Bautista homers in 13th, Blue Jays escape jam to beat Angels

Loup walked Danny Espinosa, and third baseman Chris Coghlan booted Juan Graterol’s grounder to end Loup’s outing, replaced by Biagini.Toronto went ahead 5-4 in the eighth on a two-run double by Justin Smoak, but Los Angeles tied it later in the inning when Martin Maldonado’s fly ball landed just inside the left field foul pole, beyond the reach of a leaping Carrera for an RBI double.Called up from the minors prior to the game, Toronto starter Mat Latos gave up four runs and six hits in five innings.Los Angeles starter Alex Meyer lasted 3 2/3 innings in his first start of the season. Sometimes it goes the wrong way. Lawrence gave up three runs and three hits and walked five (two intentional) in two innings of relief earlier this month.Angels: LHP Tyler Skaggs (0-1, 5.19) comes off a start versus Kansas City in which he pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing just four hits while matching his career high of nine strikeouts. Howell is scheduled to throw another inning on Saturday, and if he comes out of that appearance with no setbacks “he’ll be good to go in St. Then it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh.“’In the top of the inning, Bautista hit his first homer of the season after two-out singles from Kevin Pillar and Ezequiel Carrera against Jesse Chavez (1-3). Reliever Andrew Bailey, sidelined since April 10 with right shoulder stiffness, resumed throwing. … “You make an error. Biagini then struck out Albert Pujols and got C.J. Bautista’s homer came on a 1-1 pitch and soared out to left-centre. You make another error. That really hurt us more than anything.”Trout hit his fifth homer in the fifth inning and had two hits and two RBIs. The double was the 604th of Pujols’ career, tying him for 13th with Paul Waner.Aaron Loup began pitching the 13th for Toronto, but Cameron Maybin reached on an error by first baseman Justin Smoak, then advanced on a passed ball. The Angels rallied after two Toronto errors in the 13th. Louis,” Gibbons said.Angels: RHP Mike Morin was placed on the 10-day DL with neck tightness. It’s a challenge. “I think it’s a work in a progress. “We’re just not getting the wins, which is the bottom line, and we need to start getting those quick.”UP NEXTBlue Jays: Rookie RHP Casey Lawrence (0-0, 13.50) is expected to be called up from Triple-A Buffalo to make the start Saturday. The slugger had two hits to bring his average up to .131 this season.“The home run felt nice. Cron to line out to centre field for his first save.“When you get that feeling like the last inning, you don’t feel like you win those games very often,” Toronto catcher Russell Martin said. Howell “felt fine” after his one-inning appearance for Class A Dunedin on Thursday, striking out two and allowing one hit. … Called up from Triple-A Buffalo prior to the game, he walked four batters while giving up two runs and two hits.TRAINER’S ROOMBlue Jays: According to Jays manager John Gibbons, RHP J.P. Sometimes it comes in bunches. I’ve just got to be more consistent.”Ryan Tepera (1-0) pitched three scoreless innings in the game that lasted 5 hours, 36 minutes.Eight Angels pitchers combined to allow seven walks and throw two wild pitches, and Los Angeles also had two errors to waste offensive contributions from Trout and Pujols.“We lost this game in a lot of ways earlier,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We had some opportunities on the offensive side, but there were some cracks on the defensive side. It was good to contribute,” Bautista said. Pujols had a bases-loaded double in the third, moving him into a tie with Manny Ramirez for 18th on baseball’s RBI list at 1,831. Even in a wild, 13-inning victory early Saturday morning, the Toronto Blue Jays looked like a team struggling to get it together.Jose Bautista hit a three-run homer in the 13th inning, but Joe Biagini had to escape a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the inning to preserve Toronto’s 8-7 win over the Los Angeles Angels. Yunel Escobar left the game after six innings complaining of dizziness.Post-season HANGOVERToronto’s 3-12 record entering Friday was the worst 15-game start ever for a team that reached the playoffs the year before, besting the 4-11 mark set by the 1998 Florida Marlins, who were coming off a World Series championship.“I like some of the things we’re seeing,” Gibbons said. Kole Calhoun drove in one run with a single, and Biagini plunked Mike Trout with the bases loaded for another.

Paajarvi scores in OT, gives Blues 4-3 overtime win to oust Wild

“They know us. Stastny missed the last 14 games because of a lower-body injury. I’m sure we’re going to have many future series.”The Blues advanced to play Nashville in the second round, with Game 1 against the Predators at home in St. … … He charged in from the corner and, after a collision of sticks with Wild defenceman Jonas Brodin, kept the puck alive by pin-balling it off the inside of both skates before going to the opposite side to beat Dubnyk .“It’s impossible to pick one thing,” Koivu said, “why we came up short like that.”NOTES: The Wild fell to 1-7 in their last eight home games in the playoffs, with the only win coming in Game 3 against Dallas in the first round last year. “We’re all sick of it.”The Wild had a goal waved off earlier in the third period for goaltender interference on Nino Niederreiter. The Blues are 7-2 in their last nine post-season road games. “They got the best of us two years ago, and we came out on top this year. He turned the puck over to Vladimir Sobotka, whose pass found the trailing Paajarvi for the winner.That gave Yeo the satisfaction of beating the team that fired him a little over a year ago, his insider knowledge of the Wild’s preferences and tendencies undoubtedly a strategical benefit for the Blues.“I don’t think that what I’m feeling right now would be any different if it was any other team,” said Yeo, who was congratulated in the locker room afterward by Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher.Ryan Suter scored the first of two power play goals by the Wild, who posted a 26-12 advantage in shots on goal over the second and third periods after weathering an early barrage by the Blues. Coach Bruce Boudreau challenged, arguing that Jori Lehtera pushed Niederreiter into Allen, but the video review upheld the call to trigger an angry, dismissive wave of the left hand by Boudreau.Tarasenko, who had six goals in six games against the Wild in the playoffs in 2015, used some fancy footwork to give the Blues the early lead. … I’m sick of it,” Haula said. Louis for most of this series, controlling the play for periods at a time.With goalie Jake Allen as their guide and coach Mike Yeo on their side, though, the Blues sure had the right formula for beating the Wild in the playoffs.Magnus Paajarvi scored at the 9:42 mark in overtime, giving the Blues a 4-3 victory on Saturday in Game 5 of their playoff series to eliminate the Wild in the first round following the best season in franchise history. They lacked that finishing touch to reward their 5-on-5 effort, though, and Dubnyk couldn’t quite match Allen’s brilliance.The Wild also lost first line centre Eric Staal to a scary injury in the second period when he crashed head first into the boards and, though alert and stable, was sent to a nearby hospital for further observation. Koivu had his first goal in 22 games since March 7, which also came against the Blues. Louis.“I think we should be proud, but not satisfied,” Paajarvi said, adding: “We’ve got to play a better game.”Allen made 34 saves for the Blues, who led 2-0 and 3-1 before a furious rally by the Wild to try to keep their season alive forced the extra frame. Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker scored to bring the Wild back from their second two-goal hole, a deficit that held past the midpoint of the third period until the two scores 4:21 apart that Allen said the Wild deserved for how hard they came at him.Vladimir Tarasenko scored for the first time in the series, Alexander Steen followed him 3:15 later for a 2-0 lead midway through the first period and Paul Stastny got a goal in his first appearance of the playoffs, but the Blues were still fortunate to make it to overtime with all the difficult saves Allen had to make.Despite a clear edge in shots on goal and faceoff draws and a dominant penalty kill unit throughout the series, the Wild were left wondering what more they had to do to get more pucks past Allen.“They weren’t the better team,” coach Bruce Boudreau said, “but they won four games.”Paajarvi’s first career playoff goal was set up by Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, who stopped 23 shots. Erik Haula filled in admirably, but in defeat.“What is this, five years in a row? Minnesota had the upper hand on St. He has eight goals in 20 career playoff games against Minnesota. We know them,” said Allen, who stopped 174 of the 182 shots he faced.

Canadiens’ front office left with many decisions after first-round playoff exit

Okay, Montreal Canadiens’ front office, now what?Accepted hockey wisdom holds the championship window for the Habs, with a 29-year-old franchise goalie (Carey Price), a 31-year-old franchise defenceman (Shea Weber) and a 28-year-old captain and 35-goal scorer (Max Pacioretty) is only open for a couple of years. The problem: After a first-round playoff exit against the New York Rangers, who won Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal 3-1 on Saturday, it’s exceedingly difficult to argue seriously that they’re close winning the team’s first Stanley Cup in a quarter century.This despite the presence of the aforementioned players, an uber-talented 23-year-old forward prospect like Alex Galchenyuk and youthful blood-and-guts players like Brendan Gallagher and Artturi Lehkonen.Would they have been better off with P.K. Subban, a proven playoff performer, in their lineup?This team’s shortcomings lie elsewhere, frankly – notably down the middle and in terms of scoring – but fans will be forgiven for asking the question.Subban, after all, is still playing.And what to do about impending free agents Alex Radulov and Andrei Markov and restricted free agents Nathan Beaulieu (a healthy scratch on Saturday), Galchenyuk and the other players looking for new contracts this summer?That’s leaving aside Price, who will enter the last year of his deal next fall and can be signed to a presumably very rich extension this summer.After last season’s failure to make the playoffs, Montreal GM Marc Bergevin said “it’s on me.”This year, he traded a cornerstone defenceman, acquired a first-line winger via free agency (Radulov), fired his coach, shipped out bit parts and draft picks for character, grit, and veteran experience at the trade deadline.It might have worked – this was a very close series against the Rangers – but it didn’t.The biggest decision Bergevin faces, and let’s face it, there are several, concerns his goaltender.Given he moved Subban, a fan favourite and the team’s highest-paid player, is anyone on the Habs’ roster safe?That’s of course assuming Price, who has Olympic and World Cup gold medals and earned his second Georges Vezina Trophy nomination as the NHL’s best goalie on Saturday, has seen enough to sign what is likely the last big-money contract of his career to stay in Montreal.Price, who has been the best thing about the Habs for half a decade, didn’t make the difference in this series – in the deciding game he gave up a goal that can rightly be described as soft.But if the Rangers, who finished just one point ahead of the Habs in the regular season, exposed one failing in this Montreal team, it is that they don’t have enough scoring punch up front, and cannot compete with top teams with a centre lineup of Philip Danault, Tomas Plekanec and Andrew Shaw/Galchenyuk, and Steve Ott or whoever else is on the fourth line.Galchenyuk began the series as a fourth-line left winger, so it’s an open question as to whether he fits in the club’s future plans.He wasn’t much of a factor in Game 6, or in the series.Habs captain Pacioretty, he of 35 goals in the regular season, didn’t score in the series, but in the first period he evidently decided to contribute in other ways: high-sticking New York’s Jimmy Vesey and dropping the gloves against the Harvard product for his first NHL fight since in nearly three years.During his seven minutes in the penalty box, the Canadiens managed to take the lead via the unlikely person of Alexei Emelin, who scored just his third goal of the season after a falling Radulov found him from below the goal line with a pass.The Habs owned the first period, chalking up 68 per cent of shot attempts and only two giveaways to the Rangers’ 11.The second frame, however, has been Montreal’s Achilles heel throughout the series.Just 2:26 into the second, the Rangers scored their first power-play goal in 15 attempts in the series (and the first goal the Habs have given up on the penalty kill in almost a month).It came from Mats Zuccarello, whose one-timed shot from the right wing side should have been stopped by a goalie of Price’s stature.About 11 minutes later, the home side took the lead via a pass from Kevin Hayes, whose feed to Zuccarrello in nearly an identical spot to his first goal gave little chance to Price, even if the puck kissed off his left skate into the net (defenceman Jordie Benn will regret his defensive coverage on the play).It should also be noted coach Claude Julien sent out his fourth line and defensive pair for a defensive zone faceoff after a television timeout – precisely the thing his predecessor Michel Therrien used to get criticized for.The Canadiens were gifted a power-play early in the third, but didn’t seriously threaten.It would become a theme for the period.Plekanec would have a half-chance to tie the game in the final two minutes.Henrik Lundqvist saved it, as he did all series; in fairness, it was more than the Habs deserved.When Derek Stepan scored into an empty net, it merely accentuated the point.

Blue Jays drop 5-4 decision to Angels after Simmons belts grand slam

Tulowitzki has a strained right hamstring.Bud Norris pitched the ninth for his first save.This was the second straight strong performance for Skaggs, a 25-year-old left-hander who pitched seven shutout innings against Kansas City on Sunday.Kevin Pillar extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a two-run homer off reliever Kirby Yates, one batter after Skaggs was lifted, making the score 5-3.Justin Smoak led off the ninth inning with a homer off Yates to pull the Blue Jays within 5-4.Lawrence gave up five runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings.Mike Trout had a pair of doubles, giving him 13 extra-base hits on the season, passing Boston’s Mitch Moreland for the most extra-base hits in the American League this season.Trout ripped a ground-rule double down the left-field line in the fifth inning and scored on Simmons’ slam.He also drove a fly ball off the left-field wall for an easy two-bagger with one out in the seventh.Trout also scored the Angels’ first run in the first inning. He was lifted after Ryan Goins doubled to lead off the eighth.Toronto is a majors’ worst 4-13 and placed star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki on the 10-day disabled list prior to the game. The Blue Jays called up RHP Yoenel Campos from Triple-A Buffalo, while the Angels called up RHPs Daniel Wright and Yates from Triple-A Salt Lake.TRAINER’S ROOMThe eighth inning of Friday night’s 5 1/2-hour game proved costly for both teams. Skaggs (1-1) gave up a run in the first but settled down to hold the Blue Jays to five hits over the next six innings, getting the Blue Jays to hit into three double plays along the way. Andrelton Simmons hit a tiebreaking grand slam, Tyler Skaggs pitched into the eighth inning and the Los Angeles Angels held off the slumping Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 Saturday night.Simmons cleared the bases in the third inning off Casey Lawrence (0-2) for his second career grand slam, helping the Angels snap a three-game losing streak and win for the second time in 11 games. Tulowitzki injured himself going from second to third on a wild pitch. Angels reliever Cam Bedrosian, who threw the wild pitch, was also placed on the disabled list Saturday with a groin injury.SOLID AT SHORTRyan Goins shored up the Jays’ defence at shortstop with Tulowitzki out. In the seventh inning, Pujols scorched a grounder into the hole that Goins stopped with a full dive, then he backhanded the ball to second to start a sensational double play.LONG HAULJose Bautista’s tough luck at the plate continued when Kole Calhoun ran down his long fly ball to right-centre and caught it with an all-out dive.UP NEXTBlue Jays: RHP Marcus Stroman (1-2, 4.05) makes his fourth start of the season, and first since giving up six runs and 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings in a lost to Boston on Tuesday night.Angels: Prior to Saturday’s game, manager Mike Scioscia declined to offer his selection for Sunday’s starting pitcher, telling reporters his decision was “depending upon what happens tonight.” He reached on an error, took second on a single by Albert Pujols and scored on a single up the middle by C.J. Cron.RELOADING RELIEVERSBoth teams reloaded their bullpens after they combined to use 15 pitchers in Friday night’s 13-inning game.

Oilers top Sharks 3-1 in Game 6 to win series

Talbot saved them at least once, when the Oilers turned the puck over in front of him while they were on a power play.Draisaitl broke a 0-0 deadlock on his breakaway only 54 seconds into the second period. Patrick Marleau scored from the side of the net off a nice pass from Logan Couture, cutting Edmonton’s lead to 2-1 with 7:48 remaining. Patrick Maroon had a goal and 22 hits. After Ryan Nugent-Hopkins blocked a shot, Adam Larsson found Draisaitl open and he fought off a check from Justin Braun before slipping his shot through goalie Martin Jones’s legs.It took only 56 seconds for Slepyshev to make it 2-0. His last-second goal in Game 6 gave him two and four points in the series, during which he was closely marked.“I learned a little bit about what the playoffs are all about,” McDavid said. Montreal was eliminated by the Rangers on Saturday in six games.The Oilers came out firing in their most important game since June 19, 2006, when they lost to Carolina in Raleigh in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. The Oilers were then assessed for a too-many-men infraction with 4:57 left, and San Jose was in full attack. Edmonton has never lost a playoff series after winning Game 5 when it was tied 2-2. Larsson had 21 hits, Matt Benning had 20.The Oilers beat the Sharks every which way – throwing their bodies around, mixing it up in every tight games. As a franchise, the Sharks had only won a series once in 11 tries when trailing 3-2.With McDavid mostly held in check in the series, the outcome was mostly left up to Edmonton’s supporting cast. At the same time, San Jose went 9-11 and fell from first to third.The Ducks, who are 15-0-3 in the last 18 games, will offer a bigger challenge. Zack Kassian scored the winning goals in Games 2 and 3. The Edmonton Oilers became the first Canadian team to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Saturday night with a thrilling 3-1 victory over San Jose at the SAP Center.Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on breakaways less than a minute apart early in the second period, and Connor McDavid added an empty-netter with three-tenths of a second left. The seven goals were also a record in postseason for the Sharks.“It is a hostile place to play,” Edmonton coach Todd McLellan said earlier after his team’s morning skate. The Oilers will play Anaheim in the second round. Trailing in its series against Washington, 3-2, Toronto is at home at Air Canada Centre. They came back from two goals down. They trailed 3-1 late in the second period before Mark Letetsu scored on a power play. Cam Talbot had 27 saves in Edmonton’s first series win in the postseason in more than a decade. The Ducks made easy work of the Calgary Flames, eliminating them in four games. This is the first season since 2005-06 that they made the playoffs, and they did it after finishing 29th among 30 teams in 2015-16.Edmonton went 13-4-1 in March and April while pushing its way up to second in the Pacific Division. They didn’t succumb to the pressure after getting shellacked in Game 4 at San Jose.“I think we saw a team grow up before our very eyes, and it was a great thing,” McLellan said. The Oilers beat them three times in five meetings during the regular season, but Anaheim will have home-ice advantage after finishing first in the division.The Oilers were wary about getting off to a poor start on Saturday after losing to the Sharks 7-0 on Wednesday on their home ice. “It was a great series for me to learn from.”Entering Game 6, history was on the Oilers side. Ottawa leads Boston, 3-2, and is playing at TD Garden. It was the team’s worst loss of the season, and its worst playoff defeat ever. The Oilers played the entire third period without Oscar Klefbom, their best defenceman, who was suffering from the flu.“I tried to control rebounds as best I could and not give them any second opportunities,” Talbot said.The Sharks yanked Jones with 1:43 remaining and pressured the Oilers relentlessly the rest of the way. I believe we have learned our lesson from Game 4.”Edmonton outshot San Jose 9-6 in the first period, with several close chances. Edmonton’s 20-year-old centre logged more than 30 minutes of ice time, a huge number for a non-defenceman. The 22-year old forward, who played in the KHL as recently as 2014-15, grabbed a loose puck, skated in and easily beat Jones. Kris Russell, the scrappy defenceman  who led the NHL in blocked shots, had 27 blocks in six games. “We have had some success, but the important thing for us is to be ready to play (tonight). The schedule for Round 2 is yet to be released.“We are ready for the Ducks,” McDavid told broadcaster Cassie Campbell-Pascall.The Maple Leafs and the Senators remain alive and both have games on Sunday. It was the first postseason goal for each of them.A hush fell over the sell-out crowd at SAP Center, while fans at Rogers Place watching the telecast on the scoreboard cheered. More than 18,000 people paid a $5 admission fee, with proceeds going to charity, to watch the game.“It is a huge moment for the organisation,” Draisaitl said afterward.The game was not without drama. Draisatl was foiled on what appeared to be a sure goal, having his stick snap just as he went to fire at a gaping net within the final minute.The Oilers took command of the series with a dramatic come-from-behind victory in overtime on Thursday in Game 5 at Rogers Place. Klefbom then tied it with 2:46 left in regulation, and David Desharnais won it with 1:45 left in the extra period.The Oilers rallied after  McDavid made a crushing open-ice hit against Marcus Sorensen.

Penguins’ prescient decision to keep Fleury shows why teams need insurance

He’d been in contention for the NHL scoring title and in the midst of an MVP-style season before his injury. Part of being an effective NHL general manager is understanding insurance. In the meantime, Fleury was exceptional at the other end. But the Blue Jackets had no answer for Sidney Crosby and they especially had no answer for Evgeni Malkin, who missed the final 15 games of the regular season recovering from an undisclosed injury.Malkin likely could have played a few games in the final week, but the Penguins figured, why risk it? First, he went out and brought in extra defencemen – Ron Hainsey and Mark Streit – because he knew that eventually, he would need more than a starting six. Insurance, sometimes you have to have it. When Hockey Night in Canada does its nightly playoff montage, one of Lemieux’s goals in that series is usually featured. He was the Conn Smythe winner in the 2009 Penguins’ Stanley Cup season and finished the series against Columbus with an eye-popping 11 points in five games (two goals, nine assists). Fleury set a Penguins’ record with the victory, his 57th in the playoffs, moving him past Tom Barrasso (56) for most in team history.Apart from Fleury’s clutch goaltending, ultimately what turned the series in Pittsburgh’s direction was the play of its stars down the middle. In Thursday’s deciding game, Fleury made 49 saves as the Penguins became the first Eastern Conference team to advance to the second round. And it turned out the Penguins were in good hands with Fleury. You need collision, of course, because there are always collisions in a hockey game, and some result in injury. But Murray also has had a bit of an injury history, too. But really, the most important policy is comprehensive and that’s what the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Jim Rutherford took out this year, in an attempt to enhance his team’s chances of defending the Stanley Cup. But his playoff pedigree is bullet-proof. But Pittsburgh’s high-powered offence lit up Bobrovsky. Most everyone thought Rutherford would, well in advance of the 2017 NHL expansion draft, move goaltender Marc-André Fleury because the expansion rules permit teams to protect only one goalie, and in Pittsburgh, that one is going to be Matt Murray, their goalie of the present and future.Murray helped them win the Stanley Cup last season and was the Penguins starter for 21 playoff games. Kris Letang’s season-ending surgery proved him correct. 3 because Fleury was also out – and this year, when it appeared all systems were go for the start of their series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Murray got injured in warmup of the opening game.Thankfully for the Pens, they made the decision to keep Fleury around for insurance purposes, a policy decision that paid big dividends, when he stepped in to provide difference-making goaltending in what finished as a 4-1 series victory.Columbus was supposed to have the goaltending edge in the series because of Sergei Bobrovsky, a sure-fire Vézina Trophy finalist, who’d had an exceptional year. The only other Penguins player to accomplish something comparable was Mario Lemieux, with 12 points in the 1991 Stanley Cup final against the Minnesota North Stars. He wasn’t able to start the playoff opener last year – that fell to Jeff Zatkoff, their No. But mostly, it was the deal that Rutherford didn’t make that had his NHL brethren puzzled, until it proved wholly prescient. Malkin did most of his damage while Canada was focused on its trio of Eastern Conference playoff teams, but his play was no less memorable, even if it happened over on Sportsnet 360.So the Penguins answered one of the early questions about their title defence, defeating a pretty good Columbus team, and now await the winner of the Washington Capitals-Toronto Maple Leafs’ series. Columbus posted the fourth-best record in the NHL regular season because of its one-to-12 depth up front.

Kelly: Love can be fickle in Toronto, the ‘next great North American sports city’

It was, but not in the way people thought at the time.After having been so bad at so many things for so long, Toronto reached up and put a death grip on the one team doing anything worth cheering. Though they were always ahead, even in the lean years, hockey is currently crushing basketball in the TV ratings by factors.When this change was put to Raptors coach Dwane Casey, he said, “That happened very fast. But it does make the city’s sports what they should be – a recurring civic reward rather than an endless group penance. Ten years ago, that might have begun a decade of muddling about. Like, overnight.”He didn’t say it disapprovingly. Inside the arena, few bothered taking their seats until after tipoff. The Raptors were at the high-water mark for a while. If nothing else, Toronto fans have proved they are willing to endure limitless amounts of unwatchable entertainment.More than committed fans or well-to-do fans or a new generation of fans, what every profit-minded owner wants is a proud local tradition of masochism.The Raptors accidentally changed that calculus, since the 2013-14 season was designed to be a tank job.Basketball’s breakthrough made it impossible for everyone else to continue bumbling down the path of lucrative mediocrity. Until the final seconds, the atmosphere was oppressively regular season. You can’t share out the love equally between teams. Toronto sports went from a “I suppose I can see why you did that stupid thing, even though it was stupid” sort of a town to an Alec Baldwin-esque “Coffee is for closers” sort of town. The hysterical crowds that once showed up for the Raptors are now there for the Leafs instead. outlets such as ESPN had spent the previous decade painting the city as a post-apocalyptic sports wasteland overrun by cannibal fans eating their own teams. You felt as though the city you’d grown up in – a city whose three favourite sports were bad hockey, worse hockey and Harold Ballard in the off-season – was changing.Now, it’s changed back.During Tuesday’s Game 2 of Raptors-Bucks, the group at Jurassic Park looked like a poorly assembled picket line. Today, it means they must demonstrate they are willing to begin quickly fixing whatever is wrong or risk being drowned in apathy.You cannot guarantee being very good at all your games at once – that’s an accident of timing and competition. The accompanying photo showed Drake in full throat, howling from his courtside seat at a Raptors game – a spot he has yet to occupy during this year’s NBA playoffs. It felt nothing like 2014.It suggested that people like new things even more than good things.The other contributing factor is, of course, hockey. A few weeks ago, Rolling Stone ran a piece entitled “Is Toronto the Next Great North American Sports City?”Since this town is a figurative sheepdog wandering around the continental dinner party looking for a belly rub, this small bit of American love felt good. Even Toronto FC finally figured out that you should probably ask people if they want to play for your team before you begin burying them in bricks of money.That rising tide has floated all boats, but like any tide, it shifts. Every franchise may have been trying to get better before, but now they had to get better.A year later, the Leafs lit their roster on fire and began a rebuild. The biggest ovation during the first three quarters was reserved for a blooper reel played during a timeout. Then the Jays. Six months after that, the Blue Jays did what they had spent two decades avoiding – mortgaging an uncertain future for a reliable shot at the present. Now the Leafs.Compared to the hockey club, the other two are looking shaky at the moment. One will always be uppermost in the city’s esteem, usually whichever Prodigal Son is currently returning.What matters is creating an environment in which every organization feels consistent, grinding pressure to lap the new favourite.It may not make you the “best” sports city. Especially so since U.S. He said it like it was a natural adaptation.Over the 20 years before this sudden group resurgence, the problem with Toronto sports was two-fold – hegemonic control and general malaise.When one or two companies own all the teams, and all the teams are terrible, there is no pressing reason for any of them to get better. Among his many talents, Drake always seems to know when a trend has run its course.Three years ago, when the Raptors began their current run of postseason appearances, it felt like a tipping point. Hours before home games, hundreds of people would already be lined up to get into the viewing zone outside the Air Canada Centre.The feeling coming from those crowds was infectious.

Flying Finn Artturi Lehkonen a pleasant surprise for Habs

Not that his emergence is a shock.Lehkonen has a lethal shot and a sky-high hockey IQ. The lesson: If canines know not to chase people mindlessly around stationary objects, hockey players should be able to learn to do the same, or at least imitate the behaviour.It’s not known whether Montreal Canadiens forward Artturi Lehkonen had a dog growing up in Piikkio, Finland, but he plays like one, relentlessly, tirelessly and with enthusiasm.In the first period at the Bell Centre on Thursday Lehkonen provided an example of how subtle positioning and on-the-fly decision making can affect a close game.With New York Rangers defenceman Marc Staal skating back to retrieve a loose puck in the right corner of his own zone the Finn bustled in behind him, on his outside shoulder, forcing him behind the net.That’s where Lehkonen, rather than following, turned hard and scooted around the front, thus forcing Staal toward the boards and, as he turned to avoid a referee, the Finn sneaked his stick in and pilfered the puck.The play would eventually result in a goal – Lehkonen’s second of the playoffs, which jointly leads the team with Alex Radulov – and showed why Habs coach Claude Julien has compared the heady young winger to Loui Eriksson of the Vancouver Canucks, a one-time 36-goal scorer in the NHL.“A smart, smart player, he just has that personality, not much fazes him,” Julien said. He also owns a world junior championship gold medal and, a year ago, led Sweden’s top pro league in playoff scoring, setting a Frolunda club record. Subban and Lars Eller; in: Shea Weber, Andrew Shaw, Radulov), and continued at the trade deadline (in: Jordie Benn, Steve Ott, Dwight King, Andreas Martinsen).Overlooked in much of the discussion is the never-say-die contribution from Lehkonen, a second-round choice in 2013, Bergevin’s second draft with the club.He has 14 points in his past 17 games playing mostly third-line minutes. Roger Neilson, the late, great NHL coach, had a theory about fore-checking and early in his career he used a large, elderly collie named Jacques to teach it to junior-aged players.Neilson would head behind the net with a tennis ball on his stick and his dog would stand in front of the goalie, waiting for him to make a move. Coincidentally, one of the club’s signature exports is Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.“Although [Lundqvist’s twin brother] Joel might be a bigger deal back there,” said Lehkonen, who speaks in a commanding baritone.The younger Lehkonen made his debut in the Liiga, or Finland’s elite league, at 16.He’ll never be a bruiser in the NHL – he is listed, optimistically, at six feet and 182 pounds – but as Bergevin told the Montreal Gazette earlier this year, “he shakes hands like he’s six-four.” “He just goes about his business.”Lehkonen later added an assist on Brendan Gallagher’s go-ahead goal and ended the night on the top line and first wave of the power-play.So, hands up out there if you predicted the 21-year-old NHL rookie would be the Habs’ most consistent forward in the playoffs to this point. Anyone?The Canadiens face elimination on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, which will test the theory character is more consequential than other qualities in hockey.Habs general-manager Marc Bergevin began stockpiling grit and leadership last summer (out: P.K.

McDavid’s crushing check changed Game 5, and maybe the Oilers’ series

With 6 minutes 56 seconds remaining, McDavid delivered a crushing open-ice check on San Jose’s Marcus Sorensen. A tough left winger in his day, Kypreos played eight seasons in the NHL, accumulating 90 points and 1,210 penalty minutes in 442 regular-season games.“I thought it was a great moment for [McDavid] to be able to do something like that,” Kypreos said. The hit was strategic and intentional.“I don’t see it so much about him going outside of his comfort zone, as much as I do him adding a dimension to his game,” Kypreos said. Fans chanted “MVP.” The Oilers on the bench looked charged.The hit changed the game, and maybe the series. The left winger was skating with his head down when McDavid barrelled into him shoulder-first. The Oilers lost that night, but sparked by the hit, went on to win the next four games, and made it to the Stanley Cup final.In 2010, the Flyers’ Mike Richards caught the Bruins’ David Krejci skating with his head down during Game 3 of the second round, and knocked him out of the game and the rest of the series. Sorensen dropped, his stick flying.The sell-out crowd at Rogers Place roared. The energy that had belonged to the Sharks shifted the Oilers’ way.Mark Letestu scored near the end of the second period to cut the Sharks’ lead to 3-2, with an assist from McDavid. He delivered his biggest hit to tip the series in the Oilers’ favour. The Flyers went on to win, and also reached the Stanley Cup final.The play caught the attention of Nick Kypreos, now a hockey analyst with Sportsnet. You don’t see many like that anymore.”The Art Ross Trophy-winner as the NHL’s leading scorer with 100 points, McDavid is known for his blazing speed and preternatural puck-handling. Then David Desharnais completed Edmonton’s rally, flipping a puck past Martin Jones from in front of the net 18:15 into overtime.The victory gave the Oilers a 3-2 lead in the series, with a chance to win in California on Saturday night. In the second period of the fifth game of the first round on Thursday night, the Oilers’ season was imperilled.With the series tied, the Sharks had scored three times unanswered and had a 3-1 lead.Connor McDavid, Edmonton’s 20-year-old captain, had been struggling to score against San Jose’s tight defence, so he found another way to impose his skill on the game. “It showed push-back and relentlessness and lifted the whole bench. “It showed another side to him that a lot of people didn’t think he had.“You can change the feel of a game with that type of hit. Oscar Klefbom tied it with 2:46 remaining in the third. He didn’t talk about it, but it was no accident. “I am sure right now the Sharks’ players are thinking, ‘I didn’t know he could do that.’”McDavid has one goal and two assists through five games, but the Oilers have the series lead.“I am sure guys are saying, ‘As if I didn’t have enough to worry about with him, now I have to keep my head up,’” Kypreos said. If a seventh game is necessary, it will be played at Rogers Place on Monday. Amid the celebration afterward, McDavid’s thunderous hit was lost.“It was a tipping point,” Ron MacLean, the Hockey Night in Canada host, said Friday. In this series, he has had four hits in two games. It showed he would do anything to help his team win the game.“It was huge.”MacLean said it reminded him of two playoff series that suddenly turned.In 2006, Raffi Torres delivered a vicious open-ice check on Milan Michalek in Game 2 of the Oilers-Sharks second-round playoff series.

Youthful Bucks’ ‘character’ presenting challenges to playoff-seasoned Raptors

“I was thinking I have five guaranteed minutes, and I’ve got to make the most of it – and it kept building up – I just had to clock it in and go as hard as I could in that five – and [the minutes] just kept going up and up.”Maker took great motivation from a speech Dellavedova and Terry made to their teammates this week, challenging everyone to work as hard as the rookies, Maker and Brogdon. “He’s going to take the state of Wisconsin on a ride, and the city of Milwaukee, and we should all sign up.”He leads his team in countless statistical categories, but it’s not just the Greek Freak who is leading to the Bucks’ success. He’s only 22 years old,” Kidd said. If they get out of character, it’s not a very good movie,” Kidd said after Friday’s practice. 9 selling jersey in the NBA this season, and his No. Maker is now a starting centre – the rookie who was playing high-school ball at Orangeville’s Athlete Institute a year ago and was playing five minutes a game a few months back.“I just had to trust and now it’s paying off,” Maker said. He picked up a basketball for the first time in 2007, was in the Greek A2 League by 2012 and drafted by the Bucks 15th over all in 2013. The ad ends with the voice of the precocious star:“Eventually everyone is gonna know my name.”That name, by the way, is pronounced YAHN-iss ahn-teh-toe-KUHN-poe.”He had the No. The Bucks are the first team to start two rookies in a playoff game since Golden State did it with Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli in 2013.At their practice facility on the grounds of a Catholic seminary, a 15-minute drive from downtown Milwaukee, the Bucks were met by a large crowd of reporters. Francis, Wisc., the flags of six countries hang on the wall, representing the men who make up the plucky young Milwaukee Bucks team that is turning heads in the NBA playoffs.A U.S. Inside their practice facility in St. And former Cavalier Dellavedova, who has been setting masterful screens, is sharing the role of veteran leader with Jason Terry.Few might have anticipated that the team, which lost Jabari Parker to injury this season, could be playing like this now. 3-seeded Toronto Raptors. “Us using our length, flying around on the defensive end – right now it’s all coming together.”A new stadium is being constructed downtown beside the current one, and a new practice facility will be there, too. The team defence has been right on point. Malcolm Brogdon is the floor general, Maker and Greg Monroe the powerful tandem at centre, and Tony Snell the shut-down defender. He and his brothers peddled sunglasses on the streets to help their family pay for food. They caught fire in March and went on to win 14 of their 18 games in that action-packed month, making Kidd the Eastern Conference coach of the month.The Bucks have asked Snell to guard DeRozan with grit. 6 in the East – to advance past the No. 34 jersey is the one most prominently worn around town and displayed on store-front mannequins, who are also wearing cheese-head hats.“He’s just getting started on his journey. Few would have bet on this youthful Bucks squad – seeded No. He defies double and triple teams with his long stride, can be used as a point guard and an inbound passer, he bullies through the paint, dishes expert passes, beats defenders in transition, is a prolific rebounder and shot-blocker, and throws down some of the NBA’s most stunning dunks.Nike dropped a new ad this week, putting Antetokounmpo’s fascinating life into a one-minute video – the ultimate out-of-nowhere story.He was born in 1994 in Athens to Nigerian immigrants. There’s one for Bosnia and Herzegovina for Mirza Teletovic, an Australian flag for both the invaluable veteran Matthew Dellavedova and the surprising rookie Thon Maker – who is also represented by the Sudanese flag. Khris Middleton has had a hot hand. Their excitement was muted, but their pride in how they’re performing rang clear.“This is what I envisioned,” Maker said. Monroe was a guy they asked to come off the bench at centre and he answered big time in that role. “So we talk about that a lot – staying in character.”The leading man and action hero of this movie is definitely Antetokounmpo, the uniquely talented 6-foot-11 star who is built much like a real-life superhero and may some day be the world’s best player. The Bucks are showing off talent, team work and strategy, coming together at precisely the right moment.Coach Jason Kidd preaches to them about every person staying in the “character” the team has constructed for them.“If they stay in character as a team, that movie is great to watch. Now up 2-1 in the series after winning Game 3 by 27 points, they are presenting tremendous challenges to the more playoff-seasoned Raps, especially to all-stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. flag hangs alongside ones from Greece and Nigeria – for Giannis Antetokounmpo, a kid raised in Athens in a family of Nigerian immigrants and the freakishly athletic 22-year-old taking the NBA by storm. It makes you wonder what kind of things this team will accomplish there when it opens the 2018-19 NBA season.

Capitals put Leafs on the brink after Williams scores in overtime

His latest came one minute and four seconds into overtime on Friday night to give the Capitals a 2-1 win at the Verizon Center. T.J. Their power play’s been good but five-on-five I think we feel pretty confident in our game.”The Capitals scored first in what was a comparatively more conservative game than the previous four in the series. Just have a Coke and enjoy the match.“It’s playoffs. Ovechkin lay on the ice for several minutes and had to be helped to the dressing room. The Caps now lead the first-round NHL playoff series 3-2. “For sure, I’ve got a lot of respect for that guy. “Yeah I just needed a little break,” he said. Ovechkin also skated toward the Toronto bench and offered some thoughts.On further review, Kadri wasn’t so sure he was happy to see Ovechkin return.“Ah, I’m not quite sure I was happy to see him come back on the ice,” he said. From what I saw he’s okay.“I’m hoping he’s okay. The Toronto Maple Leafs slipped from the tightrope they have walked in this playoff series and now are hanging on for dear life.They were done in for the second time in the series by Washington Capitals forward Justin Williams, a seize-the-moment kind of guy whose legacy as a playoff hero is now written in stone. It’s all it takes,” said Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin, the central figure in a sub-plot that played large earlier in the game. You don’t want that to be an extended injury. “I was watching TV. They say the ability to simply play that carried them this far is still with them and they know they are an even match for the Capitals.“The scores indicated it,” Leafs defenceman Matt Hunwick said. He tried to get out of the way, it’s  not like I stuck my knee out,” Kadri said. That drew a penalty for slashing at 19:34 while Kadri and Caps forward Tom Wilson were given minor penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct in the ensuing scrum. Right now we going back to play in Toronto and try to win there.”The Maple Leafs had their chances to grab the win in regulation time but were frustrated by Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby. Game 7. However, Ovechkin sent a buzz through the crowd when he returned for the second period.Ovechkin was out for the opening faceoff and then flattened Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner for the second time in the game. “One shot and we get the [series] lead. But at the end of the day I’m cheating my teammates if I don’t try to get a piece of him because he’s dumping the puck in and going around our defencemen.”Ovechkin said there was nothing serious about his injury and that while he was in the dressing room he watched his teammates capitalize on the power play. “You kind of get more comfortable each and every night to expect not too much space, it’s pretty physical, a lot of 50-50 battles that you got to make sure you’re winning.“I think that’s kind of been the key for us, for everybody, just trying to get better each game and tonight’s a big one for us.”The drama in regulation time was provided by Leafs centre Nazem Kadri, who upended Ovechkin with a controversial hit late in the first period. There might have been grounds to call Kadri for clipping, which is when a player lowers his body and throws it at or below the knees of an opponent. His scoring exploits, particularly in the seventh and deciding games of playoff series, earned Williams the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP when the Kings won in 2014.“Mr. They smothered four Leafs power plays.The Leafs now have to fight off the pressure of playing in an elimination game on Sunday. The goal came at the end of a tremendous shift by Matthews’ line, as the Capitals were hemmed in their own zone.He said before the game he thinks he is getting better as his first NHL playoff experience moves along.“Yeah, I just think each game, myself personally I feel like I’ve gotten better,” Matthews said. The game grew nastier in the wake of Kadri’s hit.Kadri was given a tripping penalty for the hit, although it was a hip check. “I think four overtimes, [there is] not a lot to choose. Oshie scored late in the first period on a power play that came as the result of a hip check by Leafs centre Nazem Kadri on Ovechkin, which fostered much ill will over the rest of the game.Auston Matthews, fresh off his selection as one of three finalists for the Calder Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s rookie-of-the-year, tied the score six minutes into the second period. I’m glad he came back. “It happened really quick. In the remarkable four overtime games that have been played in this first-round NHL playoff series, Williams scored the winning goal in two of them. It’s a pretty tender area. I didn’t watch the replay, but if it’s dirty it’s dirty. He was non-committal about whether or not Kadri’s hit was clean. League going to watch it and if not, it doesn’t matter right now.” Kadri threw a hip check that knocked Ovechkin out of the game briefly with what appeared to be a left knee or leg injury.Kadri threw a classic hip check on Ovechkin at 17:32, flipping the star over and he landed on his left leg. However, the replays showed Kadri hit Ovechkin on the thigh, above his knee.“I thought I got right on the puck and then tried to get a piece of him. They can eliminate the Leafs in Game 6 of the best-of-seven affair on Sunday night in Toronto.Williams, 35, has three Stanley Cup rings from his days with the Carolina Hurricanes and the Los Angeles Kings. He took some criticism when the Capitals won 5-4 in Game 4 but was sharp all evening in Game 5 with 24 saves.Also sharp were the Washington penalty killers. He was running around a little bit when he came back, so he must have been fine.Ovechkin went after Kadri in the second period. He gave Kadri a jab on the arm and then Capitals defenceman Matt Niskanen chopped Kadri on the left knee with his stick.

ITF launch Nastase investigation after Serena Williams comments

We are unable to comment further on an ongoing investigation.”Nastase, whose behaviour on court during his career often landed him trouble and earned him the nickname “Nasty”, began the tie under a cloud after remarks overheard at the official draw ceremony on Friday.He was heard speaking in Romanian to one of his team members about Williams’ baby.“Let’s see what colour it has. Chocolate with milk?” he was quoted by Romanian and some British media as saying.Williams, who confirmed her pregnancy through a spokeswoman on Wednesday, is engaged to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who is white. World number seven Konta was in tears when play was briefly suspended at the tie in Constanta where she was up against Sorana Cirstea, apparently because of remarks made by Nastase.He was eventually excluded from the tie because of “unsportsmanlike conduct”.Konta recovered her composure to win the last five games for a 6-2 6-3 victory that levelled up the tie at 1-1 after Romania’s number one Simona Halep had beaten Heather Watson.“Mr Nastase was also removed from the grounds due to his serious misconduct,” the ITF said in a second statement.“His accreditation was removed and he will play no further part in the tie.“The ITF has launched an investigation into this matter as well as previous comments made by Mr Nastase during the week.”British captain Keothavong, who said she was made to feel “uncomfortable” by comments made by Nastase at the official pre-match dinner, said the abuse during play had been unacceptable.“We expected a patriotic crowd for the Romanian team but we don’t expect abusive language to be used … Former tennis bad boy Ilie Nastase found himself in deep water on Saturday after being booted out of Romania’s Fed Cup tie against Britain, a day after allegations that he made a derogatory comment about Serena Williams’ unborn child.The 70-year-old former French Open and U.S. language that is not appropriate for anyone to speak to any other human.”ITF president David Haggerty said an investigation would be launched.“This is unacceptable behaviour by a Fed Cup captain. what he said directed to both Johanna and myself is… No player, official, member of the media or fan should have to endure any kind of abuse, and Mr Nastase will rightly play no further part in this tie,” he said.“A formal investigation is already underway and any decision or sanction will be made by the ITF’s Adjudication Panel. Open champion, who is captain of Romania’s Fed Cup team, was sent from his courtside chair after apparently aiming abuse at the umpire, British player Johanna Konta and visiting captain Anne Keothavong during the second singles rubber.

Blue Jays leave the nest hoping to put abysmal homestand behind them

Louis on Friday. Happ (elbow inflammation) and right-hander Aaron Sanchez (blister) necessitated the promotions, and while neither pitcher is expected to miss more than one game each, using farm hands as starters on back-to-back nights is not ideal.Still, despite the negative outlook through 15 games, players maintain they are not worried. The loss lowered Toronto’s record to 3-12, while Boston’s improved to 10-6.Kevin Pillar’s eighth-inning single extended his hitting streak to eight games. It’s been a tough – and that’s probably an understatement – homestand,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said after a 4-1 extra-innings loss to the Red Sox on Thursday. But after Jays reliever Jason Grilli loaded the bases, Mookie Betts cleared them with a double as Boston went on to win 4-1. The defeat sunk Toronto’s record to 3-12, the worst in the majors, as it lost its fifth successive series, a franchise record.Take your pick at what’s wrong with the Blue Jays, who have been a powerhouse in the American League East the past two seasons, but lacklustre in 2017.Their best player, Josh Donaldson, could be lost for up to a month as he recovers from a persistent calf injury that he aggravated last week. It had a shot to win back-to-back matches for the first time in the series finale against Boston, but relief pitcher Jason Grilli came undone in the 10th, giving up a three-run double to Mookie Betts, putting the game out of reach.The mounting losses have left many Blue Jays players perplexed.“It would be understandable if we were on a different team with different names, but you look at who we have here and start thinking ‘how is this happening with a lineup like that?’” said right-hander Marco Estrada, who allowed three hits and no runs over six innings, but did not factor into the decision on Thursday.“It’s surprising, but anything is possible and we’re facing pretty good teams,” Bautista said. Jose Bautista, meanwhile, saw his batting average sink to .109. “I think it’s a great time [to leave]. The Toronto Blue Jays are heading back on the road, looking to put the first homestand of the season behind them. Latos, who has made 186 career starts over an eight-year major-league career, signed with the Blue Jays as a free agent in the off-season. After all, there are still 147 to go.——————————————————Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 1The Blue Jays fell in extra innings to the Red Sox on Thursday, dropping the rubber match of their three-game series. And Jose Bautista, once the the engine of the team’s homer-heavy lineup, is hitless in his past 16 at-bats.Kevin Pillar, typically known for his stellar defence, not his hitting, has been the most consistent hitter, going 14 for 33 on his current eight-game hitting streak.“Any time you’re accustomed to being a contributor, and you’re not, it kind of weighs on you a little bit,” said Bautista, who struck out four times facing Red Sox ace Chris Sale and has yet to homer this season. After dropping two of three games to the Boston Red Sox, and seven of nine over all during a 10-day run at Rogers Centre, the Blue Jays begin a week-long road swing through Anaheim and St. There’s no words right now,” Grilli said.The wins won’t be any easier for the Jays’ in their four-game series in Anaheim.A pair of call-ups from Triple-A Buffalo – Mat Latos and Casey Lawrence – will have the unenviable task of getting the Jays back on track against reigning American League MVP Mike Trout and the Angels. Lawrence, meanwhile, made a pair of relief appearances for the team this season, and allowed three earned runs in two innings.Injuries to left-hander J.A. “But I’ve gotta get past that and just figure out a way to get back on track and start doing more at the plate and put us in a better position to win games.”Winning games has not been easy for Toronto. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth, Kendrys Morales gave Toronto a lift when he launched a solo shot deep to centre field against Boston closer Craig Kimbrel, sending the game to the 10th frame. Two key starting pitchers are on the 10-day disabled list. “We just need to continue to grind it out and wait for a better result.”“Losing only makes you appreciate winning, there’s not much else to say.

Senators expect ‘desperate,’ hard-fought Game 5 from Bruins

If it doesn’t happen next game, we’re going to do the same thing the game after.”Wednesday night’s 1-0 victory gave the Sens a 7-1 record against Boston this season. They’re going to be at their most desperate – they were desperate yesterday and they’re going to be even more desperate the next game, so we have to be extremely ready and prepared for it.”Roundup: The latest news and results from the 2017 Stanley Cup PlayoffsOttawa, which leads the series 3-1, has history on its side. In Game 3, he was a key in three of the four Ottawa goals, earning actual assists on two of them.Then, Wednesday, he saw the path to the goal was actually shooting the puck wide, letting it hit the boards and come out to Bobby Ryan, who was behind defenceman Charlie McAvoy, playing in only his fourth NHL game.Ryan slipped the puck past Tuukka Rask and Zdeno Chara, the tallest man ever to play in the NHL, couldn’t prevent it from crawling over the goal line with his dive.“I think you look at the NHL and there’s a handful of guys that are able to make those type of plays,” Boucher said. “Whether it’s the Crosbys, or Johnny Tavares and those guys, or its Erik, that’s what makes them those guys.“They’re able to see through the traffic in times of pressure, their minds seem to be working either faster than everybody else or they seem to be able to slow down the pace of the game in their minds to a level that not a lot of guys can do.”It was Ryan’s third goal of the series and his second winner. Boston had only five shots in the third, the last two by Brad Marchand, his fifth and sixth of the game. All the games have been decided by two goals or fewer, and three of them have gone to overtime.Asked why these games have been so close, Boucher said: “Because there are two good teams that are going at each other and nobody wants to give up.”Craig Anderson, 8-1 against Boston in his past nine starts, pitched his fourth career playoff shutout and Bobby Ryan scored off yet another nifty play by Erik Karlsson in the third period to give the Senators a sweep of the two games in Boston.With the Bruins defence decimated by injuries – three of their top four defencemen are out – Karlsson has been freer than usual to work his magic.In Game 2 in Ottawa, his wizardry led to a setup for Derick Brassard for the tying goal in the third period. “That’s my experience. “So it’s all about us right now against the Bruins. They’re been a great opponent all year long and we’re expecting nothing less the next game – we’re expecting a one-goal game, an overtime and really we’re just focusing on the first 10 minutes of the next game.”Ottawa forward Kyle Turris agreed that the team can’t get too far ahead of itself.“It’s important but you’re not thinking, ‘Oh we have to do this,’” he said. When I start thinking of that, that’s where guys get nervous, they get anxious, they want to overdo things, they want to get things done right away in the first five minutes. Guy Boucher doesn’t want the Ottawa Senators to get too wrapped up in eliminating Boston when they take the ice for Game 5 of their first-round series with the Bruins on Friday night.“I never see them as elimination games,” the Ottawa coach said at the team’s hotel Thursday morning. He was stopped twice on breakaways in the first period and has but one goal in his past 24 playoff games.But the Sens are expecting the Bruins to again come out storming, this time with their season on the line. “We’re going into next game just thinking the same way we have all series: just playing our system, trying to limit what they get and score on the opportunities we do get to just to kind of give us a chance. “You get totally lost in that kind of excitement, so for me it’s we’re going to play another game and it’s going to be another one-goal game and it’s going to be extremely hard. The Bruins have never come back from a such a deficit to win a series, going 0-for-22.“Oh my goodness, I couldn’t care less about history – history is different people at different times and different circumstances,” Boucher said. He has four goals in the past five games following a 13-game goal drought.Boucher liked the way his team played in the third period Wednesday, getting the lead and frustrating the Bruins to help Anderson finish off the shutout.

Maple Leafs suddenly find themselves with little margin for youthful errors

Game 5 may well decide this, since the winner gets a 3-2 lead, one game from ending it in what is a battle of the psyches as much as on the ice.After hearing Leafs head coach Mike Babcock talk every day about how much pressure there is on the Capitals because they are the heavy favourites despite their mediocre playoff history, his counterpart with the Capitals threw a little back on Thursday.“I think they’re wrapping their heads around what we have to do,” Barry Trotz said of the Maple Leafs. “We saw some clips [Thursday] morning in our meeting – is this what the Maple Leafs are doing when we’re playing our best? So far, they’ve been able to play their way out of them, but that did not happen in Game 4.The reason the Maple Leafs are wildly entertaining is that they can buzz around the Capitals goal one minute and then watch the Caps wheel around the Toronto end the next because of some awful mistake. There’s no 60-minute domination. No.” Ovechkin is a sporadic participant in this series. I think we’ve figured out how we have to play and we’ve just got to do it for longer.”What the Leafs have to do now is figure out a way to stop making the glaring error. Now, anyone who has watched more than three Capitals games knows Ovechkin plays the left point on the power play. Ovie did. He has three goals, but two of them were gifts from the Leafs.During a Game 2 power play last week, Ovechkin was Zach Hyman’s man. Then everyone else works to get him an open shot from the top of the faceoff circle, where Ovechkin can launch his customary bombs.Hyman must have been hiding in the washroom playing poker with a couple of the other kids from the back of the class when Babcock taught that particular lesson because he was nowhere in sight when Ovechkin ripped a shot that tied the score and put some life into the Capitals.Connor Brown was probably in that poker game, too, along with a couple of others on the penalty-killing unit. When they get it back it’s tough to be in our coverage.”Sorry, no English translation was provided. But a rough guess is, “We all took off to chase the puck on the right side. Brown was asked what happened.“Yeah, he was by himself,” Brown said. That’s when I knew I didn’t want to go back to our bench.”You can bet Babcock went over the Ovechkin lesson again Thursday morning. Four minutes and 34 seconds into the first period Thursday night, Brown and company left the entire left side of the ice open for another Ovechkin rocket that made it 2-0 Washington. The Leafs have more than a chance to win but that means once again bouncing back against the best regular-season team in the league. Roundup: The latest news and results from the 2017 Stanley Cup PlayoffsThe best-of-seven series is now a best-of-three, with two games in Washington. Everything is writ large with this team, the mistakes as well as the highlight-reel plays.Nothing speaks to that more than a couple of blunders against Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin, who is not dominating this series by any degree but has managed some moments thanks to the Leafs. The playoff pressure pendulum that was stuck on the Washington Capitals for the past two games is now bearing down on the Toronto Maple Leafs.Their skate-like-crazy, throw-pucks-at-the-net, see-what-happens style made the Leafs the talk of the NHL for the first week of the playoffs.But now that the Capitals gave them a good lesson on playoff hockey in Game 4 – yes, the Leafs made it close near the end but that was only on the scoreboard – it is time to see if the roller-coaster team really is ready to stay ahead of the rebuilding plan and finish this upset, which looked so close until the Caps tied the first-round series with that 5-4 win on Wednesday. We didn’t get it. “We had the puck and so when there is a loose puck we’re trying to create as much pressure as possible or outnumber them in that wall and we’ve got to get our clears down. That doesn’t happen in the playoffs. Leafs defenceman Connor Carrick admitted as much when he was asked about the need to worry more about Ovechkin.“It’s our job to play at our pace, with our execution, in our system, what’s made us successful all season long and against Washington, be aware of our pitfalls and stay away from them and manage the game,” he said. Ovechkin was left all by himself on the left side of the ice on an early power play Wednesday night for an easy goal.This must have driven Babcock into a rage. You can also bet no one sneaked out for a smoke in the boys’ room. “As I said [Wednesday] we’ve just got to continue to build a 60-minute game.“In the playoffs, you’re going to have times where you have to weather their storm and times they’re going to have to weather our storm.