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Greiss gets shutout as Isles defeat Flyers to advance to Eastern Conference finals – TSN



TORONTO — The New York Islanders knew they were boarding a plane Sunday.

Getting back to a stifling defensive structure and goals from a couple unlikely sources ensured they’ll be flying west instead of heading home.

Brock Nelson had a goal and two assists as the Islanders defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0 in Game 7 on Saturday to win their second-round playoff series and advance to the NHL’s Eastern Conference final.

New York defencemen Scott Mayfield and Andy Greene — with four goals in a combined 89 post-season games coming into the winner-take-all encounter — also scored for the Islanders, who secured a spot in the conference final for the first time since 1993. Josh Bailey added two assists, while Anthony Beauvillier added an empty netter.

Thomas Greiss had to make just 16 saves to record his first-career playoff shutout.

“Game 7, you never know what you’re gonna get,” Nelson said of Mayfield and Greene. “Everyone wants to be on their game and be a difference maker.

“You never know who it’s going to be or who’s going to have the opportunity.”

The Islanders will now meet the Tampa Bay Lightning in the final four of the league’s restart to its pandemic-delayed season, with Game 1 set for Monday in Edmonton. The Western Conference final is set to feature the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars in the Alberta capital after both clubs won Game 7s of their own Friday.

“You have to go through adversity to grow as a group,” said New York head coach Barry Trotz, whose team lost Games 5 and 6 in overtime before a suffocating Game 7 victory. “This is part of the growing aspect. I thought last game we deserved to win, and that laid a good foundation for our game tonight.”

Carter Hart stopped 22 shots in defeat for the Flyers, who won three OT games in a series for the first time in franchise history.

“It’s a race to four,” Philadelphia head coach Alain Vigneault said. “We were down, gave ourselves a chance.

“On a night we needed to be good, we weren’t good enough.”

Saturday marked the last action in the Toronto bubble as part of the league’s resumption of play that kicked off Aug. 1 after the schedule was suspended in March because of COVID-19. The Stanley Cup final will also be played in Edmonton.

The third of three Game 7s in the second round — the Golden Knights and Stars both avoided blowing 3-1 leads in their respective series thanks to decisive victories against the Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche — the Islanders opened the scoring midway through Saturday’s first period.

After the Flyers had a couple of chances at the other end, including Jakub Voracek’s redirection off the post less than a minute in, Mayfield scored his first-career playoff goal at 9:27 when he came down off the point and beat Hart over the blocker on only New York’s second shot.

“We know how we want to play,” Mayfield said. “When we’re moving north, getting the puck in being physical on the forecheck, playing fast, we have our identity.

“It’s nice that we got to that identity pretty much right off the bat.”

There was also a sense of relief for Mayfield, whose stick broke on the sequence that led to Ivan Provorov’s winner in Philadelphia’s 5-4 double overtime victory in Game 6.

“I was kind of down past couple days,” the blue-liner added. “Game 7, game winner Eastern Conference final, I don’t think anyone would think I’d be scoring it.”

The only team from the qualifying round to make the conference finals, the Islanders then had a couple of great chances in front of Hart as they found their legs, and made it 2-0 at 13:12 when Derick Brassard wheeled in the offensive zone before firing a cross-ice pass to a pinching Greene, who had Hart at his mercy. The 37-year-old’s second of the post-season came after he opened the scoring in his team’s Game 1 triumph.

“Last game we thought we were the better team,” Green said. “But all of a sudden it’s Game 7.

“You never know what’s gonna happen in a Game 7.”

Flyers captain Claude Giroux tipped a shot off the post early in the second, but New York carried the majority of play as the period wore on. Hart stopped Nelson on a partial break and Nick Leddy in quick succession before Beauvillier rattled iron with another shot.

But 22-year-old goaltender, who made 49 saves in Game 6, could do nothing on New York’s third after Provorov lost an edge in the offensive zone. The Islanders broke the other way on a 2-on-1, with Bailey feeding Nelson at the last possible moment to bury his seventh at 11:26 and put the game out of reach.

Pressed into action after the shaky Semyon Varlamov allowed a combined nine goals in Games 5 and 6, Greiss didn’t have a lot to do, but denied Kevin Hayes on a break later in the period.

“It was an unreal game,” said Greiss, the first Islanders goalie to pitch a Game 7 shutout since Glenn Resch in 1975. “That was the best defensive game I’ve ever seen this team play.”

Sean Couturier returned to the Philadelphia lineup after missing Game 6 with a sprained knee ligament, while Oskar Lindblom dressed for the second consecutive contest. The 24-year-old Lindblom was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer back in December, but completed radiation treatments in early July.

Trotz and Vigneault battled in a Game 7 for the second time in their careers. Back in 2015, Vigneault’s New York Rangers came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat Trotz’s Washington Capitals to reach the conference final.

Philadelphia got a power play midway through the third desperately looking for a spark with its season on the line, but Greiss, who made 36 saves in New York’s Game 4 victory before watching the next two, was there to shut the door.

The Flyers had another surge before Beauvillier scored his eighth into an empty net with 6:18 left in regulation as the Islanders secured their first conference final berth in 27 years.

“We’re excited. We’ve earned it,” said Green, a trade deadline acquisition from the New Jersey Devils. “Not too long to bathe in it.

“We’ve gotta get focused again get ready for Monday.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 5, 2020.


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Marcus Smart Heard Yelling At Teammates Following Game 2 Loss –



Marcus Smart reportedly yelled at his teammates in the locker room following the Boston Celtics’ 106-101 loss to the Miami Heat in game 2, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN.

The Celtics, who blew their second straight lead in the second half, are now down 2-0 in the series.

“Y’all on some bulls—,” Smart yelled while leaving the locker room. Several other teammates were also reportedly heard yelling following the game.

Smart did not talk to reporters after the game.

Brad Stevens, Kemba Walker, and Jayson Tatum all downplayed the situation, chalking it up to the emotion of the loss.

“It really just, a lot of emotions just flying around. Obviously we feel like we could have won, we should have won, but we didn’t. So just a lot of emotions flying around. That’s it,” said Jaylen Brown. 

The Celtics were outscored 37-17 in the third quarter.

Walker added that the Celtics were simply outplayed during the third. 

“Man, they outplayed us. They outplayed us. It’s really unacceptable on our behalf. It was just a really bad quarter for us. We didn’t continue to do the things that we did to get us up and get us that lead. I think we got kind of comfortable and those guys, they took great advantage of it. They played hard. They played really hard. They played a lot harder than us. They wanted it.”

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Lightning cherishing every moment of opportunity for Cup Final redemption –



EDMONTON — What I’ll remember most was the pure guttural scream.

It echoed up through Rogers Place when the Tampa Bay Lightning gathered 48 of the 52 members of their travelling party on the ice with the Prince of Wales Trophy to take a photo here Thursday night.

You’d never know that a celebration could be so emotional in an empty building because, until three days ago with the Dallas Stars, this was completely unprecedented.

The Lightning left their hearts out there. This was a moment six years in the making, or more, for so many members of this organization. And it was clear that booking a trip to the Stanley Cup Final was no less rewarding under these circumstances than it would have been before any of us had ever heard of COVID-19.

“It is so hard to explain, because regardless if there’s fans in the building or not, the exuberance and relief, it’s unparalleled how you feel inside,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “When you look back at this — and it’s not over — but we’ve been in a hotel for 54 straight days. And when people said this might be one of the hardest Cups to win, it might be one of the hardest Cups ever to win. There’s two of us left standing, they’re going through the exact same thing we are.

“You want your fans there, but it’s not about the fans, it’s about the players and the effort and dedication and perseverance they’ve put into this. And they’re the ones that deserve this, because they’ve done all the work.”

For the Lightning, it was also about Steven Stamkos, even though the captain hasn’t played a game since late February. He’s been rehabbing an undisclosed injury inside the NHL bubble without playing a game and was called out to join Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Alex Killorn for the trophy presentation with deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

The pride on Stamkos’s face was unmistakable. He let Hedman and the others who played in the six-game series victory over the New York Islanders touch the trophy — at least until Hedman skated it over to him with instructions to carry it into the team’s dressing room.

“It was obviously a great feeling,” said Hedman. “Even though Stammer’s not playing, he’s still the leader of this team and he’s such a good influence on the room. During practices and morning skates. He’s still a big reason that he’s here where we are.

“I’m just so happy for the whole group obviously to once again — you know, a few of us went there in 2015. To go back in the Final with the Lightning again is an unreal experience.”

They had good reason to believe this would have happened sooner. It was a young team that lost the 2015 Stanley Cup Final to Chicago in six games.

Tampa has been the NHL’s top team in basically every measurable category since that happened but they’ve experienced nothing but heartbreak. A Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Final in 2016 and 2018, and then a record-breaking 62-win season last year followed by a sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Losing this would have been the ultimate gut punch.

The Lightning were the better team against New York, but there’s a price to be paid against the Islanders. Brayden Point was in and out of the series, Ondrej Palat took a shot off the foot during Thursday’s series-clinching 2-1 victory and Anthony Cirelli left for a time after an accidental knee-on-knee collision with Anders Lee.

It was Cirelli who finally froze the clock in overtime with his first goal and first point of the season.

The celebration was incredible. These guys understood on a fundamental level what this meant.

“You have to cherish these moments and try your best to take advantage of them,” said Cooper. “We’ve been knocking at the door and it can get frustrating. It can make the summers, time-wise they’re so short, but mentality-wise they’re long. You just have to believe in your process and you have to believe in what you’re doing and you have to have players that jump on board.

“In the end, it’s a player’s game.”

The players celebrated this one together. The Lightning brought every extra skater they have here on the ice for this Eastern Conference Championships photo. There was Mathieu Joseph and his wonderful hair, Braydon Coburn and his thick playoff beard, Stamkos and his ever-present smile.

“Definitely a special moment for that group and then to get the whole team involved,” said veteran defenceman Ryan McDonagh. “Great moment.”

Hedman is always the last player on the ice after a Tampa victory and had to wait out a four-question Killorn interview with NBC after they eliminated the Islanders. You could hear him banging his stick while Killorn spoke with Pierre McGuire inside this empty building.

He knew his teammates were celebrating without them but still wouldn’t skate off.

What a cool scene, all of it.

The Lightning will be back out here against the Dallas Stars in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night and they didn’t shy away from the fact they may have emptied a couple veins just to get the opportunity.

“As for gas in the tank, I guess we’ll see,” said Cooper. “This is unlike any other Stanley Cup Final where we’d get days rest. If you don’t go seven, you usually get days rest. We’re not here, but if you were going to tell me, ‘Hey Coop, you get to play in the Stanley Cup Final.

“You’re only going to get 45 hours to rest before the game but you’re going to get to play in it,’ I’m taking that all day.”

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Toronto Maple Leafs add Manny Malhotra to coaching staff – TSN



It’s been a whirlwind few days for Manny Malhotra, who on Thursday officially left the Vancouver Canucks organization to become the Maple Leafs’ newest assistant coach.

“I had a lot of conversations with [Canucks’ head coach Travis Green] here and then after talking with [Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe], I was left with about two days to make the decision,” Malhotra told TSN on Thursday.

“For me, it came down to [the fact] this is an opportunity to advance my coaching career and be a part of a really good organization with a lot of good talent to work with. So I’m very happy at the conclusion of this whole process, but it was a very hectic four or five days.”

Malhotra comes to the Leafs after a three-year stint as an assistant coach in Vancouver, joining Dave Hakstol in rounding out Keefe’s staff. A native of Mississauga, Ont., Malhotra’s French-Canadian and South Asian background make him one of the few visible minority coaches in the NHL.

He replaces the recently departed Paul McFarland, who became general manager and head coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs in August.

TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun reported that the Leafs also spoke with Rocky Thompson and Bruce Boudreau about the job before landing on Malhotra. Thompson had been the head coach of the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves and is now joining the San Jose Sharks’ staff for next season, while Boudreau has been a free agent since the Minnesota Wild relieved him of head coaching duties in February.

Malhotra, 40, will bring plenty of experience with him to the Leafs’ post, having segued into roles behind the bench after his 16-year playing career ended in 2016.

Originally selected seventh overall by the New York Rangers in the 1998 draft, Malhotra developed into a strong two-way centre over his 991-game tenure with seven different teams. He retired with 295 points (116 goals, 179 assists) and an impressive winning percentage in the faceoff circle (56.4), making a quick transition from there to a one-season development coach role with the Canucks. Malhotra became a full-fledged assistant in 2017.

“The work ethic, character, intelligence and attention to detail that made Manny the ultimate teammate when he played are all assets that have translated to his coaching. That, combined with his charisma and communication skills, make us really excited to have him join the organization,” said Keefe in a press release.

Malhotra hopes to help Toronto’s top offensive players, like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, become stronger two-way players.

“First and foremost I’m really looking to just get to know those guys and try to understand their make-up and what makes them tick, what motivates them,” Malhotra said. “I think it’s most important to find out who they are as a player, and then find out their mindset and where they are in their career, and then just try to relay some of those messages on the details of your game and sharpening up the small, finer points that everybody always harps on from a young age. It’s a matter of putting those into play on a regular basis that separates guys and allows guys to grow in your career.”

Malhotra learned the benefits of focusing on those little things from Green – not just with individual players, but in coaching as a whole.

“He really likes to analyze things, overanalyze, overcook,” Malhotra said. “And initially you think it’s probably a little bit of overkill, but you realize when you put that type of thought into decisions, into systems, into lineups, that it shows you care. It shows that you’re putting the proper time in to make those key decisions.”

Malhotra can apply all that while taking over the duties vacated by McFarland, who spent one season in Toronto primarily running the Leafs’ power play.

McFarland and Hakstol were hired under former head coach Mike Babcock in May 2019, but remained on with Keefe after Babcock’s firing in mid-November and Keefe’s subsequent promotion into the role.

Malhotra is now the second coaching appointment Toronto has made under Keefe’s direction. The club had parted ways with another of Babcock’s hires – video coach Andrew Brewer – in August, and brought in Samuel Kim as his replacement on Sept. 1.

Malhotra said the opportunity to work with Keefe was a driving force behind his choice to change coasts.

“His credentials and his accomplishments as a coach speak for themselves,” he said of Keefe. “There’s nothing but complimentary things said about him and his character and his personality and his knowledge of the game, so I’m excited to work with [Keefe and Hakstol].”

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