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Rams get better of division rivals, toppling Seahawks to advance – TSN

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SEATTLE — A lot of Cam Akers churning yards on the ground and mostly a great Rams defence has Los Angeles moving on in the NFC playoffs at the expense of division-foe Seattle.

Akers rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown, Darious Williams returned Russell Wilson’s interception 42 yards for a score, and the Rams beat the Seahawks 30-20 in the NFC wild-card playoff game Saturday.

The best defence in the league during the regular season carried its dominance into the playoffs — even while missing unanimous All-Pro tackle Aaron Donald for much of the second half. No team was better at limiting yards or points than the Rams (11-6) and they continued to torment Wilson and the Seahawks (12-5).

Seattle’s quarterback was under a siege from the defensive front and a secondary that minus one play never let DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett break loose. Donald, before leaving with a rib injury, and Jalen Ramsey were superb. But so were other role players such as Troy Reeder, Jordan Fuller and Leonard Floyd.

Floyd had two of the Rams’ five sacks. Two of the others belonged to Donald. The Rams allowed just 278 total yards and 11 first downs.

It added up to sending the Rams into next week’s divisional playoff round, likely at top-seeded Green Bay unless Chicago upsets New Orleans.

Williams’ interception was his third of the season against Wilson after picking him off twice in Los Angeles in November. He jumped a wide receiver screen intended for Metcalf and returned it untouched to give the Rams a 13-3 lead midway through the second quarter.

Akers added a 5-yard TD run just before halftime for a 20-10 lead. It proved enough with a Seattle offence that was disjointed and confused nearly from the start.

Wilson had one of his worst playoff performances. He was 11 of 27 for 174 yards. Wilson connected with Metcalf on a pair of TDs: 51 yards in the first half off a broken play, and a 12-yard TD with 2:28 left to make the score more respectable.

Seattle never played with the lead and was 2 of 14 on third downs. It’s first home playoff game in four years was a dud without its raucous home crowd, and the Seahawks saw their 10-game home playoff win streak snapped.

Their last home playoff loss came in January 2005 to the St. Louis Rams.

The Rams pulled off the upset without a healthy quarterback for more the three quarters of the game. John Wolford started for the second straight week but suffered a neck injury when he dived head first in the first quarter and was hit in the helmet by Jamal Adams’ shoulder. Wolford was taken to a local hospital as a precaution.

Jared Goff took over less than two weeks after undergoing surgery on his right thumb; he was injured in the Week 16 loss to Seattle. Goff didn’t do anything spectacular but also avoided major mistakes.

Goff was 9 of 19 for 155 yards. He capped the victory with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods with 4:46 left after Seattle’s D.J. Reed fumbled a punt.

Akers, the Rams’ rookie ball carrier, was outstanding after not playing two weeks ago. Akers had the best rushing day by a Rams running back since Marshall Faulk went for 159 against Philadelphia in January 2002.

The Rams finished with 164 yards rushing.

INJURIES

Donald left in the third quarter with a rib injury. After going in and out of the locker room a couple of times he was a spectator most of the second half. WR Cooper Kupp limped off grabbing at his right knee in the closing minutes.

Wolford was 3 of 6 passing for 29 yards and had one run for 2 yards before getting hurt.

UP NEXT

The Rams will most likely play at the Packers next week. Seattle will head into an off-season filled with questions after winning the division but experiencing another early playoff exit.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Defending champion Kerri Einarson secures Scotties playoff berth – Sportsnet.ca

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CALGARY — Kerri Einarson took a significant step toward defending her Canadian women’s curling championship by skipping her team to a playoff berth Saturday.

Einarson’s foursome out of Manitoba’s Gimli Curling Club beat Quebec’s Laurie St-Georges 7-4 to get to a record of 10-1 with a draw remaining Saturday night.

“We’re definitely just focusing on ourselves and what we need to do,” Einarson said. “We’re in control of our own destiny.”

Ontario’s Rachel Homan (9-2), Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones (8-3) and Alberta’s Laura Walker (8-3) were in contention for the two remaining playoff spots heading into the final draw of the championship round.

The top seed emerging from the championship round earns a bye to Sunday evening’s final, while second and third square off in the afternoon semifinal.

A tie for third would be solved by a tiebreaker game in the morning.

The 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts is one of four Curling Canada events to be held in a spectator-free, controlled environment at the WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary.

The COVID-19 pandemic thwarting many provincial and territorial playdowns prompted Curling Canada to add two wild-card teams to the Hearts field for a total of 18, which in turn shrunk the playoff window.

Instead of the traditional four teams in a Page playoff, only three advance.

Einarson is attempting the first back-to-back Hearts titles since Rachel Homan in 2013 and 2014.

Sunday’s victor earns $100,000 in prize money and a return trip to the 2022 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont., as Team Canada.

The winner doesn’t have a world championship, however, in which to wear the Maple Leaf.

The March 19-28 tournament in Schaffhausen, Switzerland was cancelled by the World Curling Federation because of the pandemic.

The 2020 world championship in Prince George, B.C., was called off for the same reason, so Einarson wasn’t able to represent Canada there.

Six-time champion Jennifer Jones of Manitoba thumped Ontario’s Homan 9-1 on Saturday afternoon before facing Einarson at night.

Jones had struggled the previous evening in a loss to Alberta, but the skip and her teammates were on their game against three-time champion Homan.

“We definitely regrouped and decided we needed to step it up a little bit,” Jones said. “Last night’s loss doesn’t impact our confidence at all. I think that just comes with experience.”

It wasn’t the first time that Jones’ lead Lisa Weagle faced former skip Homan, but it was the first time at a Tournament of Hearts.

Homan, third Emma Miskew and Weagle won three Canadian titles and a world title together. They also represented Canada in the 2018 Winter Olympics with Joanne Courtney.

Homan dropped Weagle from her lineup last year and replaced her with Sarah Wilkes.

Weagle met her former teammates Nov. 12 in an Okotoks, Alta., event. Homan won the game 7-1.

There was a time when Weagle might have felt extra satisfaction in beating Homan for the first time, but the all-star lead says that time has passed.

“If you’d asked me that a few months ago, or over the summer, probably,” Weagle said.

“Today, I was really just out there playing for me and I was playing for my team. I just wanted to find a new level of excellence and play really well and I feel like that’s what we’ve been doing here.

“It wasn’t really my focus today that we were playing them. I was definitely excited for the game, but I was focused more on myself.”

Quebec, Saskatchewan’s Sherry Anderson, and wild-card teams skipped by Beth Peterson and Chelsea Carey are out of contention with their fifth losses.

Alberta’s Walker stayed in the hunt with a 9-4 win over Saskatchewan.

The host province was to take on Carey’s Wild Card One and Homan faced Saskatchewan on Saturday evening.

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Surging Oilers lay an egg against Maple Leafs on big stage – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON — They had a game like this one coming, the Edmonton Oilers. But man…

Couldn’t they have saved this effort for a Monday night? Or a Wednesday?

In the first of a three-game set at Rogers Place against the first-place Toronto Maple Leafs, the Oilers just didn’t have enough going to beat a good team on Hockey Night in Canada. There were chances, but very few of the dangerous or close-in variety as Leafs backup Jack Campbell was steady, but never needed to be spectacular in posting a 4-0 shutout.

“We just didn’t deserve to win this game and that’s that,” said centre Leon Draisaitl, who like all of his teammates was somewhat less than awesome in this game. “It’s pretty obvious that they just out-battled us.”

Truly, this was just a lacklustre effort on Edmonton’s part, not nearly enough to beat the best team in the North. The challengers did not even put a scare into Toronto, which pulls six points ahead of Edmonton.

“We got beat,” said a dead-honest head coach Dave Tippett. “We weren’t sharp enough, and they played a strong game. We weren’t sharp enough to win. So we got beat.”

Coming into this showdown, the Oilers had been on a wicked heater, winning 11 of 13, eight of their past nine, and five in a row. They’ve been celebrating a new hero every night for some time now, getting superior goaltending, goals from their third and fourth lines, and plenty of points from league leaders Connor McDavid and Draisaitl.

On this night, Tippett played every card in his hand, rolled four lines for most of the evening, and still kept coming up empty. It was simply an off night for Draisaitl, McDavid couldn’t break free after a first-period look didn’t go in, and the depth players just could not find a way to deliver.

“We couldn’t really get to their net front. We got shots on net but they weren’t very dangerous, or any second attempts,” said Draisaitl, who didn’t agree that the Oilers were due for a stinker. “No, but I guess every team has an off night every once in a while. I guess tonight was ours.”

How bad was it?

• Darnell Nurse, who entered the game with the second-best plus-minus among NHL defencemen at plus-15, went minus-3

• McDavid played 20:15, but had only one shot on net, zero points and was also minus-3

• Draisaitl’s wingers, Dominik Kahun and Kailer Yamamoto, combined for one shot on goal on a rare quiet night for the distributing centre.

• Goalie Mike Smith, who was 6-0 with a 1.73 goals-against average and .944 save percentage, looked merely mortal, giving up four goals on 29 Leafs shots. No doubt Mikko Koskinen will get the start on Monday in Round 2 against Toronto.

Perhaps the most telltale sign that the Oilers weren’t taking the play to Toronto on nearly enough occasions? The Leafs never took a penalty, the first time all season the Oilers power play did not hop over the boards in a game.

“We didn’t earn any power-play time tonight, it’s pretty simple,” Draisaitl said. “We didn’t work as hard. Need to regroup — back at it in two days.”

There was one power play in the entire game — a Kris Russell holding call — and William Nylander buried his eighth of the season. It turned out to be the game-winner, scored late in the first period.

Who would have predicted that?

“You have to use it as a lesson, just like some of those games we were winning in different ways,” Tippett said. “We didn’t capitalize on anything, couldn’t get a kill on a penalty, and we chased the game the rest of the night.”

You can’t say much when the hottest team in the NHL since Jan. 30 loses one. Even if it is a disappointing one to lose, against Toronto on Hockey Night.

“It’s a tight league. Every night is going to be difficult,” observed defenceman Caleb Jones. “But the one thing we can do consistently is win battles, win one-on-ones. We were losing some of those tonight, myself included.”

The same teams play here on Monday, and then again on Wednesday.

Said Jones: “We’re already looking forward to the rematch.”

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Canadiens @ Jets: Game thread, rosters, lines, and how to watch – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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Montreal Canadiens @ Winnipeg Jets

How to watch

Start time: 10:00 PM EST / 7:00 PM PST
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live, Sportsnet Now

The Canadiens could get discouraged by getting handed another loss on Thursday night, surrendering the final five goals of the game to see a 3-1 lead become a 6-3 loss. Or they could latch on to the fact that they played a solid opening 20 minutes, when everything Dominique Ducharme had instructed them to do before the game had a positive effect as they headed back to the locker room with a 2-0 lead.

It was surely an easy video session for the coaches to prepare the team to face the Jets again tonight. Replicate the first period, avoid what you did in the final 40 at all costs.

In terms of on-ice work, the Canadiens spent all of today’s practice working on the power play. Given that it has slipped from being in first place early in the season to now 18th, some work was necessary. We’ll see tonight if the effort will pay off so the man advantage can be a difference in the game.

By the sounds of things, they’ll be trying to get things turned about without Josh Anderson, who could miss his first start of the year. Expect Jake Evans to draw back in for a formation that looks more like what the team had ben running before the last game.

Montreal Canadiens projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Jonathan Drouin Nick Suzuki Tyler Toffoli
Tomas Tatar Phillip Danault Brendan Gallagher
Artturi Lehkonen Jesperi Kotkaniemi Joel Armia
Paul Byron Jake Evans Corey Perry

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Ben Chiarot Shea Weber
Joel Edmundson Jeff Petry
Brett Kulak Alexander Romanov

Goaltenders

Starter Backup
Starter Backup
Jake Allen Carey Price

Injured: Josh Anderson
Scratched: Victor Mete

Winnipeg Jets projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Pierre-Luc Dubois Mark Scheifele Blake Wheeler
Kyle Connor Paul Stastny Nikolaj Ehlers
Andrew Copp Adam Lowry Mason Appleton
Mathieu Perreault Nate Thompson Trevor Lewis

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Derek Forbort Neal Pionk
Josh Morrissey Nathan Beaulieu
Sami Niku Dylan DeMelo

Goaltenders

Starter Backup
Starter Backup
Connor Hellebuyck Laurent Brossoit

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