The Cleveland Browns control their playoff destiny in Week 17 against the Steelers, who will be resting a number of starters. But will that be a decision that comes back to haunt them?
The Cleveland Browns control their playoff destiny in Week 17 against the Steelers, who will be resting a number of starters. But will that be a decision that comes back to haunt them?
CALGARY — The Toronto Maple Leafs enjoyed puck luck scoring three goals off deflections in a 3-2 win Sunday over the host Calgary Flames. Wayne Simmonds scored his first goal as a Maple Leaf, Jake Muzzin earned his first of the season and Auston Matthews also scored for Toronto (5-2-0) in an afternoon matinee. Toronto defenceman Morgan Reilly assisted on three goals, Mitch Marner had two assists and Jack Campbell turned away 31 of 33 shots for his second win in as many starts this season. The Maple Leafs played their seventh game in 12 days after travelling Saturday to Calgary. Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm countered for the Flames (2-1-1), who were coming off a five-day break without a game. Jacob Markstrom turned away 29 of 32 shots in the loss. Two Toronto goals caromed off Flames bodies and another off a Leaf skate. "It was a pretty ugly game to be honest for us," Matthews said. "I think there was a lot of things we could have done better. "Obviously a couple of solid, lucky bounces that went our way." Matthews returned to the lineup after sitting out Friday's 4-2 win over the visiting Edmonton Oilers with a hand injury. "I'll obviously have to take care of it in the next couple of weeks, but it feels a lot better and feels more than good enough to play and good enough to go out there and contribute," Matthews said. Down 3-2, Calgary pulled Markstrom for an extra attacker with 1:49 remaining. The Flames also called a timeout with 37 seconds to play, but couldn't produce the equalizer. "That's hockey. Bounces go each way throughout a game," Monahan said. "We've got to clean up a few areas and I think we've got to be around their net a little bit more to get those bounces." Campbell appeared to be in some pain in the final minute after Calgary's Matthew Tkachuk landed on him in a goal-mouth scrum. "I was just really focused on trying to get out of this place with two points," Toronto's goalie said. Both teams scored one power-play goal on four chances. With Tkachuk providing a screen, Lindholm's wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle beat Campbell short side for a power-play goal at 6:33 of the third period. Matthews was in the slot waiting for a play to develop when the puck deflected off him and Flames defenceman Rasmus Andersson for the eventual game winner at 2:42. Simmonds, who signed with Toronto as a free agent in October, earned his 500th career NHL point and gave the Leafs a 2-1 lead late in the second period. Simmonds was parked in front of Markstrom when what appeared to be his between-the-legs backhand pass deflected off the inside of his right skate for a power-play goal 32 seconds before the second-period buzzer. Calgary drew even at 1-1 when Monahan on Campbell's right had time to bank his own rebound off the goaltender's back and into the net at 12:53. Muzzin's long snapshot from just inside the blue-line deflected off Flames forward Dominik Simon and by Markstrom's glove at 7:16 of the first period. "We had some unlucky bounces, but I think we're playing good," Markstrom said. "If you keep working hard in practice, and keep working hard in games and doing the right things, hopefully these bounces are going to stop. Just got to work a little bit harder and create your own luck." Marner circling down low fed the puck up to Muzzin to collect his 300th career NHL point in his 307th game with the assist. Toronto defenceman T.J. Brodie, who was a Flame for a decade before signing with Toronto in the off-season, faced his former club for the first time Sunday. After a gentle schedule to open their season, the Flames will play at least every second day for two weeks, including back-to-back road games in Winnipeg next week against the Jets. The Maple Leafs remain in Calgary for Tuesday's rematch before heading to Edmonton on a four-game road trip. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2021. Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
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Frank Lampard was fired by Chelsea on Monday halfway through his second season in charge after being unable to replicate his success as the club's record scorer in his first Premier League managerial job. Chelsea has lost five of its last eight Premier League games and dropped to ninth place, despite Lampard benefiting from nearly $300 million spent on new players for this season. Chelsea said the performances had “not met expectations" and left the team "without any clear path to sustained improvement” — making a change of managers necessary with former Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel set to be hired. Reflecting Lampard's statement at the west London club, the firing was announced in a rare statement by owner Roman Abramovich. “This was a very difficult decision for the club, not least because I have an excellent personal relationship with Frank and I have the utmost respect for him," owner Roman Abramovich said. “He is a man of great integrity and has the highest of work ethics. However, under current circumstances we believe it is best to change managers. “On behalf of everyone at the club, the board and personally, I would like to thank Frank for his work as head coach and wish him every success in the future. He is an important icon of this great club and his status here remains undiminished. He will always be warmly welcomed back at Stamford Bridge.” Lampard leaves with the lowest points-per-game record of the dozen managers since Abramovich bought the club in 2003. As the pressure has grown, the cracks were showing ahead of this weekend's FA Cup win over Luton, when Lampard hit out at perceived negative coverage of the team. But his own shortcomings of a fledging coaching career were being exposed and sentimentality counted for little despite being instrumental to the trophy-laden revival of the club as a player since the takeover by Abramovich. Chelsea brought back its midfield great as coach in 2019 despite him having only a single season's experience in management in the second division with Derby. He achieved Champions League qualification in his first season by securing a fourth-place finish in the Premier League. The rush to dismiss Lampard is indicative of the impatience shown by Abramovich, particularly when the team is slipping away from the Champions League spots. After securing one of the biggest jobs in English management so early in his coaching career, Lampard leaves Stamford Bridge without any success having lost the 2020 FA Cup final to Arsenal. Lampard is a Chelsea great after scoring 211 goals from central midfield from 2001-14, during which he won every major honour at the club including three Premier League titles and the Champions League. He was associated with some of the best moments in the club’s history and admired for his work ethic and making the most of his talent. Next in the dugout at Stamford Bridge is set to be Tuchel, Sky’s German sports channel first reported. It would be a swift return to coaching for the German less than a month after being fired by PSG following a power struggle with the Qatari ownership. Tuchel is only five years older than Lampard but vastly more experienced in coaching having being forced to retire from playing at 24 due to injury. Tuchel made a name for himself in Germany by showing faith in young players during a five-year stint with unheralded Mainz. In 2009, he was promoted to take charge of the Mainz first team after just one year in charge of the youth side, and quickly promoted young talent. He lasted only two years at Borussia Dortmund before being fired despite winning the German Cup after falling out with officials — just as he would do at PSG. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Rob Harris, The Associated Press
The San Francisco 49ers will take a greater role in the running of English Premier League club Leeds after raising their stake to 37% on Monday. Paraag Marathe, the president of 49ers Enterprises, will become vice chairman of the northern English club under Andrea Radrizzani, who remains the majority owner. The 49ers first bought 15% of the team from Radrizzani in 2018 and the club has since secured promotion back to the Premier League after a 16-year absence — making increased investment from the NFL franchise more desirable. “Our investment two-and-a-half years ago was to dip our toes in the water," Marathe told The Associated Press. "We really felt like Leeds had the bones of a powerful big global club and just from their global fan base and the supporter base and everything that they have. “As we’ve spent more time there we’ve realized that to be very true, and the opportunity to be very great and so it didn’t take us very long to realize we wanted to be involved in a much deeper way.” Leeds has won admirers with its style of football under Marcelo Bielsa, who has guided the team to 12th in the 20-team standings halfway through the season. “We want to be competitive and not just a flash in the pan competitive, but we want to be sustainably competitive,” Marathe said from San Francisco. "This is really about a deeper engagement. And not just me, but all of us at the 49ers, deploying our resources and expertise and blueprints for success over to Leeds and enable that club (to) really transform itself as well.” That means sharing resources and best practices. “We’re one big family now and it’s really about … and we’ve gone through a transformation at the 49ers over the last decade, decade and a half, and we feel like Leeds, LUFC is in the nascent stages of exactly that,” Marathe said. "First is showing we belong (back in the Premier League), next is competing in Europa (League) and eventually is competing in Champions League. That’s the goal. We’re just on the first step of that matriculation. But like I said, I think we’ve already shown that we belong.” ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Rob Harris, The Associated Press
MOSCOW — The Russian anti-doping agency confirmed Monday that it will not file an appeal to further loosen restrictions on its teams at the Olympics and other major sports events. The Court of Arbitration for Sport last month ruled that Russia's name, flag and anthem would be barred from the next two Olympics after backing the World Anti-Doping Agency's finding that doping data was manipulated. However, CAS halved the duration of the sanctions from four years to two, removed vetting requirements for Russian athletes and allowed them to keep wearing national colours. The Russian agency, known as RUSADA, had the option to file an appeal with the Swiss supreme court on procedural grounds. It said Monday that it still regards as “flawed and one-sided” the ruling that doping data in Moscow was modified but it was satisfied that CAS rejected tougher sanctions proposed by WADA. “RUSADA considers that this chapter has now been closed and is looking forward and committed to working with WADA with a view to fully restoring RUSADA’s membership status,” RUSADA said in a statement. The Russian agency added that it “remains fully committed to the fight against doping but will continue to defend the rights of clean Russian athletes and to oppose any form of discrimination against Russian sport.” ___ More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Considering that there has been no repeat NFL champion since the 2004 season, clearly some major obstructions have gotten in the way. For the Chiefs, that hurdle wears a No. 12 jersey and is the last guy to pull off the feat. After demolishing Buffalo for the AFC title, the Chiefs head to Tampa looking to complete the double. It's been done eight times, twice by the Steelers. But there's never been such a gap for a repeat winner, and after winning its first Super Bowl in a half-century last year, Kansas City seems primed to end that string of failures. Except for that massive roadblock named Tom Brady. “The job’s not finished," Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes acknowledges. "We’re going to Tampa, we’re trying to run it back.” To do so, young Mr. Mahomes, you'll need to beat that old man and his penchant for collecting trophies and rings. “We’ve just got to be ourselves," added Mahomes, at 25 a mere 18 years younger than Brady. (Heck, Mahomes' father is only 50 years old.) "I trust my guys over anybody.” The rest of the world has learned to trust Brady over most anybody. The quarterback of the Patriots when they took the Lombardi Trophy for the 2003 and 2004 seasons, Brady owns a nonpareil six rings altogether. He's headed to his 10th Super Bowl, and the big game will be played at Raymond James Stadium, which happens to be the Buccaneers' home field. Add another record to Brady's ledger. “The belief he gave everybody in this organization, that this could be done,” says Bucs coach Bruce Arians of Brady. “It only took one man.” When Brady signed as a free agent with one of the historically worst franchises in the sport — the Bucs won their only visit to the Super Bowl 18 years ago, hadn't been to the playoffs since the 2007 season, and have a 278-429-1 overall record — faith was reborn in Tampa. A leap of faith, it seemed. Like needing a Hail Mary for the Bucs to rise to the championship level. Then they went 11-5 to become a wild-card team spending all of January on the road. Big deal. After victories at Washington, New Orleans (which beat the Bucs twice in the regulars season) and Green Bay, they head back home. To host a Super Bowl they are playing in. “We were at 7-5 seven games ago, not feeling great,” Brady explains. "We felt like we needed to find our rhythm. We played four games down the stretch the last quarter of the season, and then after that, it was just all bonus. The guys came through. Everyone stepped up to the challenge. "It takes everybody, and everybody plays a role. I’m just so proud of this whole team and blessed to be a part of it.” The Chiefs are well aware of what Brady means in a championship chase. For those two decades when New England was dominating the AFC, Kansas City enviously watched. What the Chiefs witnessed then is what is playing out now: Brady as the centerpiece — and by far the most important piece — of a franchise. He's stamped himself as the overriding reason the Patriots were so good; look at them now without him. And look at what the Bucs have achieved already with him. When Brady won those successive Super Bowls, he was only beginning to establish his championship pedigree. He hadn't won an MVP award; he now has three. Nor had he won Offensive Player of the Year; he now has two. He hadn't set many league records of note, either. Today, he is the most successful player in the NFL's modern era. Even when he throws interceptions on three consecutive series, which he did Sunday at Lambeau Field, he and his team still find ways to win. That's what Mahomes and his magic must overcome, and the Chiefs are early three-point favourites to do so. They come from the stronger conference. They win even when they aren't at their best, as happened last week against Cleveland. They shrug off deficits the way Travis Kelce shrugs off defenders. They boast a confidence reminiscent of, well, the QB in Tampa. And that guy is the most challenging obstacle to get past. ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL Barry Wilner, The Associated Press
Mahomes sounds aware of the historical implications of his next game. “Being able to go up against one of the greatest, if not the greatest quarterback of all time in his 150th Super Bowl, I mean, it’s gonna be a great experience for me."
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Goals have been hard to come by for the Anaheim Ducks. Seeing the puck go in the net Sunday night provided some much-needed relief. Jakob Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell each scored his first goal of the season and the Ducks held on for a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche. Hampus Lindholm added an empty-net goal for the Ducks, who had not scored more than two goals in their first five games. “Any time players like that can pick up a point or score a goal, it is just a massive weight lifted off their shoulders. And they carry it because they care,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. John Gibson provided another strong start in net, making 32 saves to improve to 2-0-2 in his last four starts. But, it was signs of life on offence that had Anaheim buzzing to wrap up a four-game homestand. The Ducks jumped out to a lead in the first 58 seconds. Silfverberg scored on a wrist shot through traffic off a faceoff win by Adam Henrique, giving Anaheim its first lead in the first period this season. Rakell made it 2-0 at 9:05 of the second, beating Grubauer to the glove side off a centring pass from Ryan Getzlaf. Eakins believes putting Rakell, who has scored 33 goals combined the past two seasons following consecutive 30-goal campaigns, alongside the Ducks captain should help the 27-year-old winger rediscover his offence. “Rather than Raks looking to be the playmaker, he can look to let Ryan do that. Ryan’s been excellent at that his whole career, and Ricky can get back in the business of finishing,” Eakins said. Mikko Rantanen scored in a career-best fifth straight game, and Philipp Grubauer made 12 saves for the Avalanche. Colorado had been averaging 3.4 goals. Rantanen broke through at 14:46 of the third, scoring on a rebound. Lindholm scored with 1:40 remaining. Rantanen has five goals and two assists in his last five games. “We definitely haven’t hit our stride,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “I think as a four-line team we still have some work to do, and some of that is just getting rewarded for some hard work. But I don’t mind the fact we’re 3-3 after six games. … It’s not a bad thing as long as we respond and play the way we can and work the way we can.” SHUT ’EM DOWN Anaheim had to withstand plenty of pressure from Colorado’s dynamic top line and offensively-gifted defencemen, with Nathan MacKinnon striking both the post and crossbar, and Cale Makar hitting the crossbar in the first period. The Avalanche was 0 for 4 on the power play after scoring at least one goal in each of its first five games, with MacKinnon drawing iron on special teams late in the first. MIX IT UP J.T. Compher centred the Avalanche’s second line, while Nazem Kadri was demoted to the third line. Bednar had been critical of a lack of production from the Kadri-led second line throughout the four-game road trip, and his minus-2 performance in a 3-2 overtime win against the Ducks on Friday prompted Bednar to make a change. Swapping the centres wasn’t the only move Bednar made as Ryan Graves was a healthy scratch after posting a minus-5 through the first five games, the only Colorado defenceman with a negative plus-minus rating. BACK AT IT Avalanche forward Andre Burakovsky returned after missing three games because of an upper-body injury. He played 13:16 with a minus-1 rating and took one shot. UP NEXT Avalanche: Host the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night. Ducks: Visit the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night. ___ More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
"I think all of our guys are gonna have to get back in an NBA rhythm."
The Edmonton Oilers might not have like their start, but they might be bigger fans of their finish. Leon Draisaitl scored the game-winning goal with less than a second left to give the Edmonton Oilers a 4-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets Sunday night at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg. "I thought we had a couple of chances at the end there," Draisaitl said after the game. "But, obviously, we got a nice fortunate one at the end." As a late Edmonton power play expired, Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid tried to move the puck around the Winnipeg net. He then passed the puck back to the reigning Hart Trophy winner, who fired the puck past Jets goalie Laurent Brossoit with fractions of a second left. Brossoit says he couldn't really track the shot as his teammate, Andrew Copp, slid in front of him to help protect the net. "I didn't think he could go five-hole, considering (Copp) was on the ground," Brossoit said. "So, I was just trying to track the puck up high and it went, obviously, underneath." Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kyle Turris, and Kailer Yamamoto also scored for Edmonton. Adam Lowry, Nikolaj Ehlers and Blake Wheeler scored for the Jets. The game featured both starting goalies making over 30 saves. Mikko Koskinen made 35 saves in a winning effort for the Oilers (3-4-0), while Laurent Brossoit made 34 saves. Winnipeg's loss snaps a three-game winning streak (4-2-0). All three victories came against the Ottawa Senators. For the third consecutive game, the Jets scored first. Adam Lowry scored after taking a pass from Mathieu Perreault while in the slot. He wasted no time to fire on net, beating Koskinen. Lowry's goal was his third of the season. The referees overturned a would-be Jets goal nearly three minutes later. Andrew Copp deflected a puck above Koskinen and into the back of the net. But the referees determined there was interference after Copp's stick kept Koskinen's glove from making the save. Jets head coach Paul Maurice both believed Copp's goal should have stood. "It's a goal, I mean, for me," Maurice said. "I think the puck's past his glove and I'm not even sure there was contact. (The referees) felt it was close. So, there's no argument." The Oilers entered the first intermission down a goal, a less-than-ideal start for Turris. "We were playing like crap," Turris said. "They came out and they had played late last night and they just jumped on us from the start and dominated the period. We were playing like crap and we had to turn it around." It took the Oilers 21 seconds to tie the game as they entered the second period, thanks to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Later in the period, Turris scored his first as an Oiler after taking a pass from forward Zack Kassian. Turris unloaded a shot into the top-right corner of the net to give Edmonton its first lead of the night with 5:42 left to play in the period. James Neal also grabbed an assist on the play. One minute and 18 seconds later, Winnipeg forward Kyle Connor was injured. He was defending a shot from Oilers defenceman Ethan Bear. The puck ricocheted off Connor's stick and into his face, causing him to fall to his knees onto the ice. He would leave the game and would sit out the remainder of the period, only to return in time for the third. Ehlers tied the game at two goals apiece with 6:04 left to go in the third period. It was the fourth consecutive game where Ehlers scored a goal for his team. "I feel good," Ehlers said. "I think that the last three games I've really been able to use my speed in the right moments. I've been trying to shoot the puck more." Wheeler later gave the Jets the lead once more with a power play goal, thanks to a tripping infraction taken by Edmonton Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse. Wheeler took a pass along the goal line and banked the puck off Oilers defenceman Kris Russell and past Koskinen into the goal. Winnipeg's lead wouldn't last that long, however. Yamamoto tied the game one minute and 48 seconds later, setting up a wild finish. A late Dylan DeMelo high-sticking penalty would give the Oilers the man-advantage until the final seconds of the third period. The game would eventually end on Draisaitl's late winner at even strength, giving the Jets no time to respond. Edmonton and Winnipeg will renew hostilities at the Bell MTS Place Tuesday night. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press