stop on Blake Wheeler that had the big netminder grinning under his mask.

“He’s been our best player by far this season, hands down,” Gaudreau said of Markstrom. “Great signing for us, huge pickup for us.

“He’s crazy back there.”

Connor, with two on the power play, and Mark Scheifele, with a goal and an assist, replied for Winnipeg (5-3-1), which got 25 saves from Hellebuyck. Wheeler added three assists as the Jets blew a 2-0 lead before battling back to tie things late in the third period to at least grab a point.

“We’ve got to be better,” Scheifele said. “We’ve got to stick to our game. We can’t sit back. We’ve got to keep being aggressive.”

But it was the Flames on the front foot down 2-1 in the third as Gaudreau tied things at 6:54 when he redirected a feed from Juuso Valimaki past Hellebucyk after the Jets turned the puck over.

The Winnipeg netminder made a great stick save on Lindholm midway through the period to keep things level on a play that resulted in a Flames man advantage the Jets would kill off. Hellebuyck followed that up by stoning Mangiapane before Tanev hit the post as Calgary came in waves.

“You could tell the ice kind of tilted,” Gaudreau said. “We had four, five, six really good chances to make it 3-2.”

Then after hitting the crossbar off the rush, Mangiapane banged home a rebound with 6:15 left in regulation for his first to give the Flames a 3-2 lead.

“The puck was just sitting in front of the net,” said Mangiapane, who had a career-high 17 goals in 2019-20. “Happy to tap it home.”

But the Jets tied things with 1:50 remaining when Scheifele tipped Neal Pionk‘s point shot beyond Markstrom’s glove for his fourth with Hellebuyck on the bench for an extra attacker.

The game marked the first of three straight meetings between the North Division rivals at Bell MTS Place this week, with the next two set for Tuesday and Thursday. The Jets will actually play four in a row against the Flames over a nine-day stretch, while Calgary hosts the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday before resuming hostilities with Winnipeg at Scotiabank Saddledome two nights later.

Coming off Saturday’s 4-1 home loss against Vancouver, the Jets shuffled their top-6 forward group, with Scheifele centring Andrew Copp and Nikolaj Ehlers, while Paul Stastny skated between Connor and Wheeler.

The Flames, meanwhile, secured a hard-fought 2-0 victory in Montreal over the Canadiens on Saturday that snapped a three-game slide thanks to Markstrom’s second shutout of the season.

Winnipeg, which lost 3-1 to Calgary during the summer restart’s qualifying round, took the season opener for both clubs 4-3 in overtime on Jan. 14 courtesy of Patrik Laine‘s winner — the sniper’s last action with the team before he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets along with Jack Roslovic for Pierre-Luc Dubois and a third-round pick nine days later.

The Jets opened the scoring at 4:31 of Monday’s first period on a man advantage when Connor, who entered without a point in his last three games, wired his fifth upstairs on Markstrom.

Winnipeg carried the bulk of the play throughout the opening 20 minutes, and doubled the lead on another man advantage at 13:46 when Connor one-timed his seventh from almost the exact same spot.

The visitors settled down in the intermission and got a lucky break to cut the deficit in half seven seconds into the second when Tanev’s attempted breakaway pass from inside his own zone skipped in front of Hellebucyk and fooled the reigning Vezina Trophy winner for the shutdown defenceman’s first with Calgary.

“It went through a few legs and sticks, and obviously took a fortunate bounce,” said Tanev, who also signed with Calgary after leaving Vancouver. “I will take any goal I can get.”

Winnipeg had a great chance early in the third, but Markstrom robbed Scheifele with the glove. The Jets sniper the came close a second time later in the period on a power play only to see his shot chime off the post before Gaudreau equalized moments later.

“We were a little slow coming out,” Ward said. “There’s a saying that after an emotional win, which we had in Montreal, the next game is often hard to get into.

“But I give our guys a lot of credit for the way that they regrouped.”

With Gaudreau once again leading the charge.

Notes: Jets centre Adam Lowry saw a six-game point streak (four goals, four assists) come to an end. … Dubois remains unavailable for Winnipeg as he continues to serve a two-week quarantine after crossing the Canada-U.S. border shortly after the deal with Columbus was finalized.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2021.

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This Battle of Alberta won’t be like the past, but the emotion will be unmatched – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON  — It’s been 31 years, so long that a generation really only knows the Battle of Alberta in snap shots from Hockey Night in Canada videos. 

Gretzky down the wing on Vernon. Smith, in off of Fuhr. Fleury break dancing across the Northlands Coliseum logo. Dave Brown, startin’ the lawn mower on Jim Kyte. 

Glen Sather, alternately cheering an OT goal in Calgary and issuing a hand gesture to Flames fans that would have garnered him a healthy fine today. 

We’re here to tell you: societal norms dictate that the old Battle of Alberta will never be re-lived. This can not be that. 

But although we might know what we’re NOT going to see when the Calgary Flames hook up with the Edmonton Oilers starting on Wednesday night, you never know what you might see in a matchup set to consume this prairie province for the first time since 1991. A grudge match that — in its best days — was as good a rivalry as the National Hockey League has seen in all its many years. 

“You always knew going into it that there was going to be bloodshed, and it was going to be some of your own,” former Oilers (and Flames) defenceman Steve Smith said in my book, The Battle of Alberta. “It was real then. There were going to be fights and you were expected to be part of fights and physical hockey.” 

“They were big, strong, physical,” added Edmonton defenceman Jeff Beukeboom. “They were dirty. Just like us,”  

The sheer violence does not exist anymore, and for that the NHL is a better place. But the emotion that has gone missing with that violence? 

That, we’d like to surgically implant back into the game, like a ligament from a cadaver that could put the hop back in the step of a league where too many players are buddy-buddy, asking how the wife and kids are rather than putting a glove in their opponent’s face. 

It was that emotion that fuelled the high-octane dragster that was The Battle. 

Emotion that would drive Doug Risebrough to slink into the penalty box with an Oilers jersey purloined from the latest Pier 6 brawl, and slice it into ribbons with his skates. Emotion injected into a practice from Flames head coach Bob Johnson, who dressed a Junior A goalie in an Oilers jersey so his players could feel the thrill of blowing pucks past a Grant Fuhr lookalike. 

“That’s the thing we’re missing in the game today. Emotion,” said former Flames goalie Mike Vernon. “Those games had so much emotion, and there was a price that had to be paid. Like the time Dave Brown fought Stu Grimson. Grimmer sat in the penalty box for 10 minutes with a broken face. 

“You want to see real? That’s real.” 

Emotion from players who knew, this wasn’t going to be a normal game. And if I play like it is, I won’t survive it. 

“I had no problem [expletive] cuttin’ your eye out. Wouldn’t have bothered me a bit,” said Theoren Fleury, a small man who cut a big swath through the Battle. “Hey – you’re trying to [expletive] kill me? This was survival. It was that unpredictability that allowed me to have the room that I had.”

On a macro level, Edmonton and Calgary have always been contesting each other.

They fought over who would get the first Canadian Pacific Railway terminal (Calgary), way back in the 1800s. They argued over who would be designated the provincial capital, or lay claim to the University of Alberta in the early 1900s (Edmonton, and Edmonton). 

Today the contest has been mostly won by the city that is simply 300 kilometres closer to the rest of the world than its rival. Calgary is the Dallas to Edmonton’s Houston, where the oil patch is concerned, an industry orchestrated by the white collars in the South, but serviced and operated by blue collars up North. 

But where all this has impacted the sports scene is this: Anecdotally, more people born in Edmonton continue to live in Edmonton, while Calgary has become a city more rich in people from elsewhere; Edmonton is a city you leave, whereas Calgary has become somewhere people come to, with allegiances to other teams in tow.

That assessment is subjective, sure, but it’s backed up by the fact the Oilers tend to post better media numbers than the Flames do, whether it’s radio, TV or print. There is simply more local interest in Edmonton’s team than Calgary’s, a phenomenon that will be invisible to the naked eye these next two weeks. 

When the original Battle began however, there was no question who was the big brother, and who was the little one. 

Edmonton had joined the NHL from the old World Hockey Association in 1979, and the Flames arrived from Atlanta a year later. Soon, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey et al. were clearly a group the Flames could not match, or catch up to via the draft. So the Flames, with former University of Wisconsin coach Bob Johnson behind their bench, built a team using older college grads like Joe Nieuwendyk, Joe Mullen, Joel Otto, Jamie Macoun and Gary Suter.

In the end, the Flames only won one of five playoff meetings between the two, but they played the Boston Red Sox to Edmonton’s New York Yankees, or Don Cherry’s Boston Bruins to the 70’s Habs that were Edmonton. 

“Ali needed Frazier,” Messier once said. “That top opponent that pushes, and challenges, and makes you better.” 

As the two teams ready for a meeting beginning Wednesday night in Calgary, that old Saddledome is perhaps the only visual that will provide a similar look, outside the familiar jerseys of each team. The landscape is unfamiliar, with teams full of players who have never faced each other in a post-season series. 

Two teams who once combined for 780 goals in a season settled for 576 this season. And penalty minutes? 

Forget about it… 

In 2022 however, there are some similarities. Connor McDavid will play the part of Wayne Gretzky, while the Elias Lindholm line will lend depth and execution the way Johnson’s old Flames would attack Edmonton using his oft-referenced — but never actually seen — “Seven Point Plan” to beat the Oilers. 

Today Matthew Tkachuk is the spoon that stirs the emotional bouillabaisse, whereas before it was Esa Tikkanen or Neil Sheehy, the Flames defenceman and Gretzky-pesterer whose refusal to fight anyone on Edmonton wound the Oilers up like a top. 

When it’s done, all we can hope for is some lasting memories, some players who might not tee it up together the way they may have a summer ago, and two organizations that see each other as they once did — as the in-division hurdle that had to be jumped on the way to a Stanley Cup. 

“All the most important, most memorable team meetings we ever had were held in that dressing room in Calgary,” Craig MacTavish once said. “We were the best two teams in the NHL of that day, and we would meet very early in the playoffs. 

“They were absolute wars,” he added. “A pleasure to be a part of, in hindsight.” 

We leave you with this anecdote, from Beukeboom. 

“I think it was a pre-season game,” he began. “I was going up ice and got two-handed on the back of the legs by Fleury. Whack! I remember a pile-up in the corner one day, after Simmer (Craig Simpson) had taken out their goalie, and Fleury was running his mouth. ‘You guys suck. You can’t skate, you big [expletive].’ So now we’re in the pile in the corner, and he’s on top of me. But, we come out of it together, and now he’s saying, ‘It’s OK. I’ve got you. No problem.’ Like, now he’s being a nice guy.” 

So, what did Beukeboom do? Exactly what Fleury would have done, had the shoe been on the other foot 

“I suckered him. Cut him open for stitches,” he said. “It was one of the few times [head coach] John Muckler paid me a compliment.” 

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Barkov, Bergeron, Lindholm named as Selke Trophy finalists – Sportsnet.ca

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The Calgary FlamesElias Lindholm joined fellow centres Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers and Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins as one of three finalists named for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, the NHL announced Tuesday.

The award, which is given “to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of
the game,” is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, with the top three vote-getters listed as finalists.

Lindholm, 27, has never won the award, but posted a plus-61 rating that was second only in the league to teammate Johnny Gaudreau’s plus-64. The Swedish centre was the fifth-best in the league at faceoffs, with a 52.9 per cent success rate in 1,592 attempts.

Barkov, who won the Selke last year, led the Panthers to the Presidents’ Trophy this season with the league’s best record. The 26-year-old from Finland posted a career-best 57 per cent success rate in faceoffs and led his team’s forwards in average ice time (20:18) for the fifth straight year. His plus-36 was fourth best in the league amongst forwards.

Bergeron, who may retire this off-season, has won the Selke four times in his 19-year career, which is tied with former Montreal Canadiens great Bob Gainey for the most in NHL history. The 36-year-old from L’Ancienne-Lorette, Que., has been a finalist for the Selke 11 times and led the league this season for the seventh time in his career in faceoff wins, with a success rate of 61.9 per cent.

The NHL plans on revealing its 2022 award winners during the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final.

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England to host 2025 Women’s Rugby World Cup

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World Rugby (WR) has named England as the host nation for the 2025 Women’s Rugby World Cup.

In addition, WR also unanimously approved Australia as hosts for the men’s World Cup in 2027 and the women’s in 2029 with the United States (US) hosting the men’s tournament for the first time in 2031 and the women’s in 2033.

WR is hoping to generate US$1 billion from the World Cup in 2031 as it seeks to tap into the US’ vast sporting culture and commercial potential.

“The USA is the golden nugget everyone wants to get a hold of. It’s the world’s biggest sporting market,” said WR chairperson, Sir Bill Beaumont.

2031 and 2033 World Cups have 25 or so venue bids on the table from all over the country. WR delegates have already been shown around the Denver Bronco’s impressive Empower Field home. One possibility could see the tournament start in the west of the country and gradually move east. There is also the possibility of using localized pools, where each group plays in a different part of the country before congregating for its grand finish.

The whole process is expected to cost in the region of US$500 million and has already received bipartisan support, alongside the seal of approval from President Joe Biden, who wrote a letter to Sir Beaumont promising regulatory support and infrastructural guarantees.

In the US, there have been many attempts to crack the market, but none have yet succeeded. However, the continued presence of rugby in the Olympics, the growing footprint of Major League Rugby (MLR) and an acceptance of where things went wrong in the past, means there is optimism around the next decade.

The US men’s team faces one of the biggest games in their history in June when they have their two-legged playoff against Chile for a spot in the 2023 Rugby World Cup scheduled to take place in France from the 8th of September to the 28th of October 2023.

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