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Alberta

Last week our nation ran into a spree of high-profile miracles

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To become a true sports fan, everyone must understand the day-to-day definition of miracle.

League championships count, of course. So do record-setting performances and, rarely, the sort of team or individual success that stamps itself on the viewer’s memory for many years.

Last week, in this humble view, our nation ran into a spree of high-profile miracles:

* Felix Auger-Alliasime, Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil became the first Canadians to reach the fourth round of the U.S. Open, among the world’s most iconic tennis tournaments;

* Little-known goaltender Thatcher Demko, a San Diego product who was virtually unknown in the NHL, constructed an amazing goaltending streak that carried the underdog Vancouver Canucks all the way to a seventh game in a Stanley Cup playoff quarter-final;

* Our best-ever basketball player, Steve Nash, accepted a contract to coach the Brooklyn Nets of the National Basketball Association.”I knew I wanted to pursue coaching if and when the right chance came.”

* Occasional starter Ogi Anunoby combined with team leader Kyle Lowry on a buzzer-beating, three-point shocker with a half-second remaining — repeat, a HALF-SECOND remaining — to keep the Toronto Raptors alive in their bid to repeat as NBA champions.

Probably the worst thing about sports miracles is that they sometimes fade at painful speed.

Apart from Shapovalov’s victory over Belgian vet David Goffin and the fact that Nash signed a long-term coaching arrangement, that’s exactly what happened this time.

After spotting Goffin the first set in a tie-breaker, the 22-year-old lefty took total control of the next three sets. Pospisil and Auger-Aliassime — known to most of his fans simply as “Double-A” — each played well but lost in the first set. There was little excitement for Canadian fans as they failed to win another set, and probably didn’t reach another break point.

Arguably, the most exciting moments, win or lose, were split between Anunoby and Demko. They also shared immense “cool” when discussing their feats.

Demko, a San Diego product who spent three years in goal at Boston College, made several references to teammates who sacrificed their bodies numerous times in the three games he played at Edmonton’s Rogers Place — two of them victories — against a bigger, stronger, faster Las Vegas team.

Anunoby was even more succinct: “I took the shot because I thought it would go in,” the budding star said without a smile. “I don’t take a shot and expect to miss it.” Later, experts compared his moment of brilliance with Kawhi Leonard’s unforgettable four-bounce shot to defeat Philadelphia on the way to last year’s title.

The future is bright for all of the young players — AA is the baby, just turned 20 years old — and for the 46-year-old Nash, as well as for Demko’s Vancouver Canucks allies, a collection of solid journeymen and fast-improving youngsters.

But things don’t look so good for the Raptors. After Anunobi’s stunner in that 104-103 victory over Boston, they posted a second win and squared the series. Unfortunately, miracles do not always carry long guarantees: the Raptors were humiliated in the fifth game of the series and could be on the sidelines for good by Thursday morning.

If another miracle arrives in Orlando tonight (Wednesday), Nick Nurse and his players are sure to make it welcome.

Edmonton’s connection to the defection of Baltimore Orioles’ superstar Jose Iglesias

Alberta

Markstrom’s 32-save shutout lifts Calgary Flames to 3-0 win over Vancouver Canucks

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CALGARY — Jacob Markstrom’s 32-save shutout against his former club spurred the Calgary Flames to a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.

Sean Monahan, Dillon Dube and Matthew Tkachuk scored power-play goals in Calgary’s home-opener, which was the first NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome since March 8, 2020 for a span of 10 months and eight days.

Canada’s NHL clubs are playing in empty arenas to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Vancouver goaltender Braden Holtby stopped 32 of 35 shots in the loss.

Flames off-season acquisitions Markstrom, defenceman Chris Tanev and forward Josh Leivo faced their former Canucks teammates Saturday.

Markstrom played a combined 243 regular-season and playoff games for Vancouver, while Tanev played 10 seasons and Leivo his last two for the Canuck.

Both Markstrom and Tanev made life difficult for their former club. Tanev led the Flames in blocked shots with seven including three when Calgary was short-handed. 

Former Flames defenceman Travis Hamonic returned to the Saddledome wearing Canuck colours.

Tkachuk had time to go backhand to forehand on a Johnny Gaudreau rebound at beat Holtby’s outstretched right pad at 15:16 of the third period.

Andrew Mangiapane sent a behind-the-back backhanded feed across the high slot for Dube to rifle over Holtby’s shoulder at 16:22 of the second.

The hosts killed off a Canucks two-man advantage for 81 seconds in the opening period. Markstrom turned away three shots and Tanev blocked two attempts during it.

Tkachuk on Holtby’s left fed Monahan in the slot for a power-play goal at 8:31.

The Canucks (1-2-0) played their third road game in four nights to start the regular season. They play again Monday in Calgary before returning to Vancouver. 

Calgary (1-0-1) has a more gentle start to its regular season with a five-day break following Monday’s rematch.

The Flames paid tribute to team president Ken King, who died March 11, and Calgary Police Service Sgt. Andrew Harnett who was killed while working New Year’s Eve.

Notes: Flames goaltender David Rittich dressed Saturday after sitting out the season-opener because of family issues . . . Off-season acquisition Dominik Simon made his Flames debut Saturday . . . Calgary is 9-8-3 in home openers since turn of the century.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Petry, Tatar each score a pair as Canadiens dominate Oilers 5-1

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EDMONTON — Jeff Petry and Tomas Tatar each scored twice Saturday to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 5-1 victory over the Oilers in Edmonton.

Jake Evans also scored for the Canadiens (1-0-1), while Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher both tallied a pair of assists.

Carey Price was nearly perfect on the night making 34 saves to give Montreal its first win of the season. 

Slater Koekkoek was the lone Oiler to sneak a shot past the Canadiens goalie midway through the third period. 

Mikko Koskinen stopped 30-of-35 shots for Edmonton (1-1-1). 

Montreal got on the board early and never relinquished the lead, though the Oilers attempted to claw their way back, outshooting the visitors 26-20 over the final two periods. 

Petry’s first of the night came on a power play 6:50 into the game after Edmonton’s Caleb Jones was called for interference. 

Koskinen stopped Petry’s initial shot but the rebound popped out to the other side of the net, where Petry fired the puck into the open goalmouth. 

Nick Suzuki and Shea Weber were each credited with an assist. 

Tatar widened Montreal’s lead just over two minutes into the second frame, ripping a shot slap shot from below the face off dot over Koskinen’s glove. 

Petry added another tally midway through the second period with a long shot from below the blue line that hit Oilers defenceman Ethan Bear in the rear end and bounced into Edmonton net. 

The Oilers nearly responded on a power play just minutes later thanks to a pristine shot by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but Price made the stop. 

The Canadiens came up with the puck, leading to a short-handed two-on-one at the other end. 

Evans waltzed in and took a shot that ricocheted off Koskinen’s pads and back to the centreman’s stick. His second attempt was a success, sailing in just below the crossbar to put Montreal up 4-0. 

Gallagher sprang Tatar on a breakaway 9:47 into the third period and the Slovak winger slipped a shot through Koskinen’s legs to give the Canadiens their fifth goal of the night. 

The Oilers finally got a puck past Price 12:59 into the third thanks to a sharp-angle shot by Koekkoek that hit the Montreal netminder’s mask and deflected in. 

Despite the final score, Edmonton was first to put a puck in the net Saturday. 

Three minutes into the first period, a collision between Leon Draisaitl and Montreal defenceman Ben Chiarot sent Price sprawling out of his crease. 

Edmonton’s Dominik Kahun took advantage of the situation and shovelled the puck into the open net. 

The goal was quickly called off, with officials on the ice ruling it was incidental contact on the Montreal netminder.

Oilers sensation Connor McDavid had an opportune chance near the end of the first frame, stealing the puck deep in Edmonton territory and using his infamous speed to streak down the ice on a breakaway. He unleashed a wrist shot but Price was ready and made the save. 

Edmonton will have an chance for revenge Monday when they once again host the Canadiens in the second half of the back-to-back series. 

NOTES: The Oilers claimed goalie Troy Grosenick off waivers from the L.A. Kings Saturday. Edmonton has also placed netminder Mike Smith on the long-term injury list. … Koskinen played in his 100th regular-season NHL game. … Edmonton right-winger Zack Kassian was out for the game following the birth of his second child, a daughter named Olivia.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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january, 2021

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