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Steven Stamkos' comeback is something to admire – CBC.ca

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This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

Steven Stamkos made a surprising and dramatic return

Before last night, the injured Tampa Bay Lightning star hadn’t played since Feb. 25. That was 210 days, a core-muscle surgery and the declaration of a global pandemic ago. He’d finally started practising with his team again, but Stamkos still seemed very iffy to suit up before the end of the Stanley Cup final. And pretty much no one expected him to for Game 3.

So what a surprise when, about half an hour before puck drop, word arrived that Stamkos was taking warmups. And then he actually played. And then, on his third shift, he burned a Dallas defenceman along the boards, carried the puck in off the wing and zipped one into the top corner to put Tampa up 2-0. It was vintage Stamkos, and maybe the coolest moment of the playoffs. Watch it here as part of Rob Pizzo’s two-minute game recap.

Unfortunately, his comeback didn’t last long. Stamkos played five shifts for a total of 2:47 of ice time before appearing to be in discomfort on the bench and leaving the game. He didn’t play again, but he sat on the bench and took some quick twirls on the ice during stoppages. Tampa didn’t need him anyway: they led 5-1 after two periods and autopiloted to a 5-2 win that gave them a 2-1 series lead over Dallas.

We’re not supposed to glorify playing through pain anymore — as the NHL was reminded this week when it got dragged on social media for posting a (since-deleted) video showing guys blocking shots with the message that the “price” is “worth it.” There’s a dark side to that type of mythology. But there’s also beauty in what Stamkos did last night, sacrificing his personal well-being to help his team accomplish a goal they’ve been working their whole lives toward.

If the Lightning go on to win the Cup, Stamkos will join the pantheon of athletes who made dramatic returns from injury and helped their teams win a championship by playing hurt. Hockey fans who weren’t even alive at the time talk about the Leafs’ Bobby Baun scoring the OT winner in Game 6 of the 1964 Cup final on a broken ankle. Willis Reed is still revered for limping out of the tunnel to help the Knicks win Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. Curt Schilling has become a problematic figure, but his bloody sock will always be part of Red Sox lore as a symbol of his pitching through an ankle injury to help Boston snap its 86-year World Series title drought in 2004. One of the greatest moments in Olympic history is Kerri Strug’s sticking her final vault on a sprained ankle to seal gold for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Kirk Gibson’s “I don’t believe what I just saw!” pinch-hit walkoff homer on one good leg in Game 1 of the ’88 World Series still gives me chills every time I watch it.

Today, we better understand and empathize with the physical, mental and emotional toll that moments like these can take on the people who performed them. And player safety is a much bigger concern than in decades past. Those are good things. But we don’t have to deny that witnessing great athletes push their bodies and minds to the limit is one of the things that makes sports so compelling.

WATCH | Stamkos strikes early for Lightning in Game 3 win:

Playing in his first game since February 25th, Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos found the back of the net on just his second shift to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead over the Stars. 1:10

Quickly…

Canada lost a French Open player, but also gained one. Milos Raonic announced today he’s skipping the final Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year, which begins Sunday. At 20th, he’s Canada’s second-highest-ranked men’s singles player, behind No. 10 Denis Shapovalov. Canada now has four players in the men’s tournament: Shapovalov, 21st-ranked Felix Auger-Aliassime, 76th-ranked Vasek Pospisil and 179th-ranked Steven Diez. The latter got in today by winning his third consecutive qualifying match. Two Canadians are in the women’s singles draw: 100th-ranked Leylah Annie Fernandez and 168th-ranked Genie Bouchard. No. 7 Bianca Andreescu hasn’t played since suffering a knee injury 11 months ago and announced this week she’s taking the rest of the year off. Read more about the Canadians who are in or out of the French Open here.

The Blue Jays can clinch a playoff spot tonight. If they beat the Yankees in the finale of their four-game series, the Jays will officially be back in the post-season for the first time in four years. Even if they lose, a spot in this year’s expanded playoff tournament is still all but assured. The Jays’ magic number is 1, meaning they need just one more win or one more loss by the team right behind them in the wild-card standings (currently the Los Angeles Angels) to clinch. The odds of Toronto making the playoffs are 99.8 per cent, according to ESPN’s model. The regular season ends Sunday. Read more about the Jays’ 14-1 win over New York last night here.

Tyler Herro was the hero of last night’s NBA playoff game. The 20-year-old Miami rookie came off the bench to score a game-high 37 points (17 in the fourth quarter) in another narrow Heat win over Boston that put them up 3-1 in the Eastern Conference final. Only Magic Johnson has scored more points in an NBA playoff game at age 20 or younger. Tonight at 9 p.m. ET is Game 4 of the Western final between the Lakers and Nuggets. Canadian Jamal Murray will try to follow up his 28-point, 12-assist performance from Denver’s Game 3 win.

Both WNBA semifinals resume tonight. Minnesota, which is the only remaining team with Canadians on it, trails Seattle 1-0 in their best-of-five-series. Canada’s Bridget Carleton had 14 points and four assists in the Lynx’s 88-86 loss. Top-seeded Las Vegas and Connecticut are tied 1-1 after Vegas evened the series on Tuesday night. 

And finally…

A Canadian soccer international hopes their coming out will help young trans people. Quinn, who goes only by that name or Quinny now and no longer uses Rebecca Quinn, decided to share their true identity in an Instagram post earlier this month. Part of the reason, they say, was a desire to be “a visible figure for young trans folks or people questioning their gender, people exploring their gender. Because, unfortunately, when I was growing up, and even going through that process of figuring out myself in college, I didn’t have those people in the public sphere to look up to really.” Quinn also hopes to show others how “to be better allies” to trans people. Quinn, 25, has made 59 appearances for the Canadian women’s national team, scoring five goals. They were a member of the 2016 Olympic squad that won bronze, as well as the 2019 World Cup team. Read more about Quinn here.

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Kershaw shines against Rays to put Dodgers back on course toward World Series glory – CBC.ca

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Clayton Kershaw’s glittering career lacked two of the most satisfying accomplishments: a win deep in the World Series and a championship ring.

He took the mound Sunday night with the Los Angeles Dodgers shaken, and Kershaw steadied his team with a gritty performance, plus one particular delivery home that will long be remembered.

Now with one more victory, the Dodgers would claim their first title since 1988.

Kershaw beat the Tampa Bay Rays for the second time in six days, escaping a fourth-inning jam with a quick reaction throw to cut down Manuel Margot trying for a rare steal of home, and the Dodgers held on for a 4-2 win and a 3-2 Series lead.

“Well, it’s happened to me before, at least one other time that I can remember,” Kershaw said. “Carlos Gomez tried it against me in Houston one time. You know, I work on that with the first basemen.”

Max Muncy, looking on from first, was ready.

“I was fortunate enough to see one or two guys break hard, so I knew what to expect when he broke,” Muncy said. “I sprinted toward Kersh and said, `Home! Home! Home!'”

Mookie Betts and Corey Seager sparked a two-run first inning, and Joc Pederson and Muncy homered off long-ball prone Tyler Glasnow, whose 100 mph heat got burned.

Joc Pederson of the Dodgers celebrates a solo home run in the second inning. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

His scraggly dark brown hair dangling with sweat, Kershaw was cruising when Dodgers manager Dave Roberts removed the 32-year-old left-hander in favour of Dustin May after getting two outs on two pitches in the sixth inning.

The mostly pro-Dodgers fans in the pandemic-reduced crowd of 11,437 booed when Roberts walked to the mound, well aware of what happened with the bullpen the previous night, when closer Kenley Jansen wasted a ninth-inning lead in a stunning 8-7 loss.

Those boos quickly turned to cheers as the LA rooters saluted Kershaw, a three-time NL Cy Young Award winner, as he walked to the dugout. Kershaw improved to 13-12 in post-season play, including 4-1 this year.

May, Victor Gonzalez and Blake Treinen combined for two-hit scoreless relief. May got five outs, Gonzalez stranded a pair of runners in the eighth by retiring Randy Arozarena and Brandon Lowe on flyouts, and Treinen got three outs to become the fourth Dodgers pitcher with a post-season save.

“Kersh, a lot of credit goes to him for what we’ve been able to do in this World Series,” Treinen said. “There’s a tough narrative on him. He’s a phenomenal pitcher on the biggest stage.”

Los Angeles starter Clayton Kershaw pitched five and-two-third innings on Sunday, setting a new mark for post-season strikeouts with his 206th and then 207th K to become the all-time leader. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Margot singled leading off the ninth, but Austin Meadows struck out, Joey Wendle flied out and Willy Adames struck out.

Thirty of the previous 46 teams to win Game 5 for a 3-2 lead have won the title, but just six of the last 14. Teams that wasted 3-2 leads include last year’s Houston Astros.

Los Angeles did not have an obvious candidate to start Game 6 on Tuesday, when Game 2 winner Blake Snell starts for Tampa Bay,

Walker Buehler, the 26-year-old right-hander who has supplanted Kershaw as the Dodgers’ ace, is waiting in the wings for a a Game 7, like a Hollywood understudy ready for a leading role.

With a 175-76 regular-season record, five ERA titles and an MVP, Kershaw ranks alongside Dodgers greats Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser. He won World Series openers in 2017 and again this year, but he faltered in Game 5 in both 2017 and 2018 and has never won a title.

Tampa’s Randy Arozarena hits an RBI-single during the third inning. (Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press )

A Dallas native pitching near his offseason home, Kershaw shut down the Rays on two runs and five hits with six strikeouts and two walks. He is 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA in 15 2/3 innings over two starts in this Series with 14 strikeouts and three walks. Kershaw also set a career post-season record with 207 strikeouts, two more than Justin Verlander’s previous mark.

Provided a 3-0 lead, Kershaw allowed Tampa Bay to pull within a run in the third when Kevin Kiermaier singled, Yandy Diaz tripled on a ball down the right-field line that skipped past Betts and Arozarena’s single. The 25-year-old Cuban rookie asked for the ball after his record 27th post-season hit, one more than San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval in 2014.

“I didn’t have my stuff like I did in Game 1,” Kershaw said. “My slider wasn’t there as good as it was, so fortunate to get through there.”

Kershaw escaped a first-and-third, no-outs jam in the fourth after Margot walked leading off, stole second and continued to third when the ball got away from second baseman Chris Taylor for his second big error in two games. Hunter Renfroe also walked, but Wendle popped out and Adames struck out.

Manuel Margot of the Rays is tagged attempting to steal home by Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes during the fourth inning. (Tony Gutierrez/Associates Press )

With Kiermaier at the plate, Margot bolted for home as Kershaw raised both hands over his head in his instantly recognizable stretch position. While many pitchers might have panicked and perhaps balked, Kershaw coolly and quickly stepped off the rubber and calmly threw to catcher Austin Barnes.

Barnes grabbed the ball and got his mitt down on the Margot’s outstretched hand while the runner’s helmet tumbled off and cut his own lip.

Margot went on his own, manager Kevin Cash said, and became the first runner caught stealing home in the Series since Minnesota’s Shane Mack in Game 4 in 2001.

Globe Life Field’s roof was closed on the cool, rainy night, as it was for Game 3, and the visiting Dodgers broke on top within 10 pitches against Glasnow, a lanky 6-foot-8 right-hander who appeared to be overthrowing.

Glasnow allowed four runs and six hits in five innings, leaving him 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA in the Series. The two home runs raised his total to a record nine in a single post-season.

Betts doubled on a 99 mph fastball leading off and scored two pitches later when Seager pulled a curveball into right field for a single and his 19th post-season RBI. This Series joined 1932 as the only years with runs in four straight top of the first innings.

Randy Arozarena, left, of the Rays gets tagged at second by Chris Taylor of the Los Angeles Dodgers during the third inning. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Seager advanced on a wild pitch, Muncy drew his 20th walk of the post-season and after a two-out wild pitch, Cody Bellinger hit a grounder that was stopped with no play by Lowe, the second baseman positioned on the right field grass. Seager scored the Dodgers’ 58th run with two outs this post-season and became the first player to cross the plate in each of the first five Series games since the Yankees’ Derek Jeter in 2000.

Glasnow tied a Series record with two wild pitches in the 34-pitch inning and set the mark with three in the game.

Pederson hit a 428-foot opposite-field drive to left on a fastball at the letters for a 3-0 lead in the second.

Glasnow retired eight straight before Muncy homered in the fifth to make it 4-2. He became the record ninth Dodgers player to homer in the post-season, one more than the 1989 Oakland Athletics of Bash Brothers fame.

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Wilson runs wild before injury, 49ers crush Pats – TSN

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Jimmy Garoppolo was once considered to be the man in waiting to take over at quarterback in New England for Tom Brady.

Now he’s the guy who helped hand the Patriots their worst home loss under Bill Belichick.

Jeff Wilson Jr. rushed for a career-high three touchdowns and 112 yards before leaving with an ankle injury and the San Francisco 49ers crushed New England 33-6 on Sunday.

Garoppolo finished 20 of 25 for 277 yards with two interceptions in his first game against his former team. San Francisco (4-3) has followed back-to-back losses with consecutive wins and is 3-0 on the road.

“It was an exciting night. Lot of emotions. Couldn’t imagine it going any better than this,” Garoppolo said.

The Patriots’ 27-point loss was their largest at home under Belichick. They had gone 286 games without a three-game losing streak, the longest span between three-game slides in NFL history. New England fell to 2-4 for the first since Belichick’s first season in 2000, when the Patriots went 5-11.

New England was outgained 467-241 in total yards.

“We were clearly out-coached, outplayed. Just out-everything,” Belichick said. “We’re still a long way from where we need to be. That’s obvious.”

San Francisco’s Brandon Aiyuk had six catches for 115 yards and Deebo Samuel had five catches for 65 yards before leaving the game with a hamstring injury.

“When we got them down, we got to keep them down, don’t want to give them any chance to breathe. I thought we did that tonight,” Garoppolo said. “Started from the first snap and carried its way throughout the whole game.”

Cam Newton struggled for the Patriots, completing 9 of 15 passes for 98 yards and three interceptions before being replaced by Jarrett Stidham in the fourth quarter. Stidham was 6 of 10 for 64 yards and an interception.

Belichick said his plan is to keep Newton as the starter.

“Yeah, absolutely,” he said.

Newton was out of sync from the outset, making poor reads and poorer throws. Garoppolo, meanwhile, was successful in spreading out New England’s defence with a steady diet of passes behind the line of scrimmage and jet sweeps to get the ball into the hands of Wilson, Samuel and tight end George Kittle.

San Francisco dominated the first half, taking a 23-3 lead, holding the ball for 22:30 and racking up a 301-59 advantage in total yards. The Patriots managed four first downs to the 49ers’ 18.

The Niners took just over five minutes and nine plays to march 75 yards and take a 7-0 lead on 3-yard run by Wilson. It was the first time the Patriots have allowed a touchdown on an opponent’s opening drive at home since Week 4 of 2016 against Buffalo.

Following a Patriots punt, San Francisco was pinned inside its 15. Long completions by Garoppolo helped erase some early penalty losses before he missed high on a pass for Kittle and was intercepted by Devin McCourty.

San Francisco’s defence limited the damage, yielding a 40-yard field goal by Nick Folk.

That wasn’t the case for the Patriots later in the second quarter.

Trailing 10-3, Newton made a bad play worse when he tried to dump off the ball on the run to receiver Jakobi Meyers. It was picked off by linebacker Fred Warner. Five plays later, the 49ers capitalized on a 4-yard touchdown run by Kyle Juszczyk.

The lead grew to 23-3 with just under a minute to go before halftime on a 16-yard run by Wilson.

“D just played impressive the whole day. I thought special teams and offence did, too. It was an extremely physical game,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It was fun to watch.”

INJURIES

49ers: WR Richie James left with an ankle injury. … Wilson had just crossed into the end zone following his third TD when his leg twisted as he was tackled. He stayed down on the field before walking off under his own power. Shanahan said the tentative diagnosis is a high ankle sprain. “Not sounding great right now,” he said.

Patriots: WR N’Keal Harry left with a head injury and did not return. … LG Joe Thuney departed with an ankle injury. … RT Justin Herron also left with an ankle injury.

NEWTON’S MILESTONE

With an 11-yard pass to Jakobi Meyers in the third quarter, Newton became the 48th NFL quarterback to reach the 30,000-yard plateau.

He also became the first NFL player to pass for 30,000 yards and rush for 5,000 yards in his career.

UP NEXT

The 49ers head to Seattle next Sunday. The Patriots visit Buffalo.

___

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

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AP source: NFL fines Titans $350,000 for COVID-19 outbreak – Sportsnet.ca

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NASHVILLE — The NFL has fined the Tennessee Titans $350,000 for violating protocols leading to the league’s first COVID-19 outbreak during the season, a person familiar with the discipline told The Associated Press.

The Titans had 24 people, including 13 players, test positive for COVID-19 between Sept. 24 and Oct. 11. The outbreak led the NFL to postpone two Tennessee games and the rescheduling of a game against Pittsburgh from Oct. 4 to Sunday and the second against Buffalo from Oct. 11 to Oct. 13.

The NFL and its players association sent officials, including infectious disease experts, to Nashville where they reviewed video and interviewed players, coaches and other personnel.

But the NFL found the Titans failed to wear masks at all times and were “insufficiently clear” to players about not meeting or working out once the facility closed. That kept the loss of draft picks or a forfeit out of the possible punishments.

That led to the fine, according to the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the NFL nor the Titans have commented on league discipline connected with the outbreak.

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