TAMPA, Fla. — Lightning captain Steven Stamkos finally broke through for his team.
The Maple Leafs are still waiting for their leader to do the same.
John Tavares has yet to register a point at 5-on-5 in Toronto’s first-round playoff series with Tampa Bay, which sits tied 2-2 following Sunday’s 7-3 blowout loss at the hands of the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions at Amalie Arena.
Not including last spring’s opener against the Montreal Canadiens when he suffered a devastating injury following a scary collision that ruled him out for the rest of the Original Six matchup, the 31-year-old has one goal in his last seven post-season games.
Tavares, with three more seasons left on a contract that carries an US$11-million salary cap hit, has two assists against the Lightning — one on a power play and another with the teams playing 4-on-4 when Sunday’s contest was out of reach — through four games.
“I haven’t been able to produce offensively as I’d like,” he said in the wake of that ugly defeat. “I would still like to create more.”
The centre has done his job in the faceoff circle — he won 10 of 11 draws on Sunday — and has been a contributor in Tampa’s zone once Toronto gets its cycle going.
But a regular-season issue has continued into the playoffs after Tavares finished sixth on the Leafs with 39 even-strength points (15 goals, 24 assists) in 2021-22.
Stamkos, who played minor hockey with his opposite No. 91 as a kid, scored his first goal of these playoffs a minute into Sunday to spark his team.
And with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner smothered at 5-on-5 in Games 3 and 4 when Tampa had the last change and could roll out Anthony Cirelli‘s line and Victor Hedman on the back end against Toronto’s two offensive catalysts, the inability of the Leafs captain to impose his will has been magnified.
“He’s working, he’s trying,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe. “It’s a tough series out there.”
That it certainly is. It’s also been one without much game-to-game momentum.
The teams have alternated victories, with the side that scores first building at least a three-goal lead on the way to securing the win.
Toronto, which hosts Game 5 of the best-of-seven set Tuesday, has handled adversity when challenged time and again this season, but still has ghosts of recent playoff failure hanging over a club that hasn’t advanced to the second round since 2004.
“We just believe in our team,” Keefe said when asked why he’s confident the Leafs will push back. “We believe in our team all series, all season. We’ve played well against (Tampa). We responded the last time coming off a loss. That’s the type of series that it’s been.
“We’re going back home. We know we have to be better, and we will be.”
Tavares is also confident the Leafs will get back on track.
“Just know the way we’ve played for many stretches throughout this series, even for parts of (Game 4), and certainly mostly in the games that we’ve won,” he said. “A chance to regroup.”
The No. 1 pick at the 2009 NHL draft, who signed with his hometown club in free agency in July 2018, said Toronto wasn’t ready for Tampa’s early thrust in Game 4.
“They were extremely aggressive and pressing up extremely hard early,” Tavares said. “Our level of execution and detail needs to be strong through that to break through that pressure. That allows us to really get our game going and get them chasing.
“We have to do a better job.”
Another area of concern is the number of penalties Toronto continues to take — not so much the scrums after the whistle Keefe predicted before the series, but rather stick and obstruction fouls.
The Leafs had been flagged for a league-high 32 playoff infractions through Sunday night, four more than the Lightning.
“It’s been pretty tight,” Toronto defenceman Jake Muzzin said of the officiating standard compared to past post-seasons. “We should know that by now.”
They also haven’t got enough from Tavares, who in fairness was far from the only culprit in Sunday’s embarrassing no-show, as the scene shifts back to Scotiabank Arena.
“I’d like to find more and generate more,” he said. “No doubt I expect more and want to be better.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 9, 2022.
Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.
Garnacho on target as United beats Crystal Palace in League Cup defence
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Seven months after lifting the trophy, Manchester United made a successful start to its defense of the English League Cup on Tuesday by beating Crystal Palace 3-0.
Alejandro Garnacho and Casemiro fired the holders into a 2-0 first-half lead at Old Trafford and Anthony Martial added a third after the break in the third-round match.
It is now back-to-back wins for Erik ten Hag’s team, which has endured a disappointing start to the season.
The dominant performance against an understrength Palace followed Saturday’s narrow victory at Burnley and will give United fans hope the team has turned its form around.
“The mood is always good, but of course when you are not winning at United there is disappointment, and there is frustration, but the togetherness is always there,” Ten Hag said. “We know we are not now in the position where we want to be. So we have to build up, we have to catch up and then you have to go from game to game, working on the process and working on the results. Don’t get too far ahead.”
The League Cup ranks fourth among English soccer’s most important trophies. But Ten Hag still savored last season’s success.
Victory against Newcastle in February’s final at Wembley Stadium ended the club’s six-year wait for a trophy and saw Ten Hag deliver silverware in his first season at the club. He went on to also reach the FA Cup final, only to lose to Manchester City, and also guided United back into the Champions League to mark an impressive campaign.
Things have not gone so well this term, with his team losing four out of five games before beating Burnley 1-0.
This latest victory was far more convincing, even if Palace benched regular starters Marc Guehi, Eberechi Eze and Joachim Anderson and was also without forward Odsonne Edouard.
Ten Hag also made changes with Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Rasmus Hojlund on the bench and Christian Eriksen absent.
Mason Mount, however, made his first appearance since Aug. 19 after returning from an injury.
Garnacho fired United ahead in the 21st minute after converting Diogo Dalot’s cutback in the box.
His low shot had too much power for Palace goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, who had only just come on as a substitute for the injured Dean Henderson.
Johnstone was tested again moments later when Dalot blasted an effort from an angle, which the keeper blocked.
He was beaten again, however, in the 27th, this time by Casemiro, who headed in Mount’s corner to double United’s lead.
Martial added a third 10 minutes into the second half when firing across goal after meeting Casemiro’s looping ball to the far post.
United plays Palace again in the Premier League on Saturday and the Londoners showed their threat when twice forcing saves from ‘keeper Andre Onana later in the match. But manager Roy Hodgson did not sound confident about securing a different outcome when the teams next meet.
“We are going to have to become a totally different team in the way we approach the game and the way we play the game,” he said.
Third-division Exeter produced a shock 1-0 win against Luton to knock the Premier League club out of the competition. Luton made 10 changes from the team that picked up its first topflight point of the season against Wolverhampton on Saturday, but the result will still go down as a big upset. Demetri Mitchell scored the winner in the 83rd, but Exeter had to see out the game with 10 men after he was sent off in the 88th.
Wolverhampton was also eliminated after throwing away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 at second-division Ipswich. Hwang Hee-Chan and Toti Gomes had seemingly put the visitors on course for the next round after goals inside the first 15 minutes. But Omari Hutchinson, Freddie Ladapo and Jack Taylor sealed a comeback win for Ipswich.
Burnley is still waiting for its first win in the league this season, but it is powering on in the cup after a 4-0 win against Salford City, the fourth division club co-owned by Manchester United greats including David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.
Elsewhere, Middlesbrough beat Bradford 2-0 and Port Vale won 2-1 against Sutton United.
Fourth-division Mansfield beat third-division Peterborough 3-1 on penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw in regulation time. Lucas Akins’ penalty to even the score in the 93rd had sent the game to a shootout.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer
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How to Spot a Trustworthy Online Casino in Canada
Spotting a trustworthy online casino isn’t hard once you know what to look for, but until then, you better hold off on signing up or making a deposit. This quick guide on how to find a reputable online casino will cover five different factors you can evaluate to determine whether or not a casino is trustworthy. While you could just use a site like the trusted source WikiHow that lists the best online casinos Canada, it does help to be able to evaluate the trustworthiness of casinos on your own. Likewise, you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet. Casino review sites are a great resource, but it doesn’t hurt to also do a little digging of your own. Without further delay, here’s a quick and easy guide on how to spot a trustworthy online casino.
Checking for Proper Licensing and Regulation
One of the first things you should do when assessing the trustworthiness of the best online casinos Canada is to check for proper licensing and regulation. Reputable online casinos are licensed by recognized regulatory bodies such as the Malta Gaming Authority, the UK Gambling Commission, or the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority. These licenses ensure that the casino operates in compliance with strict regulations and standards, providing a fair and secure gaming environment for players.
Never play at a casino that does not have a license or whose license is unverifiable. The easiest way to verify a license is to head to the licensor’s website and cross-check their registry with the name of the casino you’re looking at. If a license does appear in the registry, always double-check the names and domain names associated with the license. Some scam sites use domains that look similar to real casinos and act as if they are operating under their license. When in doubt, head to the URL listed on the license you find in the registry to be sure that you’re at the right site.
Evaluating the Casino’s Security Measures
Examining the Casino’s Game Selection
Game selection is another important factor to consider when choosing from the best online casinos Canada. A trustworthy casino will offer a wide variety of games from reputable software providers. Look for popular titles from well-known developers such as Microgaming, NetEnt, and Playtech. Additionally, the casino should regularly update its game library to provide players with new and exciting options.
Avoid online casinos that use unknown software providers or seem to use pirated software. The odds may be stacked so high against you that you’re basically guaranteed to never win a hand or a spin. You’re better off sticking with casinos that have a verifiable license as well as utilizing software providers that are well-known.
Verifying the Casino’s Customer Support
Good customer support is essential for a positive online casino experience. A trustworthy casino will have a responsive and knowledgeable support team available to assist you with any queries or concerns. Look for casinos that offer multiple support channels, such as live chat, email, and telephone. Additionally, check for the casino’s operating hours to ensure that support is available when you need it. You should also try and give their customer support a test run. By simply asking their 24/7 Live Chat simple questions about the site, you can get a feel for their response time and overall knowledge. Sites with poor customer service will often take a long time to connect to an agent and be unable to answer even the simplest of queries.
Looking for Fair and Transparent Bonus Terms
Bonuses and promotions are a common feature of online casinos, but it’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions associated with these offers. A trustworthy casino will have fair and transparent bonus terms, clearly outlining the wagering requirements, maximum bet limits, and any other conditions that apply. Avoid casinos that have overly restrictive or confusing bonus terms, as this may indicate a lack of transparency.
In conclusion, when looking for a trustworthy online casino, it’s important to consider factors such as proper licensing and regulation, security measures, game selection, customer support, and bonus terms. By taking the time to evaluate these aspects, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable gaming experience. Remember to always gamble responsibly and set limits for yourself to avoid any potential issues.
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