Pascal Siakam finally broke through with a 32-point effort, but the Raptors couldn't keep up with the hot-shooting Suns.
Pascal Siakam finally broke through with a 32-point effort, but the Raptors couldn't keep up with the hot-shooting Suns.
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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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
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It took the Kansas City Chiefs five frustrating decades to make their third Super Bowl appearance. Now, the defending champs are headed there for the second straight year. Showing no lingering effects from his concussion, Patrick Mahomes sliced up Buffalo's secondary with ruthless efficiency Sunday night, helping the Chiefs roll to a 38-24 victory over Josh Allen and the Bills in the AFC championship game. The reigning Super Bowl MVP finished with 325 yards passing and three touchdowns, most of it to favourite targets Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, who complemented their star quarterback with a record-setting night of their own. The Chiefs will face a familiar foe — Tom Brady — and the NFC champ Buccaneers in two weeks in Tampa, Florida. “It was just trusting each other. The best thing about this team is we believe in each other," said Mahomes, who was also dealing with a toe injury. “But the job's not finished. We're going to Tampa; we're trying to run it back." Kelce finished with 13 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns, and Hill added nine catches for 172 yards, becoming the first duo in NFL history with consecutive games of at least 100 yards receiving each in a single post-season. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams added short TD runs for the Chiefs, who will try to become the eighth franchise and first team since the Brady-led New England Patriots in 2003 and '04 to defend the Lombardi Trophy. “So glad to get to do it again,” said Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt, whose father Lamar founded the franchise. “Thought a lot about my dad tonight, thought about my family and how excited my father would have been that we got to do it again in Arrowhead Stadium. That's what he would have liked the most about it.” Allen, who had his worst game of the season in a Week 6 loss to the Chiefs, again struggled against the blitzing Kansas City defence. He finished with 287 yards passing with two touchdowns and an interception, but a big chunk of his numbers came as the Bills tried to rally from a 38-15 deficit in the final minutes. Their frustration boiled over with 3:19 to go, when Allen was getting sacked by Tanoh Kpassagnon. Alex Okafor finished off the tackle, and Allen pitched the ball in his face in resentment. Offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Dion Dawkins rushed in and levelled Okafor, resulting in a flood of offsetting personal foul penalties. “Obviously a lot of emotion,” Allen said. “Any time you don’t finish the season with a win, that’s the type of emotion you’re going to have. The way it ended doesn’t sit right with me with how chippy and ticky-tack it got. I’m disappointed in myself. I let my emotions get to me there. That’s not how you’re supposed to play football.” It capped a bitter night for the Bills, who had reached their first AFC title game since beating Kansas City at home on Jan. 1, 1994. They had won 11 of 12 since their loss to the Chiefs earlier this season — in fact, they hadn’t trailed in the second half since Week 8 — and were riding a wave of confidence that this might finally be their championship year. Instead, after finally conquering the Patriots in the AFC East, the Bills have a new roadblock to the Super Bowl. “It stings to get this far,” said Bills coach Sean McDermott, who once worked under Chiefs counterpart Andy Reid in Philadelphia. “Sometimes the further you go, the harder it is to lose. It’s a learning experience for us as an organization.” The Chiefs actually spotted the Bills a 9-0 lead, thanks in large part to Mecole Hardman's muffed punt inside their 5 that gifted Buffalo a touchdown. But the reigning champs were hardly rattled; the Chiefs, after all, rallied from double-digits in each of their post-season wins last season, including their Super Bowl triumph over San Francisco. Mahomes and Kelce soon found their groove. And the rest of the Chiefs offence followed suit. They surgically took apart Buffalo's defence on a 14-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a short TD throw to Hardman — no hard feelings over that fumble. Then, the Chiefs cruised 82 yards in just five plays, the big one Hardman's 50-yard end-around that set up Williams' touchdown tumble. Finally, they made it three TDs in three possessions when Edwards-Helaire — in his first game back from an ankle injury — capped a 77-yard drive with a short plunge. The only answer from Buffalo was Tyler Bass's chip-shot field goal that made it 21-12 at the break. You don't beat Kansas City by kicking field goals from the 3-yard line, though. Or from the 9, where the Bills settled for another one to close within 24-15 late in the third quarter. That became painfully clear on the ensuing drive. Mahomes hit Hill in stride and the All-Pro wide receiver promptly made the Bills secondary look downright foolish. Weaving in and out of woebegone defenders, Hill was finally caught inside the 5-yard line after a 71-yard gain, ultimately setting up Kelce's short TD catch a few plays later. “You watch him on film, you see what he’s doing. It’s like he’s running at a different speed compared to everybody else,” Bills safety Micah Hyde said. “And tonight, we saw first-hand for the second time. He’s fast.” Any hopes the Bills had of a comeback were dashed when Rashad Fenton picked off a tipped pass deep in Kansas City territory. The Chiefs breezily marched the other direction, and Mahomes and Kelce kicked off the celebration of another trip to the Super Bowl when they connected for their second score of the game. “I’m proud of these guys,” said Reid, who moved into a tie with Joe Gibbs for fourth on the career list with his 17th playoff win. “They did a phenomenal job, and hats off to the Buffalo Bills and the great job they did all year, and most of all, listen, we have the Lamar Hunt Trophy back in Kansas City. "Now we have to get the big one.” INJURIES Chiefs: RG Andrew Wylie hurt his knee early in the second half and LT Eric Fisher limped off in the fourth quarter with an injury to his Achilles' tendon. ... CB L'Jarius Sneed and SS Armani Watts were evaluated for concussions. UP NEXT The Chiefs and Buccaneers have only played 13 times, and Kansas City had lost five straight before a 27-24 win in Tampa on Nov. 29 — a game that wasn't as close as the final score. Brady is 5-5 in his career against the Chiefs, including an overtime victory with the Patriots in the AFC title game at Arrowhead Stadium two years ago. ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL Dave Skretta, The Associated Press
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