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McDavid, Draisaitl give Oilers edge in rivalry once dominated by Sedins

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EDMONTON — It’s like déjà vu for anyone who has watched this Edmonton-Vancouver rivalry over the past 15 years or so.

Remember Rexall Place, circa 2006 to about 2014?

The Vancouver Canucks would roll into Edmonton and throw their ‘B’ game out on the best ice in the league. Daniel and Henrik Sedin would score a couple on the powerplay, Roberto Luongo would hold on to the game until his team arrived — often about 40 minutes late — and Vancouver would leave Edmonton with two points on the strength of a 20-minute effort.

Well, the Oilers have the Sedins now, and their names are Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

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Edmonton fell behind 2-0 in the opening 2:40 of the game, and 3-0 after 21 minutes. Then, they proceeded to score five unanswered goals in a 5-3, season-opening win over the poor Canucks, a team that deserved better than it got Wednesday night in Northern Alberta.

“It wasn’t according to anyone’s script, for sure,” said Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft. “I don’t think we were sharp. I don’t think we were in sync early. We found a way to win the game, that’s a really good sign, but we can be better.”

McDavid (a hat trick and four points) and Draisaitl (1-2-3) torched the Canucks for seven points, and just like the old days when the Sedins’ powerplay was always a goal or two better than Edmonton’s, the Oilers won this on the strength of their special teams with a three-for-four powerplay, and a penalty kill unit that went seven for eight and potted a key shorthanded goal.

“It is not going to be perfect every night,” reasoned McDavid. “You are not going to have the game you want every night, and sometimes you get a win with your ‘B’ or ‘C’ game. It was certainly not our ‘A’ game to start, but we found a way to get our legs going and get ourselves back in it.”

We get it: It’s the first game of the season and there are some kinks to be worked out. But man, were the Oilers awful at five-on-five for the opening 40 minutes.

Honestly, the defence corps broke the puck out of their zone like a guy handing out candy on Halloween, with more pucks landing in Vancouver’s treat bags than on an Oilers teammate’s blade. The mistakes were so egregious, and came so often, that the Canucks were rewarded both on the scoreboard and by the referees, with Edmonton in desperation to defend their mistakes.

After 40 minutes, Vancouver led 28-15, and had seven powerplays to Edmonton’s two.

But the score? It was somehow 3-3, after a late-period sequence that saw J.T. Miller whiff on a one-time chance on the powerplay, before Darnell Nurse wired home a very similar puck at the other end to tie the game with 41 seconds remaining in the period.

It was goalie Jack Campbell who stopped two breakaways with the score at 3-1, worth remarking on in a game where Edmonton scored five straight from the 24-minute mark on. The Canucks had plenty of Grade A chances in the final 36 minutes and did not dent the twine.

“I was pretty fired up and they got two quick ones — two goals I’d like to have back,” Campbell said. “It just shows the resiliency in our team. They’re a good team over there. It’s not an easy league to come back when you’re down that early.”

Out in British Columbia, you could hear the gnashing of teeth as the best player in the world ran roughshod over a Canucks team that was the better club, five-on-five. It’s like the Gretzky years again — Edmonton has a cheat code, and with Draisaitl playing the part of Mark Messier, it’s once again Edmonton’s turn to dominate this rivalry after the Sedin-led Canucks had their time in the early 2000’s.

Edmonton went 4-0 versus the Canucks last season, and beat Vancouver on Opening Night of the 2021-22 season as well.

It was McDavid’s 11th career hat trick, while the four-point night gave him 701 points in just his 488th game. It’s a milestone that will slip past with little attention, despite the company such a career-scoring pace keeps.

McDavid is only the seventh player in NHL history — and the sixth fastest — to achieve the feat in less than 500 games, joining a who’s who list that includes Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Peter Stastny, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy and Sidney Crosby.

Just another milestone chalked up against a game but understaffed Canucks team, a group that should have been able to put this one away, leading 3-0 early in Period 2.

“It was just not a good start for our group, but I don’t think there was anything to that,” reasoned the Oilers captain. “It was the first game and maybe there was a little bit of jitters. Sometimes you have got to get in a real (game) to get your legs back under you.

“It maybe took us a little bit of time but we found a way to get it done.”

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Canada coach John Herdman disputes Croatian counterpart's account of skipped post-match handshake – The Globe and Mail

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Canada head coach John Herdman during a World Cup match against Croatia, at the Khalifa International Stadium, in Doha, Qatar, on Nov. 27.The Associated Press

Canada coach John Herdman is disputing his Croatian counterpart’s account of why there was no handshake after their World Cup game.

Herdman had antagonized the Croatian camp with a heated postgame message to his players after Canada’s opening 1-0 loss to Belgium at the soccer showcase. Asked in a pitch-side interview what he had said in a postgame huddle to his players, Herdman replied: “I told them they belong here and we’re going to go and eff – Croatia. That’s as simple as it gets.”

That prompted a stern lecture from Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic on the need for respect. And after Croatia beat the Canadians 4-1 Sunday, Dalic was asked if he had a chance to shake hands with Herdman following the final whistle.

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“I did not see the other head coach after the match,” he said through an interpreter. “When I lose I always congratulate the winner. He was not there and that’s his way of doing things. He’s obviously mad. He is a good coach. He is a high-quality professional. But it will take some time for him to learn some things.”

Herdman, whose postgame news conference preceded Dalic’s on Sunday, disputed that account Wednesday when asked about it.

“Look, we shook hands before the game. So that happened,” he said. “At the end of the game, the usual process – no different than [with Belgium coach] Roberto Martinez. You shake hands with the coach, then you go shake hands with the referee.

“When I turned round, [Dalic] was already off down the touchline, which is his right to do. He’s celebrating. He’s just beaten Canada. It was a big celebration for him. He was off and I couldn’t get to shake his hand. I went into the field, shook the ref’s hand, shook players’ hands. And didn’t get to see him.

“That moment’s gone. We’re into process now – team huddle, see your fans, flash interviews, calm yourself down so you don’t say anything and move on.”

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Argentina coast past Poland 2-0 to top World Cup Group C – Al Jazeera English

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Second-half goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez cap a return to form for the South American giants.

Argentina coasted past Poland in a 2-0 victory on Wednesday night to top Group C and confirm their place in the last 16 of the World Cup, signalling a return to form for the South American giants after a poor start to this year’s tournament.

Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez’s second-half goals capped a dominant display by coach Lionel Scaloni’s charges at Stadium 974 – which was packed to the rafters with tens of thousands of raucous Argentinian supporters – to set up a clash with Australia on Saturday.

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After a goalless first 45 minutes, Mac Allister got on the end of Nahuel Molina’s cross just one minute into the second period and, despite making weak contact, he saw his shot creep over the line with Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny beaten.

The second goal was the result of patient buildup play which saw Argentina shift the ball around before Enzo Fernandez made a defence-splitting pass for Julian Alvarez, who found space in the box and smashed it into the top corner to effectively kill the game in the 67th minute.

Poland were lifeless throughout but managed to also squeeze through to the knockout phase on goal difference at the expense of Mexico, who beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in Group C’s other match.

They will meet defending champions France in the last 16 on Sunday.

Argentina's Alexis Mac Allister scores their first goal
Mac Allister opened the scoring for Argentina immediately after half-time [Issei Kato/Reuters]

Messi misses from the penalty spot

The first half’s defining moment came in the 39th minute when Argentina captain and talisman Lionel Messi failed to convert from the penalty spot on his record-breaking 22nd World Cup match, one more than the late Diego Maradona managed for La Albiceleste.

Poland were up in arms when Argentina were awarded the penalty after a VAR check for a foul on Messi when Szczesny’s glove brushed his face as the Paris St Germain forward rose up for a header at the far post.

But Szczesny was up to the task and despite the Argentina fans raising the decibel levels inside the arena, he kept his composure and guessed correctly, diving to his left and using one hand to swat aside Messi’s effort.

Not to be deterred, Messi never stopped surging forward and he was a menace to Poland all throughout the game with his dribbling ability and vision.

His glittering performance stood in stark contrast to that of Poland’s star striker Robert Lewandowski, who was deprived of service and virtually anonymous for the duration of the match.

Messi, 35, has admitted this will likely be his last World Cup outing while Lewandoski, 34, has said he is unsure if he will make it to the 2026 edition in North America but would like to do so.

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Maple Leafs extend win streak to five games as Marner enters record book – Sportsnet.ca

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