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Second place in the Atlantic Division standings will be on the line on Saturday when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Boston Bruins as -120 favourites on the NHL odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Toronto tallied its 13th victory in 16 games on Thursday, a 4-3 shootout win over the visiting New York Islanders as a -195 bet, and sits just one point back of second-place Boston going into Saturday night’s Bruins versus Maple Leafs betting matchup at the Air Canada Centre.
The Maple Leafs’ 13-3-0 run includes eight straight wins on home ice and has featured an offensive resurgence, with Toronto shooters averaging 3.75 goals per game overall, and 4.22 goals per game on home ice.
Toronto’s strong play has also given the club plenty of breathing room in the NHL playoff race. The Maple Leafs now sit 21 points up on fourth-place Florida in the divisional standings, and have gained ground on the Stanley Cup odds, climbing to +1100 after trailing at +1500 just a week ago.
The Bruins ride a two-game win streak into Toronto as +100 underdogs after posting a 3-2 win in Edmonton as -129 chalk on Tuesday night. Boston has continued the consistent play that has been the hallmark of its current campaign, posting 22 wins in 28 outings, including victories in eight of its last nine road contests.
Boston recorded a 4-1 win as a -130 wager when the Maple Leafs visited on Feb. 3, but has struggled in recent dates at the ACC, getting outscored by an 11-5 margin in three straight losses, capped by Toronto’s 4-1 triumph as a -128 favourite on Nov. 11.
The Canadiens escaped with a 3-1 win over the New York Rangers as -165 favourites on Thursday, ending a six-game slide. Montreal now looks to post consecutive wins for just the second time in its past 19 outings against a Lightning squad, which it has beaten in five of six meetings at Bell Centre — including a narrow 2-1 victory as a +153 bet on Jan. 4.
Earlier on Saturday afternoon, the Ottawa Senators take on the resurgent Philadelphia Flyers as +110 home underdogs, while the Calgary Flames aim for consecutive wins for the first time in nine games as they battle the visiting Colorado Avalanche as -145 favourites.
The Winnipeg Jets join Toronto at +1100 on the NHL futures, but trail as +120 road underdogs in Saturday night’s clash with Dallas, while the Oilers visit Los Angeles as +130 underdogs.
As always, the 2018 NHL trade deadline figures to be a busy one, but the question this year is how many big-ticket players will be moved? And we’re not just talking about pending UFAs such as Evander Kane or Rick Nash, but guys with term who are in the rumour mill: Erik Karlsson, Max Pacioretty, Ryan McDonagh, etc.
Some moves have already started to come in, but you can bet Monday will see a flurry of activity, big and small. You can tune in to Sportsnet starting 8 a.m. Monday morning for a full day of trade deadline coverage and analysis as teams bulk up for the playoffs, or take a step back from the present with the future in mind.
Here, then, are 18 quick stats from deadline days past, with a stick tap to the great Sportsnet Stats department.
5: Number of trades made on the day before deadline day in 2017:
• Canadiens trade David Desharnais to Oilers for Brandon Davidson
• Stars trade Johnny Oduya to Blackhawks for Mark McNeill and conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2018 Draft
• Rangers trade Mat Bodie to Sabres for Daniel Catenacci
• Hurricanes trade Viktor Stalberg to Senators for third-round pick in 2017 Draft
• Red Wings trade Brendan Smith to Rangers for third-round pick in 2017 Draft and second-round pick in 2018 Draft
9: Most total pieces moved in one trade on deadline day (2007).
Los Angeles got: Johan Fransson, Jaroslav Modry, 2007 second, 2007 third, 2008 first
Dallas got: Mattias Norstrom, Konstantin Pushkarev, 2007 third, 2007 fourth
15 years: Longest any team has gone without making a deadline day deal. Boston Bruins, 1968-1993.
15 years: Longest active streak of making a trade on deadline day. Colorado Avalanche.
35: Most deadline day trades made by any one team in the salary cap era. Anaheim Ducks.
6: Fewest deadline day trades made by any one team in the salary cap era. Dallas Stars.
61: The most deadline day moves made by any one team since 1968. Pittsburgh Penguins.
574: Number of total trades made on deadline day since 1968.
1,077: Number of players dealt on trade deadline day since 1968.
Most points by player traded on deadline day with new team
14: Most goals by player traded on deadline day with new team. Lee Stempniak with Coyotes, 2009-10.
33: Most deadline day trades made by a current NHL general manager. David Poile.
8: Most trades made by the same two teams on deadline day since 1968. Edmonton/NY Rangers.
8.4 per cent: Deadline day trades involving a goalie, the least traded position.
34.4 per cent: Deadline day trades involving a defenceman, the most traded position.
20.8 per cent: Amount of deadline day deals involving a third-round pick, the selection most commonly swapped.
6.6 per cent: Amount of deadline day deals involving a first-round pick.
2015: The last year in which a first-round pick was traded on deadline day.
Trade talk ruled the night, but Friday also featured some pretty cool highlights, too. To recap, here are a few things we learned around the league.
Granlund and Staal strike chemistry
Minnesota Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau decided to do a little experiment while making up the lines for Friday’s contest against the New York Rangers: Put Eric Staal and Mikael Granlund together, and see what happens.
“I thought let’s try it for a period and see how it goes,” Boudreau told reporters after his team’s big 4-1 win. “And they were pretty good.”
“Pretty good” is certainly an understatement. The aim was to boost Mikael Granlund out of his month-long goal drought, and with two goals and two assists on the night, it worked.
“He’s a guy that when you can see him feeling it, you want to be out there with him and you want to try and get him some touches,” Staal, whose stat line matched that of Granlund, told reporters after the game. “He seems to make things happen and tonight, the puck seemed to be following him around a little bit once he got that first one.
“He’s one of those guys that when he gets the offensive vibes going, he can be a difference maker.”
Looks like Boudreau’s job just got a whole lot easier.
Penguins win the entire night
The entire Pittsburgh Penguins organization had a busy night on Friday. Not only did the team win big over the Carolina Hurricanes thanks to two goals from U.S. women’s hockey star Amanda Kessel’s brother, the front office got itself a victory as well when it acquired centre Derick Brassard from the Ottawa Senators via the Vegas Golden Knights in a (super complicated) three-team trade.
The trade, which unfolded over the course of the evening after the league told the trio of teams to rework the deal, sends defenceman Ian Cole to Ottawa and forward Ryan Reaves to Vegas and also features a number of picks and prospects changing hands. The most intriguing part of the deal is not just that the Golden Knights are retaining 40 per cent of Brassard’s salary… but why they’re doing it. Sportsnet’s John Shannon tweeted in the aftermath of the trade that he believes Vegas wanted to prevent Brassard from heading to a dangerous Western Conference opponent in Winnipeg. (Have you watched the Jets lately? Can’t say we blame ’em.)
Hellebuyck makes history
Speaking of the Jets, they had a pretty strong showing on Friday night against the St. Louis Blues. Captain Blake Wheeler reached a new personal best in assists (53), No. 29 scored his 29th of the season, and Connor Hellebuyck was a brick wall.
Hellebuyck’s 34-save shutout was his sixth of the season, which is a franchise record.
The Other Karlsson steals the show
We’re talking a lot about Erik Karlsson these days, but let’s check in with the other Karlsson for a minute — you know, the one not rumoured as a potential blockbuster trade deadline target.
William Karlsson has been simply spectacular this season in Vegas, with his tremendous stat line just as surprising as the Golden Knights’.
The 25-year-old had six goals and 19 assists with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2016-17 before being selected in the NHL Expansion Draft, and he’s already got 33 goals this year as he stars on the NHL’s newest team. He had two on Friday against the Canucks, ranking him third in that category league-wide. And boy, is he fun to watch.
Now, back to your regularly scheduled Erik Karlsson speculation.
With two days until the deadline, fans have one eye on the transaction wire and one on the scoreboard. We’ve got 12 games on the schedule to look forward to today. As for the number of trades, we’ll have to wait and see.
HNIC Game of the Night: Jets at Stars
We’re starting to get a little bit of separation in the Central. With the Blackhawks falling out of the race and the Jets and Predators pulling away up top, that leaves four teams fighting for what could be anywhere from one to three spots.
The Stars are right in the thick of that group, thanks to a five-game win streak to start the month that finally boosted them from fringe wild-card team into something closer to the contender some of us thought they’d be. They’ve wobbled since then, including bad losses to the Canucks and Sharks, so they’re still well within “need every point they can get” territory, but they kick off a five-game homestand tonight.
For their part, the Jets had a four-game win streak ended on Tuesday by Los Angeles, and followed that up with last night’s win/loss in St. Louis. The Blues’ recent struggles have turned what was shaping up as a three-way race for the division title into a showdown between the Jets and Predators, and those two teams will face each other three times in the next month, including on Tuesday night in Winnipeg.
That might make tonight’s matchup with the Stars a bit of a trap game if the Jets take it lightly. They shouldn’t — the Stars have been neck-and-neck with them since New Year’s and are looming as a potential first-round matchup. Winnipeg has already beaten the Stars twice, but those games both came in November and Dallas seems like a different team now.
Of course, with the deadline looming, lots of teams are about to look different. It remains to be seen whether these two teams are among them. Jim Nill and Kevin Cheveldayoff occupy opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to trading philosophy, with Nill being fairly aggressive and Cheveldayoff typically staying away from major moves.
With David Poile, Doug Armstrong, Joe Sakic and a presumably desperate Chuck Fletcher all still in the Central mix, it’s possible that neither Cheveldayoff or Nill can afford to be cautious. If so, they’ll both have some time to get to work after this one; neither team plays again until after Monday’s deadline.
Player in the spotlight: Mikhail Sergachev
Poor Marc Bergevin. I have no idea who or what he was in a previous life, but it apparently involved doing something terrible to the guy who makes the NHL’s Saturday schedule.
Two weeks ago, it was the return of P.K. Subban and the ghost of blockbusters past. Last week, it was the Golden Knights arriving just in time to remind everyone of how quickly a winner can be built in today’s NHL. This week, it’s Sergachev, the team’s once-untouchable prospect who turned out to be touchable after all.
The jury is still out on last summer’s deal that sent Sergachev and a second to Tampa for Jonathan Drouin. So far, it’s been advantage Lightning; Drouin is having a disappointing season while Sergachev was looking like a Calder candidate in the early going. He’s cooled off lately, and was even a healthy scratch at one point, so we can probably hold off on putting his bust alongside Patrick Roy, Chris Chelios and Subban in the terrible Habs trades hall of fame.
Still, it will be hard to watch him tonight in Montreal without wondering about the deal, which leads to wondering about Bergevin’s trading track record, which leads to wondering about what the next few days might hold for the Canadiens. They’ll go into the deadline as sellers, although it remains to be seen whether that translates into a full-on rebuild or something less. And when you’re selling, you dream of somehow prying loose a blue-chip prospect like, say, Mikhail Sergachev.
But even if you’re not a Canadiens fan reliving past decisions, there’s good reason to watch Sergachev tonight: There’s a slim but non-zero chance he could be traded again this week. That would have seemed unthinkable a week ago, but if Erik Karlsson is really in play, you have to think the Lightning are among the favourites to land him. They might even be able to do it without moving Sergachev; Steve Yzerman says he doesn’t want to move anyone off the current roster, although the betting here is that could change quickly with Karlsson in play. With the Senators looking for young talent in any deal, you’d have to imagine Sergachev will be at the top of their list. That’s a good reason for Ottawa fans to keep an eye on him, and for fans of any other team that would have to get past an unbeatable combo of Karlsson and the Lightning to cover their eyes.
We often hear about all the ghosts in Montreal. Tonight, for fans of the Habs, Lightning and Senators, Sergachev is basically the ghost of prospects past, present and (maybe) future. Whether that’s scary or not will depend on your perspective.
Key subplot: Wait, where’s he going?
Even two days away from the deadline, we still haven’t seen that many deals. Everyone is on edge. This is the part where I’m supposed to remind you to stay calm.
Well, forget that. You’re a hockey fan, and it’s trade-deadline time. Let’s get crazy.
At some point during tonight’s action, it’s going to happen. A player is going to disappear from his team’s bench and not return. There won’t have been any obvious injury. Eventually, the absence will be too long to be a simple equipment problem. Nobody will be quite sure where the player went, or why. Eventually, everyone will jump to the conclusion that he’s been traded. And by eventually, we mean immediately.
We’ve already seen the whole act play out a few times in recent weeks. We saw Jake Gardiner leave a game against the Blue Jackets, which set off all sorts of speculation that he’d been dealt. Never mind that his name has rarely been mentioned in any rumours, and it’s almost impossible to come up with a realistic scenario in which the team would move him. In October, that would mean it was clearly a false alarm. In February, it meant Lou Lamoriello had pulled off a blockbuster and Drew Doughty was on the way.
Or not. It turns out Gardiner just had a muscle spasm. Oops.
So maybe we all looked ridiculous for even speculating. Except that the day before, Ottawa’s Dion Phaneuf had vanished from a game against the Penguins under similar circumstances. And of course, in Phaneuf’s case he really had been dealt. So sometimes, the trade speculation is true. And for this weekend only, that means we’re justified in assuming it’s always true.
The NHL hasn’t yet reached the MLB level, where players find out they’re traded during a game and get to perform elaborate goodbyes hugs and handshakes with teammates — or occasionally just stay in the game and start crying. But we’ll get there. For now, fans can keep a close eye on those benches, and any reports of unexplained absences. It’s probably nothing. But as Phaneuf could remind you, you just never know.
(And if you’re a star player and want to have some fun, head to the dressing room in the middle of a period. Shake a few hands on the way out. Hug the backup goalie. Then get a skate sharpened and come back in time for the next shift. Most of your fans will have already keeled over from cardiac arrest, but the ones that are left will get a good laugh out of it.)
Marquee matchup: Leafs/Bruins tonight vs. Leafs/Bruins in April
Now that we’re well into the second half of the season, we’re nearing the point where we can start cross-referencing the schedule to the standings to pick out meetings that look like they could represent a first-round matchup.
OK, yes, we’ve already been doing that, pretty much all season long if we’re being honest. But now it starts to feel like something more than wishful thinking. And that’s especially true in the weird Atlantic Division, where the presence of only three good teams has killed any suspense over who’s making the playoffs.
To be clear, a first-round meeting between the Leafs and Bruins isn’t remotely locked up, and Boston still has a decent shot at catching the Lightning. Still, according to the math folks, there’s a better-than-50-percent chance that these two teams are going to meet in the first round. That’s not a sure thing, but it’s far closer to it than we’re used to given how much of the season is left to play out.
So while tonight’s game is important in its own right, it’s going to be hard to watch it without thinking ahead a few months. Just about everything that happens tonight can be viewed through the lens of what we should expect if and when these two teams collide in April. How hard do the Bruins work to get Patrice Bergeron out against Toronto’s top line? Who do they even view as the top line, with Auston Matthews out? Do the Leafs’ small and speedy forwards make Zdeno Chara look big and terrifying or old and slow? Which goaltender has the edge? And will Nazem Kadri be able to make the Bruins and their fans feel the way everyone else feels about Brad Marchand?
Tonight’s game will be the fourth and final meeting of the regular season between the two teams. The Maple Leafs won the first two, but those were back in November before Boston emerged as a superpower. The most recent meeting came three weeks ago, and saw the Bruins dominate on their way to a 4–1 win. That was Toronto’s only loss in a ten-game stretch that saw them reestablish their contender credentials, but it still stood out as a wakeup call that planted a few doubts about whether the young Leafs could handle the Bruins in a seven-game series. No doubt, Toronto would love to return the favour and send a message of their own. But they’ll need to bring a much better game to make it happen.
From the archives
This week serves up a matchup between the Flyers and Senators, so yes, we pretty much have to do The Brawl.
Or maybe that should The Brawls, plural. After all, the March 5, 2004, meeting between the Senators and Flyers involved several line brawls and individual fights, each one roughly half as violent as the last. It was basically the Zeno’s Paradox of hockey fights. But it resulted in an NHL single-game record of a combined 419 penalty minutes.
A few thoughts on all of this:
• Hands up if every time you watch this clip, you find yourself going “Wait, Rob Ray once played for the Senators?” Everyone? Cool, was hoping it wasn’t just me.
• While things get silly fairly quickly, that first line brawl is not messing around. It features Ray, Donald Brashear, a recently acquired Todd Simpson and (eventually) a goalie fight. It also makes the normally placid Jacques Martin mad enough to send out his big guns on the next shift, and they seem pretty clear on what they’re out there to do.
• Let’s take a moment to feel sorry for Mattias Timander, who somehow gets paired off with Chara. I’m an old-school guy at heart who believes that The Code means no turtling, but if an angry and in-his-prime Chara wants to go I think it’s perfectly reasonably to hop over the glass, sprint down the nearest aisle and pull the fire alarm on your way out of the building. Chara goes relatively easy on him, Vincent Lecavalier-style, but that couldn’t have been a fun experience.
• We get a third line brawl, a little bit of hockey, a few more fights, and then the main event: Patrick Sharp vs. Jason Spezza. I’ve made this point before, but Spezza alone was assessed more PIM for this three-second fight than were handed out in the entire Red Wings/Avalanche brawl. I’m not saying the 419 PIM from this game were inflated by misconducts, but I’m pretty sure I just got 10 minutes for thinking it.
• This game came exactly one month after another infamous night in Senators’ history that ended with the bench almost empty: the Flu Game against the Maple Leafs that ended with Owen Nolan’s “boo hoo” soundbite. Between that gastrointestinal outbreak and this Chara/Timander fight, that makes two Senators games in one season that involved somebody nearly soiling their pants on the ice.
As for the epilogue, the game only resulted in one suspension, an automatic one-game ban to Danny Markov for getting his third game misconduct of the year. But it’s indirectly responsible for the current rule that makes instigating a fight in the final five minutes of a game an automatic suspension.
Three days after the game, the Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incident happened and changed views on fighting significantly. It’s safe to say the 419-PIM record will never be matched; there’s only been one game with even half as many in the nearly 14 years since.
Oddly specific prediction
The Sens and Flyers renew hostilities with a modern-day version of the 2004 brawl… which is to say that there will be two fights in the game.
Oddly specific prediction record: 1-for-18
Team USA, skipped by John Shuster, has won the first curling Olympic gold medal in United States history by upsetting Sweden 10-7 in the final.
More to come.
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – The Canadian Olympic Committee confirmed that one of its athletes at the Pyeongchang Games is under police investigation for what South Korean media described as a car theft and drunk driving.
Chris Overholt, the COC’s chief executive officer, declined to identify the parties involved but a local report identified them as a 35-year-old ski cross racer, his 32-year-old wife and a 48-year-old team official.
That matches the description of Dave Duncan, who finished fourth in the small final of the men’s ski cross won by teammate Brady Leman.
Speaking at a news conference Saturday to unveil short-track speedskater Kim Boutin as flag-bearer for the closing ceremony, all Overholt would say was: "We can confirm that an incident occurred involving police around midnight Friday, early morning Saturday. We have confirmation individuals attached to our team are involved in the investigation and are co-operating. We take this matter very, very seriously. However, until we know the results of the investigation, we’re not really in position to comment much further than that."
LAS VEGAS – As he sat in the dressing room Friday morning, thrilled to be getting ready for his first National Hockey League game, Philip Holm marvelled at his situation.
“I never thought I’d be playing an NHL game in Las Vegas,” he said.
That night, the rest of the Vancouver Canucks looked like they could scarcely believe it, either.
They were good enough in the first period to beat the miraculous Vegas Golden Knights, but didn’t look good enough in the second to beat anybody and lost 6-3 to the record-setting expansion team. The Knights moved into first place overall in the NHL.
There is bling everywhere in Vegas except on its hockey team, a collection of players surrendered by others and whose greatest trait is that they work relentlessly and are superb together. Knights? More like serfs the way they labour, except they own the 41-16-4 record they’ve built here in the desert.
The Canucks, meanwhile, continue to search for an identity. The hundreds of Vancouver fans who travelled to witness the Canucks’ first game in Las Vegas saw the team they’re accustomed to: Great one night, poor the next two, and seemingly unable to play consistently well for a full game, let alone a week or month.
“That’s been the problem we’ve had all year: inconsistency,” Canucks defenceman Alex Edler said. “We got away from the things we did well in the first period. Against a team like this, you’ve got to be sharp at all times, got to be aware where they are or they’ll get chances and punish you. We have to play 60 minutes of good hockey.”
They were really good for 20 minutes on Friday. But Vegas took over the game in the second frame when the Canucks couldn’t sustain pressure in the offensive zone, couldn’t defend and couldn’t get a save from goalie Anders Nilsson, who seemed to prove over the course of four straight starts that he shouldn’t be starting.
The game was tied 2-2 only because, after an eight-minute spell of Vancouver dominance in which the Canucks outshot Vegas 8-0 and outscored it 2-0 in the first period, the Knights made it down the ice and scored when William Karlsson, unchecked by Edler, Erik Gudbranson and Bo Horvat, buried a pass out to the slot by Reilly Smith at 14:39.
Soon after a dismal Canucks power play cost them a chance to build momentum at the start of the second period, the Golden Knights went ahead 3-2 at 5:36 when Karlsson caught Brock Boeser dreaming on the backcheck, skated past Vancouver’s rookie and on to Jonathan Marchessault’s pass and whipped the puck past Nilsson.
When Vegas got its first power play on Thomas Vanek’s offensive-zone penalty, the Knights needed just 28 seconds to score when the puck ricocheted into the slot where Marchessault guided a shot into the net at 6:39 after Gudbranson bumped Nilsson, leaving the goalie out of position.
Even when Nilsson was in the right spot – and the puck was drilled at him – it still went in. With Canucks defenceman Derrick Pouliot caught, Tomas Nosek’s made it 5-2 on a breakaway at 18:58 as his shot hit the goalie’s armpit and went in.
Canucks coach Travis Green saved Nilsson the perp-skate to the bench, but replaced him with Jacob Markstrom at the start of the third period.
Marc-Andre Fleury played the whole game for the Knights and was one of their best players despite allowing first-period goals to Vanek and Sven Baertschi, and one in the third to Daniel Sedin, who shot off defenceman Deryk Engelland’s shin pad during a Vancouver power play.
And Holm, the minor-league callup who finally got to make his NHL debut at age 26?
The Knights scored during his second shift.
Welcome to Vegas, baby.
TIME FOR VANEK TO PACK HIS BAGS?
The weekend may not get better for Vanek.
The 34-year-old winger, who has outperformed expectations this season, is Canucks general manager Jim Benning’s main trading chip. Although Vanek has 17 goals and 41 points in 61 games, he probably doesn’t top anyone’s wish list. So both the Canucks and Vanek may have to wait until Monday’s deadline to see where – if anywhere – he goes.
On a one-year contract without trade protection, Vanek knew from the day he signed in September that he would probably be rented to another team at the deadline if the Canucks were out of the playoff race. But knowing, he said Friday morning, hasn’t made the last couple of weeks easier.
“The last two weeks and the next four days, they’re no fun,” Vanek said. “You get up early and check the phone and see if something’s new. Even though I’ve been through it before, it’s always an uneasy feeling.”
Due to how late in the summer he signed and the likelihood the Canucks would eventually trade him, Vanek’s family spent this season in Minnesota, where his wife looked after the kids so they could stay in school at home.
Whether he’s traded or not, Vanek said he’d be happy to sign another one-year deal with the Canucks if Daniel and Henrik Sedin decide to play another season rather than retire.
But Vanek has one condition: “It has to do if I get a no-move or not. I’m not complaining about my family (situation), but my oldest is a fifth grader going into six. I can’t keep putting him into new schools every five months. That’s not fair to my kids. So that’s something I would ask for next time around. What I have learned on one-year deals is if it doesn’t go right the first 50 games, you’re out and exposed. It’s not a fun thing.”
Tomas Hyka, Jonathan Marchessault, Tomas Nosek and David Perron also scored for the Golden Knights.
Vegas, which has won five of its past six games, improved to 16-2-1 against Pacific Division teams.
Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury, who is four wins shy of becoming the 13th goalie in NHL history to register 400 career wins, stopped 30 shots.
Vancouver, which dropped to 3-7-1 in February, is 5-11-1 against intradivision foes.
The Canucks got goals from Sven Baertschi, Thomas Vanek and Daniel Sedin.
Anders Nilsson, who played in his 100th career game, had 19 saves for the Canucks before being replaced by Jacob Markstrom at the start of the third period. Markstrom made eight stops for Vancouver.
Vegas opened the scoring when Hyka, playing in just his third NHL game, scored his first career goal 2:29 into the game.
The Canucks then displayed a little bit of offensive prowess of their own, tying the game when Sam Gagner’s pass slipped under Vegas defenceman Luca Sbisa and Baertschi punched it home, then taking a 2-1 lead when Vanek tapped in a loose puck.
Vegas reclaimed the lead on a pair of Karlsson goals, late in the first period and 5:36 into the second. Karlsson’s two goals give him 33 for the season, third-best in the NHL behind Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (36) and Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin (34).
The Golden Knights extended their lead to 5-2 on Marchessault’s 22nd goal of the season, and Tomas Nosek’s seventh of the campaign.
Sedin notched his 16th goal of the season, when he beat Fleury top shelf with a power play goal 4:28 into the third period.
Perron scored an empty net goal for the final margin. Along with his assist on Nosek’s goal, Perron tied his career-high of 57 points.
Vegas has now scored a power-play goal in 14 of its last 16 games. … The Golden Knights are 25-3-0 record when scoring the first goal of the game while their .893 win percentage when recording the opening mark leads the NHL. … Baertschi now has seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) over the past seven games.
Vancouver: At Arizona on Sunday
Vegas: At Los Angeles on Monday
No one can accuse the Ottawa Senators of being unable to complete complex transactions.
If we learned anything during Friday’s drawn-out three-way deal with Pittsburgh and Vegas, it’s that the salary cap hurdles aren’t too much for Senators general manager Pierre Dorion to handle at a time when he’s a motivated seller.
It took some perseverance. The NHL rejected at least one attempt to register the multi-faceted trade before the parties finally sorted out a transaction that grew to include four separate deals.
The end result saw Ottawa ship Derick Brassard to Pittsburgh for futures: A 2018 first-round pick and goaltending prospect Filip Gustavsson. The Senators also received defenceman Ian Cole, who immediately became a candidate to be flipped elsewhere before Monday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline.
Pittsburgh’s tenuous cap situation made the transaction considerably more complicated.
It required the Golden Knights to be brought into the picture as an intermediary, with Vegas first acquiring Brassard and then retaining 40 per cent of his remaining cap hit while shipping him to the Penguins.
That will cost Vegas in the neighbourhood of $1.9-million in actual salary through the end of next season, and they were rewarded with a 2018 fourth-round pick and gritty winger Ryan Reaves for the trouble.
It is arguably the most complicated deal we’ve seen in the NHL’s salary cap era – with Pittsburgh and Ottawa also swapping 2019 third-round picks, and AHLers Vincent Dunn and Tobias Lindberg each ending up with the Penguins to help balance everything out.
"This was the most complex trade I’ve made," veteran Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford told reporters. "Three-way deals are hard to make. We thought we had the deal earlier in the day. It wasn’t made. We had to make a couple of changes. It took quite a bit longer than most."
The Penguins are now well-positioned to make a run at a third straight Stanley Cup, with Brassard slotting in as the third centre behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. That’s an enviable amount of depth down the middle.
As for the Senators, this was just the beginning of what’s expected to be a busy weekend – one where Dorion is hoping to jumpstart a rebuild by selling off more assets.
Some have suggested that a deal involving Karlsson is too difficult to make in-season given the cap complexities and limited number of bidders. There’s also the shadow of Bobby Ryan’s albatross contract – with more than $30-million still owing – which Ottawa would prefer to attach to any trade involving Karlsson.
No question that’s a monumental transaction to try and bring together inside the next 60-plus hours. But after seeing the creativity and pluck shown in getting the Brassard deal across the finish line, it can’t be ruled out entirely.
There’s more fireworks to come in the nation’s capital.
TORONTO — The other day, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was musing about what his club could do better as they stared down the final 25 games of the regular season coming out of the all-star break.
He wanted his team to play harder, play smarter, be more committed to the little things that add up to big things.
What else? How about getting better in the one area the Raptors struggle with most: scoring the ball late in close games?
“It’s about us and us getting better. We got a lot of areas if you understand basketball in which we can get better,” Casey said. “Take the last five minutes of the game. We go from one of the top offensive teams to one of the worst in the league. Those areas where we have to continue to harp on, to preach on and to think about as we go into these last 25 games.”
In that context, there are several lessons that can be gleaned from the Raptors’ 122-119 overtime loss to the visiting Milwaukee Bucks. Perhaps most significant is a reminder that even if the Raptors do cruise to the top seed in the East, their path to the Conference Finals and beyond will won’t have any soft touches. The Raptors are 2-1 against the Bucks this year, but are 1-1 at the Air Canada Centre, with both games going into overtime.
The loss snapped the Raptors’ winning streak at seven, their home winning streak at eight and ideally snapped them to attention after nine days between games at Toronto saw their lead over Boston trimmed to one game in the East and their record at the ACC fall to 24-5.
But it was also proof that the Raptors’ struggles in the clutch are real.
Ignoring that the Raptors (41-17) only needed to navigate the final moments with the game hanging in the balance because of a sub-par defensive effort through three quarters, the end of the game and overtime revealed the Raptors crunch-time issues, while also hinting at some potential for improvement.
First the good stuff: After crawling back from down 12 points with 14 minutes to play it was Toronto ball, down two with 3.3 seconds left.
Typically this would involve the Raptors getting the ball to DeMar DeRozan, getting out of the way and hoping for the best.
Given the Raptors generate only 98.9 points per 100 possessions in the final moments of close games – ranking them 25th in the NBA, compared to the their fourth-ranked overall attack which generates 110.7 points per 100 possessions – that hasn’t been a very effective strategy.
But could anyone have predicted Casey drawing up a game-tying buzzer beater for Jonas Valanciunas?
The Bucks certainly didn’t, not even after Casey subbed Valanciunas in coming out of the timeout.
But that’s what Casey chose to do, and it worked out spectacularly.
C.J. Miles inbounded the ball to the Raptors big man; DeRozan cut to the corner as a decoy, taking this defender with him and – crucially – clearing out the paint. Miles went to Valanciunas after the inbounds, looking for a hand off and a screen that could free him up for the game-winning three. Lowry stayed off the ball in the far corner, drawing another defender.
Valanciunas remained patient, even as the clock ticked down.
“I was just looking for the play. Is C.J. going to be open or somebody else – Kyle cutting?” said Valanciunas, who finished with 10 points on eight shots, seven rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes. “I was looking at the situation, you know.”
But the options were drying up as time was running out, so Valanciunas made a decision. He was going to put the ball on the floor and take advantage of the emptiness in the paint behind his defender, Bucks’ John Henson.
“I was just trying to go, you know?” he said. “I didn’t look at the clock, honestly.”
The result was thunderous, game-tying dunk at the buzzer. And it very well should have put him on the line to have a chance to shoot a game-winning free throw, although the whistle didn’t come.
“Next question please,” said Valanciunas when asked if he thought he was fouled.
“I thought he got fouled,” said Casey. “I’ve got to back and look at it, look at the replay and see. It should have been an and-one at the end of the game. Woulda, coulda, shoulda.”
Valanciunas’ play seemed to send a surge through the lineup. After the ball went up in overtime, it started flying around, with the Raptors putting the Bucks on their heels, Toronto’s tendency to grind the game down under pressure not evident.
On their first possession, Fred VanVleet dribbled through the paint and found a wide-open Serge Ibaka, who quickly moved the ball to a waiting Kyle Lowry for a three and the Raptors point guard made no mistake. Then, DeRozan saw Ibaka with a mismatch in the post and found him for another quick hoop.
The Bucks were able to come back from down five and take the lead by three with a quick 8-0 run, but with 40 seconds left Valanciunas and DeRozan combined on a pick-and-roll with DeRozan hitting his big man for another dunk – and uncalled foul – that pulled the Raptors back within one.
So, a lot to like.
Multiple times in the guts of a close game against a conference rival with the crowd roaring, the Raptors – and DeRozan in particular – felt comfortable using ball movement and some surprise to create open looks under pressure.
“That’s perfect,” said DeRozan. “All eyes are always keying in on me and Kyle to get the ball and make a play. It is great when we can do some misdirection type of things and just mix it up. All teams know our plays when it comes down to me and Kyle. It was something that we tried and it worked.”
But it wasn’t all good. In the final moments there were a couple of plays that looked like bad dreams from Raptors losses past, where the execution broke down or the intent was misguided and the opportunity was lost.
In the possession prior to Valanciunas’ dunk, DeRozan pulled down a rebound with 37 seconds left, dribbled the floor, Toronto trailing by one, and pulled up for a contested jumper even though Ibaka and Lowry were wide open on the wings.
Even worse was the Raptors’ last possession in overtime, trailing by three. After an inbounds play, DeRozan pulled up for a quick, contested three with seven seconds left. He missed, but scrambled to get his own rebound. Rather than look for Miles, wide open for a potential game-tying three – there was still about three seconds left – DeRozan spun and dunked, leaving the Toronto trailing by one with 1.6 seconds left, leaving the Raptors down one, but giving the Bucks the ball. It was a mental error and the game was effectively over.
“We were looking for C.J. It was a hammer play for me to try and turn the corner,” said DeRozan, who finished with 33 points and four assists on 13-of-26 shooting, but [Kris] Middleton cut me off, so I just went for the bucket and was hoping we’d get a stop or something to give us a chance to win the game.”
The chance didn’t come.
Pinning the loss on the late-game execution is unfair given Toronto allowed the Bucks to win the second quarter 42-28 and shoot 55 per cent from the floor through three quarters before clamping down in the fourth and holding Milwaukee to 5-of-22 from the floor.
But there were some mistakes and they do represent a pattern. In one game both the problem and the solution were laid out, however.
Toronto’s best chances came when multiple players were involved, the ball moved and everything didn’t depend on Lowry and DeRozan – DeRozan in particular.
When they relied on one player to make a play – DeRozan in this night – the results weren’t as favourable.
“No one likes to lose. We damn sure don’t want to lose, but a night like tonight is a great learning lesson for us,” said DeRozan. “There a lot of things we can take from it — where we can grow and get better — and we understand in close games what we have to do.”
They have 24 games to figure it out, beginning on Monday against the visiting Detroit Pistons.