Tom Brady and Patriots win AFC championship 36-17 over Steelers

The Patriots are early three-point favourites heading to face Atlanta in two weeks in Houston, seeking their fifth NFL title with Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick as coach. The previously unheralded receiver found open spaces everywhere on the field against a leaky secondary. The Tom Brady redemption tour is headed to the Super Bowl.After beginning the 2016 season suspended for four games for his role in the Deflategate scandal, the New England quarterback relentlessly carried the Patriots to an unprecedented ninth appearance in the title game, and his seventh.Brady threw for a franchise playoff-best 384 yards and three touchdowns in a 36-17 rout of the helpless Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in New England’s seventh consecutive AFC championship game. Belichick’s seventh appearance in a Super Bowl will be a record for a head coach.Brady was banned by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell when New England (16-2) went 3-1 to open the schedule.Since his return in Week 5, the only defeat came at home to Seattle, and Brady, 39, had one of the best seasons of a Hall of Fame-calibre career. Hogan caught nine balls for 180 yards and two scores. He punctuated that in dreary weather similar to the 2014 conference title game that precipitated the deflated footballs investigation by flattening Pittsburgh’s secondary.Chris Hogan was his main weapon.

Virtue and Moir continue comeback by claiming seventh national title

“I thought that was a nice touch, it was a classy touch. I think it will take many many years after we’re officially retired to realize kind of the impact we’ve had. We’re really thrilled, we had two great skates, we knew we’d have to to have the title.“But for us to give our coaching staff their first Canadian national title is a huge honour for us, especially after their storied history in this country. The moment wasn’t lost on Moir.“It is kind of cool, it’s just special to be among those names,” Moir said. “Today our goal was to just let it go, let our hearts open up and send it out to the universe, and let the rest take care of itself. “But there is so much room for us to grow and so much room for improvement, which is why we’re back and why we’re doing this again. I don’t know if we’re icons but we definitely still are flattered to be mentioned among those names.”Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., won silver with 192.73 points, while Toronto’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., were third with 189.68, to clinch spots on the team for the world championships in Helsinki in March.Virtue and Moir, gold medallists at the Vancouver Olympics, stepped away from competition after their silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Games. It’s really exciting. “A little bit more emotional for me, it’s a really really tough field, our fresh perspective hopefully gives us an idea of just how important this really is. Their score Saturday topped that, but isn’t recognized as a world record because it’s a domestic event.This week’s national championships was their 16th — including age group events — in their almost two decades together. They also spend considerable chunks of time training in Moscow.“One thing we’re learning in our skating right now is to let go,” Weaver said. But looking forward, we’re just so excited to see where we can take this before 2018.”They skated their free dance to “Pilgrims on a Long Journey” by French-Canadian artist Coeur de pirate, and Sam Smith’s acoustic version of “Latch,” Virtue in an understated dusty rose dress, and Moir in black, and earned 203.15 points — a Canadian best-ever score.During the warmup, the announcer pointed out former Canadian ice dance stars among the crowd, such as Tracy Wilson and Barry and Louise Soper. That was kind of feeding into the pressure, so to accomplish what we were able to this week, we’re very proud of ourselves.”Their coaches Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon won the national ice dance title in the same rink in 2006, where Virtue and Moir won bronze.Weaver and Poje’s silver was their fifth at the national championships. From the very beginning we let that happen and the rest is a domino event.“It’s easy to say, it’s really hard to do, but that was a performance that we know we can do, we know we’re capable of, and that we’ve been working toward.” Still, Moir insisted there was nothing old-hat about this one.“It’s different, different than I expected,” Moir said. They’ve returned with a vengeance this season, going undefeated and penning their name to a world record score at the Grand Prix Final in December. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir roared to their seventh national senior ice dance title Saturday, another victory in the veteran skaters’ seamless comeback.But in the moments after their elegant and intricate free dance that brought the TD Place Arena crowd to its feet in a moving ovation, Virtue positively blushed at the mention of “icon.”

Do you see yourselves as Canadian icons in the sport, they were asked.“It’s so flattering to even hear you even ask that question,” Virtue said. The world silver and bronze medallists won gold in the two seasons Virtue and Moir were missing.It’s been a season of upheaval for the two, who moved from their training base in Detroit to Hackensack, N.J.

Strong Canadian team heading to figure skating world championships

Canada’s team for the world figure skating championships boasts 17 world medals between them.With the return of ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, along with Patrick Chan and pairs skaters Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, Canada will send one of its strongest teams ever to the world championships in Helsinki in March. You need to have that if you’re going to compete with these young guys that are jumping quads all over.“If he performs the technical aspects as laid out, and backs it up with his second mark [artistic element] that he does so well, he’s hard to beat.”The world figure skating championships are March 29 to April 2. “You’ve got to dive in two feet, two hands.“Would I have thought they’d be where they are now? “Our plan is we need to put ourselves in the best position and give everyone the best opportunity to get to these championships.”Virtue and Moir captured their seventh national title this week and showed they’re even stronger than they were before their two-year hiatus from competing.“I’ll be honest, after going through Patrick’s return a year ago, and seeing kind of how tough it is, I think we learned a lesson from him coming back that you’ve got to be ready, and you’ve got to do everything,. They’ve gone head to head with the world champions twice … “If this championship had been one week later, they probably would have been here. And it’s the same with Tessa and Scott,” Slipchuk said. Seguin and Bilodeau were unable to compete in Canada’s national championships this weekend as she recovers from a concussion.“By all accounts from the doctors, they’ll be fine,” Slipchuk said. The team was named Sunday after the Canadian figure skating championships.“It was a great week,” said Skate Canada’s high-performance director Mike Slipchuk. I didn’t, but every time out they just keep getting better and stronger. It was nice to see our defending champions skate the way they did.”Chan, a three-time world champion, and Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., were chosen for the team in men’s singles. And here he is with two triple Axels, three quads,” Slipchuk said. (So if Chan were to win bronze, and Reynolds finished ninth, Canada would have three entries in men’s singles in the Olympics.)“We look at everything from the season, Canadian [championships] is one of the five or six checkpoints that we look at,” Slipchuk said, when asked about the selection process, particularly in regard to the pairs. “When it came time to select the team, it was pretty clear. The announcement came a day after Chan won his ninth national title.Kaetlyn Osmond of Marystown, N.L., and Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket, Ont., will compete in women’s singles.Virtue and Moir, who are two-time world champions and six-time medalists, plus double world medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., as well as Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., will represent Canada in ice dance.And two-time world champions Duhamel and Radford lead a trio of pairs teams that include Toronto’s Lubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch as well as Julianne Seguin of Longueuil, Que., and Charlie Bilodeau of Trois-Pistoles, Que. “To get two different quads in is important for him because it shows him, it shows the field that he has more arsenal. They’re our second-highest team all season and it was a very clear choice for us.”The world championships are even more important this season because they determine how many skaters a country can enter in next year’s Pyeongchang Olympics. Two years away gives you some time to reflect and they’ve come back better than ever.”Chan, who took a season off after Sochi, laid down arguably his strongest performance of his comeback with his free skate Saturday night, landing both a quad toe-loop and quad Salchow.“A year ago, he had one triple Axel, two quads. The total number of placings in each discipline must total 13 or less to have the maximum three entries. Which he did.

Diego Costa’s return stretches Chelsea’s lead in Premier League standings

Wenger’s mood was lifted in the seventh minute of stoppage time when Arsenal was awarded a penalty for Ben Mee’s high foot challenge on Laurent Koscielny.Southampton 3, Leicester 0Leicester has mounted the most feeble defence of a Premier League title and is now in a relegation dogfight. Having lost half of their 22 games, Claudio Ranieri’s players are sitting only five points above the drop zone. Not since Manchester City in 1938 have the topflight title winners been relegated the following season.James Ward-Prowse, Jay Rodriguez and Dusan Tadic scored the goals as Ranieri, once known as the “Tinkerman,” rued switching his team around. Still to clear up the ambiguity over last weekend’s absence from the Chelsea team, Diego Costa did his talking on the pitch on Sunday.Costa marked his return to the side for his 100th Chelsea appearance by scoring the opener in a 2-0 victory over Hull that sent the Premier League leaders eight points clear. Costa’s 15th goal of the campaign came in the seventh minute of stoppage time, the result of a lengthy delay after a clash of heads between Chelsea captain Gary Cahill and Ryan Mason which led to the Hull midfielder being carried off on a stretcher as oxygen was administered before being taken to the hospital.Cahill was able to remain on the field and he headed in Chelsea’s second in the 81st minute after getting on the end of a free kick from Cesc Fabregas.Arsenal 2, Burnley 1It was a fiery end to a game that witnessed two penalties in stoppage time and Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger appearing to push the fourth official.Arsenal went into additional time leading through Shkodran Mustafi’s header, but with 10 men after Granit Xhaka was sent off for a two-footed lunge on Steven Defour in the 66th minute.Wenger’s heated confrontation with the fourth official came as he tried to watch the rest of the game from near the tunnel after being sent off.That came as Andre Gray looked to have snatched a point when he netted from the spot after substitute Francis Coquelin tripped Ashley Barnes.

Actor Keegan-Michael Key to host NFL Honors show

4, when the Associated Press individual awards will be announced.Country star Luke Bryan will sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl the next day in Houston. on Fox. Among the awards presented are the AP most valuable player, coach of the year, comeback player, offensive and defensive player of the year. The newest Pro Football Hall of Fame class will be announced during the program.Key is the co-creator and co-star of Comedy Central’s Key & Peele with Jordan Peele. Bryan is a two-time Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association entertainer of the year and has been host of the ACM Awards for four consecutive years. The two-hour prime-time honours special recognizing the NFL’s best players, performances and plays from the 2016 season will air at 8 p.m. Emmy Award-winning actor and writer Keegan-Michael Key will host the NFL Honors show on Saturday, Feb.

Canada’s Adam Hadwin finishes close second at CareerBuilder Challenge

The 29-year-old former Georgia player earned $1,044,000 (U.S.) and his first spot in the Masters. I’ve been in the heat lately. I knew the bad stuff on those holes were gone. “I was just really confident on those two holes today. Just keep putting myself in position, and this just feels unbelievable.”Hadwin, of Abbotsford, B.C., came back with a 70 after his third-round 59 to finish second.“I can’t help but be slightly disappointed,” Hadwin said. I felt like I did all the right things. Just a couple shots here and there and who knows what could have happened. But an incredible week, my best finish ever.”Best payday, too. It’s not easy,” Swafford said. “They don’t give them away out here. Hudson Swafford won the fittingly named CareerBuilder Challenge on Sunday for his first PGA Tour title, following three straight birdies with a closing par for a one-stroke victory over Canada’s Adam Hadwin.Swafford shot a five-under 67 on the Stadium Course at PGA West to finish the pro-am event at 20-under 268. “I’ve been close. “I really wanted to come out here and kind of prove that yesterday was just kind of a continuation of some good play and kind of get it done today, but I got beat. He pocketed $626,400 for his second-place finish.Brian Harman and Bud Cauley each shot 69 to tie for third at 18 under.Swafford tied Cauley for the lead with a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-four 15th, then pulled away on the 16th and 17th – a day after he dropped three strokes on the holes.“Stepped up there and hit some really good shots on those two holes, knowing what happened yesterday,” Swafford said. I had already seen it, it had already happened, and just visualizing really good shots.”On the par-five 16th, he hit a 4-iron 230 yards to 12 feet – staying out of the 18-foot deep bunker that he hit into Saturday en route to a double bogey – and two-putted to take the outright lead.

Columbus Blue Jackets outlast Ottawa Senators in ‘a game of mistakes’

Barely two minutes in and the game was tied 5-5 on a breakaway by Lukas Sedlak and a tipped point shot by Matt Calvert.Columbus went ahead when Cam Atkinson, the team’s leading scorer, picked up the puck in the left circle and fired a weak shot that deflected and soared like a ball of tape into the trash can behind Condon.“I made a mistake,” Condon shrugged.Ottawa tied the game 6-6 on a power play when Kyle Turris scored on a one-timer, tying Hoffman for the team lead with his 17th.Atkinson quickly settled matters in overtime when he found himself on a clear breakaway after Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson missed the net and the puck rebounded to centre ice.It was all enough to make a control freak … freak out.“What are you going to ask me about that masterpiece?” Tortorella asked when it was over.How about – how soon can we do it again? Paul, Minn., to Herb Brooks, they set John Tortorella and Guy Boucher against each other on a slow Sunday evening in Ottawa.What fun! Yet, the Blue Jackets (32-10-4) have been at or near the top of the standings through the halfway mark and the Senators (25-15-5) appear to have finally convinced fickle Ottawa to fill some more seats at Canadian Tire Centre, though Sunday’s attendance (16,702) was still well short of a sellout.Both Tortorella and Boucher have had to be given credit, even if some of it comes begrudgingly. Some still hold to the old line, repeated on national television just last fall by no less than Don Cherry: “Show me a good goalie and I’ll show you a good coach.”Both the Senators and the Blue Jackets have been blessed this year with outstanding goaltending. These being the dog days of January, even the hockey gods have to look for something to amuse themselves.And so, on the very week that a statue is erected in St. It was Hoffman’s team-leading 17th of the season.“It’s never good when you’re up two going into the third – and you lose,” a disappointed Condon said.The third period started off all Blue Jackets. Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky has the highest win percentage in the league. Final score 7-6 Columbus Blue Jackets over the Ottawa Senators in overtime – but numbers are only part of the story. He has won 28 of his 37 games, has a 1.97 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage.Ottawa had steady, dependable Craig Anderson in net to begin the year and Anderson, once again, has impressive statistics (12-6-1 in 19 games with a .924 save percentage), but he has been largely lost to the team since his wife, Nicholle, began cancer treatments in the United States.Fortunately, backup Mike Condon has been excellent in standing in for Anderson. Brooks, of course, is the late-but-legendary hockey coach who led the Americans to their “Miracle on Ice” victory in the 1980 Olympic Games. Both missed the playoffs last year. The Blue Jackets were astonishingly inept in their own end, the Senators at times befuddled in theirs.Boucher pointed out the obvious: “It was a game of mistakes.”Ottawa again tied the game when little Jean-Gabriel Pageau outmuscled the Columbus defence in the corner, passed quickly out to Mike Hoffman, who ripped a one-timer past Korpisalo.Shortly after, Ottawa went up 4-3 when Korpisalo made a good save off Derick Brassard but could not prevent Mark Stone from picking up the rebound and firing it into the nearly empty Columbus net.With only 17 seconds left in the period, Hoffman made it 5-3 for Ottawa when he scored again on a hard wrist shot after another smart play by Pageau. Condon, who brought a 13-7-3 record into the game, was starting his 22nd consecutive match. Columbus tied the game again when a floating wrist shot from defenceman Scott Harrington – his first goal of the year – eluded a screened Condon.At this point, four goals had been scored on a total of nine shots.The Blue Jackets went ahead less than a minute into the second period when Zach Werenski picked up a rebound to Condon’s right and ripped it into the Ottawa net for a power-play goal.The weak goaltending and the flurry of goals had the effect of creating a little welcome chaos. He was also a lifelong critic of over-coaching and over-analyzing this children’s game that is, essentially, a test as to which team can put a three-inch rubber disc the most times into the other team’s net.“Give the game back to the players!” Brooks used to bellow.Tortorella, head coach of the Blue Jackets, and Boucher, who holds the same job with the Senators, are the extremes among the NHL’s micromanaging coaches, two men who would, if they could, reduce the NHL game to life-size table-top hockey, complete with handles and levers.That said, this matchup featured two of the more surprising teams in the NHL this season. Tortorella decided to sit out Bobrovsky this game and, instead, play little-used backup Joonas Korpisalo.It was not a goaltenders’ duel.Ottawa scored on its first shot, 52 seconds into the game, when Zack Smith made a cat-like swipe from behind the net to clip the puck in behind Korpisalo, who had failed to track a Cody Ceci point shot as it bounced off the boards and then the back of his net.Moments later, actually 34 seconds, Columbus tied the game on the power play, when captain Nick Foligno neatly tipped an Alexander Wennberg pass in behind Condon.Smith scored his second of the game, and 11th of the season, when he tipped a long Ceci shot past Korpisalo.

Eric Bledsoe with 40 points, Suns hand Raptors third straight loss

Phoenix’s Bledsoe led all players at the half with 18 points.Lowry, who was just 2 of 8 in the first half, took advantage of a Phoenix turnover and ran in alone with a layup to put Toronto up 65-60 four minutes in.The Raptors saw a seven-point lead dwindle back down to three by the end of the third quarter. He had rolled his ankle while making a shot earlier in the fourth quarter.Phoenix, which swept the season series against Toronto for first time since the 2013-14 campaign, improved to 7-17 on the road while the Raptors fell to 15-7 at home.The game was a rematch of Dec. Toronto hosts the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night. Tyson Chandler had 16 points and PJ Tucker chipped in with 11 points and 10 rebounds.DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors (28-16) with 22 points and Jonas Valanciunas recorded his team-leading 17th double-double of the season with 16 points and 12 rebounds.Toronto, which got double-digit point totals from each of its five starters, hadn’t lost three straight since Nov., 2015.Kyle Lowry had a rough night from three-point range, hitting just 1 of 9, but he finished with 15 points. Lowry was also ejected with 1:30 left in the game after a flagrant-two foul following contact with the head of Brandon Knight.Lucas Nogueira, back in the starting lineup after missing two games as part of the NBA’s concussion protocol, scored 13 points, including 11 in the first quarter alone. They went into the final 12 minutes up 85-82.Toronto opened the final quarter with a pair of Nogueira free throws and a long three from Terrence Ross for an eight-point lead, it’s largest of the game.A three from Booker cut the Suns’ deficit back to one two minutes in and a Chandler tied the game 95-95 two minutes later.The Suns went on a tear from there, with a Chandler dunk putting Phoenix up by nine, 109-100 with two minutes to go.NOTES: Patrick Patterson sat out his sixth straight game with a sore left knee. Eric Bledsoe poured in 40 points and Devin Booker added 20 more as the Phoenix Suns beat Toronto 115-103 on Sunday to hand the Raptors their first three-game losing skid in over a year.Toronto led by eight points in the fourth quarter but the Suns (15-29) used a 20-7 run to take control of the game. … Patterson injured himself in the Dec. 29 game in Phoenix. 29’s contest in Phoenix, which the Raptors lost 99-91.The first quarter was all Nogueira. He came out hot with a running dunk just one minute into the game, then added an alley-oop dunk moments later to put Toronto up 10-3.Phoenix tied the game 23-23 late in the first on a 7-0 run but Toronto re-took the lead at 28-26 with a Nogueira three-pointer and closed out the first with a 31-28 edge.The Suns capped the first half with a dunk from Chandler to head into the locker-room down by three, 60-57.DeRozan led Toronto with 12 points in the second quarter after scoring just four in the first. DeMarre Carroll had 14 points.DeRozan left for the locker-room with under two minutes to go in the game.

No rookie blues for Flames’ audacious forward Matthew Tkachuk

But after an effective training camp and a strong nine-game cameo in October, they shifted plans mid-stream. The fact is, it was never Calgary’s intention to keep Tkachuk in the NHL this season. Both are born in the Phoenix area, but Tkachuk grew up in St. The audacity of Matthew Tkachuk was on display earlier in January when the Calgary Flames’ 19-year-old rookie forward collided with the San Jose Sharks’ brute of a defenceman, Brent Burns. Louis, where his father played and eventually settled after his career ended. This, of course, is illegal in hockey – Tkachuk took a two-minute interference penalty on the play – but it was also a telling illustration of how little fazes him. national-development program. He’s got the frame. Last year, Tkachuk played one season of junior hockey with the London Knights, on the same line as Marner, and scored the overtime game-winner in their Memorial Cup championship.Rising to the occasion is something that comes naturally to Tkachuk. Tkachuk says he and Matthews speak all the time, but they didn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on whether they might face each other in the NHL this season.“Everyone goes into the year with the same mindset – to make the team – but it was a little bit different for me versus Auston,” Tkachuk said. But honestly, I didn’t think about leaving it on the ice and I didn’t really feel the need to give it back right away, so I just took it to the bench.”He smiled right there. “I got it into my hands when I was a couple of feet from the bench. I mean, he’s not the fastest guy, but he can always put himself in a good spot.“In the start, he took maybe a few bad penalties, but lately, he’s been pretty good and I think he kind of learned how to do it the right way. The thing that always gets overlooked with him is he’s drawn more penalties than he’s taken. Obviously, you’re not used to the pace at the start, but the more games you play, the more you get used to it.“I guess once you hit 19, you don’t feel that age thing any more.”Tkachuk delivered that last line with a wry grin on his face. “I guess he got it from his dad, who was a big guy too. We want him to even walk that line a little better, but when we look at the big picture, he’s doing a lot of things well.”Tkachuk’s friendship with Matthews dates back four years. “If you spend any time around the kid, you realize he’s very humble. Watch him play long enough and you begin to understand why. “He’s always in the tough areas, so it’s an edge he’s walking. Burns fumbled his stick as a result of the contact and it ended up entangled in Tkachuk’s equipment. We just wanted to see how he did at camp. In a year in which some of their other young players – such as Sam Bennett and Sean Monahan – have had erratic moments, Tkachuk has been remarkably consistent.“I wasn’t sure if he’d play on our team when we drafted him,” Gulutzan acknowledged. Smoothly, and without missing a beat, Tkachuk took the stick in hand and skated directly to the Flames’ bench, with Burns in furious, mad pursuit, trying to get it back. Tkachuk’s nickname is Chucky, from the horror film franchise, Child’s Play. So he’s still a plus in that regard – but you’d like to make it even a bigger spread. He’s had a good impact for sure.”For a time this season, Tkachuk led the NHL in minor penalties but had also drawn the most minor penalties in the league, which suggests he will be an agitator extraordinaire for years to come. The third and fifth players, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Olli Juolevi, were immediately returned to junior. One, his compete level is off the charts. In a year in which the NHL has absorbed one of its strongest, deepest rookie classes in decades, Tkachuk has flown a little under the radar, outside of Calgary, where everyone knows his name.“He’s bold, but he’s not cocky,” Flames’ coach Glen Gulutzan said. This past Saturday, as the game against the Oilers got out of hand, Tkachuk picked up an additional 14 penalty minutes. You can love him or hate him, but you’re not going to change him – much.“We have talked to him about being more disciplined,” Gulutzan said. But he’s a competitor and confident in his game.”Tkachuk was the sixth overall pick in the 2017 NHL entry draft. The Flames play the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Monday night, the start of a three-game Eastern Canadian road trip.Tkachuk was born in Scottsdale, Ariz., the same as Matthews, and the two are close friends, dating to their time playing in the U.S. “Obviously, we knew Auston was going to play in the NHL right away, and most figured Mitch would. He jostled constantly with Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, and he increased his penalty-minutes total to 90, second in the league behind the Dallas Stars’ Antoine Roussel.Tkachuk is not a shrinking violet. But two things have allowed him to have success. He’s got the size. Two, his hockey IQ is off the charts.“And the best part of that is, the physical side is going to come. He has the same ability to irritate opponents that his father, Keith, a career 1,065-point scorer in the NHL, once had.Tkachuk is the third youngest player in the NHL this season behind Laine and Arizona’s Jakob Chychrun – and won’t turn 20 until December.“For his age, he’s a pretty strong kid, he’s pretty solid,” explained Frolik, his linemate. He just needs to train like a pro for the next two or three years.”In short, the Flames believe the best is yet to come.As for his memorable exchange with Burns, which spent days on the highlight reels, Tkachuk insisted it all happened very innocently.“His stick just got caught in my body,” Tkachuk said. He’s making strong plays on the wall, in our zone and in the offensive zone, and he can protect the puck on those cycles. I knew from Day 1 I could make an impact at this level. The fourth, Jesse Puljujarvi, was sent by Edmonton to the minors for further development.But Tkachuk found a home in Calgary on a line with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik – and that trio has been the one constant in an up-and-down season for the Flames.Two Saturdays ago against the Edmonton Oilers, Tkachuk had a nine-game point-scoring streak end.No other NHL rookie – not Auston Matthews, not Patrik Laine, not Zach Werenski – had scored points in nine consecutive games.And while those three, along with two other Leaf rookies, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, have been all the talk in the Calder Trophy conversation this season, Tkachuk is second in rookie assists, second in rookie plus-minus and fourth in overall rookie scoring, with 30 points, eight back of Matthews. The youngest player on the team is a big hit. “He was a young player. I was probably 50-50.“I just went into every game with the same mindset and that’s helped me so far.

Super Falcons: Atlanta routs Packers 44-21 for NFC title

Atlanta (13-5) will face either New England or Pittsburgh in the Feb. Top receiver Jordy Nelson hauled in a 27-yard pass after missing the victory at Dallas with a rib injury.But, on third-and-4 at the Atlanta 23, the Falcons hurried Rodgers into an incomplete pass. The guy who had a 1-4 record in the playoffs over his first eight seasons has finally earned his spot on the biggest stage of them all.DON’T FORGET THE DEFENCEAtlanta’s defence, an afterthought to the guys on the other side of the line, kept the Packers out of the end zone until the game was essentially locked up.Rodgers finished 27 of 45 for 287 yards and three TDs, but he was threw an interception, was sacked twice and faced a relentless Falcons rush much of the game, especially when Packers were forced to throw on almost every down.The Falcons finished with a 493-367 edge in total yards.DOME FINALEWhat a send-off for the Georgia Dome, the Falcons’ home since 1992, which will be torn down and replaced next season by $1.5-billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.With the home team comfortably ahead, the raucous crowd of more than 71,000 basically partied through the whole second half, bouncing along to rap music that turned the stadium with the big top-like roof into the world’s largest dance club.The intensity of the celebration was understandable, given the Falcons’ largely forgettable history and the heartache doled out by all of Atlanta’s pro sports teams. Ryan finished it off with some surprisingly nimble running skills, faking out one defender with a pump fake before diving into the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown run. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones teamed up for a dominant playoff performance, and the Atlanta Falcons ignored all those ghosts from the last half-century.Now, they’re headed to the Super Bowl.Ryan threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns in another MVP-worthy showing, while Jones shook off a lingering toe injury to haul in nine catches for 180 yards and two scores, leading the Falcons to a 44-21 blowout of the storied Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game Sunday. Then, with Green Bay poised to make a game of it, Atlanta’s much-maligned defence – one of the lowest ranked in the NFL – came through a momentum-swinging play. It will be only the second appearance in the Falcons’ 51-year history, the first coming 18 years ago with a team known as the “Dirty Birds.”They have never won an NFL championship.If Ryan and the league’s highest-scoring offence keep playing like this, the AFC winner will sure have its hands full in the Lone Star State. MVP! MVP!” as he carved up an injury plagued Packers secondary that simply had no way of stopping a team that averaged nearly 34 points a game during the regular season and romped to a 36-20 victory against Seattle’s Legion of Boom in the divisional round.For good measure, Ryan also ran for a touchdown.The Packers, riding an eight-game winning streak and coming off a thrilling upset of the top-seeded Dallas Cowboys, got a taste of what they’d be in for on Atlanta’s very first possession.Driving 80 yards in 13 plays, the Falcons converted three times on third down, the last of them when Ryan scrambled away from pressure and flipped a shovel pass to Mohamed Sanu for a 2-yard score.Aaron Rodgers and the Packers came right back, moving quickly down the field in what had all the makings of a back-and-forth shootout. Fullback Aaron Ripkowski was breaking tackles and rumbling toward the end zone when Jalen Collins stripped the ball from behind and fell on it just across the goal line for a touchback.On the ensuing possession, Ryan hooked up with Jones three times for 56 yards. The Falcons led 24-0 at halftime against the Packers (12-6), perhaps the league’s hottest team, and essentially put the game away on their second offensive snap of the second half, a play that showed every one of Jones’ remarkable skills .He blazed down the middle of the field, shook off LaDarius Gunter’s attempt to grab him on a cut toward the sideline, hauled in the pass from Ryan, broke Gunter’s diving attempt at tackle, and defiantly knocked away Damarious Randall’s with a brutal stiff-arm on the way to a 73-yard touchdown.In the final game at the Georgia Dome, Ryan sparked more delirious chants of “MVP! Mason Crosby, who hit two field goals longer that 50 yards in the closing minutes against the Cowboys, pushed a 41-yard attempt right of the upright to snap a playoff-record streak of 23 straight field goals.The Falcons drove down the field again, settling for Matt Bryant’s 28-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead. It was Matty Ice’s first rushing touchdown since Week 1 of the 2012 season and sparked an uncharacteristic outburst from the normally even-tempered quarterback.Ryan gave the ball a thunderous spike and let out a scream that made it clear he wanted this game more than anything in his career. The Braves, way back in 1995, are still the city’s only team to capture a big league championship.Now, the Falcons are one win away from adding another title to that barren trophy case. 5 Super Bowl in Houston.

Duhamel, Radford scale back difficulty as judging system fails to keep pace

“And that is the essence of figure skating that keeps it in the sport category rather than an art.” Because the base value of the throw doesn’t reflect its difficulty, they’ve decided it’s not worth the risk.The throw triple Axel is just as sounds: Radford throws Duhamel into a triple Axel, which is three-and-a-half rotations in the air.They executed the tough element at Skate Canada. When it comes to pure athleticism, Canada’s two-time world pairs champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford are virtually in a class by themselves. But the two have been forced to scale back their technical difficulty because of a judging system that seems unable to keep pace.The two-time reigning world champions vow to keep pushing the envelope, but are sad to say change may not happen before they close the book on their illustrious careers. If you can run faster that someone else in the 100-metre dash, you win because you ran faster than them,” Radford said. “It’s frustrating and I don’t see things are going to change in our career, but we’re going to keep trying and keep fighting so that they can be changed for future generations, so that pairs do feel like it’s worth it to push themselves out of the box and to try different things and to be creative.”Duhamel and Radford, who are expected to retire after next year’s Pyeongchang Olympics, captured a Canadian-record sixth national senior title this week, but it came without the throw triple Axel that took literally hundreds of hours, they said, to perfect this past off-season. But at the Grand Prix Final, Duhamel fell on it, earning them just a single point for the element. “You always want to move the sport forward,” Duhamel said. The Canadians also do a throw quad Salchow, which no other team in the world has landed this season.“It’s frustrating, the fact that we know how hard these things are and not being rewarded for how difficult they are,” said Duhamel, a 31-year-old from Lively, Ont.Radford, 31, from Balmertown, Ont., believes that the dragging of heels on this issue goes against the spirit of sport.“What is the essence of sport? They went on to finish a disappointing third.

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash

He was a fierce competitor who was always willing to challenge hitters inside, then deal with the ramifications when they decided to charge the mound. Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, whose electric arm helped his team win the 2015 World Series title, was killed in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic early Sunday.Royals vice-president Mike Swanson confirmed Ventura’s death. He was 25.With the fitting nickname of “Ace,” Ventura burst onto the baseball scene with a 100 mph fastball and an explosive attitude to match. He proceeded to dominate San Francisco in both of his starts, though the Royals would ultimately lose in seven games.He followed by helping Kansas City win the championship the next year. Ventura went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 2014, his first full season in the big leagues, and helped the long-downtrodden Royals reach the World Series for the first time since 1985.

Andy Murray out in 4th-round upset at Australian Open

It was obviously disappointing to lose. German Zverev, in the fourth round at a grand slam for the first time after a career ravaged by injury, flummoxed his contemporary with his unorthodox serve-volley game and broke the Wimbledon and Olympic champion eight times over the contest.The world number 50 was helped by a below-par performance from Murray but thoroughly deserved his 7-5 5-7 6-2 6-4 victory over three and a half hours on Rod Laver Arena, which earned him a quarter-final meeting with Roger Federer or Kei Nishikori.“He deserved to win because he played great when he was down and also in the important moments,” said Briton Murray.“(He) kept coming up with great shots, there’s not too much you can do about that. I was surprised at how I managed to get so many first serves in.“It means the world to me and it means a lot that my family is here and my box is full.”Zverev sat in the same box on Saturday watching his 19-year-old brother Alexander, tipped by many to be a future grand slam champion, lose over five sets to Rafa Nadal.It will now be the 29-year-old older sibling, however, who will take the family name into the final week of a grand slam for the first time.Murray, who has lost five finals at Melbourne Park, four of them to Djokovic, said he would be back.“I’ve had tough losses in my career in the past,” he said. But he did some good stuff out there.”Murray prides himself on the variety of weapons at his disposal but some, like his lob, deserted him on Sunday, while others were undermined by the lack of pace Zverev offered him to work with.Zverev served solidly and came up with 52 winners, charging the net 118 times and breaking the world number one five times in the first two sets alone.“Honestly, I was in a little coma, just serve and volleying my way through,” said Zverev.“There were some points I don’t know how I won. Andy Murray’s hopes of finally getting his hands on the Australian Open title were ended for another year when the top seed and world number one was tied up in knots and flung out of the fourth round by Mischa Zverev on Sunday.With reigning champion Novak Djokovic having been knocked out in the second round, a grand slam will head into the second week without its top two men’s seeds for the first time since the 2004 French Open. But somehow I made it.”He served up his first ace to take the first set but Murray recovered to bring the match back to parity with a backhand winner down-the-line on his fifth set point in the second.If the Scot thought he was on his way out of the woods he was wrong, however, and Zverev broke him for a sixth time to take a 3-2 lead in the third, and again for 5-2 before serving out the set when Murray dumped a backhand into the net.An eighth break early in the fourth set triggered serious alarm bells among the large British contingent on Rod Laver Arena but despite their exhortations, Murray was unable to fight his way out of his funk.There were some nerves as Zverev served for the match – he netted one straightforward overhead – but he recovered his composure to go through to the quarter-finals when Murray sent a forehand long.“I got excited,” Zverev added. “I’ve come back from them. This is a tough one (but) I’m sure I’ll come back okay from it.” Sometimes you got to say, ‘well played’. “It was easy to stay aggressive but it was definitely tough to stay calm …

Zach Bogosian scores in overtime, Sabres edge Canadiens 3-2

To everyone’s disbelief, the diving Lehner managed to snag the puck with his glove.“It happened really fast,” said Lehner, who earned his 11th win of the season. “It was nice to feel it in my glove. Captain Max Pacioretty felt the Canadiens could have done more to thank Carey Price for keeping them in the game late.Price made two incredible saves in the dying seconds of regulation time but he was beaten in overtime as the Buffalo Sabres won 3-2 on Saturday night in the second game of a back-to-back for both teams. It felt like we deserved a better fate for Carey.”As time expired, the sold-out Bell Centre crowd gave Price a deserved standing ovation.But 1:48 into overtime, Buffalo’s Zach Bogosian spoiled the party, beating Price with a slapshot that went off the post and in for his first goal of the season.Montreal (28-13-7) outshot the Sabres 3-1 in overtime.“They were sitting back on the 3-on-3, waiting for a turnover or a chance to jump and that’s what they did,” said Pacioretty.Bogosian’s goal came just seconds after Buffalo (19-18-9) goalie Robin Lehner made a spectacular stop of his own.At 1:29 of the extra period, an out-of-position Lehner somehow edged back towards his crease as Alex Galchenyuk fired a slapshot destined for the roof of the net. The 21-year-old, playing in his first NHL season, scored top shelf after Paul Byron’s shot bounced off Lehner’s pads.The Sabres weren’t behind for long.With the fans still cheering Lehkonen’s goal, former Canadiens captain Brian Gionta levelled the score less than a minute later. The goalies stole the show in this one.”Lehner stopped 36-of-38 shots while Price made 35 saves.After a scoreless first, Artturi Lehkonen put the Canadiens on the board at 3:54 of the second.Like most of his 11 goals this season, Lehkonen scored from the slot by cashing in a rebound. Cody Franson tied it up at 2-2 when his shot from the point through traffic sailed past Price with 8:07 remaining in the third period.The Canadiens dropped to 17-1-3 when leading after two periods.“They didn’t just lay down and let us have the win,” said Habs defenceman Mark Barberio. That is a great feeling.”Added Sabres coach Dan Bylsma: “Everyone thought the game was over with that slapshot from the middle of the ice. Then with six seconds remaining on the clock, Price robbed Rasmus Ristolainen with a windmill glove save to send it to overtime.“What great saves,” said Pacioretty, who had an assist on the night. “You really felt the building get into it. We had guys on the bench clamouring and cheering him on.”Montreal, one of the league’s best third-period teams, was leading 2-1 going into the final frame. The cage was wide open and Robin recovered with a huge glove save. After a failed clearance by defenceman Nathan Beaulieu behind his own net, Gionta took a cross-crease pass from Evander Kane for the easy tap-in.Montreal regained its one-goal lead at 8:50 of the second period when first-line centreman Phillip Danault deflected Jeff Petry’s shot from the point past Lehner for his 10th goal of the season.The Canadiens now have seven players with at least 10 goals this season.Price conceded at least three goals for the ninth time in his last 11 starts. The Habs netminder came into Saturday’s contest with a 3.46 goals-against average in his last 10 games.Notes: Canadiens winger Alexander Radulov played in his 200th NHL game. The fans half cheered for a goal and it turned into a gasp. With time winding down in the third period, Price made a pad save on Matt Moulson on the breakaway at 19:40. “We had to score on some of our second-period opportunities.

Bautista happy to be back with Blue Jays despite offers from others

Afterwards, he scurried up to the front of the room to give Bautista a bear hug. “We did lose out on Edwin, he’s one of the best hitters in the game and I wish him the best. Toronto’s clubhouse leader has returned.Bautista, who signed an $18.5-million, one-year deal with the team last Tuesday that includes mutual options for more years, said he’s happy to be back – even if it means he didn’t get the long-term contract or the lucrative pay day he was said to have asked the Blue Jays for last spring training.“I had other opportunities and other options but I wanted to be back here so here I am,” Bautista said.“Rumours are rumours and everybody would like to be in a long-term deal but you get what you can get,” he added. He wanted to be there for Jose Bautista’s welcoming news conference.As Bautista fielded questions from reporters, the young right-handed pitcher sat, mostly quietly, in the back row. “I’ll let that take care of itself.”Bautista rose to prominence with the Blue Jays after bouncing around from team to team and struggling over the first four years of his MLB career. We all have to accept that and move on but we have a very capable replacement in Kendrys Morales and hopefully he has the type of year he’s capable of having.“As a unit, we can always play better baseball. Marcus Stroman snuck down to the bowels of the Rogers Centre on Saturday afternoon after signing autographs for fans upstairs. He had a breakout season with Toronto in 2010, hitting 54 homers with 124 RBIs to make a name for himself as one of the game’s top sluggers.He was also one of the driving forces behind the Blue Jays’ return to the post-season in 2015 after a 22-year-long playoff drought. He’s a great teammate while I played with him but now we’re playing against him. That success on the field was one of the main reasons he wanted to re-sign with Toronto.“I wanted to be here because I enjoyed success here, I’ve been here a long time,” Bautista said. Concerns about the 36-year-old right-fielder’s ability to play defence on a regular basis couldn’t have helped his cause either.Bautista, who hit 22 homers and had 69 RBIs in just 116 games in an injury-slowed 2016 season, said he’s not paying attention to that criticism.“I’ll just go out there and play and I’ll see what happens,” he said. “This market, this city, this country, you know, wherever you play or live for 10 years almost it ends up becoming a part of you so those were the main reasons I wanted to be back and nothing else.“Also because we have a great team and we’re capable of winning, we have a great fan base that’s extremely supportive, among the best in all sports … “My relationship with all those guys is extremely important and I’m happy to share the locker-room with those guys and continue to go to battle with them every single day.”While the Blue Jays lost out on their other top free-agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion – he signed a $60-million, three-year deal with Cleveland earlier this month – Bautista expects Toronto to be a post-season contender for a third straight year.Bautista said he’d be willing to play other positions, such as first base, or bat leadoff again if that would help Toronto’s chances. “The most important thing is being happy where you are and I’m happy I’m where I want to be.”Bautista’s agent, Jay Alou, said he had fielded offers from other teams interested in the right-handed power hitter.“This is where he wanted to be,” Alou said.Bautista’s free-agent stock was likely hurt by his rejection of Toronto’s $17.2-million qualifying offer last fall, which meant the Blue Jays would receive a compensatory draft pick from a team that signed him. Our pitching is strong and our defence is great so we’re still up there amongst the best in the American League.” He also praised new first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales, who Toronto signed early in the off-season.“Some of our opponents have gotten much better and I feel like we are making moves that are making us a contender as well,” Bautista said. All those things, along with the fact that I’ve been here a long time, makes Toronto a desirable place to stay.”Bautista also spoke of the bond he’d formed with his teammates over the years, describing it as “something you can’t replace.”“It’s one of those things about the sport that transcends long after your playing days are over,” he said.