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Pearson impresses in debut but Blue Jays fall to Nationals – TSN

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WASHINGTON — Expectations were sky-high for Nate Pearson’s big-league debut Wednesday night at Nationals Park.

With five shutout innings, an eyebrow-raising fastball and the ability to throw quality breaking pitches in pressure spots, Pearson showed he belonged on the big stage against the reigning World Series champions.

Washington eventually spoiled Toronto’s home opener with a 4-0, 10th-inning win, but praise for the young Blue Jays right-hander came from all corners after the game.

“There’s nothing better for a manager than saying, ‘Man, we may have a chance to win every five days,'” said Blue Jays skipper Charlie Montoyo. “That’s what I thought today when he was pitching those five innings.”

Nationals manager Dave Martinez was also impressed.

“Toronto’s got a good one there,” he said. “He’s got a good live fastball. He threw some really good breaking balls. He’s going to be really good.”

Washington starter Max Scherzer was equally sharp on a hot evening in the U.S. capital, working 7 1/3 scoreless innings as the Blue Jays (3-3) were shut out for the first time this season.

The Nationals (2-4) scratched out a run against reliever Shun Yamaguchi before Asdrubal Cabrera broke the game open with a three-run triple.

Yamaguchi (0-2) nearly got out of the 10th inning unscathed after walking Carter Kieboom and Andrew Stevenson to load the bases. Pinch-runner Emilio Bonifacio started the frame on second base.

After back-to-back strikeouts, Adam Eaton hit a hard comebacker that Cavan Biggio scooped up before diving to second base to try to beat Stevenson for the force. Toronto challenged the safe call but the decision was upheld with Bonifacio scoring the game’s first run.

Tanner Rainey worked the 10th to preserve the shutout for the Nationals (2-4), who will go for a split of the four-game series on Thursday afternoon.

Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, struck out 10 and allowed three hits. Daniel Hudson (1-0) recorded five outs for the win.

The Blue Jays will play so-called home games in road parks until the team’s 2020 home at Buffalo’s Sahlen Field is ready on Aug. 11. A team proposal to play home games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre was kiboshed by the government before the season due to concerns about COVID-19.

It made for a most unusual feel as Toronto played in its home white uniforms. The team’s stadium operations crew sent player introduction recordings to Washington so the Blue Jays would have more of a home-field feel.

In one particularly odd moment, “OK Blue Jays” was played during the seventh-inning stretch.

Pearson, a six-foot-six right-hander, kept the Nationals off-balance throughout his appearance, giving up two hits, two walks and striking out five. On an 80-pitch count for his debut, he threw 48 of 75 pitches for strikes.

“I had a little bit of everything working,” Pearson said. “Fastball command was there at times when I needed it. It still wasn’t where I wanted it to be. But man, my slider was on tonight. That was my big pitch.

“It got me out of a lot of jams and I got some big strikeouts on it.”

Pearson said he felt comfortable from the start and he showed no sign of early jitters.

“I was taking it all in in the first inning,” he said. “Looking around, just taking mental pictures of where I was at.”

Pearson started with a bang, opening with a 95-m.p.h. fastball on the corner before getting Trea Turner to wave at two breaking balls for the strikeout.

Relying primarily on his heater and slider, Pearson mixed in the occasional curveball and change-up over his appearance. He reached 99 m.p.h. in the second inning and retired the side in order.

“His makeup is very good and his command is very good,” Montoyo said. “I think those two things are what good pitchers have and he’s got it.”

Pearson allowed an infield single to Turner in the third and a leadoff double to Eric Thames in the fourth. Thames advanced to third but Pearson struck out Kieboom on three pitches to end the threat, capping it with a 99-m.p.h. fastball at the knees.

Pearson, 23, fanned two more batters in the fifth and Turner flew out to end the inning. The first-round draft pick was all smiles in the dugout afterward as teammates, Montoyo and pitching coach Pete Walker congratulated him on the effort.

Simply put, the youngster was as advertised.

“For a young guy, he’s really confident and that’s great,” Montoyo said. “I loved what I saw.”

The Blue Jays nearly got on the board in the eighth inning. Scherzer retired 13 in a row before giving up a leadoff single to Joe Panik.

Anthony Alford came on as a pinch-runner, stole second and moved to third on a wide pickoff attempt. With his pitch count at 112, Scherzer was pulled after walking Derek Fisher.

Hudson, a former Blue Jay, got Teoscar Hernandez to ground into a double play and struck out the side in the ninth.

By not selecting Pearson’s contract until Wednesday, he will not get a full year of service time in 2020 and his free-agent eligibility won’t begin until after the 2026 campaign.

The 28th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Pearson opened the season on the three-man taxi squad. He split last year between class-A Dunedin, double-A New Hampshire and triple-A Buffalo.

It’s possible that Pearson could make 10-12 starts over the course of the regular season, which has been shortened to 60 games due to the pandemic.

Notes: Before the game, the Blue Jays optioned left-hander Brian Moran to the team’s taxi squad to make room for Pearson. … Toronto shortstop Bo Bichette (hamstring) and outfielder Randal Grichuk (back) remain day to day with injuries. … Rowdy Tellez was ejected in the 10th inning for arguing after a strikeout. Blue Jays coach Dante Bichette was also kicked out. … The Blue Jays will get an off-day Friday before a Saturday doubleheader in Philadelphia. Toronto will again serve as the home team for the three-game series.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2020.

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Vancouver Canucks advance to NHL playoffs – News 1130

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EDMONTON — The <a class="sn-team-post-link bound" href="https://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/teams/vancouver-canucks/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" data-team="vancouver-canucks" data-league="nhl" data-an-opt-label="Vancouver Canucks (nhl) – Canucks rally in overtime to beat Wild, advance to Stanley Cup Playoffs (4948052)" data-an-category="Team Tooltip Link" data-an-track-hover="true" data-original-title="

Vancouver
Canucks
9th western conf
4th pacific div
78 Points

record
36-27-6
9th

gpg
3.25
8th

pp%
24.1%
4th

last 10
4-5-1

gaa
3.10
21st

pk%
80.5%
16th

” data-toggle=”tooltip” data-placement=”auto” data-html=”true” data-trigger=”hover click focus”>Vancouver Canucks battled back from deficits three times Friday to beat the <a class="sn-team-post-link bound" href="https://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/teams/minnesota-wild/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" data-team="minnesota-wild" data-league="nhl" data-an-opt-label="Minnesota Wild (nhl) – Canucks rally in overtime to beat Wild, advance to Stanley Cup Playoffs (4948052)" data-an-category="Team Tooltip Link" data-an-track-hover="true" data-original-title="

Minnesota
Wild
10th western conf
6th central div
77 Points

record
35-27-7
10th

gpg
3.16
12th

pp%
21.3%
10th

last 10
7-3-0

gaa
3.14
23rd

pk%
77.2%
25th

” data-toggle=”tooltip” data-placement=”auto” data-html=”true” data-trigger=”hover click focus”>Minnesota Wild 5-4 and qualify for the NHL playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Chris Tanev scored on a wrist shot from the blue line 11 seconds into overtime at Rogers Place to give the Canucks a 3-1 win in the best-of-five qualifying series.

Rookie scoring sensation Quinn Hughes had a goal and assist to power the Canucks. Tanner Pearson, Brandon Sutter, and Bo Horvat also scored.

Eric Staal, Luke Kunin, Nico Sturm and Joel Eriksson Ek replied for Minnesota.

The Wild have now missed the post-season for two consecutive seasons, with first-round exits in each of three seasons before that.

Minnesota was hampered by the loss of top defenceman Ryan Suter, who did not dress after playing big minutes in the first three games. The league is not releasing injury information or any individual COVID-19 test results.

Goalie Alex Stalock had 26 stops for Minnesota

Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom, whose stellar play in the regular season made it possible for the Canucks to make the post-season tournament, stopped 24-of-28 shots but fought the puck all night, allowing two sharp-angle short-side goals and giving up juicy rebounds.

Minnesota opened the scoring about three minutes into the first period. Kunin, on the power play, took a pass on the end line from Mats Zuccarello, crashed the net, and jammed the puck over Markstrom’s goalpad.

Pearson tied the score at the 12:52 mark, corralling a perfect stretch pass from Tanev at the left face-off dot and releasing a wrist shot that banked off the far goalpost and in.

Minnesota responded 40 seconds later. Staal, standing below the face-off circle to Markstrom’s right, took a pass from Marcus Foligno, who was behind the net, and sniped a puck past Markstrom’s ear on the short side.

In the second period, the Wild went up 3-1. Eriksson Ek grabbed a rebound off a point shot and lifted the puck over Markstrom.

The Canucks immediately cut the lead to 3-2 when Hughes’s point shot got deflected high up in the air and landed behind Stalock, allowing Sutter to jam it over the goal line.

Hughes tied the game just over a minute later on the power play, wristing the puck from the high slot through heavy traffic and in.

With under a minute to go in the period, Sturm flew in on the left wing and fired a wrist shot near the endline that managed to elude Markstrom under the arm.

The Canucks tied the game late in the third period, when Pearson fought off a check behind the net and fed Horvat for a one-timer in the slot, setting the stage for overtime.

The series was a case of Hughes and the Canucks’ high-flying top six forwards against the smothering team defence of the Wild.

Hughes, the Calder Trophy nominee, led all rookies in scoring in the abbreviated regular season (eight goals, 53 points) and kept the hot hand in the playoffs with a goal and five assists.

Vancouver’s top six didn’t score a lot but they scored enough. Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Pearson each had two goals while Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller had one each.

Winger Tyler Toffoli didn’t play since Game 1, out with an apparent foot injury.

Vancouver lost the opener 3-0, but came back to win 4-3 and 3-0 before Friday’s clincher.

It was a close-checking, low-scoring series dominated by penalties that continued early in the game when Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen squared off and scrapped with Minnesota’s Ryan Hartman.

The 12 Western Conference teams have been playing at Rogers Place, with players in isolation to avoid contracting COVID-19. The Eastern Conference teams are doing the same in Toronto.

The tournament was created after the NHL prematurely ended the regular season in mid-March due to the COVID pandemic.

Vancouver will now play one of the top four seeds: the Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars or Vegas Golden Knights.

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Player grades: Coaching mistakes and iffy defence as Edmonton Oilers eliminated from playoffs – Edmonton Journal

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Article content continued

Riley Sheahan, 4. He was a bit slow on the backcheck in the second on a Patrick Kane Grade A chance. He played just 6:51.

Zack Kassian, 2. Too quiet. Accomplished little. He had not one hit all game. Not one hit. No one. Almost became the hero in the third but he couldn’t lift the puck over a sprawling Crawford.

Jujhar Khaira, 3. He was puck watching in the first and allowed a point blank slot shot. He played just 6:55.

Gaetan Haas, 5. He looked good out there. His speed was welcome. Charged down the wing in the first and set up Alex Chiasson for a hard jam shot.

James Neal, 7. He brought veteran intensity all game. Looked dangerous on the attack. He was yet again James-on-the-spot setting up RNH’s goal. Almost scored on a gorgeous Draisaitl power play feed early in the third.

Alex Chiasson, 6. He played his usual hustling game. Busted hard down the wing to get off a shot in the second, with James Neal almost cashing in on the rebound.

Ethan Bear, 5. Failed to take out Matthew Highmore’s stick on Chicago’s second goal. He was run hard into the boards from behind and left the game in the second. When he returned, he got off a wicked point slapper, pretending he was a Blackhawks d-man for a second there. He was solid, but not inspired. More needed from him and other d-men on the attack.

Darnell Nurse, 2. He missed the net with a few seconds left, which summed up his night. Not sharp on his passes much of the game.  Bobbled the puck repeatedly. He was the victim of an iffy penalty call on a Drake Caggiula dive on Edmonton’s five minute power play in the second. He bobbled the puck in the second leading to a lightning Chicago blitz ending with Koskinen stopping Kane point blank. A terrible game, I’m sorry to say. Out of sync, like many of the Oilers.

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Crosby says Penguins window may be closing after Cup Qualifiers loss – NHL.com

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Sidney Crosby was left wondering what went wrong for the Pittsburgh Penguins and said their championship window may be closing after they were eliminated in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

“It’s a really hard one to evaluate,” the Penguins captain said Friday after a 2-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. “That’s the honest truth as far as trying to break this all down. It’s a tough one to evaluate overall.”

The Penguins, the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, were left with few answers after losing to the No. 12 seed in the best-of-5 series. Montreal advanced to the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and will play the winner of the round-robin game Saturday between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers in Toronto, the East hub city (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN1, SN360, TVAS).

Pittsburgh has a 12.5 percent chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery, to be held Monday.

The Penguins, who won the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017, lost to a team that was 24th in the NHL standings (31-31-9, .500 points percentage) when the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. No team had ever won an NHL postseason series finishing that low.

The Penguins have lost nine of their past 10 postseason games since defeating the Washington Capitals 3-1 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round on May 3, 2018. They were swept in a best-of-7 series against the New York Islanders in the first round last season.

“It’s an indication of how hard it is to win,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “You’re talking about three completely different seasons. Three completely different teams. I’m not sure that adds up.”

Video: Lehkonen, Price help Canadiens earn series win

But Crosby, who won championships with center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang in 2009, 2016 and 2017, said they might have limited opportunities to win a fourth.

“With age, it’s a possibility,” said Crosby, who turned 33 on Friday. “But I can only speak personally. Obviously, I would’ve liked to stay a little bit healthier and play a full season.”

Crosby had 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists) in 41 games this season.

Things looked promising when he returned from core muscle surgery with a goal and three assists Jan. 14 in a 7-3 win against the Minnesota Wild. The Penguins were 18-6-4 in 28 games without him.

But after moving into first place in the Metropolitan Division with a 5-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 18, Pittsburgh was 3-8-0 in its final 11 regular-season games.

Sullivan said anything that happened from January to March is unrelated to this series loss. He also said nothing has shaken his confidence in Crosby, Malkin (34 years old) and Letang (33).

“I think these guys are still elite players. I believe in this core,” Sullivan said. “They’re elite hockey players, and I still think there’s elite play left in them. So that’s just what I believe. Obviously, at some point, everybody’s window closes. So you could argue that with any team in the League. But I strongly believe that this group has a lot of elite hockey.”

Crosby scored three points (two goals, one assist) in the series. Malkin had an assist. Letang had no points.

On Thursday, Malkin said he wasn’t ready for this run to end. One day later, the Penguins managed 22 shots on goal and were shut out by Carey Price.

“I think we still believe in the core group of this team,” Letang said. “I think we have a lot left in the tank. We’re going to keep playing hard and give everything for the Penguins. I think we have to be better. This year, we didn’t play good enough to win, but I feel comfortable with the group of guys that we have.” 

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