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IWTG: Canucks need overtime to vanquish the Knights before Christmas – Vancouver Courier

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‘Twas the Knights before Christmas at Rogers Arena
Many seats appeared empty (Or were filled by John Cena)

The fanbase was hanging by the slimmest of threads
With visions of tanking another year in their heads

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Jacob Markstrom was starting his sixth straight fixture
Since Demko is still on the injured reserve

All of the Canucks, led by Horvat the cap
Were determined that losing four-straight wasn’t hap-

-penning. Ahem.

And out on the ice, there arose A. Gaudette
Who chased down a dump-in and quickly shot it

Marc-Andre — The Flower — made like a brick wall
But Gaudette stuck with it and set up Roussel

Just like that, one-nothing, but the Canucks weren’t through
They added another to make it oh-two

Away down the wing, Leivo flew like a flash
And centred for Pearson and in he did cash

The Knights would respond on a Miller turnover;
He made up for the error, ‘twas the net that he drove’er

Creating a rebound for Petey to poke
To make it three-one and the arena awoke

The game took a turn in the middlest of frames
As Vegas responded with accurate aims

The Knights scored two goals amid some controversy
The refs missed a Knight boarding Leivs without mercy

They entered the third period in a tie game
And Travis Green shouted and call’d them by name

Now, Boeser! Now, Petey! Now, Miller and Tanev!
On Huggy! On Horvat! On Gaudette and Virtanen!

As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly
Came Boeser down right wing — cross-ice he did spy

Elias Pettersson along the left wing
And into the net, the puck did he fling

Yet the curse of puck management struck them once more
A turnover led to a Golden Knights’ score

That made it four-four, with four minutes to play
Was this one more Canucks lead that they’d piss away?

Late in the third, the Knights came in waves
And Markstrom came up with a big blocker save

That led to more hockey — oh what a gift!
Chris Tanev came out for an overtime shift

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work
Took a sweet sauce from Horvat and deked with a jerk

He tucked the puck under the left pad of Fleury
With a confident move — we were silly to worry

We should have predicted that Chris would deliver 
A bunch of his goals are OT gamewinners 

He gave us a gift like his last name was Kringle
Left ladies (and some men) wond’ring if he is single

He’s not (I am sorry), but I heard him exclaim
“Merry one-week ‘til Christmas,” after I watched this game.

  • This wasn’t an amazing game by the Canucks, who were out-shot by the Knights 43-to-34, but the biggest difference was how they went to the net. The team has been satisfied of late with too many shots from the outside, but four of their five goals in this game were scored from the top of the crease.
  • Or, in Antoine Roussel’s case, inside the crease. Jake Virtanen tipped in a Tyler Myers’ pass from centre, then Adam Gaudette went to work, beating everyone to the puck and chipping it on net. Fleury couldn’t handle the shot, and Gaudette got a whack at the rebound, sending it through Fleury into the crease, where Roussel was all over it like a snake on a Christmas tree.
  • Tanner Pearson gave the Canucks a 2-0 lead at the very last second of the Canucks’ first power play. Myers made a nice play at the blue line to keep the puck in, then Josh Leivo’s give-and-go with Virtanen was nearly broken up. Virtanen kept the puck alive to Leivo, whose end-line pass was jammed in by Pearson, who had boxed out Nate Schmidt in front.
  • The Golden Knights responded on a pretty awful turnover by J.T. Miller. He circled the zone, then made an ill-advised backhand pass at the blue line that was picked off by Reilly Smith. Miller quickly got back on defence, but got fixated on the puck and stopped moving his feet, allowing William Karlsson to slip in behind him. Smith fed Karlsson, whose shot was turned aside by Jacob Markstrom, but Miller didn’t pick up the trailer, Jonathan Marchessault, who banged in the rebound.
  • Everyone makes mistakes; what matters is what you do next, and Miller made up for it by manufacturing a goal out of nothing. He picked off a Schmidt pass at the Vegas blue line, then cut into the slot past Brayden McNabb, backhanding the puck on net as he was dragged down to the ice. Fleury mishandled the shot and Pettersson made like a golfer and chipped it in for Birdie.
  • That 3-1 goal wasn’t possible without an incredible save by Markstrom at the other end. He stretched out his left pad to rob Mark Stone on the doorstep, then Brock Boeser lifted Stone’s stick at the last moment to prevent him from banging in the rebound. That would have been the httpITALICS turning point of the game if there hadn’t been half a dozen more turning points to come.
  • The Knights’ first line struck again midway through the second period on a nice passing play, catching the Canucks running around in their own zone. Both Quinn Hughes and Chris Tanev ended up reaching for the puck instead of marking their respective checks and, as Michael Jordan once said, “You reach, I teach.”
  • Then the controversy: Nick Holden hit Leivo squarely in the numbers, throwing him hard into the boards, where Leivo appeared to hit his right knee hard. Leivo stayed down and a scrum ensued, but the referees somehow didn’t call a penalty. Call it boarding, call it checking from behind, call it interference — bottom line, it should have been called.

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  • Leivo was clearly upset, which is generally not a good sign — athletes know their own bodies and it seemed like he could tell something was very wrong — and his teammates echoed his upsetness. A couple people — presumably Canucks — could be heard saying, “Keep your head up,” and “I’ll take a f***ing five gamer,” presumably referring to the five-game suspension he’d receive for whatever terrible thing he would do to Holden, leaving the actual act earning the suspension up to Holden’s imagination, thereby increasing the potential terror.
  • To add insult to literal injury, Holden tied the game up on the next shift, as his point shot deflected in off Bo Horvat’s skate. He should have been in the penalty box and the Rogers Arena crowd was not shy to let the refs know that.
  • After the 3-3 goal, Travis Green called a crucial timeout to allow his team a chance to regroup. They were significantly better through the rest of the second period after the timeout and it may have stanched the bleeding.
  • Pettersson was feeling it in this game, scoring the 3-1 goal, then adding a crossbar in the second period on a rocket of a wrist shot, then finally scoring the 4-3 goal in the third period. It was a lovely cross-ice give-and-go: Pettersson banked the puck to Boeser on the right wing, then Boeser threaded the needle back to Pettersson on the left wing, and he cradled and released the puck all in one motion.
  • The Knights couldn’t be repressed, tying the game up again. After a Myers turnover on a 4-on-4, the Knights put the Canucks on the spin cycle, rotating until the Canucks’ coverage broke down and Mark Stone opened up at the back door, with Hughes and Horvat miscommunicating who was supposed to mark Stone. The man they call Stoner scored with 4:20 remaining.
  • Despite the four goals against, Markstrom was fantastic all game, particularly in the third period, where he faced 19 shots on goal. His biggest save came with two minutes left, as the Golden Knights poured on the pressure on a late power play. Jay Beagle didn’t pick up Paul Stastny at the back door, but Markstrom lunged across with the blocker, turning aside what looked like a sure goal. It was the biggest robbery since Divina de Campo didn’t win Drag Race UK.
  • In overtime, Horvat was looking for his first goal at home of the season, but had to settle for a gorgeous assist. Tanev rotated down from the point and shook off Max Pacioretty, then took Horvat’s lovely saucer pass, evaded Fleury’s pokecheck with a deke to the forehand, then tucked the puck under Fleury’s pad. It was the most unexpectedly slick move since Lube Man slid into a street drain on Watchmen.
  • Also a great move: Tanev’s uninhibited fist-pumping celebration, which looked like it owed a debt to Adam Gaudette’s pumped-up goal celebrations. I’m all for it: the more joy and exuberance, the better, because this team could learn to let loose a little more.

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Lightning cherishing every moment of opportunity for Cup Final redemption – Sportsnet.ca

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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

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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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Mickelson struggles Thursday at Winged Foot – pgatour.com

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For a few brief moments Phil Mickelson’s dream of conquering Winged Foot to complete a career grand slam was on track at the U.S. Open, but inaccuracy off the tee once again gave him nightmares.

A week after hitting just 12 of 56 fairways at the Safeway Open, Mickelson managed to find the short grass off the tee just twice in Thursday’s opening round on the way to a dismal 9-over 79.

The 50-year-old’s chance at redemption from 2006 looked a chance after he rolled in back-to-back birdies out of the gate. Perhaps he truly had let go of the infamous 72nd hole double bogey that helped Geoff Ogilvy claim the trophy over 14 years ago.  

Mickelson’s early birdies came despite missing both fairways left into deep rough and the fairytale writers lifted their eyebrows and dared to think something special might be on its way.

However, the inaccuracy quickly caught up. From the moment a four-foot par putt on the third hole lipped out, Mickelson found himself in a deep spiral not even his 44-time PGA TOUR winning experience could fight.

Bogeys on the fourth, fifth and eighth followed with Mickelson not chalking up his first fairway until the par-5 ninth hole. It didn’t help as he would go on to make par after another missed putt.

Bogey at 10 and another at 13 came soon after the turn with the latter the start of a six-hole finishing stretch that the six-time U.S. Open runner-up played in six over. Ultimately, he would finish 14 shots off the pace and all but officially be eliminated from contention. Only U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Lukas Michel (80) was behind him on the leaderboard.

The words he said as he left Napa must have been ringing in his ears throughout the round.

“The last couple of months I’ve been missing it more to the right and not worried about the left and the left crept in again,” Mickelson had said after the Safeway Open. “For years I missed it left. I haven’t been fearing that at all lately, but this week I missed it left, which is not good. I can deal with missing it right now, but not left.”

He went on to say he was confident of being able to turn it around before the opening round in New York but sadly that was not the case. Prior to the Safeway Open he had won his debut start at PGA TOUR Champions.

“I actually have had some nice breakthroughs in the last year and I feel like I’m on the precipice of playing really well, but I’ve got to get it to click,” he said.

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