VANCOUVER — The game was decided before the opposition got its first shot on goal.
“We came out, feeling good going into this game,” said Canucks winger J.T. Miller, who tallied the game winner with three minutes left in the opening frame. “I thought we had the right start.
“Obviously, they didn’t get a shot in the first period, so you can’t get a better start than that.”
“First period was great,” said goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who made 28 saves in the game’s final 40 minutes. “We had some power plays and scored two goals and didn’t let one shot on net and kept them outside through the first period.”
Jake Virtanen, Miller, Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser scored for the Canucks (18-15-4), and Tyler Myers had two assists. Jake Guentzel replied for the Penguins (21-11-4).
The game got off to a sluggish start, with 10:24 elapsing in the first period before Antoine Roussel recorded the game’s first shot on goal.
Soon after, the Canucks earned a long 5-on-3 power play. Dominik Simon received a double-minor for high-sticking Adam Gaudette, before Brandon Tanev was whistled for holding 29 seconds later.
Miller appeared to give the Canucks the lead, but the goal was called back due to a coach’s challenge for offside.
Jake Virtanen eventually opened the scoring with 4:50 left in the first, on a slap shot from the left boards that beat Murray high to the glove side. With the Canucks still on the power play, Miller doubled Vancouver’s lead just 1:50 later, picking up his 14th of the year by tipping an Oscar Fantenberg shot over Murray’s glove.
It was his first goal in seven games, his longest drought since joining the Canucks this season.
“When they disallowed (the first goal), I was like, `Oh this is just not my month,’ said Miller. “It’s nice to see one go in, for sure.”
In his first start since December 7, Murray made 10 saves on the night for Pittsburgh.
“It feels like forever since I played but like I said, it is what it is,” Murray said. “I thought we got a little bit unlucky there in the first period with some of those calls. That’s a tough situation to be in, taking all those penalties, but we did our best and we tried to battle through it. If we had a better first period, I think we would have had a better chance.”
In the second, the Penguins dominated play, outshooting Vancouver 20-6. Guentzel’s goal came off a rebound with 4:32 left to play, while Gaudette was serving a high-sticking double minor.
Less than a minute later, the Canucks replied, with Pettersson roofing a rebound high over Murray’s glove after a shot by Tyler Myers. It was Pettersson’s 17th goal of the year and his fifth in his last six games.
In the third, the teams traded power-play chances before Boeser recorded his 13th of the year, converting a feed from Pettersson from behind the net. “I dumped the puck and I tried to forecheck,” said Pettersson. “They cleared it, but Brock made a good glove save, passed it down to me and I just tried to create space for Brock to be able to shoot the puck.”
The goal was Boeser’s second in the last four games.
Vancouver finished the night 2-for-5 with the man advantage, while Pittsburgh was 1-for-5.
NOTES: Saturday marked the first time the Canucks held their opponents to no shots in a period since April 5, 2018. Now 2-1-0 on their homestand, Vancouver will host the Edmonton Oilers on Monday before breaking for Christmas. Saturday marked Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan’s 500th career game as an NHL head coach. Pittsburgh’s loss snapped a four-game winning streak. Their next game will be on Friday in Nashville. The Canucks held their annual `Jersey Off Our Backs’ night on Saturday.
Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s
The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.
Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.
Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.
Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.
He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.
Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.
“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.
“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”
Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.
(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)
Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills
It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.
The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.
Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.
Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.
Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.
A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.
Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.
Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.
Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.
If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.
Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.
When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.
Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards
Australia broke with tradition to hold its swimming trials just six weeks before the start of the 2020 Olympics and former world champion Giaan Rooney said the move could reap rich rewards in Tokyo after disappointments at London and Rio.
Australia has typically held its trials up to six months before an Olympics but that gap has been drastically cut this year with swimmers vying for Tokyo spots this week in Adelaide.
Rooney, who won individual world titles at Fukuoka and Montreal and a relay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said Australia is gearing up for a much improved Games after its swimmers flopped at Rio and London.
“I think we needed to make it work,” she told Reuters. “The shift started about a year ago to bring the trials into line with the rest of the world and qualify five or six weeks before.
“In sport and swimming, six months is a long time,” Rooney added. “From a coaching perspective, it’s much better to know you have chosen the team in form.”
After winning five gold medals at Sydney 2000 and seven in Athens, the Australian team was rocked by accusations of disruptive behaviour by some of its top sprinters at the 2012 Olympics.
Australia won just one gold medal in the London pool and three in Rio five years ago.
Australia knew something had to be done if it was to close the gap on the powerful Americans and moving the trials is part of the strategy.
“I think it’s to make your swimmers more resilient to change,” Rooney said.
“In the USA they get to race every week regardless of illness or breakups and under all circumstances. Nothing rattles them.
“Australia doesn’t have that racing continuity. This is about making sure you are prepared for anything. I think our swimmers are more resilient than they have been in the past decade, COVID is part of this.”
Rooney said there might even be an “upside” for Australia with the Olympics postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, with the emergence of swimmers like teenager Kaylee McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday.
“We are now talking about athletes who are not only going to make the Olympics but are medal chances,” Rooney said.
“We wouldn’t have been talking about her this time last year. She might not have been ready for a position on the team. She is now a legitimate gold medal chance in Tokyo once she gets there.”
For all her confidence about Australia’s performance in Tokyo, Rooney was wary of making predictions about a gold rush for her compatriots.
“I think this will be a more successful Olympics for us than Rio in the pool but individual goal medals will still be difficult to come by,” said the 38-year-old.
“The biggest challenge is to make the jump from minor medals to gold.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)