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Markstrom brings Canucks back into the fight with clutch Game 2 effort

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EDMONTON – It helps in a fight when your goalie is your toughest player.

After the Canucks’ humiliating series-opener against the Vegas Golden Knights, who dominated their opponents on the ice and ridiculed them at the benches, Jacob Markstrom’s mental toughness was evident again on Tuesday when he made 38 saves in Vancouver’s 5-2 win.

And that total was actually exceeded by the saves made by teammates, who blocked 40 shots as the Canucks got up off the canvas to even the best-of-seven playoff series.

Last round, when Vancouver blew its 2-0 series lead against the St. Louis Blues, Canucks coach Travis Green said he loved how his team was standing toe-to-toe against the Stanley Cup champions. The Canucks were in the fight.

But they never got off the ropes in Sunday’s 5-0 loss to Vegas. On Tuesday, the Canucks got into the fight, boosted by the return from injury of winger Tyler Toffoli, who scored on his first shift and finished with three points.

His production was matched by linemate Elias Pettersson, who scored a key goal late in the second period after being chirped as a “little squirt” by the Vegas bench on Sunday.

But the Canucks were still outshot 40-27 on Tuesday, including 22-7 in the second period, when Markstrom dug in and brilliantly kept his team ahead.

“We talked to our group,” Green said after the game. “Call it motivation, call it whatever you want, we had to play better today. We had to have a response. I was confident we’d get a response from our group tonight. We’ve always had it in the past when we haven’t played as well as we should. It doesn’t mean you’re going to win, but I liked that we responded with a better game and evened the series.”

“I thought we responded really well,” Canucks captain Bo Horvat said. “I was proud of the way the guys did. We knew we had to be better. Obviously, they’re a great hockey team and we knew that. We knew we had to come out strong today and we did, and we showed we can play with them. And Marky stood on his head, which obviously was a plus for us as well.”

Horvat was aware of what was being yelled from the Knights’ bench on Sunday. Without fans in Rogers Place, it’s not hard to hear if you can listen through the white noise of the F-bombs.

“We knew how it felt when they were winning, laughing and having a good time on the bench,” Horvat said. “We keep that in the back of our mind for sure. We wanted to come out strong tonight and have a statement, and I thought we did that. Obviously, it was a lot quieter over there. We’re going to try to keep it that way.”

It could have gotten loud in the second period again, but Markstrom stopped 21 of 22 shots in a frame when the shot attempts were 40-9 for the Knights. Incredibly, the Canucks started and ended the period with a two-goal lead.

“It’s huge to keep it a 1-1 period and just build from that, from what we started in the first,” Markstrom said. “Everybody believes in what we did today.

“As a team, we needed to play better than we did in Game 1. Today we did that and it’s obviously huge to get Toff back, and he scores right away. That’s big for our group and our confidence.”

Yes, Toffoli.

Out since the Canucks’ first game of the qualifying round on Aug. 2 due to an ankle sprain, Toffoli scored just 1:29 into the game, sweeping the leftovers from Pettersson’s wrap-around – the Canuck had zoomed past defenceman Shea Theodore – into an open net.

Seven seconds into their first power play, the Canucks made it 2-0 at 10:59 when Toffoli threaded a pass out into the low slot between three Knights and onto the stick of Horvat, who chipped it past goalie Robin Lehner.

Toffoli’s return restored the Canucks’ top six, although Green changed the lines from what they had been at the end of the regular season. Toffoli skated with Pettersson and Tanner Pearson, while J.T. Miller moved alongside Horvat and opposite Brock Boeser.

“Getting the OK from everybody, I got all excited,” Toffoli said of returning to the Stanley Cup tournament. “I felt like I was coming back to my first playoff series. It was fun to get back in the lineup and get a big win and tie the series up.”

After the 2-0 lead came the rest of the game.

With the Golden Knights surging, Alex Tuch cut the deficit in half at 6:34 of the second period after Theodore perfectly lobbed the puck high and out and into the path of streaking teammate Nicolas Roy, who had a step on Hughes.

Then Markstrom made a pile of difficult stops before Pettersson, out of nowhere from an offensive-zone faceoff when he was left uncovered above the crease, took a pass from Alex Edler and badly fooled Lehner with a deke at 18:35.

The Knights may still have been trying to process how they could dominate the second period, yet trail 3-1, when Horvat scored again just 18 seconds into the third, converting Boeser’s pass after Edler’s keep-in at the blue line caught both Vegas defencemen cheating up ice and left a two-on-zero in front of Lehner.

Pearson, into an empty net, and Max Pacioretty exchanged late goals.

In the previous round, the Canucks reduced the Blues’ series to a best-of-three.

Now, their series against the Knights is a best-of-five. Trying to win that is slightly less daunting than staring at a best-of-seven. Understandably, not many would pick the Canucks to win either.

Far better Tuesday than Sunday, the Canucks still could have lost by two or three goals were it not for Markstrom. And even Vancouver’s best may not be good enough to take down Vegas. But at least the Canucks are back in the fight, and demonstrated Tuesday they can deliver some scoring punches even if they can’t stand toe-to-toe with the Golden Knights.

Source:- Sportsnet.ca

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What's next for the NHL after Tampa Bay's satisfying Stanley Cup win? – CBC.ca

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This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

The Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup. Now what?

Sixty-five days after entering the bubble, 201 days after the NHL shut down, nearly a full year after the season started and almost a year and a half after suffering one of the most humiliating defeats in playoff history, the Tampa Bay Lightning finally finished the job. With last night’s 2-0 win over Dallas in Game 6 of the final, they became the Stanley Cup champions of the most bizarre NHL season ever.

Tampa had one of the best regular seasons of all time in 2018-19, winning a record-tying 62 games. But it won zero in the playoffs, getting swept by Columbus in one of the most shocking playoff defeats ever. The Lightning took it easier this season but still cruised to the league’s second-best record before the pandemic hit and the NHL closed shop for five months. Tampa kept its edge and exacted revenge on Columbus by beating them in five games in the first round. Then came an impressive five-game takedown of heavyweight Boston before six-game victories over the plucky Islanders and Stars. And they did it without injured captain Steven Stamkos, who played a grand total of less than three minutes in the playoffs — but did score a goal in Game 3 of the final and got to be the first to hoist the Cup last night.

It’s a great redemption story. And similar to Washington’s from 2018. Like Tampa, the Capitals had by far the NHL’s best regular-season record and were everyone’s pick to win the Cup before flaming out early in the playoffs, then bounced back the following year to become champions. Boston comes closest to fitting that bill for next year. The Bruins ran away with the NHL’s best regular-season record before becoming the fifth consecutive Presidents’ Trophy winner to lose in the second round of the playoffs or earlier.

A few other takeaways from Tampa being crowned champion of this very weird season:

The Lightning had so many good Conn Smythe choices. Victor Hedman won the playoff MVP award after scoring 10 goals — the third-most ever by a defenceman in the playoffs. But it just as easily could have gone to Brayden Point, who scored the opening goal last night for his league-leading 14th of the playoffs. Or Nikita Kucherov, who won the playoff scoring race and had more assists than anyone except Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux have ever recorded in a single post-season. You could even have built a case for Andrei Vasilevskiy, who made some big saves again last night and finished with a sparkling 1.90 goals-against average for the playoffs. He was the only goalie Tampa used after the restart, setting a new record for minutes played in a post-season.

The NHL pulled it off. Be honest: back in the spring, did you believe the Cup would be awarded this year? And even if you did, could you imagine it would go this smoothly? Zero players or other team personnel tested positive for COVID-19 in what the NHL said were more than 33,000 tests conducted since teams arrived in the Edmonton and Toronto bubbles on July 26. The quality of play was top-notch too. That’s not to say there weren’t some tough moments. Even the joyous Lightning were palpably relieved to be getting out of Dodge last night. And two days’ worth of games were postponed back in late August as part of the sports-wide walkouts in protest of racial injustice and police brutality started by the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. The NHL’s delayed reaction to that extraordinary moment drew criticism. But, from a playing-in-a-pandemic standpoint, this was a remarkable achievement by the NHL and its players.

So what’s next? After rushing to complete the playoffs, the NHL is cramming its big off-season events in before the Thanksgiving/Columbus Day weekend. The draft is next Tuesday and Wednesday, and the free-agent signing period opens Friday, Oct. 9 at noon ET. The NHL and the players’ union will meet soon to discuss scenarios for the 2020-21 season. The players have no desire to bubble up for the whole thing, but the NHL could follow the lead of baseball and the NFL and have teams play out of their home arenas with enhanced health protocols. That’ll be trickier for the NHL, though, because it has seven Canadian-based teams. The earliest possible start date for the new season is Dec. 1, but it’s more likely to be later than that, which could mean a shortened regular season. Read more about the possibilities for next season here.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Rob Pizzo recaps the Lightning’s Stanley Cup win:

In his (final) daily recap, Rob Pizzo wraps up the strangest Stanley Cup playoffs in history. 4:26

Quickly…

The NFL has its first outbreak out of the season. Eight members of the Tennessee Titans have tested positive for COVID-19 — including three players. The Titans played the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Both teams cancelled their in-person activities for today, though no one from the Vikings tested positive. Tennessee and Minnesota both play next on Sunday afternoon — the Titans host Pittsburgh while the Vikings visit Houston. As of now, those games are still a go. Read more about the Titans’ positive tests and the potential fallout here.

The Blue Jays open their playoff series vs. Tampa Bay today. First pitch is at 5 p.m. ET. Toronto is sending so-so starter Matt Shoemaker to the mound, even though ace Hyun-Jin Ryu has had the regular four days of rest. Ryu felt “a little sore” after his last regular-season start, according to manager Charlie Montoyo, so the team wanted to buy him more time. It’s a best-of-three series with games on back-to-back-to-back days, so Ryu would only be able to make one start anyway. But saving him for Game 2 probably removes the possibility of using him in relief in a potential Game 3. Shoemaker’s start is likely to be a short one, so the Jays may have to lean on their questionable bullpen early and often. An x-factor there is top pitching prospect Nate Pearson, who just returned from an arm injury and will work out of the pen. Read more about the Jays’ key players and their outlook for the playoffs in this piece by CBC Sports’ Myles Dichter. If you missed yesterday’s newsletter, brush up on how baseball`s new playoff format works here.

Canadian women have flipped the script at the French Open. Heading into the final Grand Slam of the year, Canada looked a lot stronger on the men’s side, where it had four players (two of them seeded) compared to just two in the women’s event (neither ranked higher than 100th in the world). But Canada is already down to its final men’s player after 19th-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime and qualifier Steven Diez lost their first-round matches yesterday, and unseeded Vasek Pospisil got smoked in straight sets today by No. 7 Matteo Berrettini. That leaves only ninth-seeded Denis Shapovalov, who advanced to the second round today by beating Frenchman Gilles Simon in four sets. But both Canadian women are still alive. Yesterday, 100th-ranked Leylah Annie Fernandez upset the No. 31 seed in her first-ever appearance in the main draw of the French Open. She and 168th-ranked Genie Bouchard both play their second-round matches tomorrow.

Doc Rivers took the fall for the Clippers’ collapse. He’s one of the most respected coaches in basketball, and he guided L.A. to the fourth-best record in the NBA this season. But the Clippers brought in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (and mortgaged their future to do so) to win championships, and the supposed title contenders got upset in the second round by Denver. Worse, they choked away the final three games of the series and seemed to just straight-up quit in the second half of Game 7. Tough to blame Doc for that. But this is pro sports, so nine times out of 10 the axe falls on the coach. The team said Rivers and owner Steve Ballmer arrived at the decision jointly. Believe that if you choose. Read more about what went wrong for Doc and the Clippers here.

And finally…

Patrick Mahomes is still the king. By his lofty standards, the Super Bowl MVP had a so-so start to the season, averaging only 256 yards passing in wins over the mediocre Texans and Chargers (and barely escaping an upset in the latter). But Mahomes and Kansas City showed last night that they’re still the ones to beat. They steamrolled the NFL’s consensus other-best team, the Baltimore Ravens, 34-20 on Monday Night Football. Mahomes threw for four TDs, ran in another and executed coach Andy Reid’s brilliant play designs to perfection. Mahomes also outplayed reigning regular-season MVP Lamar Jackson, who threw for only 97 yards. Jackson ran for 83 but was also sacked four times. Meanwhile, Baltimore’s vaunted defence failed to sack Mahomes at all despite blitzing him all night (might want to rethink that strategy). Read more about K.C.’s convincing win in the marquee matchup here.

You’re up to speed. Get The Buzzer in your inbox every weekday by subscribing below.

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Novak Djokovic cruises to first-round win at French Open – ESPN

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PARIS — Novak Djokovic‘s backhand clipped the net and landed wide, so he shook his head. That was it.

Later, a too-soft drop shot found the white tape and bounced back on his own side, finally ceding a game in a dominant debut performance at the 2020 French Open. Djokovic simply bowed and walked to the sideline.

And when he flubbed yet another drop shot — he kept using them on the slow red clay during a 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 win over 80th-ranked Mikael Ymer — and got broken Wednesday, Djokovic pulled an extra tennis ball out of his pocket and merely gave it a gentle tap with his racket strings.

The ball landed right behind him, safely in the middle of the court.

Playing his first Grand Slam match since his US Open disqualification for smacking a ball after dropping a game and accidentally striking a line judge in throat, Djokovic never really gave himself reason for histrionics or shouts of dismay or displays of anger. Sure, there was some eye-rolling and one sarcastic kiss directed at one of the few fans on hand under the roof at Court Philippe Chatrier.

But otherwise, what was there for Djokovic to be disturbed about?

“I just felt very suffocated out there,” Ymer said of Djokovic’s dominance. ” It’s just corner, corner; very, very rarely miss. His position is unreal in the court.

“You know how the snake kills its prey?” Ymer said, pantomiming a boa constrictor’s attack by bringing his arms around and putting his hands together. “That’s a little bit how I felt being out there.”

Ymer said he didn’t pay any attention to Djokovic’s mood or energy.

And Djokovic, for his part, said that what happened in Flushing Meadows was of no concern to him, either, as he began his pursuit of a second title at Roland Garros and 18th Grand Slam trophy overall.

“I have not had any traces of New York in my mind. I’m over it. Honestly forgot about it. I’m not thinking about it,” the No. 1 seed said after improving to 32-1 in 2020, the only blemish being that fourth-round default this month.

“Winning a 6-love first set is the best possible way to start a Grand Slam,” Djokovic said. “This is exactly what my intentions will be — trying to get off the blocks very strong, with a good intensity, obviously, because players in the early rounds have nothing to lose.”

The two men who were finalists at the Hamburg tuneup event that ended Monday — No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 13 Andrey Rublev — both dropped the first two sets Wednesday before coming back to win.

Tsitsipas trailed Jaume Munar before advancing 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4, while Rublev knelt on court and covered his face with his hands after turning things around to beat Sam Querrey 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, 6-3.

Querrey led the third set 5-2 and served for the victory at 5-3 but let things get away from him.

“I went 0-4 in serving out sets,” Querrey said. ” I would like to think that will never happen to me again. It’s probably never happened. Someone with my serve, I can’t let that happen.”

Another American who played a five-setter, Marcos Giron, did pick up a win, edging Quentin Halys 7-5, 3-6, 6-7 (5), 7-5, 8-6 to become the eighth U.S. man to reach the second round.

US Open semifinalist Matteo Berrettini defeated Vasek Pospisil 6-3, 6-1, 6-3. The seventh-seeded Italian next faces Lloyd Harris.

No. 20 Cristian Garin of Chile won against German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 and plays lucky loser Marc Polmans.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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5 big picture takeaways from the most unusual Stanley Cup Playoffs – Sportsnet.ca

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As Steven Stamkos finally took the Stanley Cup from Gary Bettman and lifted it above his head, the shower of sparks in the background became pyrotechnic explosions, and for a moment, none of it looked real. I was reminded of the type of scene you’d see at the end of a 2000s-era video game, where you’d beaten the final boss and had a moment to revel in the visual reward of flashing lights and “you did it”-themed text that signified your journey’s end.

It was a scene, a very obviously staged scene, but what else could it have ever been?

The end somehow arrived at what’s usually the beginning, with the fall weather creeping closer to winter than summer, where hockey season would normally be but days away. It was, and is, all so surreal.

If there were ever a time for a look back, it’s today. What just happened? Not to get too existential, but what does it all mean, man? Let’s pan out to some big picture “what we learned” thoughts from all this.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

• The cruellest thing about hockey is that on any given night you can have a lot of talent, bring your best effort, do just about everything well, and lose to a lesser group. Some nights it feels unfair, but when you step back and look at overall trends, things tend to sort themselves out. The NHL plays a lot of regular season games and has best-of-7s in playoffs to give the top teams the best chance of having justice served.

It may not happen in a given year, but if you take yet another step back further, teams that are at or near the league’s top-five for numerous consecutive seasons tend to get rewarded. The exceptions stick out like sore thumbs — there’s the 2011 Vancouver Canucks and the teams around those years, the past decade of the San Jose Sharks…as the great philosopher Rhianna once opined, nothing is promised.

With that, I appreciate Tampa Bay is the latest example of sustained excellence eventually paying off. A couple years back Washington had the same experience. All you can do is get that great core, build around it, and hope you get the necessary luck (with opponents, health and bounces) along the way.

This is why the goal for teams is rarely to stack their deck as much as possible in a single season. The cruelty of hockey itself requires blocks of years where you’re great just to maybe get your one Cup. Good to see the Lightning rewarded for what’s been a great team seemingly for an impressively sustained stretch.

• There was a while there in the NHL where two trends were becoming clear: the understanding of the aging curve was being better wielded by NHL general managers (who used to believe “peak” was older than it is), and teams aiming to find value players were seeking contributors on entry-level deals. You can see how those trends holding hands could shift the league demographic.

We told each other the league was becoming a “young man’s league,” and marvelled at teams with great farm systems who were plugging in guys from the AHL on the cheap. That shift badly hurt the pockets of veteran players on the UFA market, as did the coinciding financial squeeze on hockey’s middle class in general.

It’s possible the league overcooked their belief in these newer ideas, though.

The idea has been that if you can get X contribution from an old vet for league minimum, or X contribution from a prospect on league minimum, you may as well pay the young guy and hope he eventually gives you X-plus. The problem is, the Stanley Cup Final is a reminder that we’re often squinting to equate a rookie’s contributions with what a vet can give (“they’re pretty much the same, statistically”), particularly as the hockey gets harder and the games get bigger.

A lot gets excused away for those new on the job, but maybe good teams would benefit from less internships and more senior members?

Corey Perry wasn’t league minimum, but he’s a wily vet the Stars got on the cheap, and they needed every ounce of his contributions. Andrew Cogliano and Blake Comeau played meaningful roles for them, too. How about Pat Maroon or Zach Bogosian? You can stretch this and note Kevin Shattenkirk loosely fits the mold at $1.75 million as wel.

There’s going to be some veteran guys available for league minimum this summer, and it feels like for the first time in a long time, there can be value to be had in veteran UFAs.

• While we’re looking at overall trends, how about Tampa Bay being all-in on speed and skill, getting upset by Columbus, then moving towards a more gritty style…and winning the Cup? There’s no point dressing up that reality to suit any other narrative — that’s a change they made that directly resulted in success.

When you look at the teams who win the Cup, it’s clear there needs to be a talented offensive core. You just have to have guys who can score. St. Louis doesn’t generally seem to fit that mold, but let’s not let recency bias blind us too much — offensive stars have always been key to winning. Tampa has it, and that’s what makes them great first. But the additions of Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow (and Maroon before that, and Bogosion, and Luke Schenn) undeniably helped this team over the hump to their Cup victory.

That all seems a worthwhile note for teams looking at their roster fringes and trying to build towards a Cup.

One related point before moving on here: Tampa’s roster alteration benefitted greatly from them drawing teams who also played a grinding style. They drew heavy defence-first teams (all four opponents were top-10 in goals against per game, with Columbus, Dallas and Boston being the three best in the NHL there), and so they were perfectly equipped to work their way through the slog. I don’t know how it would’ve gone against a team like a healthy Colorado Avalanche. Maybe they course-corrected too much for a group like that. Maybe it would’ve been different against the Vegas Golden Knights. But they could only play the teams in front of them, and you’d have to be blind to miss how getting more physical helped this team this year.

• Of the Lightning’s Cup run, Andrei Vasilevskiy played — hold on let me double check the stats — all the minutes. If there was a goalie in Tampa’s net, it was him. And that’s over a condensed playoff calendar, which should’ve been physically grinding.

One thing that’s made me crazy in recent years is the obsession with goalie tandems, which I think are great in the regular season, but come playoffs, give me a great No. 1 and average No. 2 over two “good” 1A/1B guys any day.

The point about goalie tandems should be that you have someone good enough so your starter isn’t unduly taxed over the course of a long season. If you’re a couple days before a playoff series, and the staff hasn’t yet decided who’s going to start for your team in Game 1, it’s possible your “starting” goalie isn’t good enough.

• Did the circumstances make this particular Stanley Cup any less valid, or did it maybe make it the hardest one to win ever? You’re going to hear opinions on both sides of that in the days and years to come, but it’s wrong to claim either. Honestly, it was just different. Certainly the most unique ever, but on exactly the same historical-value footing as every Cup won before and likely after it.

Each year brings its own unique set of challenges to overcome, and this year’s were what they were. There wasn’t any travel, but there was a condensed schedule. There wasn’t the distraction of normal family life or pestering calls for tickets, but there was isolation. There wasn’t the pressure that comes with 19,000 screaming fans, but there wasn’t the energy and adrenaline offered by them either. You didn’t have to control your emotions so much as you had to find them.

The Tampa Bay Lightning managed the unforeseen obstacles brilliantly, in part by making changes to tackle the ones they could foresee in transactions before.

When it was all over it looked like the Lightning had acted out climbing a mountain in front of a green screen, that maybe to someone farther down the road in post-production would see the Cup Final and trophy presentation as they were meant to be seen. But while it may have looked arranged and acted to the viewer, the mountain was there beneath their feet, real as ever to those who climbed it.

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