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Maple Leafs have reason to worry about Matt Murray

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Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron deflects a pass past Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Matt Murray during the first period of their game in Boston on Jan. 14.Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Perhaps it is unfair to sound an alarm over Matt Murray’s recent play in the Maple Leafs’ net. Perhaps not.

“Clang, clang, clang, clang!”

On Tuesday, the veteran goaltender got yanked after giving up four goals on just eight shots. If one includes the four he allowed in a loss to Boston on Saturday that’s eight pucks that have eluded him of the past 42.

To go back a bit farther, he is 3-3 in his past seven starts and in that time has given up four goals three times and five once.

Solid early play has overshadowed the more recent deficiency but he has begun to look more like the guy who struggled in two previous seasons in Ottawa than the one who won Stanley Cups twice in Pittsburgh.

Toronto rallied from a 4-2 disadvantage to edge Florida 5-4 in overtime on Tuesday. Ilya Samsonov came off the bench to save 11 shots – and the day – and will almost certainly get the nod against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday at Scotiabank Arena.

“He came in and calmed our team down and made some massive saves,” Mitch Marner said after the triumph over the Panthers. “It was great to see him go in there and kind of take over the game for us.”

Tuesday’s encounter was a chaotic, ornery and penalty-ridden affair. Florida took nine, which coach Paul Maurice called an “inordinate share.”

“I don’t know what the hell those guys were doing,” Maurice said in a slag at the officials that may set him back slightly in the pocket. “It wasn’t Florida Panther-friendly.” At one point in the second period, Sam Bennett of the Panthers was cited for interference and sent to the penalty box, only to have the call reversed and the Maple Leafs’ Timothy Liljegren handed two minutes instead, also for interference.

On the bench, Sheldon Keefe, Toronto’s coach, was baffled and infuriated and yelled a word that would be highly inappropriate in most places other than an NHL arena or a Sopranos dinner.

Keefe later said the explanation he was given at the time was that the infraction, which involved kicking Samsonov’s dropped goal stick, was wrongly attributed to Bennett and then corrected.

Toronto went only 2 for 7 on the power play but got so many chances that a couple were eventually bound to go in. Auston Matthews netted one with a man advantage with three seconds left in the second period to cut the Panthers’ lead to 4-3. It energized his teammates who tied it on a goal by William Nylander in the third and then won it in extra time on another by Nylander.

“It was a heck of a job to battle back,” Matthews said. “There are a lot of things we could have done better but at the end of the day we got to go home happy.”

For his part, Matthews was charged with tripping Nick Cousins after the latter cross-checked him three times in a matter of seconds.

Both went to the box.

“A strange night,” Marner said.

The Maple Leafs are 27-11-7 – which is quite good – but came close to losing their third game in a row to an Atlantic Division opponent. With Boston far ahead in the standings and Tampa Bay close behind, a crisis was averted for now.

Overall, Murray’s numbers are fine – 11-5-2 with a .911 save percentage. The latter has come down the more he has played, which is true of all but a few goalies.

So maybe it is a little nitpicky but his recent backslide has been noticeable.

Keefe attributed most of Murray’s troubles on Tuesday to the odd circumstances of the game – too many power plays and because of that, little flow and rhythm in play. He also lifted him in favour of Samsonov, who is now 13-4-1 and has saved nearly 92 per cent of the shots he has faced.

“You can’t give up four goals on eight shots no matter how you shake it,” Keefe said.

Matthews credited Samsonov for the victory but also said he believed Toronto played better in front of him than it did in front of Murray.

For Samsonov it was another night at the office.

“Both goalies need to get ready for everything,” he said. “Sometimes injuries happen, sometimes you have a little bad luck.

“Over 82 games, sometimes there will be bad ones.”

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Tiger Woods had a tough opening round at The 152nd Open Championship

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Tiger Woods encountered difficulties during the opening round of The 152nd Open Championship at Royal Troon, finishing with an 8-over-par 79. Despite a promising beginning, including a birdie on the third hole, Woods struggled to find consistency throughout the round. His iron play and putting were particularly problematic, contributing to a series of bogeys and double bogeys.

Woods’ performance saw him slightly above average off the tee and around the green. However, he lost over two strokes to the field in both approach play and putting, ranking near the bottom in these categories. This marks a significant challenge for the 15-time major champion, especially considering the competitive field and the demanding conditions at Royal Troon.

Reflecting on his round, Woods admitted, “I didn’t do a lot of things right today. I didn’t hit my irons very close, and I didn’t give myself a whole lot of looks today. I need to shoot something in the mid-60s tomorrow to get something going on the weekend.” He emphasized the need for a strong performance on Friday to make the cut and remain in contention.

Woods, 48, has shown determination and resilience, competing in all four majors this year for the first time since his serious car accident in 2021. Despite physical limitations, he believes he can still contend for major titles under the right conditions. His performance on Thursday puts him in a challenging position, requiring a significant turnaround in the second round to stay in the tournament.

As Woods prepares for Friday’s round, his focus remains on improving his game and making the cut. Fans and analysts alike will be watching to see if he can achieve the remarkable recovery needed to advance and compete over the weekend. Woods’ journey at The 152nd Open Championship continues to be a testament to his enduring skill and competitive spirit.

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NBA Returns to Montreal with Raptors vs. Wizards Pre-Season Game

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Montreal, QC – The NBA is set to make an exciting return to Montreal. The league announced on Thursday that the Toronto Raptors will face off against the Washington Wizards at the Bell Centre on October 6, marking the 10th edition of the NBA Canada Series.

This annual series has featured 15 teams playing 18 pre-season games across six Canadian cities. Notably, this will be the eighth NBA Canada Series game in Montreal, the highest for any city outside the Raptors’ usual home in Toronto.

Last year, Montreal fans witnessed the Detroit Pistons take on the Oklahoma City Thunder, featuring Canadians Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort. The Raptors’ previous game in Montreal was in 2022.

This year’s game will be particularly special as it will showcase several Canadian players. Montreal natives Chris Boucher and Quincy Guerrier are both on the Raptors’ training camp roster. Additionally, Kelly Olynyk and RJ Barrett, who are set to represent Canada at the upcoming Summer Olympics, are also expected to play for the Raptors.

The Wizards bring their own Canadian connection with Kyshawn George, selected in this year’s NBA Draft. George, born in Switzerland, is the son of Montreal’s Deon George, a former member of Canada’s men’s basketball team.

The October 6 game will cap off the Raptors’ Montreal-based training camp, promising an exciting end to their preparations.

For more updates and coverage on the NBA Canada Series, visit Canada News Media

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Fafa Picault Leads Vancouver Whitecaps to Victory Over Sporting Kansas City

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Vancouver, BCFafa Picault emerged as the hero off the bench, scoring in the second half to secure a 2-1 victory for the Vancouver Whitecaps against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday.

The Whitecaps (11-7-5) dominated the first half, with two goals being disallowed due to offside calls. Vancouver’s breakthrough came in the 34th minute when Kansas City defender Robert Valoder accidentally scored an own goal, giving the ‘Caps a 1-0 lead.

Sporting Kansas City (6-14-5) showed more vigor in the second half, equalizing in the 69th minute with a goal from Willy Agada. However, Picault’s decisive goal in the 76th minute ensured the Whitecaps extended their unbeaten streak in Major League Soccer (MLS) to five games (4-0-1).

Yohei Takaoka delivered an outstanding performance with 16 saves for Vancouver, while Tim Melia made 12 stops for Kansas City, whose three-game winning streak came to an end.

First Half Dominance

The Whitecaps were aggressive from the start, creating several early scoring opportunities. Brian White nearly scored with a header in the seventh minute, but Valoder cleared it off the goal line.

Ali Ahmed had a notable moment in the 27th minute, maneuvering past defenders to set up White for a goal that was disallowed due to offside. The Whitecaps’ pressure paid off in the 34th minute when Valoder deflected the ball into his own net, attempting to intercept a pass from Ryan Gauld to White.

Ahmed seemed poised to increase Vancouver’s lead eight minutes later, but his goal was also ruled offside. Despite these setbacks, Vancouver outshot Kansas City 9-2 in the first half.

Kansas City’s Resurgence

Sporting Kansas City made three substitutions at halftime, revitalizing their performance. Stefan Afrifa, substituting for Alenis Vargas, struck the crossbar in the 63rd minute, and Daniel Salloi’s follow-up shot was expertly saved by Takaoka.

Kansas City equalized six minutes later when Agada capitalized on a rebound after Takaoka’s save, slotting the ball into an open net.

Picault’s Winning Goal

The Whitecaps regained the lead in the 76th minute through Picault’s sixth goal of the season. Sebastian Berhalter, who replaced Ryan Raposo in the 67th minute, delivered a perfect cross to Picault, who headed it past Melia to make it 2-1.

Kansas City had a chance to level the score in injury time, but Erik Thommy’s free kick went over the bar following a foul by Mathias Laborda.

The victory solidifies the Whitecaps’ position as a formidable team in the MLS, with Picault’s performance highlighting their depth and resilience.

Stay tuned for more updates and coverage on the Vancouver Whitecaps at Canada News Media.

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