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Matt Murray is the sole reason the Leafs escaped Ottawa with a 5-4 victory

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Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Matt Murray makes a save on a shot from Ottawa Senators defenceman Jakob Chychrun in a shootout at the Canadian Tire Centre on Mar. 18.Marc DesRosiers/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

The Maple Leafs were outshot 52-29 on Saturday. They were outhit 34-25. They won fewer faceoffs than the Senators. They coughed up the puck more often and had fewer takeaways.

There is one reason they escaped Ottawa with a 5-4 victory: Matt Murray played his keister off.

It hasn’t been much of a season for the 28-year-old goalie. He has been hurt a lot and has performed erratically when in the net. He has been outshone by Ilya Samsonov.

The latter has a few bumps and bruises and his wife is due to give birth any day. So he was granted a day off against the Senators and Murray slotted in against his former team.

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All he did was make 48 saves through 60 minutes and a five-minute overtime and then turn away Tim Stutzle, Claude Giroux, Brady Tkachuk, Shane Pinto, Thomas Chabot and Jakob Chychrun in the longest shootout of his career.

Alexander Kerfoot, who has not had a goal in two dozen games, scored in the ninth round to give the Maple Leafs the 5-4 triumph.

“You just try to hold the fort for as long as you can,” Murray said.

Unless Samsonov sustains an injury, it is unlikely that Murray will see much time in the playoffs beyond a relief role. But if he continues to play as he did on Saturday, Toronto can feel a little more comfortable if he is needed on an emergency basis.

His numbers aren’t bad – 13-7-2 with a .905 save percentage – but it has been a topsy-turvy kind of season. At times, he has seemed as fragile as porcelain. Like many goalies, he is a bit of an odd duck.

He is more comfortable working one on one with his goalie coach and takes less ice time during practice than most of his contemporaries. Of course, he won Stanley Cups twice with Pittsburgh so nobody is going to argue if that is what works for him.

The Maple Leafs had a good weekend – a Friday night win at home against Carolina and then Saturday’s nail-biter in Canada’s capital. They are on the road for four games this week – in New York against the Islanders on Tuesday, in Sunrise, Fla., against the Panthers on Thursday, in Carolina on Saturday and at Nashville on Sunday.

It looks like a good window for Murray to see more action with a start or two possibly tossed in for No. 3 if Samsonov is pulling diaper duty.

Murray shined in his first game in Ottawa since the Senators traded him to Toronto last summer. The 48 saves were the second most he has made in an NHL game after 50 for the Penguins in 2019 against Philadelphia.

“It will do lots for his confidence,” said Sheldon Keefe, the Maple Leafs coach.

Murray spent two mostly unsuccessful seasons in Ottawa where he won just 15 of 47 games. It was clearly not a happy time for him but he is careful always to say the right things.

He talked about how it was nice to be back at Canadian Tire Centre, nice to renew some acquaintances with staff and allowed that there was “a lot of emotion out there.”

He chooses words carefully and chose to reflect mostly on the game.

“It was a marathon of a game,” he said. “Superexciting and fun to be a part of. A lot of energy in the building. Nice to get that extra point.”

He is a goalie not an orator.

His teammates appreciated his performance. Toronto led 4-2 in the third period before Tkachuk sent it to overtime by scoring twice, the second on a power play in the waning seconds.

“He was amazing,” Mitch Marner said. “He made massive saves for us. He did a great job staying with it.”

The 52 shots on goal were the most the Maple Leafs have allowed this season. The previous high was 44.

“He was a brick wall,” Auston Matthews said. “He doesn’t get rattled in there. He just kept playing. He goes on to the next shot. He kept us in the game.”

He kept them in the game and, in likely what has been the high point of the season for Toronto, Murray won it.

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Heat ride 17-5 run in 4th quarter to draw even with Nuggets in NBA Finals – CBC Sports

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Staring down a 2-0 deficit in the NBA Finals, as the visitors in a hostile arena where no road team had prevailed in more than two months, the Miami Heat decided to do what they’ve done throughout the post-season.

They found a way. Against all odds. Again.

The Heat tied the NBA Finals and had to overcome a monster 41-point effort from Nikola Jokic to do it. Gabe Vincent scored 23 points, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo each had 21 and Heat beat the Denver Nuggets 111-108 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

“Our guys are competitors,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They love these kind of moments.”

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Evidently.

They were down by as many as 15 points, down eight going into the fourth, and those numbers signified they were going to lose. Denver was 11-0 in these playoffs when leading by double digits at any point in a game, and 37-1 this season overall when leading by at least eight going into the fourth.

The Heat didn’t care. They outscored Denver 17-5 in the first 3:17 of the fourth to take the lead for good, eventually went up by 12, then frittered most of it away and had to survive a 3-point try by Jamal Murray as time expired.

“This is the finals,” Adebayo said. “We gutted one out.”

Game 3 is Wednesday in Miami.

Max Strus scored 14 and Duncan Robinson had 10 — all of them in the fourth — for the Heat, who had a big early lead, then got down by as many as 15. They had no answers for Jokic, who was 16 of 28 from the floor, the last of those shots a 4-footer with 36 seconds left to get the Nuggets within three.

Denver elected not to foul on the ensuing Miami possession and it paid off. Butler missed a 3, and with a chance to tie, Murray missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“I just contested it,” Butler said. “Pretty glad that he missed it.”

‘Let’s talk about effort’

Denver lost at home for the first time since March 30, and for the first time in 10 home playoff games this year. And just as he did after a Game 1 win, Nuggets coach Michael Malone sounded the alarm after a Game 2 loss.

“Let’s talk about effort,” Malone said. “I mean, this is the NBA Finals and we’re talking about effort. That’s a huge concern of mine. You guys probably thought I was just making up some storyline after Game 1 when I said we didn’t play well. We didn’t play well. … This is not the preseason. This is not the regular season. This is the NBA Finals.”

The Kitchener, Ont., native Murray had 18 points and 10 assists for Denver, while Aaron Gordon had 12 points and Bruce Brown scored 11.

“They just played hard, and like I said, it was more discipline,” Murray said. “It’s defeating when you’re giving up mistake after mistake, and it’s not them beating you, you’re giving them open dunks or open shots. That’s tough to come back from.”

WATCH | Kitchener, Ont., cheering on Murray:

Canadian NBA star Jamal Murray gets hometown love in Kitchener, Ont.

14 hours ago

Duration 1:56

Fans in Canadian basketball star Jamal Murray’s hometown of Kitchener, Ont., are ecstatic as he and the Denver Nuggets drive for a historic NBA championship victory over the Miami Heat.

Strus, who was 0 for 10 in Game 1, had four 3-pointers in the first quarter of Game 2. Butler made a jumper with 4:56 left in the opening quarter to put Miami up 21-10, tying the second-biggest lead any opponent had built in Denver so far in these playoffs.

In a flash, it was gone — and then some.

The Nuggets outscored Miami 32-11 over the next 9 minutes, turning the double-digit deficit into a double-digit lead thanks to an absolute 3-point barrage.

In a 70-second span early in the second quarter, Denver got four 3s — more points than Miami got in that entire 9-minute stretch — and they came from four different players: Brown, then Jeff Green, then Murray, then Gordon.

Boom, boom, boom, and boom. Murray had five straight points to end the flurry, and Denver led 44-32 when it was over. It looked like everything was going Denver’s way.

Miami insisted otherwise. And for the 44th time this season, the Heat won a game by five points or less. None of them was bigger than this one.

“When it comes down to the wire,” Vincent said, “we’re strangely comfortable.”

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Montreal Canadiens sign Cole Caufield to eight-year contract extension – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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The forward re-signs with the team for the maximum length.

Montreal Canadiens sign Cole Caufield to eight-year contract extension
Anton Rasegard

The Montreal Canadiens have signed forward Cole Caufield to an eight-year contract extension, the team announced on Monday.

The contract will have an average cap hit of $7.85 million per season, just under the AAV for the same length of contract signed by team captain Nick Suzuki last year. The contract will last until the end of the 2030-31 season.

Caufield finished last season with 26 goals, and held the team lead in that category for most of the season despite playing only 46 games before undergoing shoulder surgery. He also had 10 assists.

The contract now locks in the two franchise cornerstones Caufield and Suzuki for the maximum length and cap hits under $8 million. It’s a good bit of business for Kent Hughes to get this done before free agency, and has the potential for great cap management as the years go by.

In the sixth year of the contract, per CapFriendly, there is a 15 team no-trade clause that drops to 10 teams in year seven and five in year eight.


Patrik Bexell, Matt Drake, and Jared Book discuss the contract in a special Habsent Minded Extra.



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Blue Jays’ Chris Bassitt announces birth of child to cap ‘perfect weekend’

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The Toronto Blue Jays had a memorable few days in New York, thanks to a three-game sweep of the Mets, but that’s not the biggest reason starting pitcher Chris Bassitt is all smiles these days.

Bassitt and his wife, Jessica, welcomed their second child over the weekend, with the veteran right-hander reporting that both mother and baby are doing well.

“Perfect weekend complete,” Bassitt wrote on Twitter. “Momma and Colson are doing great.”

Jessica went into labour Friday, while her husband took his normal turn in the Blue Jays’ rotation. Bassitt channelled all of his “dad strength” in that outing against the Mets, firing 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball with eight strikeouts in a 3-0 Toronto win. In a cruel twist from the universe, the start of the game was delayed more than 90 minutes due to inclement weather.

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Once his outing was over, Bassitt rushed back to Toronto via private plane to be with Jessica for Colson’s birth. He made it in plenty of time, tweeting Saturday morning that the baby hadn’t arrived yet.

The 34-year-old will now be able to enjoy a few days with his family, as the Blue Jays placed him on the paternity list Saturday. Reliever Jay Jackson took his place on the 26-man roster.

Blue Jays pitcher Chris Bassitt dominated the Mets in his outing Friday. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Blue Jays pitcher Chris Bassitt dominated the Mets in his outing Friday. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Bassitt’s Blue Jays teammates gave him even more reason to cheer by eking out a 2-1 victory Saturday before getting the brooms out with a 6-4 win in the series finale.

Brandon Belt was the hero Sunday, connecting for a go-ahead, two-run home run in the seventh inning after Toronto squandered an early 4-0 advantage. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. also went deep for the Blue Jays, while Whit Merrifield delivered a two-run double in the second inning.

Next up, Toronto welcomes the Houston Astros to Rogers Centre for a four-game series that begins Monday. Bassitt is listed as the probable starter for Wednesday’s contest.

 

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