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Stamkos scores twice, Lightning beat Rangers 2-1 in Game 6

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning’s bid for a three-peat is alive and well.

With captain Steven Stamkos leading the way, the two-time defending champions beat the New York Rangers 2-1 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final Saturday night, securing a berth in the Stanley Cup Final for the third straight year.

“It’s going to be tough to get out of the moment and look back and realize what a special group we have here because there’s still some games to be played,” Stamkos said. “You’re still not at the end of our goal, but in saying that this group is pretty amazing and pretty special.”

Stamkos scored two goals and Andrei Vasilevskiy had 20 saves for the Lightning, who won the series 4-2 — winning four straight games after losing the first two on the road — and will face the Colorado Avalanche in the Cup final.

Game 1 is Wednesday night in Denver.

“It’s probably not the greatest word to use, but I’m damn impressed by this group,” coach Jon Cooper said.

“It’s impressive what they’ve done. … I’m just utterly impressed by what they do to win a hockey game,” he added. “And the fact that they they have every excuse in the world to not win because nobody would fault them by saying hey, you won one, you won two and to come back and and go for a third. I’m impressed.”

Stamkos put the Lightning ahead for good in the third period just 21 seconds after New York’s Frank Vatrano scored on the power play with the Tampa Bay captain in the penalty box for holding.

Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat assisted on the winner with 6 1/2 minutes left, with the puck deflecting off Stamkos’ knee into the net after Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin stopped the initial shot.

Stamkos also scored on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle midway through the second period.

“I obviously was a little disappointed in myself for taking the penalty. … It’s easy to say now, but for some reason I wasn’t as rattled as I usually am in those situations,” Stamkos said. “I was just confident in our group that we would find a way, whether it was in regulation or was in overtime. We deserved to win the game. That was the feeling we had from puck drop.”

The Lightning are the first team to make three consecutive appearances in the Cup final since Edmonton did it from 1983-85. They are trying to become the first to win three straight championships since the New York Islanders claimed four in a row from 1980-83.

The Rangers, down 3-2 in a series for the third straight round, were 5-0 in elimination games this postseason before Saturday night.

The only teams to win more elimination games in a single postseason were the 1975 New York Islanders (eight), 2014 Los Angeles Kings (seven) and 2003 Minnesota Wild (six).

“It’s hard right now. But we played well, we battled hard, we had a chance to win all those games,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “They found a way to get the big goal at the big time.”

New York dropped three of the first four games before winning three straight elimination games to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round. It lost the first two on the road at Carolina before rebounding to oust the Hurricanes in seven games to reach the East final.

It was a different story Saturday night, with the Lightning limiting New York’s scoring opportunities while outshooting the Rangers 31-21.

Vasilevskiy went long stretches without being tested. He faced just seven shots in the opening period, six in the second and eight in the third.

Shesterkin, meanwhile, stopped 29 of 31 shots and made big save after big save to give New York a chance.

“I thought Igor was outstanding. He gave us a chance to win every night. We got outchanced in a lot of the games, but he was outstanding. He was our best player all year long and again in this series,” Gallant said.

“Shesterkin was unbelievable. He made some unbelievable saves to keep them in it, but I think I just felt kind of a calming presence because of the group,” Stamkos said. “It was just one of those nights where whether it was the next shift after, whether I scored or someone else scored, it was just a feeling that we were going to get it done.”

NOTES: The Lightning played again without forward Brayden Point, who’s missed 10 games since suffering a lower-body injury during Tampa Bay’s Game 7 victory over Toronto in the first round. He was the NHL’s leading goal scorer the previous two postseasons. … Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman exited in the second period after appearing to be elbowed in the head by New York’s Alexis Lafreniere. He returned at the start of the third period.

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Fred Goodall, The Associated Press

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McTavish puts up six points, Canada crushes Slovakia 11-1 at world juniors

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EDMONTON — Mason McTavish didn’t have to pull on the Maple Leaf and play in an unusual summer world junior hockey championship.

The 19-year-old forward will head back to the Anaheim Ducks next month, the NHL team where he put up a goal and two assists in nine appearances last season. Skipping an August tournament to focus on preparing for training camp likely wouldn’t raise eyebrows.

But McTavish has been clear — he loves playing hockey and he loves representing Canada

The dedication paid off Thursday as the captain put up four goals and two assists, powering his team to an 11-1 victory over Slovakia.

“I don’t think anyone’s surprised by his hockey and what he brings to the ice. But what really impresses me is his attitude,” said Canada’s head coach Dave Cameron.

“He has no ego. He probably had every reason not to come to this tournament, just because of the timing of it. And he’s fully engaged in it. And his performance tonight was outstanding.”

McTavish made his way into the history books Thursday, tying a Canadian record for most goals in a world juniors game.

Other players who have accomplished the feat include Mario Lemieux (1984), Brayden Schenn (2011) and Maxime Comtois (2019).

“It’s pretty cool for sure. A special moment,” McTavish said. “Obviously, credit to my teammates. They were looking for me all game, it felt like.”

McTavish plays a special game, said teammate Brennan Othmann.

“He’s fun to play with,” he said. “He’s an elite goal scorer, as you could see tonight. No matter what team he faces, he always finds the back of the net somehow.”

Nine Canadians had multi-point performances in the win, including McTavish, Joshua Roy (one goal, three assists), Othmann (one goal, two assists), Olen Zellwegger (one goal, one assist), Connor Bedard (one goal, one assist), Logan Stankoven (one goal, one assist), Will Cuylle (one goal, one assist), Lukas Cormier (two assists) and William Dufour (two assists).

Zack Ostapchuk also scored for Canada (2-0-0), who were coming off a tournament-opening 5-2 win over Latvia on Wednesday.

“We’re deep from our first line to our fourth line,” Othmann said. “It doesn’t matter who’s in or who’s out, everyone’s contributing in some way.”

Matej Kaslik put away the lone goal for Slovakia (0-0-2) midway through the second period.

Making his first start of the tournament, Canada’s Dylan Garand registered 22 saves.

Tomas Bolo stopped 33 of 44 shots for Slovakia, who dropped a 5-4 decision to Czechia (1-0-1) on Tuesday.

There were just 21 seconds left on the game clock when Ostapchuk buried a shot. He picked up a loose puck at the side of the net and slid it around the front, in past Bolo to seal the score at 11-1.

Roy bumped Canada’s lead to 10-1 at the 15:07 mark. Dufour’s shot hit Bolo’s pad and Roy picked up the rebound at the top of the crease, firing it in over the netminder as he fell to the ice.

McTavish barely celebrated after finding space between Bolo and the post for his fourth goal of the night 3:44 into the third.

“I’m not the biggest celebrator, unless it’s a game-seven OT winner or something like that,” he said. “I don’t really tend to get too excited.”

McTavish completed his hat trick with 35 seconds left in the middle frame.

Bedard took a hit in the neutral zone and sent a puck up the ice to give his teammates a two-man breakaway. Roy put a crisp pass on McTavish’s tape and he fired a shot past Bolo to give the Canadians an 8-1 lead.

About a dozen hats floated to the ice.

It was McTavish’s backhanded flick from the top of the crease 15:16 into the second that gave Canada a 7-1 cushion.

Just 36 seconds earlier, Slovakia finally beat Garand after a battle down low.

Kaslik got the puck and unleashed a shot that hit the goalie’s pad and the crossbar on its way into the net.

A three-man breakaway set up McTavish’s first goal of the night 6:25 into the second. Donovan Sebrango sent him a lead pass and, handling the puck, Team Canada’s captain skated in, sending a rocket soaring past Bolo stick side to boost the lead to 6-0.

The second period was just over a minute old when Stankoven put away Canada’s fifth goal of the night on a five-on-three.

Kent Johnson sent a shot into Bolo’s pad and Stankoven, stationed at the side of the net, popped a shot in before the goalie could get back into position.

Canada was 1 for 4 on the power play and Slovakia went 0 for 3.

After a slow start in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over Latvia, Canada was a force in the first period Thursday.

The host nation took a 4-0 advantage into the first intermission after Zellweger scored with 43 seconds left in the opening frame.

The defenceman got a shot off from the hash marks and the puck appeared to tick off another player in front of the net before pinging in off the post.

Slovakia challenged the play for being offside but a video review determined Zellweger’s goal was good.

A scuttled Slovakian clearing attempt set up Canada’s third strike of the night.

Bolo tried to send the puck out from deep in his own end but Cuylle picked it up at the blue line and sent it to Othmann in the faceoff circle The New York Rangers prospect sailed a shot in past the goalie 15:57 into the game.

Cuylle gave Canada a 2-0 lead less than three minutes earlier.

Ridly Greig stepped out of the penalty box and chipped a pass up the boards to Cuylle, who skated in alone on a breakaway and put a quick blast through Bolo’s pads.

Slovakia had a breakaway of its own earlier in the first, but Garand read the play perfectly and the shot thudded off of his pads to keep Canada up 1-0.

For the second game in a row, Bedard opened the scoring for the Canadians.

The 17-year-old Regina Pats centre dished the puck to McTavish, who sliced it back across the slot. Bedard capped the give-and-go by ripping a blistering shot past Bolo from the bottom of the faceoff circle 6:16 into the first period.

The early game Thursday saw Finland (2-0-0) battle Czechia (1-0-1) to a 4-3 shootout win.

“During the game, we got better and better. And that’s the most important thing,” said Finland’s head coach Antti Pennanen.

Czechia and Canada will both be off Friday before going head-to-head on Saturday.

The Czechs know they’ll need to elevate their game for the matchup, said forward Jiri Kulich.

“We just want to keep our game,” he said. “It’s a big challenge, of course, and a big game. So we’re just going to do our best.”

In the final game of the day, the reigning champion Americans (2-0-0) took a convincing 7-1 win over Switzerland (0-2-0).

Friday will see Austria (0-1-0) face Sweden (1-0-0) and Slovakia take on Latvia (0-2-0).

NOTES: McTavish leads the tournament in scoring with eight points (four goals, four assists). … The preliminary round continues through Monday, with the quarterfinals set for Wednesday. The semifinals are scheduled for Aug. 19 and the medal games will be played on Aug. 20. … The 2022 tournament is being held in August after the original iteration was called off on Dec. 29 after just four days as rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials forced games to be forfeited.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2022.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

 

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Olympic curling champion Eve Muirhead retires

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LONDON (AP) — Olympic curling champion Eve Muirhead is retiring from the sport.

The 32-year-old Muirhead secured Britain’s only gold medal at this year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, having also won bronze in Sochi in 2014.

“After 15 years of international curling and 21 international titles I have made the hardest decision of my life to hang up my curling shoes and retire,” Muirhead said in a post on social media on Thursday. “Throughout my career and like most athletes, I have experienced both the highest of the highs, (becoming an Olympic champion) and the lowest of lows and at times the future seemed very distant. It’s been an emotional journey, but a journey that I am incredibly proud of.”

Muirhead also teamed up with Bobby Lammie to win the mixed doubles world championship in April.

“Eve Muirhead will go down in history not only as one of the greatest-ever British curlers, but as one of the greatest sportswomen this country has produced,” British Curling performance director Nigel Holl said.

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