Merry Christmas, kids.
In their first Next Gen game of the season, the Maple Leafs roared down the chimney and stuffed children’s stockings with a thrilling victory on Monday afternoon, beating the Carolina Hurricanes 8-6 in a wildly entertaining affair at Scotiabank Arena.
Follow the bouncing puck: The Leafs had an early 3-0 lead, gave up five goals in a row, were down 6-4 in the third period and then scored four in a row to take an improbable victory before a crowd of 19,176.
“New Year’s Eve, I think,” goaltender Frederik Andersen said when he was asked what he saw from his end as the Leafs mounted an otherwise unbelievable comeback. “Fireworks everywhere and it looked pretty. Incredible.”
A five-point night by Mitch Marner — tying his career high — was among the twinkling ornaments the Leafs put on their 11th win in 15 games under coach Sheldon Keefe.
Captain John Tavares set a team record when he had three points — two assists and a goal — in the opening five minutes 10 seconds, the quickest three points to start a game in Leafs history.
It was the Leafs’ first eight-goal game since Dec. 19, 2017, when they beat Carolina 8-1 in a similar afternoon game in Toronto.
Toronto enters the Christmas break with 44 points, entrenching them in second place in the Atlantic Division, and turkey dinner suddenly will taste a lot better on Wednesday.
Marner and Auston Matthews, playing on a line with Zach Hyman, were the catalysts as the Hurricanes’ two-goal lead evaporated.
A span of 59 seconds, starting at 11:01 of the third, sent the Leafs into the break with a cup of cheer and no lumps of coal.
Matthews made like Marner and hit No. 16 with a cross-ice spinorama pass, with Marner one-timing a shot past Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek.
At 11:54, Marner spotted Tyson Barrie in the slot and it was 6-6 when Barrie moved to his backhand to beat Mrazek.
Six seconds after the faceoff, Marner scored again. Marner’s ability to anticipate the next play has few equals in the National Hockey League, and so it was that Marner leapt from the circle, intercepted defenceman Trevor van Riemsdyk’s pass to Jake Gardiner and swept in on Mrazek, scoring on a forehand deke.
“Our adrenaline is pumping, our hearts are pumping, you’re fired up,” Marner said of the outburst. “The first one was a great pass by Matty, the second one a great play by Barrie to find that open spot and make that move. The third one I jumped through and saw their D-man have it, saw their other D-man folding out, and tried to get it. Lucky enough, I picked it off, got down the ice and was able to score.”
Lucky? We beg to differ, Mitch.
On goals by Jason Spezza, William Nylander and Tavares early in the first, the Leafs appeared to be well on their way.
But when Tavares chased starter James Reimer — the ex-Leaf was gone in favour of Mrazek after allowing three goals on seven shots — the Hurricanes recovered and took over.
Goals by Brock McGinn (shorthanded) and Martin Necas in the first period cut the Leafs lead to one heading into the intermission. Carolina picked up the theme in the second — getting three from Necas, Erik Haula and Andrei Svechnikov in a span of 64 seconds starting at 15:09 — as it took advantage of several Leafs defensive miscues to go up 5-3.
Matthews stemmed the flow at 2:35 of the third with his 24th goal; Haula scored his second at 5:58, and the air was sucked out of the building again.
But wait. Marner and Matthews took over. Pierre Engvall scored into an empty net with 1:40 remaining.
The Leafs’ comeback came 24 hours after the Toronto Raptors stunned the Dallas Mavericks, rallying from a 23-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win.
So, yes indeed, Merry Christmas from your friends at MLSE.
“Guys just believe in themselves,” Tavares said. “I think it’s huge. But I think when we move forward we know a lot of (the manner in which the Leafs won) wasn’t the recipe for the success in the long term. You have to find ways to win. It’s not always pretty.”
Keefe had no trouble peering at the victory in the bigger picture.
“We need wins, we need points,” Keefe said. “You give up the lead and the nature some of the goals (against), you don’t feel great about them.
“But we can’t forget about the good things that we did. We scored seven plus an empty netter and we had a terrific start against a very good team that we knew was going to come back.
“I think it’s part of our growth and trying to figure things out. That’s partially the reason why I didn’t call a timeout in that second period. It was a good time for our team to sort themselves out. I don’t really know in that second period that we did, but we found a way and our best players made big time plays.”
The Leafs are off until Friday night, when they take on the Devils in New Jersey.
They’re going to enjoy the break. No reason that Leafs Nation, with the way Keefe has this team going, shouldn’t either.
Lakers-Nuggets Game 2 Takeaways: Davis and Jokic deliver classic battle – Sportsnet.ca
Midway through the third quarter, it looked as though Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals was going to be another laugher.
The Los Angeles Lakers, holding a 16-point lead with 8:11 to go in the period, appeared to be emulating their Game 1 performance, containing the Denver Nuggets’ go-to actions and scoring with relative ease on the back of LeBron James (who scored his club’s first 12 points) and transition opportunities.
And then the Nuggets tweaked their offence, won key minutes against the Lakers’ small ball lineups, and found some help from unexpected places (hello, PJ Dozier!) to go on a 24–12 run to close the quarter and set up a spectacular, nail-biting finish.
What follows here are some of the key takeaways from the game, including, yes, that marquee Anthony Davis shot.
ANTHONY DAVIS CALLS GAME!
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) September 21, 2020
Adjusting for Mismatches
It was no secret coming into this series that the Jamal Murray–Nikola Jokic pick-and-roll was going to be difficult for the Lakers to defend, even with their surplus of (legitimately athletic) big men. And for the first half of this one, they did about as admirable a job as possible, having the big (whether that be Davis, JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard) drop back initially, ready to burst towards the arc if Jokic popped for a potential triple, while the guard fought through and over the ball screen to deter Murray pull-up threes and funnel him into the paint towards help.
Davis in particular showcased why he was voted All-Defensive First Team this year when involved in those actions, freely switching onto Murray if necessary and gobbling him up on drives or using his otherworldly athleticism to recover to Jokic to contest shots that typically would have been open.
Then, in the second half, the Nuggets not only adjusted well by aggressively forcing more switches than they had in the 24 minutes prior, they executed on those adjustments by attacking those switches, finding mismatches at every turn.
Suddenly, their offence roared back to life, with Jokic in particular finding himself pitted against smaller players who he could easily take advantage of.
On top of this, Denver’s two stars simply began doing what great players do, drilling tough shots against high quality defenders. Murray managed to squeeze past Davis a few times for some acrobatic layups, and Jokic hit some tough hooks and turnaround shots in the post against the opposing bigs.
In the end, of course, it wasn’t enough to get them across the finish line, but if they are able to continue to exploit the Lakers in the pick-and-roll going forward, Los Angeles is in for a tougher fight than they’ve had through the totality of two games.
Pulverizing the Paint
Again, this really was a tale of two halves.
After the first 24 minutes, the Lakers were leading the points in the paint battle 24–12. By the time the game finished, the Nuggets wound up outscoring them 38–34.
It’s not so surprising that the Nuggets gave up so many points inside—during the regular season, they had the 10th-worst mark (64.1) for defended field goal percentage at the rim in the league. They simply don’t have any particularly formidable rim protectors, and while their defence has been marginally better throughout the playoffs, the athleticism of the Lakers was always going to be problematic.
In a microcosm of these issues, the Lakers have found a pet play in backdoor lobs, with a big man (or even James, who completed the play Sunday night, for example) appearing to come up towards the arc before quickly spinning back towards the baseline and rising for a lob from a guard (often Rajon Rondo) standing up top.
The Nuggets’ interior dominance, however, was far more unexpected, as the Lakers house multiple big men who are plus-defenders. In stark contrast to their opponents, Los Angeles was the sixth-best team in terms of defended field goal percentage at the rim (61.7) this past season.
But Jokic finding his touch inside, cutters making smart reads whenever doubles appeared, and Murray managing to weave and glide his way to the hoop out of the pick-and-roll despite some tight defence surrounding him allowed Denver to erase Los Angeles’ edge in that category completely.
There would seem to be a fair amount of things that the Nuggets can take away from this game, despite the loss, and be pleased with, and their interior play will be high on that list.
The Lakers bench was FIRED UP after Alex Caruso’s dunk.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) September 21, 2020
No Laughing Matter
It looked as though Jokic was going to be stuck in the mud once again throughout the first half, finding it difficult to score with the Lakers doing a good job of keeping him matched up against an opposing big (Howard has been particularly good at getting beneath Jokic’s skin) to equal his size and strength, and guarding him in single coverage, thereby staying home on his teammates and lessening the chances of any potential cuts that would allow him to make use of his otherworldly passing.
In the latter half, though, that all changed, with Jokic getting loose as the Nuggets created more opportunities for him via switches, allowing him to match up with smaller players whom he could easily see over and score against. Once he’d scored once or twice in those scenarios, the Lakers’ resolve faltered, and they began to send double teams which he immediately capitalized upon, spraying pinpoint passes all across the half-court.
Once the fourth quarter came, he also simply began to nail extremely difficult looks he’d missed before and that the Lakers could only shrug at, including a massive three-pointer against a swiftly closing Davis to cut the lead to one point with 1:04 to play.
If it had been Jokic with the ball in his hands for the last shot of the game rather than Davis, the discussion right now could be about him instead (he finished with 30 points, six rebounds, nine assists and four steals). He’s as potent an offensive force as there is in the league today, and if he’s able to dictate the terms of Denver’s offensive possessions, this series could turn around in the blink of an eye.
As great as Jokic was in this game, Davis seemed to have answers at every turn.
Not only was he exceptional with his individual and team defence (flying around the floor to contest shooters and switching whenever necessary without giving up an advantage), Davis found his offensive rhythm in the second half after a rough early start and closed out the game by scoring Los Angeles’s final 10 points.
And, oh yeah, he hit a pretty nifty buzzer-beating three, too.
That triple was only the second time Davis has hit a buzzer-beater in his career, and the first time he’s done so in the playoffs. It was also the first time a Lakers player had hit such a shot in the post-season since Metta World Peace back in 2010.
Davis’s performance (he finished with 31 points, nine rebounds and two blocks) was perhaps made even more enthralling by the fact that the vast majority of his buckets came either against Jokic or in response to him, generating a classic clash of superstar versus superstar. He worked Jokic in isolation all game long, taking him off the dribble to muscle his way to the rim or pulling up for mid-range jumpers and sticking them in his grill.
These are exactly the kinds of battles that elevate NBA basketball beyond any ordinary limitations, fabricating something ethereal that will stick in one’s mind forever after. And with at least two games remaining in this series, there’s plenty of room left for more.
Wilson throws 5 TDs, Seahawks make goal line stop to beat Patriots – TSN
SEATTLE — Russell Wilson continued his sizzling start throwing five more touchdown passes. Unheralded second-year defensive end L.J. Collier made the play that assured those five TD tosses came in a victory.
Collier stuffed Cam Newton at the 1-yard line on the final play, and the Seattle Seahawks held off the New England Patriots 35-30 on Sunday night.
Wilson and Newton — two of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL — claimed the spotlight in a wild primetime showcase. Wilson was masterful, leading Seattle to a 35-23 lead with less than 5 minutes remaining.
But Newton took over the final minutes and yet another Seahawks-Patriots matchup was decided in the closing moments on a play snapped at the 1.
This time, it was the Seahawks erupting off the sideline in celebration.
“It’s an extraordinary moment for football players and for a team. You either come through or you don’t,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “There’s so much intensity in that moment. The guys on the field will never forget it.”
Newton led New England 80 yards in the closing moments. They reached the 1 on a pass to N’Keal Harry with 3 seconds left. On the final play, Newton tried to run power to the left, but was upended by Collier in the biggest play of his young career. Newton, who had two rushing touchdowns in the game, never got close to the goal line.
Collier and Jamal Adams said from the formation it was clear where the Patriots were going with the play.
“Just to finish it off it’s a hell of a play. Imagine if we had fans here today. It would still be shaking,” Collier said.
Newton was excellent in his first road game with the Patriots throwing for 397 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He ran for another 47 yards, but couldn’t get the last three feet to give New England a victory.
“We put ourselves in position to win. When you do that, you’ve just got to finish and we didn’t do that,” Newton said.
Wilson was masterful on the other side, completing 21 of 28 passes for 288 yards. It was his fourth career game with five touchdown passes. Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, David Moore, Freddie Swain and Chris Carson all took turns celebrating in the end zone. Carson was the last, running under a 18-yard rainbow toss from Wilson against the blitz with 4:32 left to give the Seahawks a 35-23 lead.
Wilson became the first QB in Seahawks history to throw at least four TDs in consecutive games after he had four TD tosses in Week 1 against Atlanta.
“They’ve got a great quarterback. Glad we only have to play him once every four years,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
The entire night in a normal setting would have left CenturyLink Field shaking with delirium, especially after the final play. But the stadium built for noise was empty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving fans to celebrate Seattle improving to 2-0 for the second straight year at home.
“You missed the fun of it all. This game is meant to be played in front of thousands and thousands of people, it’s so special,” Wilson said.
Newton did his best to spoil any celebration. His second TD run pulled New England to 35-30 with 2:16 left. It was his eighth career game with at least two rushing TDs, setting an NFL record.
New England held the Seahawks to a three-and-out after Seattle threw on third-and-1 and Wilson couldn’t connect with Lockett on a deep shot.
Newton needed just five plays to move New England from its 19 to the Seattle 36 with 41 seconds left. After a penalty, Newton hit Edelman for 18 yards to the Seattle 13 with 20 seconds left and the pair nearly connected again in the end zone but Newton’s pass was high with 9 seconds remaining. Newton found Harry but was stopped at the 1 and New England used its final timeout, setting the stage for the final play.
Edelman finished with eight catches for 179 yards.
Metcalf’s 54-yard TD catch came against Stephon Gilmore, the reigning defensive player of the year. It was the first TD allowed by Gilmore as the primary defender since 2018. Gilmore shadowed Metcalf most of the night and at one point the two tussled into the Seattle bench.
“Like I said, it’s a physical game,” Metcalf said.
New England played without running back James White after his father was killed Sunday in a car crash in Florida, authorities said. The wreck that killed Tyrone White happened around 1 p.m. in Cooper City, Florida, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. White, who was the captain of the Miami-Dade Police Department, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Seattle lost its starting and backup free safeties in the first half. Starter Quandre Diggs was ejected late in the first quarter for a helmet-to-helmet hit on New England’s N’Keal Harry. On fourth-and-3 from the Seattle 30, Newton hit Harry on a slant for 13 yards. The rookie was immediately hit by Diggs in a violent collision that snapped Harry’s head backward. The penalty helped lead to Newton’s 1-yard TD run.
Diggs was the first Seattle player ejected since 2017 when Sheldon Richardson and Quinton Jefferson were both ejected in a loss at Jacksonville.
Marquise Blair moved from nickel cornerback to safety in place of Diggs, but left with a right knee injury in the second quarter. Blair had to be helped off the field and the team immediately ruled him out. Lano Hill took over at free safety with Blair out.
Carroll said Blair still needs and MRI but they believe it to be a significant injury.
Patriots: Return home to host Las Vegas.
Seahawks: Host Dallas next Sunday.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
James White misses Sunday's game after father dies in car crash, mother in critical condition – Yahoo Canada Sports
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="New England Patriots running back James White will miss Sunday’s game after his father was killed in a car crash earlier in the day, according to Fox Sports 640’s Andy Slater.” data-reactid=”16″>New England Patriots running back James White will miss Sunday’s game after his father was killed in a car crash earlier in the day, according to Fox Sports 640’s Andy Slater.
White’s mother also was reportedly in the car and is in critical condition. His father, Tyrone, was a captain in the Miami-Dade Police Department.
Sad news to report. Patriots’ RB James White’s father was in a car crash today and did not survive. His mother was also in the car and is in critical condition.
White’s father, Tyrone, was a captain with the Miami-Dade Police Department.
James was told and is inactive tonight.
— Andy Slater (@AndySlater) September 20, 2020
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The news was later confirmed by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.” data-reactid=”20″>The news was later confirmed by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Patriots owner Robert Kraft offered to fly White straight to Miami after hearing the news, but White decided he would still fly home with his teammates, according to NBC Sports’ Michele Tafoya. White is reportedly not believed to be at the Seattle Seahawks’ stadium.” data-reactid=”21″>Patriots owner Robert Kraft offered to fly White straight to Miami after hearing the news, but White decided he would still fly home with his teammates, according to NBC Sports’ Michele Tafoya. White is reportedly not believed to be at the Seattle Seahawks’ stadium.
<h2 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Patriots, Russell Wilson voice support for White” data-reactid=”33″>Patriots, Russell Wilson voice support for White
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Patriots safety Devin McCourty gave his support to White with a shoutout after scoring a pick six for the first touchdown of the game, yelling “2-8, we love, bro” at the camera in the end zone.” data-reactid=”34″>Patriots safety Devin McCourty gave his support to White with a shoutout after scoring a pick six for the first touchdown of the game, yelling “2-8, we love, bro” at the camera in the end zone.
Seattle’s Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Patriots’ opponent and White’s teammate at Wisconsin, also sent a message of support.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The Patriots announced White would be inactive for Sunday night’s game, which they went on to lose 35-30. After the game, Wilson again sent a message to White.” data-reactid=”40″>The Patriots announced White would be inactive for Sunday night’s game, which they went on to lose 35-30. After the game, Wilson again sent a message to White.
“My heart’s heavy because one of my teammates, James White, from Wisconsin, one of the nicest guys, teammates, one of the hardest workers, one of the best people I know, had a tough one,” Wilson said to NBC’s Michele Tafoya. “My heart’s been heavy all day thinking about him … James, I’m praying for you man if you can hear me.”
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Many other former teammates of White’s also came out in support of him, including Tom Brady.” data-reactid=”42″>Many other former teammates of White’s also came out in support of him, including Tom Brady.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="White had 30 receiving yards and 22 rushing yards on eight touches in the Patriots’ season opener against the Miami Dolphins. Without him, Rex Burkhead saw the most action in the passing game out of the Patriots backfield with four catches and 47 receiving yards.” data-reactid=”43″>White had 30 receiving yards and 22 rushing yards on eight touches in the Patriots’ season opener against the Miami Dolphins. Without him, Rex Burkhead saw the most action in the passing game out of the Patriots backfield with four catches and 47 receiving yards.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="More from Yahoo Sports:” data-reactid=”46″>More from Yahoo Sports:
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