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NIFTY 50: Auston Matthews hits goal milestone as Maple Leafs crush Jets – Toronto Sun

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Naming the goaltender who gave up Matthews’ 50th will be a tricky trivia question in a few years.

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Auston Matthews has 50 goals, but a greater team goal still awaits.

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In becoming the fourth Leaf to reach the scoring milestone on Thursday night — and the first since Dave Andreychuk in 1994 — Matthews knows the achievement, likely enhanced by breaking Rick Vaive’s club record of 54 the next few games — means little if Toronto doesn’t make any post-season noise.

Two of the Leafs’ previous 50 fraternity, Vaive and Gary Leeman, never made the playoffs or got past the first round in their big seasons, while Andreychuk added 17 more goals in the two springs his Leafs advanced to the semifinals.

Once Matthews soaked up the Scotiabank adulation — cheers of “We want 50” were finally rewarded with an empty-netter with 2:06 to play in a 7-3 win over Winnipeg — and he got drenched in a water bottle shower, it was back to talking playoff momentum.

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“I have a job to do and it’s not finished yet,” he said of 15 games to go. “It was pretty special to do it at home, I’m really fortunate to have played with some amazing players and good teams.

“There are a lot of important games coming up (in the fight for first place and top seeding), but it will be nice to enjoy this one.”

Naming the goaltender who gave up Matthews’ 50th will be a tricky trivia question in a few years.

Maple Leafs’ Ilya Mikheyev and Alexander Kerfoot congratulate teammate John Tavares on his goal against the Winnipeg Jets at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday, March 31, 2022 in Toronto. CLAUS ANDERSEN/GETTY IMAGES
Maple Leafs’ Ilya Mikheyev and Alexander Kerfoot congratulate teammate John Tavares on his goal against the Winnipeg Jets at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday, March 31, 2022 in Toronto. CLAUS ANDERSEN/GETTY IMAGES Photo by CLAUS ANDERSEN /GETTY IMAGES

“I didn’t envision it being an empty-netter,” he chuckled.

Spectators threw hats and other items on the ice before the ensuing faceoff, glad Matthews did it before a four-game road trip. It made defenceman Mark Giordano’s first goal in his hometown a memorable one.

“I loved that reaction, a smart crowd making it last a little longer,” Giordano said. “We knew all along he’d get it, but to be here for that is cool.”

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Giordano also counted himself lucky being around for Hall Of Famer Jarome Iginla’s 50th in Calgary, noting some similarities in the two stars’ shot release.

It wasn’t for lack of trying on Matthews’ part to score the big one at even strength or on six Toronto power plays. He had 13 shot attempts, while mates used the high energy in the house to avenge a one-sided loss to the Jets in December. That prompted one of the more physical lineups coach Sheldon Keefe rolled out, including a fourth line of Wayne Simmonds, Kyle Clifford and Jason Spezza, the first two getting into some scrums.

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Teammates went looking for Matthews all night. He nearly broke his stick fanning on one power play blast, but the marksman of the night turned out to be William Nylander with two on the power play. He reached a career-best 62 points, part of a three-goal Leafs burst in the middle period, including goals by John Tavares and Ilya Mikheyev’s fourth shorthanded this year, a breakaway set up by Pierre Engvall.

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Eric Comrie did avoid becoming the second Jets’ keeper to give up a Leafs’ 50th, Bob Essensa victimized by Andreychuk in 1993. He was working with a 2-0 lead until Giordano’s centring feed for Tavares struck a Jet and caromed past him. Timothy Liljegren added a late power play goal.

At first, Leafs goalie Erik Kallgren was hampered with both the hard-pressing Jets and some sloppy play from his mates in falling behind two. Blake Wheeler had stepped around Giordano on the first goal, the other was a sharp backboard rebound that Kallgren couldn’t pick up fast enough. He did make a couple of fine saves from turnovers in a lighter workload than Comrie, earning his fourth win in seven games.

  1. Toronto Maple Leafs' Wayne Simmonds (24) is held back by officials as he tries to get to Winnipeg Jets' Logan Stanley (64) during the third period of NHL action in Winnipeg on December 5, 2021.

    Much more than Matthews to watch as Leafs face Jets

  2. Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews (left) congratulates teammate Mitch Marner after Marner scored against the Bruins during the second period at TD Garden in Boston on Tuesday, March 29, 2022.

    Shorthanded Maple Leafs buckle down for decisive win in Boston

  3. The Tampa Bay Lightning play an up-tempo style that might be conducive to the Maple Leafs’ run-and-gun game, if the two teams were to meet in the playoffs. PHOTO BY DAN HAMILTON /USA Today Sports

    TRAIKOS: Would the Maple Leafs rather face Florida, Tampa Bay or Boston in the first round?

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While Matthews needed one goal, a few forwards needed to redeem themselves in the eyes of Keefe. Simmonds was back after being scratched for the road game in Boston after Colin Blackwell made a huge impression there upon his arrival in a trade from Seattle. Blackwell will play Saturday in Philadelphia.

“We want to get these three veterans an opportunity in a very hard and competitive game,” Keefe said in the morning. “All three have to continue to get better”.

Simmonds has been marginalized soon after being feted for his 1,000th NHL game.

“Naturally you get upset and look for answers,” he said. “I know I have to play better. That’s up to me.”

Lingering from their previous meeting with the Jets in December was Spezza’s six-game suspension (reduced to four upon appeal) for kneeing Neal Pionk, who in turn sat two for sparking the rough stuff by kneeing Rasmus Sandin. While the most effective of the three fourth-liners as an all-around player, Spezza’s point production has slipped.

With defenceman Ilya Lyabushkin out, Carl Dahlstrom was called up from the Marlies to partner Liljegren and assisted on Tavares’ goal. Other pairs were changed around, TJ Brodie back with Morgan Rielly, Giordano with Justin Holl.

lhornby@postemdia.com

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Canada Soccer cancels men’s national team friendly vs. Iran in Vancouver – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO — Canada Soccer has cancelled a planned friendly with Iran in the face of growing criticism.

In a one-paragraph statement, the governing body gave no reason for the cancellation of the scheduled June 5 game at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver.

But the idea of hosting the Iranian team, ranked 21st in the world, has drawn fire since it was first announced.

At issue is whether Canada should be hosting Iran given the Canadians who died on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 when it was shot down on Jan. 8, 2020, minutes after taking off from Tehran, by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. The Canadian government says 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents were among the 176 people killed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week the game “wasn’t a very good idea,” pointing the finger at Canada Soccer. The Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims called for Canada Soccer “to cancel the game immediately.”

Association spokesman Hamed Esmaeilion, whose wife Parisa and young daughter Reera were among those who died on Flight 752, said in an interview last week. “What kind of friendship do we have with the Islamic Republic of Iran?

“We want the (Canadian) government to take them to international court. And instead of that, we get humiliated by them … I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the back — (as well as) the other family members. After 28 months we don’t see any sign of seeking justice here. We don’t see sign of taking Iran to any international forum. And instead of that they invite the (Iran) soccer team here.”

Conservative MPs added their voice to the protest on Wednesday. And the PM said this week that it will be up to the Canada Border Services Agency whether the Iran team is allowed into the country.

The Iran game was to be the first of a two-game Vancouver homestand. The Canadian men open CONCACAF Nations League A play there against Curacao on June 9 before closing out the FIFA international window with another CONCACAF Nations League game against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on June 13.

Canada, ranked 38th in the world, and Iran are both preparing for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar this November.

For Canada Soccer, the Iran contest was a rare chance to test the Canadian men against a team outside of their CONCACAF confederation, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

The Canadians have played just two teams from outside their region since John Herdman took over as coach in January 2018: a 1-0 loss to Iceland in January 2020 and a 1-0 win over New Zealand in March 2018.

The FIFA International window opens Monday, with players arriving from their clubs from around the world. Now they will get extended training time rather than a match ahead of the CONCACAF Nations League fixtures.

Canada has not played on home soil since qualifying for the World Cup in a 4-0 win over Jamaica at Toronto’s BMO Field on March 27. The Canadian men last played at B.C. Place in March 2019 when they beat French Guiana 4-1 in CONCACAF Nations League qualifying.

The Canadians topped the final round of CONCACAF qualifying with an 8-2-4 record. Their last game was a 1-0 loss in Panama on March 30.

Canada has a 1-2-0 all-time record against Iran, winning the most recent encounter 1-0 in April 2001 in Cairo. Iran posted 1-0 wins in 1997 and 1999 games in Toronto and Edmonton, respectively.

Canada opens World Cup play Nov. 23 against No. 2 Belgium before facing No. 16 Croatia on Nov. 27 and No. 24 Morocco on Dec. 1.

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UK government approves US$5.33 billion sale of Chelsea to LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly

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London, United Kingdom (UK)- The UK government has formally approved the sale of Chelsea FC for US$5.33 billion to Todd Boehly, the co-owner of the LA Dodgers and Clearlake Capital, a Californian private equity firm.

As a result, this now brings Roman Abramovich’s 19-year ownership of Chelsea, in which the club has won 21 trophies including five Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues to an end.

“Late last night the UK government reached a position where we could issue a licence that permits the sale of Chelsea. Following the sanctioning of Roman Abramovich, the government has worked hard to ensure Chelsea has been able to continue to play football, but we have always been clear that the long-term future of the club could only be secured under a new owner.

Following extensive work, we are now satisfied that the full proceeds of the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich or any other sanctioned individual. We will now begin the process of ensuring the proceeds of the sale are used for humanitarian causes in Ukraine, supporting victims of the war.

In addition, the steps today will secure the future of this important cultural asset and protect fans and the wider football community. We have been in discussions with relevant international partners for the necessary licences required and we thank them for all their cooperation,” read a statement from the government.

The UK government sanctioned Abramovich on March 10, 2022, due to suspected links with Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

This in turn led to several restrictions on the club such as the ability to buy or sell players and negotiate new contracts with players. However, due to the recent developments all of that is all about to change, a boost for Chelsea manager, Thomas Tuchel, as he prepares for the 2022/23 season after finishing third and qualifying for next year’s Champions League in the 2021/22 season.

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Blues' head coach Craig Berube addresses Nazem Kadri threats: 'It's not a good thing' – The Athletic

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St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube denounced social media threats made toward Colorado Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri Wednesday, days after the coach said he had ‘no comment‘ when he was first asked about them Monday.

“I’m not on social media. I was aware of a threat made to Nazem, not the racist stuff,” Berube told the media Wednesday. “In no way is it acceptable by the St. Louis Blues or anybody else for him to have to go through that. Being a Native American myself, I’ve heard it all, I’ve been around it.

“It’s not a good thing. So I just wanted to get that out there that there’s no room for it anywhere.”

Kadri was subjected to racist comments and threats on social media following a collision with Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington during Game 3 of the Blues-Avalanche second-round series. Following the game, Binnington threw a water bottle at Kadri as the Avs forward was being interviewed by TNT.

In Game 4, Kadri scored a hat-trick en route to a 6-3 Avalanche win over the Blues. Colorado can eliminate St. Louis Wednesday night in Game 5 with a victory.

(Top photo: Scott Rovak / NHLI via Getty Images)

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