Pavelski keeps Stars’ season alive with OT winner vs. Golden Knights: ‘It’s a start’
Ric Flair in the building for Dallas. Wooo! Ric Flair taking selfies with Tie Domi and Mike Tyson. Wooo! Domi explaining hockey to Tyson. Wooo! Joe Pavelski scoring in overtime. Wooo!
On a Thursday night for icons at American Airlines Center, Pavelski was the only one still playing. And because of him, so are the Dallas Stars.
Pavelski hammered a puck into the top corner of the Vegas Golden Knights’ net at 3:18 of overtime as the Stars won 3-2 and did what the Carolina Hurricanes failed to do against the Florida Panthers in the other National Hockey League conference final: win at least once.
The goal also moved Pavelski, the 38-year-old American still seeking his first Stanley Cup, past Alex Ovechkin for the active lead in career playoff scoring with his 73rd post-season tally – nearly two-thirds of them arriving after Pavelski turned 30.
The one-timer, perfectly teed up by Miro Heiskanen, allowed the Stars to avoid the ignominy of a four-game sweep. But they wake Friday morning to the sobering reality that the Golden Knights, who led twice in Game 4, still lead the Western Conference Final 3-1 and Dallas will need to replicate its immense effort three more times without fail – and twice on the road.
Game 5 is Saturday in Las Vegas.
In May and June, the bottom line is all that matters in the NHL. But the Stars can boost themselves mentally knowing they just slayed an OT demon by winning in extra time in these playoffs for the first time in five tries; that with their season in jeopardy, they rallied twice against a hard-boiled Vegas team that doesn’t make many mistakes; and that Dallas did this without captain Jamie Benn, who earned a two-game suspension by dropping the lumber on Mark Stone in Game 3’s 4-0 loss.
“It’s a big win,” Pavelski said afterward. “It’s a start for us. We know our situation. That’s how they got going — with an overtime win (in Game 1). It’s nice to get one here and build from there.”
But … “This is one win. I’m not going to look too much farther ahead than the next game. There’s no reason to. Just going to gear up for that and get ready to go, and go back and compete, and we’ll see where it goes.”
Back to Dallas for a Game 6, if the Stars are lucky.
“We had everyone bring their desperation level all the way up,” winger Jason Robertson said after scoring twice (see below). “It’s an elimination game, so wanted to step up, a lot of guys stepped up, and we’ve got to do that again for Game 5.”
WOOO! FOR THE REFS
After making no initial call on Vegas defenceman Brayden McNabb’s high stick against Ty Dellandrea early in overtime, referees Jean Hebert and Chris Rooney huddled with linesmen Matt MacPherson and David Brisebois to get a critical call right and assess McNabb a minor penalty at 2:28.
Dellandrea may have whiplash-like symptoms on Friday after snapping his head back, but he was definitely whacked on the chin by McNabb when the defenceman tried to lift the Dallas winger’s stick in front of the Vegas net.
Special teams are one of the areas where the Stars were expected to have an advantage over the Knights, who have been dominant at five-on-five in the playoffs. On Thursday, the Dallas power play scored on its only two advantages. Stars penalty-killers blanked the Knights’ power play on its lone chance.
ROBERTSON TURNS THE SCREW
Three rounds into what has been a perplexing playoff run for Jason Robertson, the Stars’ top winger had his best game. A 46-goal sniper from the regular season who didn’t score at all in Dallas’ seven-game win against Seattle in the second round and had only two goals in 13 playoff games before this series, Robertson scored both tying goals and finished with 11 shots on target. Eleven.
On the second, at 17:21 of the second, he reacted quickest to a rebound off the end boards, beating defenceman Alec Martinez and Hill.
The 23-year-old has four goals in the series and is suddenly up to 17 points in 17 playoff games.
A MEASURE OF REDEMPTION
Neutrals watching can’t help but feel good for Dallas goalie Jake Oettinger, who imploded at the start of Game 3 and was despondent after getting hooked by coach Pete DeBoer for the third time in eight games – a walk of shame he endured only once in 62 games during an excellent regular season.
“You pretty much feel like you want to cry,” Oettinger told reporters in Dallas on Wednesday. “You put your whole season into this and you want to play your best in these moments, and when you can’t do that for your team and for your fans, it’s one of the worst feelings in the world. It’s part of the position. When people say, you know, the ups and downs, this is the down. (But) I’m never going to give up, I’m never going to stop believing in myself.”
After getting ventilated for three goals on five shots on Tuesday, Oettinger stopped 37 of 39 in Game 4, winning what was a sparkling goaltending duel with Hill, who saved 39 of 42 Dallas shots.
FAST FREDDY OLOFSSON
A healthy-scratch for Dallas’ first 16 playoff games, Fredrik Olofsson had a lot of energy saved up when he finally got to play Thursday due to Benn’s suspension and an undisclosed injury to Stars winger Evgenii Dadonov.
The speedy winger registered five shots in 10:04 of fourth-line ice time and had a terrific chance to win it for Dallas with two minutes remaining in the third period when he got behind Vegas defencemen Alex Pietrangelo and Martinez, and patiently took the puck the all the way across the top of the crease before shooting. But Hill, whose goaltending has been a revelation since he entered the playoffs from the Knights’ bullpen, was equally patient and stayed with Olofsson to make a left-pad save.
JACK IS QUICK
The more you watch Jack Eichel, the more you realize the Golden Knights may actually have the superstar they hoped they were acquiring when general manager Kelly McCrimmon paid a fortune to the Buffalo Sabres to acquire a true No. 1 centre last season.
Eichel’s point-per-game scoring hasn’t been eye-popping in Vegas, but the powerful centre has become a more complete, two-way player for the Knights. And when he does have the puck, as he seemed to a lot in Game 4, change of pace allows Eichel to explode past defenders.
Eichel had seven shots and made a pile of plays, but finished with just one assist.
The only thing we couldn’t figure out: how a player as good as Eichel, partnered with red-hot scorer Jonathan Marchessault (eight goals in eight games), could finish with just 16:57 of ice time when the Knights had a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
Blue Jays’ Chris Bassitt announces birth of child to cap ‘perfect weekend’
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.
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.
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.
Rory McIlroy (T-1) falls back on short game, stays positive with chance at Memorial
DUBLIN, Ohio – Rory McIlroy will set out Sunday afternoon at Jack’s Place looking to secure the second leg of the “Legends Slam” with a swing that’s well short of perfect and no shortage of would-be spoilers lurking.
He couldn’t be happier.
For the third consecutive day at the Memorial, McIlroy leaned on luck and grit to keep pace with the co-leaders – Si Woo Kim and David Lipsky – at 6 under par with 10 other players within two shots of the lead. Betting lines will undoubtedly favor the world No. 3 against the other contenders, but the truth is he has no idea what to expect when he sets out in the week’s final group.
Full-field scores from the Memorial Tournament
“I don’t think I hit a green from the eighth hole through the 14th hole, and I played those holes in even par,” McIlroy shrugged following his third-round 70. “Chip in on 12 [for birdie] and got it up-and-down from some tricky spots. I was really happy with how I scored out there and how I just sort of hung in there for most of the day.”
If McIlroy’s happy-to-be-here take doesn’t match with his world-beater persona, it’s the honest byproduct of a swing that he’s repeatedly said is a work in progress. Saturday’s round on a hard-and-fast course was the most-recent example of his very real struggle.
There was the chip-in for birdie at No. 12 from 25 feet and scrambling pars at Nos. 8, 11, 13 and 14. The major champion, whose career has been written with an overwhelming driver and sublime iron play, has now fully embraced the scrappy life.
“Embracing it,” he smiled. “There was a couple of shots out there when I missed the greens that I was sort of looking forward to hit. I think it’s embracing that challenge and embracing the fact that you’re probably not going to hit more than 12 or 13 greens out there. I think with how my short game’s been this week it’s something I’ve been able to fall back on, which has been great.”
To be fair, Rory is still Rory off the tee. He’s eighth this week in strokes gained: off the tee and second in driving distance, which at Muirfield Village is an accomplishment considering host Jack Nicklaus’ mission is to take driver out of the hands of the game’s top players.
Where the challenge has come is from the fairway and, despite his lofty status among the leaders, Saturday’s effort was his statistically worst of the week with just 7 of 18 greens in regulation and a loss to the field (1.71 shots) in strokes gained: approach the green.
Still, he’s the easy favorite with 18 holes remaining and for good reason. Other than Kim, who has four PGA Tour victories including the 2017 Players Championship, the next six players on the board have a combined four Tour victories.
“It’s a big tournament and I’ve got quite a bit of experience in that and you would like to think that gives you a little bit of an advantage,” McIlroy said. “Everyone’s going to go out there tomorrow and, regardless of where you are in the tournament, this golf course makes you a little uncomfortable anyway. So, everyone’s going to be feeling like that. With the way the leaderboard is and how bunched it is, it’s just going to come down to who can sort of hold their head the most coming down the stretch.”
Considering his own assessment of his swing, keeping a positive outlook doesn’t seem to be a problem for McIlroy this week. It might have something to do with what has admittedly been a rough couple of weeks, which stretch back to his missed cut at the Masters. Or it might just be the opportunity.
When he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2018, it was two years after that tournament’s host and legend had died. For a player who grew up idolizing The King, it was a bittersweet accomplishment and a part of why Sunday at Muirfield Village is likely to mean more than the sum of its parts.
“To be able to walk up that hill from 18 and get that handshake from Jack would be pretty nice,” he said. “I won Arnold’s tournament a few years ago, but he had already passed by that time. So it would be so nice to be able to do it and have Jack be there.”
It’s been an interesting year for McIlroy both on and off the course, which at least partially explains a lightness in his step that had been missing. There was also a message from his sports psychologist, Bob Rotella, last week that appeared to resonate with the 23-time Tour winner: “You are going to win your fare share of golf tournaments. You tee it up to see what your fare share is.”
Vladimir Guerrero Drives Home Winning Run, Jays Beat Mets
Jays 2 Mets 1
Off the top, I’m pretty sure that’s the worst job we’ve seen from a plate umpire this year. He had no clue where the strike zone was. John Schneider got thrown out of the game after a particularly bad strike call on Vladimir Guerrero in the ninth.
Fortunately, Vlad still doubled down the third base line to bring in the winning run. Pretty amazing job after being down 1-2. George Springer had a one-out single and steal.
Our only other run came in the sixth. Brandon Belt led off with a double. Matt Chapman walked. Two outs later, Alejandro Kirk, singled home Belt.
We had the bases loaded in the first but couldn’t get a run in. There were other chances but no luck.
In all we had 10 hits. Springer, Bichette, Belt and Kirk had two each. Chapman, Merrifield and Kiermaier had the 0 fors.
Jose Berrios was terrific. 5 innings, 4 hits, 3 walks and 6 strikeouts. 1 earned, scoring in the second inning, when he gave up a single to Starling Marte and a double to Daniel Vogelbach. But then he got three quick outs, and the Mets didn’t do much against him the rest of the way.
Trevor Richards, Nate Pearson (getting the win) and Erik Swanson (save #1 of the season), each pitched a scoreless inning. I didn’t understand pulling Richards after the one inning, but it all worked out. I think Pearson would have stayed out for another inning if the Jays didn’t take the lead.
Jays of the Day: Vlad (.310 WPA), Belt (.222), Swanson (.177), Berrios (.164), Pearson (.098) and Richards (.082).
The Other Award: Merrifield (-.376 for his 0 for) and Kiermaier (-.175 for his 0 for).
Tomorrow the Jays go for the sweep with Yusei Kikuchi (6-2, 4.47) vs. Kodai Senga (5-3, 3.44). It is to be a 1:30 Eastern start, but then today’s was to be a 4:00 Eastern start but the Mets had Al Leiter talking for 30 minutes about how great he was.
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