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Tampa Bay on cusp of Stanley Cup repeat after win over Montreal

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The defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Montreal Canadiens 6-3 on Friday to take a commanding 3-0 series lead in the National Hockey League’s best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final.

Tyler Johnson scored a pair of goals while Jan Rutta, Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov and Blake Coleman also tallied as the Lightning moved one win away from becoming only the third back-to-back Stanley Cup champions in the last quarter-century.

Tampa Bay took control early, as Rutta and Hedman each scored less than four minutes into the game, and while Phillip Danault responded for Montreal near the midway mark of the first period, it did little to slow down the potent Lightning.

The visitors made another fast start to the second period, where Johnson and Kucherov scored less than four minutes into the middle frame to build a 4-1 cushion.

“Early we were just getting pucks to the net, trying to get some traffic, generate offense that way and limit our turnovers, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that,” said Johnson.

“We had a few lulls throughout the game but at the same time I think we played very well.”

Nick Suzuki gave Montreal a glimmer of hope when he stormed down the right wing late in the second period and used a quick release to send a shot under Andrei Vasilevskiy’s leg.

A turnover led to Johnson’s second goal of the night with under five minutes to play and while Montreal’s Corey Perry responded 39 seconds later, Coleman put the game away when he scored into an empty net.

“It’s tough obviously, we put ourselves in a hole early and it’s tough to dig yourself out of a hole against a team like that,” said Montreal captain Shea Weber.

While a series comeback is not impossible, the odds are heavily stacked against a Montreal team whose hopes of ending Canada’s 28-year Stanley Cup drought are on thin ice.

Of the 27 teams that have jumped out to a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final, the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs are the only one to rally back and win the championship.

Three other teams have done it outside of the Final.

Montreal, who were a 50-to-1 longshot when the postseason began seven weeks ago, rallied back from a 3-1 series deficit in the first round, but their Cinderella playoff run is quickly nearing midnight.

“We don’t have a choice,” Montreal goalie Carey Price said, when asked why he thinks his team can mount a comeback.

“We’ve overcome adversity all season long and our backs are obviously against the wall, so we are going to have to start bringing our best.”

The Lightning will get their first chance to close out the NHL’s championship series on Monday in Montreal.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Jane Wardell and Clarence Fernandez)

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Doping raises its head as BMX marred by crashes

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American swimmer Ryan Murphy stoked controversy at the Tokyo Games on Friday when he raised the spectre of doping after losing his second Olympic title to Russian rival Evgeny Rylov.

Murphy, who won three gold medals at the 2016 Rio Games, said his 200 metre backstroke final was “probably not clean” after he lost to Rylov, competing as part of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

The comments threw an unwelcome spotlight on doping for Tokyo 2020 organisers as the blue riband athletics competition got under way, on a day further marred by accidents on the BMX track, including a horrendous spill that saw 28-year-old American favourite Connor Fields rushed to hospital.

Held in Tokyo without spectators and after a year’s delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Games have been characterised by tumult and scandals from the get-go.

With China and Japan jostling for top spot in the medal tally https://graphics.reuters.com/OLYMPICS-2020/MEDALTALLY/rlgpdynkjvo/media-embed.html ahead of the United States, it hasn’t been a ratings boon for global broadcasters either.

Data from the opening ceremony and the first few nights show the Tokyo Games are so far the least watched Olympics in recent history across Europe and in the United States.

TV viewership is up in Australia and Japan, however.

COVID-19 infections have also risen, totalling 3,300 in Tokyo on Friday, after hitting a record 3,865 a day earlier, adding to the strain on the medical system.

The government broadened a state of emergency to four more prefectures and extended Tokyo’s until the end of August from Aug. 22.

‘THOUGHTS WOULD GET ME INTO TROUBLE’

Murphy, who won gold in the 100 metre and 200 metre Rio finals, surrendered both titles to Rylov in Tokyo.

“I’ve got 15 thoughts, 13 of them would get me into a lot of trouble,” he said when asked by a reporter if he had any doping concerns about his races, subsequently suggesting the 200m had been tainted.

Later, said he had no intention of making an allegation against his opponent. Rylov said Murphy was entitled to his thoughts given that there had been scandals.

The World Anti-Doping Agency handed Russia a four-year ban from top sporting events in 2019. Those sanctions were then lessened by a sports arbitration court.

More than 300 Russian athletes are competing at the Tokyo Games as part of the ROC. While they are not allowed to compete under their own flag, they can wear their tri-colour uniforms.

In other swimming events, the medals were again spread between countries other than traditional powerhouses.

South African Tatjana Schoenmaker won the women’s 200 metre breaststroke in a world record time, while China won their first men’s swimming gold in Tokyo with Wang Shun’s victory in the 200 metre medley.

Emma McKeon won the 100 freestyle for Australia’s sixth gold in the pool, holding off Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey down the final straight to win by 0.31 seconds.

BILES’ STRUGGLES

In gymnastics, Zhu Xueying led China to the top two podium positions in the women’s trampoline as Canada‘s Rosie MacLennan was denied a golden hat-trick.

That sport has also been overshadowed by drama around U.S. star Simone Biles. On Friday, she spelled out her struggles to perform, days after pulling of competitions, but shed no clear light on whether she would take part in further events.

In fencing, the top four teams in the men’s team epee crashed out in the quarter-finals. One of the day’s biggest surprises, Japan, ranked eighth, defeated top-ranked France, who will miss out on a medal for the first time since 1992.

In badminton, world number three Nozomi Okuhara was beaten by number nine China’s He Bing Jiao. Another surprise was the entry of world number 59, Guatemala’s Kevin Cordon, into the men’s quarter-finals.

The final day of Olympic rowing also delivered thrills when Greece’s Stefanos Ntouskos upset the favourites in the men’s single sculls and Canada ended U.S. dominance of the women’s eights. Four-time Olympian Emma Twigg, of New Zealand, ensured her country kept a grip on the sport with another gold in the women’s single sculls.

Athletics exploded into life with the women’s 100 metres round-one heats. Ivorian Marie-Josée Ta Lou roared across the finish line with a blistering 10.78 seconds at a hot and spectator-less Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.

Defending Olympic champion Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah ran a scorching 10.82 seconds to advance, while compatriot Shelly Anne Fraser-Pryce posted 10.84 seconds.

AMERICAN “AWAKE” AFTER CRASH

Reigning BMX champion Fields, who crashed heavily in the third run of his semi-final, was “awake” in hospital awaiting further checks to determine the extent of his injuries, an American team spokesperson said.

He was close to the front heading into the first steeply-banked corner at the Ariake Urban Sports Park and appeared to tangle with another rider, crashing heavily.

The semi-finals were marred by other crashes after a 45-minute rain delay, although the course was dry and did not appear to be a factor.

“I don’t think that the track or the weather had anything to do with the crashes,” Dutch rider Merel Smulders, who took bronze in the women’s race after her sister Laura also crashed in the semi-finals, told Reuters.

“I feel like there were a lot more crashes in Rio. But there were some bad crashes today and no one wants to see that.”

(Reporting by David Dolan and Mari Saito; Writing by Leela de Kretser and David Dolan; Editing by Stephen Coates and John Stonestreet)

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Pistons select Cade Cunningham with No. 1 overall pick in 2021 NBA Draft – Sportsnet.ca

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The Detroit Pistons selected Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft Thursday night.

Cunningham had been widely expected to be the first name called in New York, though Pistons general manager Troy Weaver wouldn’t reveal plans earlier this week and said the team would look at every scenario, including trades.

In the end, Detroit stuck with the 19-year-old mentioned as a potential top pick before ever stepping foot on the Oklahoma State campus.

The 6-foot-8, 220-pound point guard from Arlington, Texas, lived up to expectations with his size and fluid game to become a first-team Associated Press All-American. He averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists with a game that allowed him to hit from 3-point range, score off the dribble or find teammates out of traps.

Cunningham — the first player in Oklahoma State history to be picked No. 1 overall — joins a Pistons franchise that has won 20 games for two straight seasons and hasn’t finished better than .500 for five straight years.

Cunningham was the headliner of a class that included scorers, playmakers and potentially elite defenders at the top. That group included Southern California freshman big man Evan Mobley, Gonzaga freshman point guard Jalen Suggs and Florida State freshman forward Scottie Barnes.

There are also a pair of preps-to-pros prospects in guard Jalen Green and forward Jonathan Kuminga, both of whom bypassed college basketball to play in the G League.

The draft is later than its traditional late-June slot for the second straight year due to the COVID-19 pandemic that interrupted the 2019-20 season. The 2021-22 season is scheduled to return to its normal schedule, with next year’s draft set for June again.

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NBA Draft 2021: Toronto Raptors select Scottie Barnes with the 4th overall pick – RaptorsHQ

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The Raptors have upended consensus in the 2021 NBA Draft, opting to select Florida State forward Scottie Barnes with the fourth overall pick. To say this was a complete shock is not entirely true — there was buzz the Raptors were at least somewhat intrigued by Barnes’ potential — but it also felt like Toronto would not take the gamble (e.g. it felt like Jalen Suggs at no. 4 was a lock).

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Barnes joins the Raptors just before his 20th birthday. He’s listed at 6’9” and 227 pounds, which puts him in the small forward category, by my math. Barnes spent one season at Florida State during which he averaged 10.3 points, 4.1 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game across 24 contests. Admittedly, the numbers don’t exactly pop — Barnes only started seven games — but Toronto must love his potential.

Said potential is what our guy JD got at in his column here. Barnes has serious defensive skills, a player who can already guard almost every position via his strength, speed and know-how. The broadcast compared him to Draymond Green, which is not a bad place to be — particularly for a Raptors team that obviously values defensive ability and versatility. Like Green, Barnes has flashed an advanced play-making game for a forward, and he also has a limited offensive arsenal. Few are looking at Barnes, who shot 28 percent from three and 62 percent from the free-throw line, to be a lights-out gunner. Maybe he gets there in time, or maybe his skill-set is less dependent on his shot.

So then the risk: did the Raptors just get a player who can’t start for the current squad with OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam locked in at the small and power forward position? Could it be that Barnes only tracks as another second or third-ranked player on a championship calibre team? (If that; some are worried he’s the next Stanley Johnson.) In all, the question remains: will Toronto regret missing on Suggs?

Or do the Raptors have something else planned with regards to their roster construction? Right now it’s unclear, but we do know one thing for now: Toronto has selected Scottie Barnes in the 2021 NBA Draft.

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