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No bottling him up: Nazem Kadri paces Avalanche, frustrates Blues in Game 3 win – The Athletic



ST. LOUIS — The water bottle, mostly empty, sat on the black rubber floor surfacing in the hallway between the Avalanche and Blues dressing rooms. With one flick of the wrist and a moment caught live on national TV, it had become the story of the hockey world.

Standing against a TNT backdrop for his postgame TV interview, Nazem Kadri started to answer a question about a first-period play Saturday that left Blues goalie Jordan Binnington injured. Midsentence, he looked over his shoulder as an Eternal brand water bottle hit the ground. He paused for five seconds before continuing. Then, at the end of his answer, he explained his silence.

“I’m not sure if he just threw a water bottle at me,” he said, then laughed.

Kadri meant Binnington. And according to multiple people who saw the exchange that followed Colorado’s 5-2 win in Game 3, the throw did in fact come from the Blues goaltender, who might miss multiple weeks with a possible knee sprain, per The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford.

Binnington’s injury came less than seven minutes into the game. The play started when Avalanche forward Artturi Lehkonen flew down the ice and flung a wrist shot on net. Binnington got in front of the puck but allowed a rebound. The rubber disk sat just in front of the crease, and Kadri bolted for it, colliding with Blues defenseman Calle Rosen. The two tumbled into Binnington, with Rosen making first contact, and all three players went sprawling into the net.

It was hard to tell if Kadri would have or could have avoided contact if not for Rosen, though he said after the game that “I don’t think I would have hit him at all” if the defenseman — whom the Avalanche once acquired with Kadri in a deal for Tyson Barrie — hadn’t been there.

“I just saw a loose puck,” Kadri said after the Avalanche win, which gave them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven second-round series. “It was kind of just sitting behind him, and I just tried to poke it with my stick. I think their defenseman kind of collided with me and pushed me into (Binnington).”

Binnington tested out his legs in hopes of staying in the game, but he eventually left with the St. Louis trainer, giving way to backup Ville Husso, who allowed four goals and took the loss. And though Kadri wasn’t assessed with a penalty, the St. Louis crowd took exception to the play, booing him every time he touched the puck for the rest of the game.

That only seemed to fuel the center. He tipped in a Cale Makar slapshot to put the Avalanche up in the second period, going down to a knee and punching the air in celebration. Then, later in the period, he made a long pass to Lehkonen along the boards, setting up an odd-man rush. The Finn beat Husso with a wrist shot and immediately pointed to Kadri as the Colorado players gathered for a post-goal huddle.

“When you get the whole arena booing you, you up your game for sure,” Logan O’Connor said. “That was nice to see him have a great game tonight.”

The win showed Kadri at his most effective: playing with an edge, making skilled plays and occasionally agitating, as when he and Jordan Kyrou got tangled up and he skated away with the 24-year-old’s stick. But Kadri didn’t cross a line, at least in the eyes of the Avalanche and the officials.

That hasn’t always been the case in the postseason. He served two playoff suspensions while with the Maple Leafs, then another with the Avalanche in 2021 after a high hit on St. Louis defenseman Justin Faulk. Kadri sat out the final two games in the first round last year, then all six second-round matchups against Vegas.

The Blues clearly haven’t forgotten about the Faulk hit, and St. Louis coach Craig Berube didn’t hesitate to link it to Binnington’s injury Saturday.

“Look at Kadri’s reputation,” he said. “That’s all I’ve got to say.”

When Avalanche coach Jared Bednar, who had just informed reporters that Samuel Girard would be out for the season with a broken sternum, heard about Berube’s comments, he looked frustrated.

“It’s either a legal play or it’s not,” the coach said. “Both guys go in there, they’re both going after the puck the same way, and they collide before they go in. Again, unfortunate, the same as Girard for me. That’s a legal play and it’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.”

The Binnington injury and the water bottle throw are bullet points on a long list of Kadri’s history with the Blues over the past 12 months. He fought Brayden Schenn and Faulk in the first and second regular-season matchups of the season to answer the bell for his playoff hit on Faulk. In their second game of the season, back in October, Binnington swung his stick at Kadri’s head.

Is there anything personal going on between them? Not in Kadri’s eyes.

“I’m just going out there to try to win and compete, and if people take that personally that’s on them,” he said. “For me, what happens on the ice kind of stays on the ice. I’m a competitor. I want to win.”

That’s what he did Saturday, leaving behind a frustrated Blues team and a mostly empty water bottle on the floor.

Key moments

• Early in the game, Girard skated behind his own net to grab a puck. Ivan Barbashev followed and drove himself into Girard’s shoulder, sending the defenseman flying into the glass head first. His face appeared to slide along the boards before the back of his head landed on the ice. With blood on his face, Girard had to be helped skating off and was taken to a hospital.

The play left Girard with a broken sternum. He will miss the rest of the playoffs.

“You know, I didn’t love it seeing it live,” Bednar said. “Looking back on it … I thought it was a legal check, to be honest with you. He kind of goes in on his head side, but he got a lot of body there. He was turned the wrong way, and he went in awkward. It was a heavy check. Unfortunate, but to be honest, I think it was a legal check.”

Darcy Kuemper allowed a bad rebound, leading to Ryan O’Reilly’s second-period goal to cut the Avalanche lead to 3-2. But he also made a big right-pad stop on Robert Thomas, who had a partial breakaway early in the third. That kept the score tied.

• Ville Husso started to come off the ice for an extra attacker with time winding down in the third, then Mikko Rantanen stole the puck from Scott Perunovich. He got it to Nathan MacKinnon, who suddenly had a two-on-one with Gabriel Landeskog. With Husso scrambling to get back, MacKinnon got the puck to Landeskog, who shot into an empty net. That made the score 4-2 and all but eliminated the chances of a Blues comeback.

• Bednar scratched O’Connor for the first two games of the series, but he inserted him for Nico Sturm on Saturday. The move paid dividends during a first-period penalty kill.

As Josh Manson, who committed a holding penalty, came out of the box, teammate Darren Helm flipped him the puck high in the air. Manson snagged it at the blue line as he headed into the offensive zone. He passed the puck across the slot to a charging O’Connor, who beat Husso’s left pad to score. Berube considered challenging for offsides but decided against it. And just like that, the only lead St. Louis held all night was gone.

Said O’Connor: “It was definitely awesome getting that one after sitting out the last couple games.”

(Photo of Nazem Kadri and Nathan MacKinnon celebrating a goal: Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images)

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Late fumble costs Tiger-Cats in Elks win on Canada Day – TSN



HAMILTON — Tre Ford was in his happy place Friday in Hamilton.

The Edmonton Elks quarterback got a win in his first career CFL start 30 minutes down the Queen Elizabeth Highway from his hometown of Niagara Falls, Ont.

The Elks came from behind to beat the Tiger-Cats 29-25 in front of 20,233 at Tim Hortons Field.

“To come back to Hamilton and have all my family watching me get that first start and that first win has been fantastic,” Ford said.

Among Ford’s supporters were his wife, parents, sister, sister-in-law and mother-in-law, his high school football coach from A.N. Myer Secondary, his University of Waterloo head coach Chris Bertoia, eight of his former university teammates and more friends.

Ford was shaky at times as the Elks trailed by 13 points early in the second half.

But the 2021 winner of the Hec Crighton Trophy winner that goes to the most outstanding Canadian university football player threw a game-tying touchdown pass to Kenny Lawler early in the fourth quarter.

The winning play for the Elks (1-3) arrived with 1:38 remaining when defensive back Scott Hutter tackled Hamilton quarterback Dane Evans and knocked the ball loose.

Jalen Collins recovered for a 14-yard touchdown.

“I saw him tackle him and thought, ‘please punch the ball out,” Collins said. “All we needed was an opportunity to close the game out. We were fighting all night. It was ugly.”

The winless Tiger-Cats opened a season with four straight losses for the first time since 2017 when they started 0-8.

“I want to apologize to all the guys. I put both home losses on me,” Evans said. “I just have to take care of it, and we win the game.”

Evans was 20-for-31 in passing for 197 yards and a touchdown throw. He was intercepted twice.

Ford’s numbers didn’t sparkle, although he did rush for 61 yards on six carries. The 24-year-old competed 15 of 26 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted once.

Edmonton’s defence helped out with interceptions by Sheldon Brady and Matthew Thomas, as well as the pivotal late-game recovered fumble by Collins.

“A big shout out to the defence,” Ford said. “They won us that game. They made what, three or four turnovers? They did super well.

“I have room for improvement. I’m not going to complain because we did win. But I’m going to hit the film room to see what I can critique and where I can get better.”

Hamilton went after the rookie with various blitzes in the first half.
“My legs are going to open things up for my arm,” Ford said.

Ford credited teammate and quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who started in Edmonton’s three losses this season, for advising him during the game on defensive reads.

“He’s been like that since day one, even though we’re competitors for the position,” Ford said.

He admitted to early jitters as Hamilton led 16-6 after the first quarter and 19-9 at halftime.

“I always get nervous for the first play of every game,” Ford said. “I think it’s a good thing because it means I care and that I want to win.”

Evans hit Steven Dunbar for a 21-yard strike, and Lawrence Woods returned a kickoff of 72 yards for Hamilton’s first-half touchdowns.

Edmonton’s Kai Locksley scored on a one-yard plunge.

Elks kicker Sergio Castillo made two of his three field-goal attempts, while Hamilton counterpart Michael Domagala nailed his three and gave the Ticats at lead with a 33-yarder with 3:10 remaining in the game

“We’re not good enough right now,” Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer said. “We’re not executing at the level which needs to happen. We’re just not making those plays we need to make.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2022.

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Raptors sign forward Otto Porter Jr. to 2-year deal: reports –



The Toronto Raptors have signed forward Otto Porter Jr., who was a key member of the Golden State Warriors’ NBA championship team.

The two-year deal was first reported by Yahoo Sports, and confirmed to The Canadian Press by a source close to negotiations.

The 29-year-old Porter averaged 8.2 points per game this past season. He’s a tenacious defender and solid long-range shooter, with a career average of 39.8 per cent from behind the arc.

Porter was selected third overall by Washington in the 2013 draft, and played the first six seasons of his career there before being traded to Chicago in 2019. Orlando then acquired him at the 2021 trade deadline, and he signed with the Warriors in the 2021 off-season.

The Raptors have been busy since free agency opened at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday, signing Canadian forward Chris Boucher to a three-year deal, and signing veteran forward Thaddeus Young to a multi-year contract extension.

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Blue Jays’ bats assist bullpen, carry the day in comfortable win over Rays –



TORONTO – The Blue Jays may have discovered the solution to their bullpen issues: score nine runs a game.

Sustainable? Maybe not, but the Blue Jays are hitting at their best right now, with an MLB-leading 170 runs scored in June to go along with 50 home runs last month. Wearing their red jerseys in front of a sellout Canada Day crowd of 44,445 Friday, some of that offensive output carried into July with a festive 9-2 win over the visiting Tampa Bay Rays.

“It was so special,” said starter Jose Berrios. “I’ve heard a lot about this day, but being here and pitching today was very emotional. I know a lot of Canadians enjoy it and want to be at the ballpark on a day like today.”

“It was amazing, to say the least,” added Cavan Biggio, who reached base four times Friday. “In 2020 and 2021 we definitely missed this place. Now we’re finally back and we’re experiencing that energy that we’ve all been looking forward to on a nightly basis.”

A Lourdes Gurriel Jr. home run put the finishing touch on this one, but the Blue Jays also hit six doubles, five of which came off Rays starter Corey Kluber in a five-run third inning. A three-run sixth created necessary breathing room for the Blue Jays, who were able to rest most of their high-leverage relievers on a day Berrios was not at his sharpest.

With three hits, including his fifth home run of the season, Gurriel Jr. helped drive the Blue Jays’ offence. But don’t overlook Biggio, who walked twice while also hitting two doubles on a day his season on-base percentage climbed to .385.

“Today was great,” Biggio said. “Just hit after hit. A good pitcher, a good experienced guy on the mound, but we had a plan and we were able to execute it.”

Even before a pitch was thrown, Blue Jays fans had plenty to cheer about Friday. The recently retired Russell Martin was honoured with a memorable video narrated by former teammate Jose Bautista and personal messages from the likes of former Jays manager John Gibbons and fellow Canadian Joey Votto.

As the video tributes played in centre field, most Blue Jays players watched from the dugout. The fans also responded warmly to Martin, who later threw out the ceremonial first pitch to another athletic catcher who wears No. 55: Gabriel Moreno.

“Unbelievable career,” Biggio said of Martin. “What stands out to me the most is he played 14 years in the majors and made the playoffs 10 times. That’s what this game’s all about: it’s about winning.”

As for Berrios, he was effective enough, allowing two runs on eight hits over the course of five innings. He worked in and out of trouble, though, stranding nine runners, including both of the batters he walked.

While his fastball averaged 93.6 m.p.h., the Rays weren’t often fooled by the right-hander, who generated eight swinging strikes on 98 total pitches. Still, the Blue Jays will take that from Berrios, especially considering he had allowed 14 earned runs over the course of his previous two starts.

“He’s better than what he did today,” Montoyo said. “He was missing by a little bit and that made him throw even more pitches and work harder …  at the end of the day, he did the job.”

But realistically, the Blue Jays would have been in a tough spot without so much help from their offence. Adam Cimber was presumed unavailable after pitching three days in a row, and David Phelps was likely off limits given that he’d just pitched in four of five. This was not an ideal day for the Blue Jays to try preserving a one- or two-run lead.

Thanks to their lineup, they didn’t have to. With the exception of one inning from Trent Thornton, the Blue Jays were able to avoid their high-leverage relievers, putting them in a relatively strong position entering Saturday’s double-header. 

“If our pitching gives us a chance, our offence is going to go and that’s exactly what happened,” Montoyo said. “We should be better tomorrow because of that.”

Sergio Romo made his Blue Jays debut with a clean inning seventh inning that featured two strikeouts and Max Castillo pitched the final two innings without incident as Toronto improved to 44-33 on the season while increasing their lead over the Rays to 3.5 games.

All told, this was pretty close to how the Blue Jays would have drawn it up. And end of the day, they’re in Toronto again, playing at home on Canada Day for the first time since 2019. In case any doubt remained as to the day’s significance, an impromptu rendition of O Canada broke out in the stands as the Blue Jays closed out the win. Soon after the fans finished singing, the players completed their 9-2 win.

“The energy and pride that this country embodies was definitely on full display,” Biggio said.

Or, as Montoyo put it: “You could tell the happiness about it.”

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