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Maple Leafs beaten by last-place Coyotes, goalie Vejmelka – Toronto Sun



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Who invited Karel Vejmelka to spoil the big Maple Leafs’ homecoming party in Arizona?


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The Coyotes goaltender, with the worst goal support in the NHL, made 45 saves to wreck the evening for Auston Matthews, Michael Bunting and a lot of other stunned Leafs, leading a last-place team to a 2-1 upset.

Already disconcerted by some inexplicable late letdowns on this road trip, coach Sheldon Keefe seethed as his team let two early power plays fizzle against the understaffed Coyotes, fell behind and gave up a weak goal after Matthews tied it in the third.

“Our power play had a chance to grab hold of the game and failed to do so,” a sour Keefe said. “Our execution (overall) wasn’t good enough, either. We generated enough to score far more than we did and didn’t make it hard once (Vejmelka) got in a groove.”

The Leafs have a record of 1-1-1 so far in the US southwest and while the optics of granting a day off in the sun aren’t great after losing to a club that’s 7-23-3, it’s required after a back-to-back ad at this stage of the trip.


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“It’s going to be important,” Keefe said of avoiding the rink Thursday.

“Our group looked tired again and in the third, it seemed we hit a wall and stopped playing for a chunk of time. No life, no energy on our bench when we needed it.

“It’s our third game and a back-to-back and all that, but it makes me wonder about our conditioning and where we’re at. Clearly we have to find ways to be rising to the occasions rather than falling flat.”

Quixotically, Keefe saw the solution as playing more games, which the COVID-19 crisis has hindered with long layoff on the schedule.

“Conditioning improves, pace improves, you’re used to grinding through it.”

The Leafs wrap up the trip Saturday in St. Louis when Mitch Marner and Pierre Engvall will have exited COVID-19 protocol.


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Matthews, with a load of family and friends in the sparse crowd at Gila River Arena, had five shots through 15 minutes of mostly frustrating ice time, before hopping on a loose puck and burying it 14 seconds into the third.

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That set the club record of nine consecutive road games with a goal, breaking a tie with Babe Dye, Frank Mahovlich and Daniel Marois, in the course of a century.

“I would have obviously taken the win,” Matthews said of the record and his 24th goal this season.

“But I have to give credit to the guys on my line.”

One is left winger Bunting, back where his NHL career was launched, but Vejmelka had his number much of the night, too. Keefe was also working in front of special guests, his wife being from Scottsdale in the rink where his gig began in November of 2019 when he replaced Mike Babcock.


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It was a unique goaltending match-up, Jack Campbell taking the night off as one of the NHL’s best this year and possibly being named an Atlantic Division all-star on Thursday, allowing the injury-plagued Petr Mrazek his first start in a month, against a fellow Czech.

Mrazek’s biggest worry in the game was inactivity as the Leafs had a 2-to-1 shot edge through 40 minutes, but on just 18 shots, he was beaten twice by Ryan Dzingel.

One was a mix-up between defencemen Travis Dermott and Timothy Liljegren behind Toronto’s net, the latter a surprise insert for Rasmus Sandin in what Keefe indicated was forced by the salary cap.

On the winner, Mrazek missed poke checking a cross ice pass to Dzingel, who’d got behind defender TJ Brodie.


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“We need to get a save on one of them, probably the second one,” Keefe said, as Mrazek played just his fourth game this season.

“But goalies can’t get wins when you score them just one.”

Mrazek, who has watched rookie Joseph Woll earn some playing time in his absence, expressed hope his problems, two groin injuries and a bout of COVID-19, are over.

The Matthews mob included a couple of his mother’s relatives from Northern Mexico. Matthews said before the game he’s getting a following from across the border.

“They like to watch a lot. Now, my little cousins have picked it up, they’re skating and stuff like that. It’s pretty cool. As far as their hockey knowledge goes, I’m sure they’ve picked up a lot during the years. They really support me, it definitely means a lot.”


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Bunting, after finishing last season strongly for his draft team, took a free agent offer back to his GTA roots.

“It was a tough decision because I had been with the Coyotes for so long. But it was too good to pass up to be with my hometown team and living out my dream as a kid. It’s been an unbelievable experience.”

Bunting’s hockey ties to Arizona are actually strongest from many years with the AHL Tucson Roadrunners, not just a town in a Beatles’ song.

“Tucson started hockey five years ago and I was there the first season. The city was great, behind us from the get-go. Not may people knew much about hockey, but they jumped on board and supported us. Each year more fans came out. It’s now a hockey town, one of the best in the AHL.”

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Senators score 5 times in 3rd period to down free-falling Oilers – CBC Sports



Scoring five third-period goals may not be the usual game plan, but it was the perfect path to a win for the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

Josh Norris scored a pair of goals and the Senators erased a 3-1 third-period deficit in a 6-4 come-from-behind victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

Adam Gaudette, Alex Formenton, Artem Zub and Zach Sanford also scored for the Senators (11-18-2), who have won two straight and won their first game this season when trailing after the second period.

“It’s not really how we drew it up, but that’s how hockey goes sometimes,” Norris said. “I think it was a lot of fun and the guys enjoyed it. We have to clean some things up, but that’s hockey and it’s how the way the game goes sometimes. We kind of thrived on that and it was great to get the win.”

Gaudette, who also had an assist, said the comeback was a blast.

“It was a lot of fun. Personally it’s been a while since I’ve had that much fun playing hockey,” he said. “It’s been a tough year and a half or so, so it really feels good to contribute and to help this team win.”

WATCH l Senators rally with 3rd period explosion to defeat Oilers: 

Senators rally with 3rd period explosion to defeat Oilers

22 hours ago

Duration 1:25

Ottawa scores five goals in the third period for a 6-4 victory over Edmonton who suffers their 6th straight loss. 1:25

Chris Tierney had two assists, while Senators starter Matt Murray stopped 33-of-37 shots.

Zack Kassian, Kailer Yamamoto, Brendan Perlini and Darnell Nurse replied for the Oilers (18-15-2), who are still in a free-fall. They have dropped six straight and are 2-10-2 in their last 14 games.

“That is one we let slip away,” Kassian said. “Everybody is pretty upset. We were pretty frustrated with that one. That’s a tough way to lose. You are up 3-1 going into the third and you lay a stinker. We are a pretty frustrated group. I think the writing is on the wall.”

Edmonton goalie Stuart Skinner made 20 saves in defeat.

The Oilers were once again guilty of allowing the first goal of the game. Ottawa scored a power-play marker midway through the first as Norris was left alone in front to send a shot past Skinner. The Oilers have conceded the game’s first goal 22 times in their last 26 games.

Edmonton knotted the game with a power-play goal of its own with just 48 seconds remaining in the opening period as Leon Draisaitl won a board battle and fed it in front to Kassian, who wired a shot past Murray.

The Oilers made it 2-1 with eight minutes left in the middle frame as Yamamoto fought off Erik Brannstrom and slid a backhand shot under Murray while off balance.

The Oilers added to the their lead with two and a half minutes to play in the second as Perlini added some extra weight to a Duncan Keith shot for his third of the season.

Ottawa got one back early in the third on a two-on-one as Gaudette beat Skinner with a high backhander.

WATCH l What do Connor McDavid’s comments tell us about hockey culture?:  

What do Connor McDavid’s comments tell us about hockey culture? | The Breakdown

3 days ago

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CBC Sports’ Jacqueline Doorey is joined by Shireen Ahmed to get her reactions to McDavid’s comments about the Oilers potentially signing Evander Kane and what they say about hockey culture. 7:20

The Senators tied it up five minutes into the third period as Skinner coughed up a puck behind the net, eventually leading to a rebound goal by Formenton.

Ottawa’s unlikely comeback saw them regain the lead midway through the third when Zub picked the top corner with a long shot.

However, the Oilers were able to draw even two minutes later as Nurse jumped up to score on a wrist shot.

The Senators came roaring back with another power-play goal as Norris scored his team-leading 16th goal of the season.

Sanford put the game away with Ottawa’s fifth third-period goal, scoring on a long seeing-eye empty netter.

The Senators return home to face the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, while the Oilers are off until Thursday when they host the Florida Panthers.

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Novak Djokovic arrives in Dubai after deportation from Australia –



DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Novak Djokovic arrived early Monday in Dubai after his deportation from Australia over its required COVID-19 vaccination ended the No. 1-ranked men’s tennis player’s hopes of defending his Australian Open title.

The Emirates plane carrying Djokovic touched down after a 13 1/2-hour flight from Melbourne, where he had argued in court he should be allowed to stay in the country and compete in the tournament under a medical exemption due to a coronavirus infection last month.

Dubai International Airport was quiet early Monday morning as flights from the Australia and Asia began to arrive. Passengers wearing mandatory face masks collected their bags and walked out of the cavernous terminal. The first Muslim call to prayers before the sunrise echoed over the terminal.

It wasn’t immediately clear where Djokovic planned to travel next. The Dubai Duty Free tennis tournament, which Djokovic won in 2020, doesn’t start until Feb. 14.

Dubai, the commercial capital of the United Arab Emirates, doesn’t require travelers to be vaccinated, though they must show a negative PCR test to board a flight.

Djokovic had won nine Australian Open titles, including three in a row, and a total of 20 Grand Slam singles trophies, tied with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most in the history of men’s tennis. Federer is not playing while recovering from injury, and Nadal is the only former Australian Open men’s champion in the tournament that began Monday.

Djokovic’s visa was initially canceled on Jan. 6 by a border official who decided he didn’t qualify for a medical exemption from Australia’s rules for unvaccinated visitors. He was exempted from the tournament’s vaccine rules because he had been infected with the virus within the previous six months.

He won an appeal to stay for the tournament, but Australia’s immigration minister later revoked his visa. Three Federal Court judges decided unanimously Sunday to affirm the immigration minister’s right to cancel Djokovic’s visa.

Vaccination amid the pandemic was a requirement for anyone at the Australian Open, whether players, their coaches or anyone at the tournament site. More than 95% of all Top 100 men and women in their tours’ respective rankings are vaccinated. At least two men — American Tennys Sandgren and Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert — skipped the first major tournament of the year due to the vaccine requirement.

Djokovic’s attempt to get the medical exemption for not being vaccinated sparked anger in Australia, where strict lockdowns in cities and curbs on international travel have been employed to try to control the spread of the coronavirus since the pandemic began.

20:54ET 16-01-22

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Australia leaves door open for Djokovic to play at next year’s Open



Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has left the door open for Novak Djokovic to compete at next year’s Australian Open despite the tennis superstar facing an automatic three-year ban from entering the country.

The world number one player left Australia late on Sunday after the Federal Court upheld a government decision to cancel his visa, capping days of drama over the country’s COVID-19 entry rules and his unvaccinated status.

Under immigration law, Djokovic cannot be granted another visa for three years unless Australia’s immigration minister accepts there are compelling or compassionate reasons.

“I’m not going to precondition any of that or say anything that would not enable the minister to make the various calls he has to make,” Morrison told 2GB radio on Monday as Djokovic was en route to Dubai.

“It does go over a three-year period, but there is the opportunity for (a person) to return in the right circumstances, and that will be considered at the time.”

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge Federal Court bench dealt a final blow to Djokovic’s hopes of chasing a record 21st Grand Slam win at the Australian Open, which starts on Monday, dismaying his family and supporters.

In a rollercoaster ride, the world’s top men’s player was first detained by immigration authorities on Jan. 6, ordered released by a court on Jan. 10 and then detained again on Saturday pending Sunday’s court hearing.

Djokovic, 34, said he was extremely disappointed by the ruling but he respected the court’s decision.

“I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and the tournament I love,” Djokovic said in a statement before flying out of Melbourne.

The player was filmed by Reuters wearing a mask and taking selfies with fans at the arrival gate in Dubai as he waited for his entourage to get off the plane. The group then headed through a security channel for transfer passengers.

The saga caused a row between Canberra and Belgrade, with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic calling the court decision “scandalous”.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Monday that she and Morrison had been in touch with Brnabic during the legal process last week.

“I am absolutely confident that the very positive relationship, bilateral relationship between Australia and Serbia will continue on the strong footing that it currently enjoys,” Payne told reporters.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke had said Djokovic could be a threat to public order because his presence would encourage anti-vaccination sentiment amidst Australia’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

The Federal Court judges noted their ruling was based on the lawfulness and legality of the minister’s decision, but did not address “the merits or wisdom” of the decision. They have yet to release the full reasoning behind their decision.


The Serbian tennis player’s visa troubles fuelled global debate over the rights of people who decline to get vaccinated as governments take measures to protect people from the two-year pandemic.

Djokovic had been granted a visa to enter Australia, with a COVID-19 infection on Dec. 16 providing the basis for a medical exemption from Australia’s requirements that all visitors be vaccinated. The exemption was organised via Tennis Australia and the Victoria state government.

That exemption prompted widespread anger in Australia, which has undergone some of the world’s toughest COVID-19 lockdowns and where more than 90% of adults are vaccinated.

The controversy became a political touchstone for Morrison as he prepares for an election due by May, amid wrangling over responsibility between his centre-right federal coalition government and the centre-left Victoria state government.

Morrison on Monday defended his handling of the situation and differentiated Djokovic’s case from vaccine sceptics within his own government.

“If you’re someone coming from overseas, and there are conditions for you to enter this country, then you have to comply with them,” he said. “This is about someone who sought to come to Australia and not comply with the entry rules at our border.”

The men’s tennis governing body ATP said the decision “marks the end of a deeply regrettable series of events”, adding it respected the decision, a comment echoed by Tennis Australia.

On the tennis circuit, fellow players have become impatient for the media circus to end.

“The situation has not been good all round for anyone. It feels everything here happened extremely last minute and that’s why it became such a mess,” said former world number one Andy Murray.


(Reporting By Jane Wardell; editing by Diane Craft and Michael Perry)

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