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Leafs cling on in playoff race despite disastrous road trip – The Globe and Mail

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Toronto Maple Leafs right wing William Nylander looks on during a loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Mar 6, 2020. Toronto returns home against Tampa Bay on Tuesday after a California trip.

Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

With 13 games to go in the regular season, the Maple Leafs are hanging on to a playoff position in spite of themselves. They aren’t third in the NHL’s Atlantic Division on merit. They are third because the Florida Panthers pretty much lose in lockstep.

Toronto returns home against Tampa Bay on Tuesday after a California trip, in which it lost to three opponents with losing records. The Maple Leafs were outscored 8-3 by San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim – three of the league’s worst offensive teams. And one of their three goals should have been negated by an offside.

As the postseason approaches, there are but a few certainties. There will be much talk about “the process.” A lot of conversations about looking in the mirror. And discussion about the need to play a full 60 minutes. About having to bring more energy. About belief in the group.

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All of these things reflect badly on a team about to head into its 70th skirmish. That is the definition of scuffling. Of a team on the hobble to the finish line rather than a sprint. Of a team that has more questions than answers.

Perhaps there will be a surprise. Before these most recent defeats came a string of smashing victories, likely the best three of the entire season.

It is hard to predict what happens next. The Maple Leafs are an unpredictable bunch that has rarely been able to escape tumult. Their defence and goaltending are leaky, but their offence is excellent. Then their defence buckles down and their offence is non-existent.

Sheldon Keefe and his players worked overtime to find positives to say on a road trip that went badly. At worst, they should have won two of three. Instead, they collected a single point by forcing overtime against the Kings.

“I thought it was a pretty even game all the way through,” Keefe said Thursday. “It’s a game that really could have gone either way. We’re happy to get one point. We could have gotten two, but [there is] not a lot to complain about for us as a group.”

The swing west was an opportunity to gain traction at a critical time. Instead, Toronto flew home on Saturday slightly worse than when it left. The Panthers inched two points closer in the division standing. They now trail Auston Matthews and Co. by just three.

There are great stories all around the NHL right now. The Philadelphia Flyers have won nine in a row and sit atop the Metropolitan Division with the Washington Capitals. After a terrible start, the Minnesota Wild entered Sunday only a point removed from a wild-card berth in the Western Conference.

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The Oilers won four of their past five games to climb ahead of the Golden Knights and into first place, at least temporarily, in the Pacific Division. Edmonton is 7-0-1 in the second game of back-to-backs, and Mikko Koskinen stopped 97 of the 99 shots he saw this week. Vegas played in Calgary on Sunday night, and then plays in Edmonton on Monday.

The Flames, Canucks and Jets are among four teams battling for three playoff positions in the Western Conference. The Maple Leafs, on the other hand, spoke about being snake-bitten last week after losing to three opponents playing for only pride and perhaps roster spots next season.

“We’re all in this together,” Matthews said after Friday’s loss in Anaheim. “You play through the good and the bad and the adversity and, obviously, in the position that we’re in, there’s lots of critics and lots of stuff that comes with it.

“But I think in this room we’re headstrong, and it doesn’t matter what’s going to get thrown our way, we’re going to come out of it stronger. Obviously, it was not the road trip that that we really wanted. So, that’s on us. We’ve got to just build forward and put this aside, learn from it and be better.”

It is pretty late to be learning at this stage, and to be drowning in hockey speak.

Toronto’s next three games are with the Lightning, the Nashville Predators and Boston Bruins. It has 24 points in the past 23 games. That is only a tad better than its pace when Mike Babcock was fired.

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He lost his job because so much more was expected from this team. Pretty much since then, the Maple Leafs have stayed on the same track. With a few weeks left, they are still sailing into a strong headwind.

“It was a great game, a beautiful game,” goaltender Frederik Andersen said on Thursday. “It was great to play behind a team like that. The way we played made it easy for me.”

It was a great 1-0 loss.

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Ticats list Watford as starting QB vs. Stampeders – TSN

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David Watford has been listed as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats starting quarterback for Friday’s game against the Calgary Stampeders.

The move comes after Watford took the majority of snaps in practice this week with Jeremiah Masoli limited due to a rib injury. Tiger-Cats head coach Orlondo Steinauer told said Thursday the decision would be based on how Masoli was feeling.

Watford has completed six passes this season for 78 yards.

Masoli opened the season as the team’s starting quarterback, but was replaced by Dane Evans. Evans was ruled out for four-to-six weeks with an Oblique injury on Monday.

Masoli, 33, has completed 41 of 66 passes this season for 371 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions.

The Tiger-Cats will be looking to get back to .500 with a win Friday against the Stampeders (2-4).

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AC Leonard receives an additional one-game suspension; six players fined – CFL.ca

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TORONTO — The Canadian Football League announced the following on Thursday:

Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive lineman A.C. Leonard has been suspended for one additional game due to a verbal abuse and unacceptable behaviour towards the doping control officers. Leonard was previously suspended for two games for failing to provide a sample for drug testing.

Fines from Week 6:

  • Saskatchewan Roughriders safety Mike Edem was fined for a tourist hit on Winnipeg Blue Bombers receiver Nic Demski.
  • Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Andrew Harris was fined for grabbing Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back Christian Campbell’s facemask in a reckless and unsafe manner.
  • Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman Drew Desjarlais was fined for his involvement in instigating the altercation between the two teams.
  • Calgary Stampeders offensive lineman Justin Lawrence was fined for a chop-block on Edmonton Elks defensive lineman Jake Ceresna.
  • Edmonton Elks linebacker Nyles Morgan was fined for kicking Calgary Stampeders offensive lineman Bryce Bell.

An additional fine from Week 5:

  • Toronto Argonauts defensive back Shaquille Richardson was fined for unsportsmanlike conduct in the Labour Day Classic against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

As per league policy, the amounts of the player fines were not disclosed.

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Hopkins converts second chance to give Washington wild win over Giants – Sportsnet.ca

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LANDOVER, Md. — Taylor Heinicke and Dustin Hopkins made the most of their second chances.

Washington needed every last second — and then some — to earn a long-awaited win over the New York Giants.

Hopkins made a 43-yard field goal on an untimed down — after a penalty negated his miss seconds earlier — and Washington beat New York 30-29 on Thursday night, snapping a five-game win streak for the Giants in the series.

It also gave Heinicke another moment in the sun after he cost Washington dearly with a late interception. The 28-year-old quarterback was making his second career start in the regular season and first since 2018 with Carolina. He became a bit of a sensation when Washington had to use him in last season’s playoffs against Tom Brady and Tampa Bay, but his team lost that game.

“It’s amazing,” Heinicke said. “The first start was what, two or three years ago in Carolina? Threw three picks, tore my tricep, it was just a brutal thing — and that was my last start until last year (against) Tampa. Come in to Tampa last year, had a good game, but ultimately fell up short. And finally get that first win.”

Heinicke, playing because of an injury to Ryan Fitzpatrick, threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns.

His interception set up Graham Gano’s fifth field goal of the game, which gave the Giants a 29-27 lead with 2:00 remaining. Heinicke then guided Washington back into field goal range.

“He does have the ability to throw the ball and make all the throws. We’ve seen that,” coach Ron Rivera said. “And he’s got a lot of confidence.”

Hopkins missed his first attempt to win the game, but he was given a reprieve when Dexter Lawrence was flagged for being offside. His next attempt was good, giving Washington (1-1) a wild victory.

“Somebody out there check on my mother,” Hopkins said. “She’s probably had a heart attack.”

Daniel Jones threw for 249 yards and a touchdown for the Giants (0-2). He also ran for 95 yards and a TD.

For most of the night, it was Washington’s highly touted defense that wasn’t pulling its weight. New York scored on its first four possessions of the second half, but after the Giants went up 26-20, Heinicke needed just 17 seconds to put Washington ahead.

J.D. McKissic slipped downfield for a 56-yard reception, and then Ricky Seals-Jones outjumped Adoree’ Jackson in the corner of the end zone for a 19-yard TD that put Washington up 27-26.

The Giants had to punt after that, but as Washington was trying to run out the clock, James Bradberry picked off a pass by Heinicke, giving the Giants the ball at the Washington 20.

Washington’s defense forced a field goal, giving Heinicke another chance. Then the penalty on Lawrence gave Hopkins his extra opportunity.

“It’s going to be a tough lesson,” Giants coach Joe Judge said. “I’m not going to put this on Dexter.”

After struggling to stop Justin Herbert and the Chargers last weekend, Washington’s defense had its problems again at the start of this game. New York went 79 yards in 11 plays the first time it had the ball, taking a 7-0 lead on a 6-yard run by Jones.

After Washington tied it on Heinicke’s 11-yard scoring pass to Terry McLaurin, Jones broke free for what initially looked like a 58-yard touchdown run. That play was shortened by a holding penalty, however, and the Giants settled for a field goal.

Washington took a 14-10 lead on a 2-yard TD run by McKissic in the final minute of the half.

Jones found Darius Slayton for a 33-yard TD in the third quarter that put New York ahead 20-14.

MISSED CHANCES

Washington’s biggest defensive breakdown wasn’t punished. With the Giants up 23-20 in the fourth quarter, Slayton was all alone behind the defense, but the pass bounced off his outstretched hands.

That play — and the penalties on the final field goal and the long run by Jones — will likely haunt the Giants during their long break before the next game.

“It’s a pretty tough one. You give it your all and fight and it comes down the tail end,” Giants receiver Sterling Shepard said. “See that first one miss and you see those flags it’s not a fun feeling at all.”

The Giants had 11 penalties for 81 yards. Washington had nine for 80 — and some of those were costly, too.

PERFECT AGAIN

Gano has now made 35 consecutive field goals, the longest active streak in the NFL. His five field goals Thursday included kicks from 47, 52 and 55 yards.

INJURIES

Giants: OL Nick Gates was carted off with a broken leg in the first quarter. Gates, normally a center, played guard Thursday after New York put Shane Lemieux on injured reserve.

Daniel Jones threw for 249 yards and a touchdown for the Giants (0-2). He also ran for 95 yards and a TD.

For most of the night, it was Washington’s highly touted defense that wasn’t pulling its weight. New York scored on its first four possessions of the second half, but after the Giants went up 26-20, Heinicke needed just 17 seconds to put Washington ahead.

J.D. McKissic slipped downfield for a 56-yard reception, and then Ricky Seals-Jones outjumped Adoree’ Jackson in the corner of the end zone for a 19-yard TD that put Washington up 27-26.

The Giants had to punt after that, but as Washington was trying to run out the clock, James Bradberry picked off a pass by Heinicke, giving the Giants the ball at the Washington 20.

Washington’s defense forced a field goal, giving Heinicke another chance. Then the penalty on Lawrence gave Hopkins his second chance.

Washington: DT Matt Ioannidis left in the first half with a knee injury but returned to the game.

UP NEXT

Giants: New York returns home to face the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 26.

Washington: Two straight road games await Washington, with the first coming Sept. 26 against the Buffalo Bills.

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