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How McDavid’s victims on Leafs feel being on wrong end of highlight goal –



Take the points and get outta town.

Sure, the Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t deserve a fate any better than their 4-3 overtime loss to the better-dressed Edmonton Oilers Saturday night.

And, yes, the fastest player on the planet will make sure we see the Leafs Reverse Retro sweaters on many a highlight reel to come.

But the Leafs have banked points in seven of their past eight games and still believe their potential is far from fulfilled.

“I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface of the best hockey that we can play collectively as a team. That’s always encouraging,” Auston Matthews said post-game, “knowing that we can play a lot better but that we’re still getting points. We’re still winning.”

Here are eight takeaways from the most thrilling of the four Oilers-Leafs matchups we’ve already seen this year.

Oilers wanted it more, needed it more, deserved it more

Zack Kassian had uttered the phrase “must-win.” In January.

So, while it feels a tad premature to slap a do-or-die label on Saturday’s prime-time showdown (showcase?) of some of the game’s brightest stars, certainly the home side needed the two points more than their visitors.

And, boy, did it show.

Edmonton burst out the gates, generating the first nine high-danger chances and thumping the Leafs 18-8 in that department for the night.

“We knew we’d have a motivated group coming out tonight,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Disappointing to not win. But in the grand scheme of things, taking seven out of eight points on the road is never going to be a bad thing for our group.”

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl — one-two on the scorers’ leaderboard once again — put on a show, creating highlights that will get play long beyond the weekend.

Frankly, were it not for stellar close-range stops and some determined response goals by Toronto’s own top playmakers (William Nylander, Zach Hyman, Matthews), this thing would’ve never sniffed OT.

Afterward, Matthews was asked if it was fun going head-to-head with his off-season training partner two games in a row.

“I don’t know if I’d describe it as fun, but it’s always a challenge,” Matthews said. “It’s always a challenge going up against that amount of talent and speed coming at you.”

The Rush

McDavid is a one-man power play.

Watch how he slices through all four Maple Leafs skaters, plus goalie Frederik Andersen, on this third-period strike. Then feel free to retrieve your jaw from the floor.

This is how McDavid’s victims viewed it.

Hyman: “We could’ve defended it better. I think that I was the first guy up, and I’ve got to take away speed a little bit and give Hollsy, (Jake Muzzin) and Mitch (Marner) a little bit more time kind of wedge him out of the middle. But, you know, once he gets that time and space, he’s a special player, obviously. So he can make moves like that.”

Justin Holl: “There’s different things that we could’ve done differently, for sure. The forward could wedge in the middle a little bit better. I think I could push him a certain direction better. Maybe start skating forwards, so I at least can try to chase him down. But obviously that’s a tall order on McDavid.”

Andersen: “I felt a little bit flatfooted in the situation. Obviously, (I should) try to take a little bit more ice maybe and challenge him a little bit more.”

Holl: “He’s always creating scoring chances for himself. You know it’s gonna happen, you just do your best to limit what he gets…. He’s a terrific player, so that’s just part of the deal sometimes.”

Message to Leafland: Don’t get down on Dermott

On a night it was revealed that two players have requested trades out of Canadian towns — Calgary’s Sam Bennett and Montreal’s Victor Mete — it was notable that Leafs coach Keefe went out of his way to address Travis Dermott being a healthy scratch for half of the Alberta trip.

“For me, he’s a guy that hasn’t deserved to sit out and have to come out of the lineup,” Keefe said. “But much like some of the rotations we’ve had in the fourth line here, the only way to get people in is to take people out.

“We’re actually very encouraged with Dermott’s game. He’s really done everything we’ve asked of him, and lots of positive things about his game. We shouldn’t be reading anything into him coming out other than the fact that we’re just trying to create opportunity for Mikko (Lehtonen) to show what he can do.”

Lehtonen, a man-advantage specialist whom the Leafs lured out of the KHL, notched his first NHL point with a sifter from the point that John Tavares tipped and Hyman swept in. But in these close games — and they’ve all been close games — the Finn has yet to earn his coach’s trust at even-strength.

The 27-year-old import gets sheltered or sat.

“At 5-on-5, again, it’s tough to find him much rhythm here playing on the road. They’re doing their best to get favourable matchups, and they’re looking for it, and you’re trying to protect him and keep them away from two of the best players in the world,” Keefe said.

“He still doesn’t look comfortable out there. We’ve put him in two of the last three games here and given him that opportunity. Now we have a break. And we’ll continue to work with him in some areas of development where we’d like to see him really get better now that we’ve got lots of examples and film of him playing in the NHL.”

Reverse Retro revolt

Alexander Kerfoot said it’s exciting anytime you get to slip on a new jersey.

“Something different is nice for a change. I’m sure the fans will enjoy it,” Keefe said pre-game.

We’re sure some fans did enjoy the tone-on-tone look of the remixed ’80s deep-blue throwbacks with accents of grey, but the general response on social media was less than favourable.

“I like them,” Holl said. “Honestly, I didn’t love them right away. I didn’t know where the grey came from, but they’ve really grown on me. I thought we looked really sharp tonight.”

The people have spoken. We have to hand the Oilers third outfits, with those blood orange pants, the crown.

Even the alternates have alternates

Cool gesture for Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, GM Kyle Dubas and Keefe to collectively decide that veterans Muzzin andHyman would wear an “A” on their sweater for all games played in an alternate sweater. That discussion was had with the players at training camp.

“It’s very clear that Hyman and Muzz are both big parts of our core, big parts of our leadership group. I think our established captains recognize that as well,” Keefe explained.

“For myself, with all the teams, for the most part, that I’ve coached, I believe in trying to recognize the larger group than just what you’re allowed in a particular game, be it a C and two As. I think you need to recognize more people than that when you can, so it was a chance to do that.”

We’re going streaking

Less than two minutes after McDavid’s ridiculous rush, Matthews and Marner worked a pretty give-and-go in tight to extend their personal point streaks.

Marner now has assists in five consecutive games. Matthews has goals in five straight and points in seven straight.

“We have kind of little dips and then we have moments where we’re really on it, are creating a lot of offensive zone time,” said Matthews, who believes there is still another level for his line to reach.

“We just want to stay consistent throughout the 60 minutes and apply pressure nonstop on the other team and collectively play in the offensive zone as much as possible, but it’s always nice to contribute in different ways out there.”

Steady Freddy is better than his numbers

Were you to look at his stats — 3.01 GAA, .892 save percentage — you’d hesitate to get too excited about the work of Andersen in 2021.

But after a shaky first two outings, the Leafs’ No. 1 goaltender routinely came up with the timely save on this road trip, and his denial of Josh Archibald in the dying moments of regulation Saturday salvaged his club a point. Andersen is now 5-2-1 and should benefit nicely from a four-day rest.

“I feel like I’m moving really efficiently. I think after the first few games I figured out how I’m supposed to play and how I play my best,” said Andersen.

His coach’s review has also swung positive.

“The thing here with no exhibition games, it’s tough on the goaltenders to find that rhythm and get comfortable again in the net in a game setting. I think he’s settled in. He looks like he’s in a nice groove,” Keefe said.

“He looks really comfortable, confident in the net. I think we’ve done a real good job in protecting him at 5-on-5 in reducing the number of odd-man chances and really egregious chances against. Yet when we’ve had breakdowns, he’s been there. And then on the penalty kill, it’s always tough on a goalie when you’re taking as many penalties as we are — and he’s been excellent there too.”

Deserved time off

The Maple Leafs (7-2-1) will fly home and stay home for a couple days after what Matthews described as “a shotgun start to the season.”

The Leafs’ next game won’t arrive until Thursday, which feels like an eternity in a 56-game schedule.

Sunday is a full day off for the club. Monday will be optional for the regulars. Two hard practice days will gear them up for a three-game homestand against Vancouver.

“We need to find ways to control play a little bit better and generate more shots, more opportunities offensively,” Keefe said. “Then it’s just details all over the ice, continuing to clean those types of things up. Having back-to-back practice days now for the first time since we’ve broken camp would be a good opportunity for us to do that.

“We expect to bring it to another level when we come back to play after this break.”

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Rocket advance with win in 3OT thriller | – American Hockey League



The Laval Rocket are off to the Eastern Conference Finals after a wild 6-5 triple-overtime victory over the Rochester Americans on Wednesday night.

The Rocket completed a three-game sweep of the Amerks and will face either Charlotte or Springfield in the next round.

Working on a power play following a delay of game penalty against Rochester, former Amerk Jean-Sébastien Dea wristed a shot that beat Aaron Dell at 1:51 of the third OT period to give the Rocket the victory. It was the second goal of the night for Dea, and came on Laval’s 60th shot of the evening.

Rochester nearly escaped with a Game 3 victory, scoring three times in the third period to take a 5-4 lead before Jesse Ylönen netted the equalizer for the Rocket with 1:07 remaining in regulation.

Back home in front of an energetic crowd of 10,662 fans at Blue Cross Arena, the Amerks struck quickly when Mark Jankowski pounced on a loose puck and scored his sixth goal of the playoffs just 1:04 into the contest.

JJ Peterka made it 2-0 in favor of Rochester with a power-play goal at 8:05, and that lead held until late in the second period, when Laval scored four goals in a span of 3:56 to swing the game in their favor.

Brandon Gignac started the comeback with 6:08 to go in the second period with a nifty deflection of a Corey Schueneman shot from the point. Danick Martel tied things up 55 seconds later, taking Gabriel Bourque’s pass from behind the net and snapping home his fifth goal of the series.

Just 76 seconds after that, the Rocket took their first lead of the night as Xavier Ouellet floated a shot from the left point through traffic that found the top corner over the glove of Aaron Dell.

And with 2:12 to go before intermission, Dea put Laval in front by two, hitting an open cage with Dell out of position following a collision with a teammate in front.

Rochester regrouped during the break and needed just 1:32 to tie things back up. Brett Murray scored 13 seconds into the third period to pull the Amerks to within 4-3, and Peterka got his second of the night 1:19 later off a slick feed from Peyton Krebs.

Murray then scored his second of the period at 8:35, getting a piece of Ethan Prow’s shot from the point and deflecting it home to put Rochester back in front.

Laval outshot Rochester 24-12 during sudden death and killed off two Amerks power plays before converting on their own for the winner.

Cayden Primeau (6-1) made 34 saves and earned his fourth consecutive victory in net for the Rocket. Dell (5-5) stopped a career-high 54 shots for Rochester.

North Division Finals (best-of-5)
N3-Laval Rocket vs. N5-Rochester Americans
Game 1 – Sun., May 22 – LAVAL 6, Rochester 1
Game 2 – Mon., May 23 – LAVAL 3, Rochester 1
Game 3 – Wed., May 25 – Laval 6, ROCHESTER 5 (3OT)

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Bozak scores OT winner, Blues rally vs. Avs to stave off elimination –



DENVER (AP) — Tyler Bozak and the St. Louis Blues experienced just about every emotion imaginable over the course of a win-or-season-ends game in which they fell behind by three goals.

Ultimately, they landed on this improbable one — elation.

Bozak scored 3:38 into overtime and the Blues fended off elimination in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals, overcoming a pair of deficits in a 5-4 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.

Bozak, a fourth-line center, unleashed a shot from near the blueline that got past Darcy Kuemper, capping a remarkable comeback for St. Louis.

“It was an amazing hockey game,” Bozak said. “I’m sure everyone that was watching thought the same thing.”

Robert Thomas had two goals, including the tying tally with 56 seconds left in regulation, for a resilient Blues team. It’s the latest game-tying goal for the Blues when facing elimination, according to NHL Stats. Vladimir Tarasenko and Justin Faulk also scored, Nick Leddy had four assists and Pavel Buchnevich had two.

They never doubted — even down 3-0 late in the second period and 4-3 late in the third.

“You’ve got nothing to lose, you might as well throw it all out there,” Thomas said. “That was our mentality.”

The comeback offset a hat trick from Nathan MacKinnon, who looked like he might have just turned in a signature moment with goal No. 3. He went end-to-end, working his way around Blues defenseman Leddy with nifty stick work and lifting a shot over goaltender Ville Husso for a 4-3 lead. It was his second career postseason hat trick.

Hats hit the ice.

“Doesn’t matter,” MacKinnon said of his feat. “Looking to get a win.”

Thomas tied it up with Husso on the bench for an extra skater, setting the stage for Bozak, who played college hockey down the road at the University of Denver.

To think, he didn’t play much down the stretch of the third period, with the Blues rolling out just three lines. When he got his chance in OT, he made the most of it.

“There’s definitely no such thing as a bad shot,” Bozak said. “So just tried to get it through the traffic and it went in. So that’s awesome.”

Game 6 is Friday in St. Louis.

The Blues have rallied from a 3-1 deficit to take a playoff series twice in their history _ 1999 against Phoenix and 1991 versus Detroit.

They’re looking to write another chapter.

“This team’s come from behind quite a bit this year in games so they don’t give up,” Blues coach Craig Berube said.

Captain Gabriel Landeskog also scored and Bowen Byram had two assists for the Avalanche, who were on the verge of advancing to the Western Conference final for the first time since 2002.

Instead, they have to wait — and wonder. The second-round has proven to be a big hurdle for the Avalanche. They’ve been eliminated at this stage in each of the last three postseasons.

“You sulk for three minutes and you move on. Simple as that,” Landeskog said. “It’s playoff hockey. It’s not supposed to be easy.”

Husso made 30 saves for St. Louis. He took over in Game 3 when Jordan Binnington was injured following a collision between Nazem Kadri and Blues defenseman Calle Rosen that caused Kadri to crash into Binnington.

Afterward, Kadri received racist death threats on social media, which led to increased security to protect him. He responded in Game 4 with a hat trick. On Wednesday, fans along the boards held up signs that read “Stand with Naz.”

Kuemper stopped 25 shots.

MacKinnon came out flying in the first period, taking five shots and scoring twice to give the Colorado an early 2-0 lead. Those were the first two goals of the series for MacKinnon, who has seven in the postseason.

The speedy MacKinnon also had an assist to give him 82 career playoff points. He became the fourth player in franchise history with 80 or more postseason points, joining the company of Sakic (188), Peter Forsberg (159) and Peter Stastny (81).

After Landeskog made it 3-0 just over 4 minutes into the second period, Tarasenko knocked in his first goal of the series 10 1/2 minutes later to jumpstart the Blues.

“We got on our heels a little bit,” said MacKinnon, whose team is 4-0 on the road in these playoffs. “We wanted it so bad, I guess. … Win the third, go to the conference finals, whatever. It’s one period. Got to keep our game going, stay aggressive. That’s what we’ll do.”

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Canada Soccer cancels men’s national team friendly vs. Iran in Vancouver –



TORONTO — Canada Soccer has cancelled a planned friendly with Iran in the face of growing criticism.

In a one-paragraph statement, the governing body gave no reason for the cancellation of the scheduled June 5 game at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver.

But the idea of hosting the Iranian team, ranked 21st in the world, has drawn fire since it was first announced.

At issue is whether Canada should be hosting Iran given the Canadians who died on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 when it was shot down on Jan. 8, 2020, minutes after taking off from Tehran, by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. The Canadian government says 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents were among the 176 people killed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week the game “wasn’t a very good idea,” pointing the finger at Canada Soccer. The Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims called for Canada Soccer “to cancel the game immediately.”

Association spokesman Hamed Esmaeilion, whose wife Parisa and young daughter Reera were among those who died on Flight 752, said in an interview last week. “What kind of friendship do we have with the Islamic Republic of Iran?

“We want the (Canadian) government to take them to international court. And instead of that, we get humiliated by them … I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the back — (as well as) the other family members. After 28 months we don’t see any sign of seeking justice here. We don’t see sign of taking Iran to any international forum. And instead of that they invite the (Iran) soccer team here.”

Conservative MPs added their voice to the protest on Wednesday. And the PM said this week that it will be up to the Canada Border Services Agency whether the Iran team is allowed into the country.

The Iran game was to be the first of a two-game Vancouver homestand. The Canadian men open CONCACAF Nations League A play there against Curacao on June 9 before closing out the FIFA international window with another CONCACAF Nations League game against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on June 13.

Canada, ranked 38th in the world, and Iran are both preparing for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar this November.

For Canada Soccer, the Iran contest was a rare chance to test the Canadian men against a team outside of their CONCACAF confederation, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

The Canadians have played just two teams from outside their region since John Herdman took over as coach in January 2018: a 1-0 loss to Iceland in January 2020 and a 1-0 win over New Zealand in March 2018.

The FIFA International window opens Monday, with players arriving from their clubs from around the world. Now they will get extended training time rather than a match ahead of the CONCACAF Nations League fixtures.

Canada has not played on home soil since qualifying for the World Cup in a 4-0 win over Jamaica at Toronto’s BMO Field on March 27. The Canadian men last played at B.C. Place in March 2019 when they beat French Guiana 4-1 in CONCACAF Nations League qualifying.

The Canadians topped the final round of CONCACAF qualifying with an 8-2-4 record. Their last game was a 1-0 loss in Panama on March 30.

Canada has a 1-2-0 all-time record against Iran, winning the most recent encounter 1-0 in April 2001 in Cairo. Iran posted 1-0 wins in 1997 and 1999 games in Toronto and Edmonton, respectively.

Canada opens World Cup play Nov. 23 against No. 2 Belgium before facing No. 16 Croatia on Nov. 27 and No. 24 Morocco on Dec. 1.

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