Ronaldo, without a goal since December and dropped to the bench by interim manager Ralf Rangnick in some recent matches, answered his critics five minutes after halftime with a superb finish after being played in by Scott McTominay.
Brighton had been the better side before halftime with United again looking disjointed and lacking spark.
But their hopes of responding after falling behind were damaged when Lewis Dunk was sent off after a foul on Anthony Elanga, an initial yellow card being upgraded to red.
Even then United were unconvincing and Brighton’s Jakub Moder curled an effort against the crossbar before former United striker Danny Welbeck headed over a late chance.
Bruno Fernandes gave the scoreline a flattering look with a well-taken solo goal in stoppage time as United moved above West Ham United into fourth spot with 43 points from 25 games.
The opening 45 minutes were tough to watch for United fans with Brighton looking the more polished side.
But for a sensational save by David de Gea to deny Moder’s header, the boos at halftime would have been louder.
Ronaldo changed the mood, however, after the break.
He had gone six games without a goal, his driest spell at club level since a run of seven games without scoring between December 2008 and January 2009.
Some have even suggested his second spell at United was fizzling out but his goal against Brighton was vintage Ronaldo.
When Brighton lost possession and McTominay fed Ronaldo he swerved away from three defenders and with minimal backlift, smashed a shot past Brighton keeper Robert Sanchez.
“An amazing goal,” Rangnick said. “Not only an important one but an amazing goal and I think overall it was a good performance by Cristiano.
“Energetically, he was always trying to help team mates and I think in the last weeks definitely the best performance by him and a very, very important goal for us.”
Brighton got themselves in trouble again soon afterwards trying to play out from the back and Dunk was too casual, losing the ball to Elanga who he then dragged back.
Despite being down to 10 men Brighton continued to cause United problems and it was quite a relief for the hosts when Fernandes broke away from the halfway line and sat Sanchez down before tucking away a fine goal.
It was only ninth-placed Brighton’s second away league defeat of the season and manager Graham Potter could only marvel at Ronaldo’s quality.
“Punished by a world class finish from a world class player,” he said. “Cristiano Ronaldo is absolutely amazing, world-class. There’s nothing else to say with that.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Fallon and Toby Davis)
Doncic helps Mavericks stun Suns with dominant performance in Game 7 – Sportsnet.ca
PHOENIX (AP) — It was no surprise when Luka Doncic looked ready for Game 7, calmly draining his first three shots to give the Dallas Mavericks an early lead.
The stunner came over the next two hours: The top-seeded Phoenix Suns had no response.
Doncic scored 35 points, Spencer Dinwiddie added 30 and the Mavericks blitzed the Suns with a 123-90 knockout Sunday night, advancing to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2011.
“A lot of people said it would be a blowout,” Mavs coach Jason Kidd said with a grin. “They were right.”
Of course, it wasn’t Dallas that was supposed to win on Sunday. The home team won the first six games of the series, but the Mavs broke through, dominating in a hostile environment from start to finish. Conversely, it was an embarrassing no-show for the playoff-tested Suns — who advanced to the NBA Finals last season with a very similar roster.
“We played all season to be in this situation,” Suns guard Chris Paul said. “It didn’t work out for us.”
The fourth-seeded Mavericks travel to face Golden State in Game 1 on Wednesday.
“I can’t get this smile off my face,” Doncic said. “I’m just really happy. Honestly, I think we deserved this.”
Doncic earned the Mavs an early lead, making his first three shots, including two 3-pointers. That helped Dallas push to a 27-17 advantage in the first quarter and a whopping 57-27 cushion at the halftime break.
Doncic and Dinwiddie, who came off the bench, combined to pour in 48 of the Mavericks’ 57 points. Doncic’s 27 points in the first half matched the Suns’ team total.
Game 7 drama? Not in the desert.
“It’s still kind of shocking,” Dinwiddie said.
Simply put, the Suns looked overwhelmed by the pressure of a Game 7. They missed shots they usually make, made bad passes they usually don’t make and looked nothing like the team that won an NBA-best 64 games during the regular season.
“That group has a lot of character and integrity and I know how bad they wanted it,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We just could not execute tonight. Couldn’t make a shot early, that messed with us a little bit and Dallas played their tails of from start to finish.”
By halftime, many Suns fans were booing at the unsightly display.
The series might have been close but the individual games usually were not. Three of the first six games were decided by at least 20 points and none of the games came down to the final possession.
Game 7 followed a similar pattern, except the team doing all the damage was the road team. The Mavs led this one by 46 points.
Doncic was fantastic, making shots from all over the floor and finishing 12 of 19 from the field, including 6 of 11 on 3s. He also got some help: Dinwiddie was stellar in the first half with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range.
They became the eighth pair of teammates to score 30 points in a Game 7, the first since Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in 2002.
Meanwhile, Phoenix’s All-Star backcourt of Paul and Devin Booker was never a factor. The 37-year-old Paul is a 12-time All-Star that has done just about everything possible in the game except win a championship.
After this setback, it’s fair to wonder if there will be many more opportunities. Booker finished with 11 points and shot 3 of 14. Paul had 10 points and four assists. The Suns shot just 37.9% from the field.
“You could see some of the pressure was on them early,” Kidd said. “They missed some shots they normally make.”
Dallas beat the odds with the win: After the Celtics defeated the Bucks earlier Sunday, the home team was 110-33 (77 per cent) in NBA Game 7s.
It’s the second straight year the Suns have lost a playoff series after having a 2-0 lead. They won the first two games against the Bucks in the NBA Finals last season before losing four straight games.
Mavericks: Doncic and Dinwiddie were the first teammates to have at least 20 points in a half in Game 7 since Patrick Ewing and Allan Houston did it for the Knicks in 1997, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Suns: Phoenix shot just 6 of 23 (26.1 per cent) from the field in the first quarter. … The Suns hosted another sellout crowd at Footprint Center. Celebrities in attendance included baseball great Alex Rodriguez and rapper Lil’ Wayne. … The Suns are the second team in NBA history to win at least 64 games in the regular season and not make the conference finals. The other was the Mavericks in 2007. … Phoenix has still never won a title since coming into the league in 1968. … Deandre Ayton played just 18 minutes and finished with five points and four rebounds. When asked about Ayton’s lack of playing time, Williams responded “It’s internal.” Ayton did not speak to the media postgame.
After three Game 7s on Saturday, the thrilling 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs continue Sunday with another pair of win-or-go-home matchups. Those final two games will finalize the second round, making them must-see TV for hockey fans.
To close the first round, the Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames will battle at the Scotiabank Saddledome at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN2 and on fuboTV (try for free). The series has been a goalie showcase thus far, as Dallas’ Jake Oettinger is No. 2 in save percentage in these playoffs while Calgary’s Jacob Markstrom is second in goals against average. A Stars win would send them to the second round for the first time since their Stanley Cup final run in 2020, and Calgary is seeking its first playoff series win since 2015.
In an absolutely thrilling game, Artemi Panarin sent a shot to the right side of Tristan Jarry’s net to put the Rangers into the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Panarin was assisted by Adam Fox and Mika Zibanejad on the overtime game winner. Zibanejad was key for the Rangers’ success late in the game as his goal at the 14:15 mark in the third period was what sent it to overtime. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan was 3-0 in Game 7s coming into this game. His team finished the night with a 45-30 shot on goal advantage. Sidney Crosby did play in the game, after missing Game 6, and recorded an assist in the loss.
Follow here for all the live updates of what should be an extremely fun NHL Sunday night.
Maple Leafs show up but bow out: ‘This one hurts more’ – Sportsnet.ca
TORONTO – Better team. Better opponent. Same old devastating finish.
Sixth time’s the harm.
Through lumped throats and hushed voices, while shot-blocking tears and puck-battling pain, one by one the leaders of the Toronto Maple Leafs stood at that familiar podium and tried to describe the opening of an old wound that seared fresh again.
“Hard to fathom,” John Tavares said. “It stings. It hurts. Disappointing…. Such a fine line.”
Auston Matthews: “We’re right there…. We’re right there.”
Mitchell Marner: “We’re getting sick and tired of feeling like this.”
GM Kyle Dubas — the architect of this fabulously talented offensive core forever stuck on three playoff wins — has often noted that success is seldom a straight line.
But on another night like this, with hung heads and sad handshakes, when these great players fall to a ridiculous 0-9 in chances to eliminate an opponent, success feels like a flatline.
“This one hurts more,” head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Lots of reasons to be proud, yet lots of reasons to be devastated and upset.
“We’re a lot closer than it appears.”
The best version of these Toronto Maple Leafs is stuck with the same result.
They lost a 2-1 heartbreaker on home ice to the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday and once again saw their post-season end in seven games or less.
The difference between this edition, this defeat, is they showed up and threw everything they could muster at the two-time champions. To think, Toronto never trailed in the series until the final buzzer.
The flip side of that fact is the Leafs led the set 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2. Given three cracks, they never seized a stranglehold. They dug a ditch and skated, albeit valiantly, from behind in games 5, 6, and 7. Hardly a smart recipe against the best third-period closeout squad in the NHL.
Look no further than Tampa out-shot-blocking Toronto 26-13 in last-goal-wins Game 7.
The Lightning have been doing everything imaginable to hang on over the past 13 days. The Maple Leafs everything they can to bust through.
And now they’ll show up at training camp less scared but more scarred.
“The Leafs have a helluva team,” said Tampa’s Jon Cooper, who oversees one himself. “And they’ve been knocking at the door for so long. That’s why such a big deal has been made about them not advancing in a series — because they are a really good team.
“I think they’ve grown as a group. I think their stars are stars. And they’ve got a really good team game and coach does a helluva job.”
Indeed, heads should be held high. Or higher, at least.
“They’ve got all the pieces,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “That’s one of the toughest series we’ve played.
“They have everything. It’s just, we have everything, too.”
For this era of Leafs, this sick-and-tired result — Round One and done — tastes familiarly awful.
Unlike series-deciders of the past, these Maple Leafs were fast, engaged and aggressive from the drop of the puck. They looked different. Crisper.
And their long-suffering fans, loud as ever, funneled that energy back. Even when Nick Paul — that former Ottawa Senator who had been snakebit for six games — opened the scoring by banging in a Ross Colton rebound off the rush.
Toronto’s Tavares appeared to tie the game 1-1 in the second period, but his clean shot was waved off due to a Justin Holl pick that gave the captain extra space in the slot.
Rush-jumping defenceman Morgan Rielly finally solved a dialed-in Andrei Vasilevskiy by finishing off a beautiful passing sequence by Marner and Matthews to knot the game for real.
“Both teams have knocked the other on the ass a little bit. Both teams have picked themselves up and continued to go at it,” Keefe said.
“We’ve been right there with the back-to-back champs, and our guys have grown a ton of confidence in knowing they belong in this moment.”
’Twas the Series of the Counterpunch.
The Team That Won’t Die versus the Team That Can’t Kill.
Naturally, Paul struck again, restoring the visitors’ lead with a determined deke through T.J. Brodie.
“It might not be the big guy. It might be somebody that you’ve never heard of doing something that takes us to the next level,” a prescient Corey Perry had said on Game 7 morning.
“These are where names are made. You show up for a Game 7, you’re going to be remembered.”
Toronto pushed, shot, got desperate, and came up empty again. The Leafs had no choice but to shake the hand, bend the knee, and tip the cap.
“How they defend as a team and how they prioritize defending and how they block shots and how they commit to give you nothing,” Keefe said. “That’s championship hockey.”
The 2021-22 Toronto Maple Leafs should be remembered as a group that charged the throne. One that took a step in maturity, aggression and confidence — if not in the bracket.
Tragically, for this starved city, they will also be remembered as yet another skilled bunch who, ultimately, failed to accomplish the thing when it mattered most.
One that must look a little different come training camp.
“We had a lot of respect in that line from that team, which is nice to see. It was a much different tone, much different feeling of respect from the other side than we experienced previously. We’re certainly earning respect,” Keefe said.
“But… we’re not in the respect game. We’re in the winning game.”
Fox’s Fast 5
• Brayden Point fell awkwardly into the boards in the first period, twisting his right leg while outracing Mark Giordano to a puck. In terrible pain, the star forward immediately left the game. Point tried bravely to take a shift in Period 2 but could barely skate. Something to keep an eye on for the Battle of Florida.
• The Maple Leafs have scored zero power-play goals in their past seven games when attempting to clinch a playoff series. They had three opportunities to end that drought Saturday and came up empty.
• Matthews never registered more than five hits in a single regular-season game. He threw seven hits in Game 5, nine in Game 6, and six in Game 7. He left it on the line.
• A tidy bit of business by Julien BriseBois picking up rental Paul from the Senators for a fourth-round pick plus pending RFA Mathieu Joseph.
After 14 points in 21 regular-season games for the Bolts, Paul has been noticeable every night in his playoff debut. He had two even-strength assists and 10 shots prior to registering his first two career playoff goals, including the series-winner, Saturday.
• Vasilevskiy’s ridiculous streak of five consecutive shutouts in Tampa closeout games is over. With the series on the line, he was one save better than Campbell in Game 6 overtime and one save better in Game 7. That’s the difference.
Campbell’s series save percentage: .897.
Vasilevskiy’s series save percentage: .897.
“No goalie is immune to giving up goals. [The Rangers’ Igor] Shesterkin is on the MVP ballot, and he’s looked human some of these games,” Cooper said.
“All I know about Vasi is, when the lights are shining the brightest, he seems to play his best.”
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