The Maple Leafs held a media availability on Friday before flying back to Toronto.
When it comes to Toronto’s previous playoff failures, Auston Matthews says “the past is in the past” and the superstar centre had a colourful way of describing the required mindset for Saturday’s Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It’s about this next game and going out there with a purpose and with details and just competing for 60 minutes or whatever it takes,” Matthews said moments after Thursday’s overtime loss. “We just gotta put our balls on the line and go for it.”
It’s a message that’s being embraced by the team.
“That’s the perfect way to describe Game 7s,” said coach Sheldon Keefe. “I mean, it requires an all-in effort.”
“We got to have that mentality,” agreed veteran defenceman Mark Giordano. “We got to believe in ourselves. We’re good enough. We get out there and play our game, we’re good enough to beat anybody. You just have to have that confidence in our game and that’s what he meant by that.”
The Leafs started tentatively in Game 5 against the Columbus Blue Jackets and got bounced from the bubble in 2020. Again, Toronto looked nervous to start Game 7 against Montreal last year and did not score until trailing 3-0 late in the third period.
“We certainly aren’t uncomfortable as we go into this game,” promised Keefe. “We are ready for it.”
The Leafs are drawing confidence from how they battled back from a 2-0 hole for the second straight game on Thursday.
“We just kept competing,” noted captain John Tavares. “We just kept our composure and we just kept playing. We had looks. A couple hit off his knob, you know, so close. You just got to keep going. You got to keep fighting and find a way to break through.”
Toronto has outscored Tampa 12-10 in five-on-five play during the series.
Last year, the Leafs blew a 3-1 series lead and didn’t play well for most of Game 6 in Montreal. During the best-of-five series against Columbus, they needed a late comeback from 3-0 down in Game 4 to stay alive.
“Going into Game 7 last year, and even in the Columbus series the prior year, you are on a bit of a downer because of your performance and how you failed to get it done,” Keefe pointed out. “Although we lost in overtime last night, which is similar in a sense to Montreal, the manner in which we played, the calibre of our opponent, how hard they have pushed us, how we have handled that, how we put ourselves in a position to win, and how our individual players are feeling with their confidence that they have — all of those things combine to fill our group with excitement.”
Matthews and Mitch Marner entered the deciding game last year feeling snakebitten with just one goal between them. This year, they have combined for six goals and 15 points.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve just been really impressed with the demeanour of the group,” said Giordano. “I think our top guys are leading the way.”
Tavares, who got hurt in Game 1 last year and missed the rest of the series, scored twice on Thursday. He also scored in Game 5. William Nylander, meanwhile, has registered three straight multi-point games. And there’s so much more beyond the points that the stars are providing.
“Matty and Johnny taking huge faceoffs, winning huge draws and playing really well in their own zone,” Giordano highlighted. “Willy, whenever we need a spark, I feel like he’s the guy who’s been giving it to us lately.”
Tavares has won 64.8 per cent of his faceoffs while Matthews is at 53.9 per cent. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare is the only Lightning centre above 50 per cent in the playoffs.
Matthews has also led the Leafs in hits the past two games.
With Game 7 back home, Keefe will be able to give his stars favourable matchups and an even greater opportunity to influence the proceedings.
“The fact that our top players are thriving, feeling good and are confident, as well as the reaction and boost we have had from our fans throughout the series …We just feel like this team has lots of fight in it and confidence and belief in what we are doing,” Keefe said.
Toronto has fallen in five straight opening-round series, but even the Lightning seem to recognize that this Leafs team is different.
“I don’t think we can look back at what happened to Toronto in the past and think, ‘We got this,'” coach Jon Cooper told reporters on a Zoom call. “We’d be sorely mistaken if that’s the attitude we took.”
Brayden Point also downplayed that storyline.
“The mindset we’re going up there with is they’re a great team that plays good at home,” the Game 6 overtime hero said. “That building’s going to be rocking, so we got to be ready and try to have a good start.”
The Lightning played one Game 7 en route to their consecutive Cup wins. Tampa shutout the New York Islanders 1-0 in the decisive game of the Stanley Cup semifinal series last year.
This will be the fifth straight year that Toronto plays in a do-or-die game. It almost feels like tradition, but these moments shouldn’t be taken for granted. Giordano, who’s suited up in more than 1,000 regular-season games, will be experiencing an NHL Game 7 for the first time at age 38.
“It’s a great thing to be a part of,” he said.
The Toronto native recalls cheering on the Leafs back in 2004 when they won a Game 7 against the Ottawa Senators to advance to the second round. That was the last Game 7 in Toronto in front of a big crowd and the last time the Leafs won a series.
“I remember bits and parts of it,” Giordano said. “Just being a huge fan at the time and seeing the atmosphere in the city and the rink, it’s a huge opportunity to be a part of that as players.”
Michael Bunting, Ilya Lyubushkin, Colin Blackwell and David Kampf are also set to play in their first career Game 7.
Ondrej Kase (1-0) and Jake Muzzin (4-1) are the only Leafs that dressed on Thursday who have been on the winning side of a Game 7 in the NHL.
Muzzin, a Cup champion with the Los Angeles Kings, missed Toronto’s last two do-or-die games due to injury.
Alex Kerfoot committed a turnover that led to Tampa’s first goal on Thursday night. The message from Keefe afterwards?
“Just to shake it off,” the coach said. “He’d have lots of opportunities to make a big play for us for the rest of the game. I thought he played really well.”
Kerfoot’s high-sticking penalty in the third period put the Leafs down two men and led to the tying goal. He was not made available to the media after the game.
Toronto’s lineup from Thursday with record in Game 7s:
Bunting (0-0) – Matthews (0-3) – Marner (0-3)
Mikheyev (0-1) – Tavares (0-2) – Kerfoot (0-2)
Nylander (0-3) – Kampf (0-0) – Engvall (0-1)
Spezza (0-5) – Blackwell (0-0) – Kase (1-0)
Rielly (0-3) – Lyubushkin (0-0)
Muzzin (4-1) – Brodie (0-1)
Giordano (0-0) – Holl (0-1)
Kyle Clifford (4-0)
Timothy Liljegren (0-0)
Rasmus Sandin (0-1)
Wayne Simmonds (0-2)
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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