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In the Habs' Room: Ilya Kovalchuk gives his son a special birthday gift – Montreal Gazette

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“We gave him the PlayStation but he said: ‘I want you to score a goal, that would be the best present,'” Kovalchuk says after his OT winner.

Ilya Kovalchuk delivered a special birthday gift to his son, Philipp, Saturday night at the Bell Centre when he scored in overtime to give the Canadiens a 2-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“My kid had his 11th birthday yesterday and that’s what he asked me,” Kovalchuk said in the Canadiens’ locker room after the game. “We gave him the PlayStation, but he said: ‘I want you to score a goal, that would be the best present.’ So I think he would be satisfied, for sure.”

You think?

Kovalchuk’s wife and his four children — two boys and two girls — arrived in Montreal on Thursday from their home in California and they were all in attendance Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

For Kovalchuk, it was his sixth goal in 15 games since signing with the Canadiens as a free agent. Two of them have come in overtime and he has also scored a shootout winner.


Canadiens’ Ilya Kovalchuk celebrates his overtime goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Montrea.

Minas Panagiotakis /

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“I think he scored a lot of those big goals for us, whether it’s shootout, overtime,” coach Claude Julien said in his postgame news conference. “We wouldn’t have those wins if it wasn’t for him. He’s not the perfect player … there isn’t a perfect player. But everything that I’ve talked about for days now and weeks, I guess, his energy, his will, his happy for (Marco) Scandella to score his first goal. That’s the first thing that comes out of his mouth. You know he’s got all the right demeanour for this team right now, being a veteran and buying into everything we’re trying to do here. So there’s that and then those goals.”

Scandella’s goal with 2:33 left in the third period was his first in 16 games since the Canadiens acquired the Montreal native in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres. It tied the score 1-1 after John Tavares had scored for the Leafs 1:06 into the third period.

“Super excited,” a beaming Scandella said after the game. “Growing up watching the Canadiens, being a Habs fan my whole life, it’s a dream come true. Goals like that … this is why I play this game. I feel really blessed, lucky to do that, play at the Bell Centre every home game. I can’t even describe it. It’s amazing.”

What went through Scandella’s mind when the puck went in the net?

“Honestly, I almost blacked out,” he said. “I don’t know … so many emotions. I feel like it couldn’t have been scripted any better to tie it late in the third period as my first goal as a Hab. I’ve been dreaming of this moment. I hit a couple of posts early when I first got here, but it was worth the wait. I felt like the timing was perfect.”

It was the third straight win for the Canadiens, who are 9-3-0 in their last 12 games and 27-23-7 for the season, moving within five points of Toronto for the third and final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division with the Leafs holding one game in hand.

“I think we just believe in ourselves,” Kovalchuk said. “Obviously, our goalie (Carey Price), he’s the best player every game. I think our power play has to be much better (it went 0-for-2 against the Leafs). But the support from the fans, it gives you so much energy and belief in each other. So it’s great.

“It’s great to get a win,” Kovalchuk added. “It doesn’t matter who scores. I think everybody will feel really good tomorrow.”

So will Kovalchuk’s 11-year-old son and the rest of his family.

“I saw them jumping, hugging each other,” said Kovalchuk, who pointed toward his family in the stands while celebrating his OT goal. “So it was great.”

Will he give the puck to his son as another birthday gift?

“I don’t know,” Kovalchuk said with a grin. “I don’t think so. I’ll get another one.”

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Flames open road trip with win for Sutter against his former team – Sportsnet.ca

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LOS ANGELES — Sitting in the bowels of a Staples Center arena in which he raised two Stanley Cups, Darryl Sutter was asked about the drive to win another one.

“It’s, like, all that matters to me,” said the Flames’ singularly-focused coach. “You’re trying to translate that to the players, to get to that level that it takes. And the difference it makes in a career and their lives.”

The difference Sutter helped make in Los Angeles was recognized seven minutes into Thursday’s Flames win when he and Trevor Lewis were saluted in a Jumbotron video that drew a standing ovation from a sparse crowd of 13,241.

Guiding the Kings to the franchise’s first Cup win in his first season as their head coach in 2012, Sutter became just the 19th coach in NHL lore to win multiple titles when he won again in 2014.

He’s had a similar, early impact in Calgary where his Flames continue to be the talk of the league, improving their record to a best-in-the-west 14-4-5 with a 3-2 win over his former team.

He wouldn’t say it afterward, but you can bet it meant just a little bit more for him to see his club win one at Staples.

“Some of the players that went through here before told me they probably would,” shrugged Sutter of the video. “It’s good. Good for Trevor, and good for my family.”

Although he did his best to downplay it before and afterwards, this game was important to Sutter.

And the players knew it.

“We wanted to win it for our coach, we wanted to win it for Lewis and his return, and we wanted to get our first win in our division,” said Milan Lucic, whose second power play unit played a big role in the win, with two first period goals.

“Those are all important things for us tonight. It’s always nice to start a four-game trip off in the win column.”

Lucic went five-hole for the fourth time this season to put the Flames up 2-1 in a first period that also saw Andrew Mangiapane score with the man advantage.

“I looked up and saw defence and went back to it — it’s a high percentage shot,” said a smiling Lucic of the between-the-wickets shot that has helped him score the majority of his seven goals.

“If it misses it hits the pads and stays alive, as opposed to a shot in the glove. It seems to be working out. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I’d love to tell you how I set it up, but I don’t want the goalies to know what my thought process is. So we’ll just leave it at that.”

Not surprisingly, Lucic got the starting nod alongside fellow Kings alumni Lewis and Brad Richardson as part of Sutter’s gritty All the King’s Men Line.

“My buddies call us the Full Pension Line, which I thought was funny,” laughed Lewis of a nickname offered up by childhood friend and former Flame, Shane O’Brien.

“But whatever you guys want to call it.”

An Alex Iafallo redirection gave the opposition the opening goal for just the fifth time in 23 games — and first on the road — five minutes in.

Mangiapane responded with his 16th before Lucic struck.

Minutes after taking the lead Matthew Tkachuk did his best to resurrect his feud with Drew Doughty with a gritty shift on which he knocked the Kings defender down with a reverse hit before punctuating the whistle with a pair of net-side punches to Doughty’s face.

The second poke drew a penalty the Flames killed off as part of yet another perfect night that saw the unit stop both of L.A.’s man advantages.

Even scoreboard urging from Snoop Dogg couldn’t spur on the Kings.

Tkachuk wound up with the last laugh as he used Doughty as a screen to score his 11th of the season — a top-shelf beauty that stood as the winner early in the second.

“Whoever the defenceman was on that side I just tried to shoot it through him, and it worked out,” said Tkachuk. “I’m sure if you asked (Sutter) he wouldn’t want us to be extra motivated for him. He’d say he wanted us to come in here and get off on this road trip on the right foot and don’t worry about his homecoming. But it was big to get them the win.”

Alexander Edler’s first as a King narrowed the gap late in the second, setting up a third period push that saw Lewis make a key block after Jacob Markstrom made a stunning glove save on Victor Arvidsson’s point blast — one of 40 saves on the night.

The Flames play in Anaheim Friday as part of a four-game road trip that takes them through Vegas and San Jose.

“I think it’s really good for our team, and it’s another measuring stick to see where you are at when you get into the division part of it,” said Sutter before the game when asked about the trip against division rivals.

“This trip there are two we haven’t played and two we haven’t beaten.”

Make that one they haven’t beaten.

NOTES: The Flames sent Juuso Valimaki to Stockton to get some much-needed playing time, as the 23-year-old first-rounder has only been used in eight of the team’s 23 games this season.

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Prediction Time: CFL.ca writers' Div Finals picks – CFL.ca

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TORONTO — The anticipation is building by the day as we get closer to our Eastern and Western Division Finals on Sunday.

A pair of longtime rivals are the final four teams standing and on Sunday we’ll find out which of those two make it to the 108th Grey Cup next week in Hamilton.

If you’re looking for sound, stable and successful advice, look no further than our Jamie Nye. Tied for first-place with Pat Steinberg with a 39-26 record, Jamie was the only one of the six CFL.ca writers that went 2-0 last week, wisely taking the Ticats and Riders to hold court at home. This week they’re both on the road, heading into Toronto and Winnipeg, respectively, to take on the first place Argos and Bombers.

Home field didn’t carry quite as much weight in the East with the pick-makers as it did in the West this week, despite the Argos’ 6-1 record at BMO Field. Just about everyone is on board with the Bombers hosting at IG Field, a place where they haven’t had the taste of defeat all season. The last time the Bombers lost at home was Sept. 27, 2019. That Week 16 loss to Hamilton came a couple of weeks before the Bombers traded for Zach Collaros.

The Riders have a hill to climb this week and they seem to recognize that. The Ticats have a hill of their own, having dropped three of their four meetings with the Argos this season, including their Week 15 encounter that clinched first in the East for the Double Blue.

We’re just days away from having answers and knowing who will be playing for the Grey Cup, setting up a true Sunday Funday.

RELATED
» Head to Head: Who has the edge in the Eastern and Western Finals?
» CFL Pick ‘Em: Make your picks for the divisional finals!
» Weekly Predictor: Betting on the Ticats

HAM at TOR

The Argos might have one of the most underappreciated home field records in recent league history. Standing at an impressive 6-1 — the blemish coming in a meaningless end-of-season tilt with Edmonton — they won’t be an easy out at BMO Field. There’s pressure on each side to win of course, but there’s a little more on the Ticats, who beat the Argos in their first meeting on Labour Day, then dropped their next three meetings, with encounters No. 2 and 3 being one-point losses. Still, the majority of our pick makers think the Ticats can do it, coming off of a convincing win over Montreal last week. A traveling pack of supporters making the trip up the QEW might help pack the stands on Sunday and will try to even out that home field advantage.

PICK

Writers 66% Hamilton

SSK at WPG

The Riders get one last crack at the blue and gold riddle they haven’t been able to solve on Sunday afternoon. This edition of the Bombers might stand as one of the franchise’s all-time great teams, led by a defence that feasts on turnovers and miscues, and is steered on offence by Zach Collaros‘ calm and deliberate style of play. The defending Grey Cup champs come into this game as rested as can be, will have the support of a packed IG Field and have been focused on the next game in front of them since we kicked the season off back in August. The Riders will likely have to be close to perfect to take them down. Going into the game, it feels like a very tall order.

PICK

Writers 83% Winnipeg

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Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo misses game vs. Raptors for undisclosed reason – Sportsnet.ca

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Giannis Antetokounmpo was scratched from the Milwaukee Bucks‘ lineup against the Toronto Raptors for an undisclosed reason.

Antetokounmpo was not among the Bucks’ starters ahead of tipoff. Pat Connaughton was moved into his place in the starting lineup against the Raptors.

The 26-year-old is coming off a dominant performance against the Charlotte Hornets where he had 40 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in a 127-125 victory. Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.6 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 6.0 assists through 21 games this season.

Milwaukee’s next game is on Saturday against the Miami Heat.

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