#SportsReport: Capitals best the Rangers; Australian golf open canceled due to COVID
William Nylander broke a tie at 1:06 of the third period and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 Wednesday night in the opener for both teams.
Toronto won in front of over 18,000 masked and fully vaccinated fans in Scotiabank Arena’s first regular-season crowd since March 10, 2020. Jack Campbell made 31 saves for Toronto, allowing only Jonathan Drouin’s first-period goal.
Pierre Engvall ENG’-vahl tied it on a power play midway through the second. Toronto star Auston Matthews, the NHL leader with 41 goals in 52 games last season, sat out because of a wrist injury that hasn’t fully healed from surgery.
In other ice action:
Bowen Byram scored his first NHL goal and added an assist to lead the short-handed Colorado Avalanche to a 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Nazem Kadri and Gabriel Landeskog each had a goal and an assist for Colorado, which played without star center Nathan MacKinnon and head coach Jared Bednar. Both are in the COVID-19 protocol and away from the team.
Kyle Turris scored the shootout winner and the Edmonton Oilers beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams. Jesse Puljujarvi and Zach Hyman scored in regulation for the Oilers, who squandered a late lead. Edmonton also got a pair of assists from Connor McDavid. Mike Smith finished with 36 saves. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Quinn Hughes scored for the Canucks. Thatcher Demko made 32 saves.
Mason McTavish became the youngest player in Anaheim history to score a goal as the Ducks opened the season with a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. The 18-year-old McTavish — the third overall pick in this year’s NHL draft — put in a loose puck 13:20 into the first period to give Anaheim a 2-0 lead. Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck made a pad save on a shot by Isac Lundestrom, but McTavish gathered in the rebound. Adam Henrique, Kevin Shattenkirk and Rickard Rakell also scored for Anaheim.
The Washington Capitals made a season-opening 5-1 victory against the division-rival New York Rangers memorable Wednesday night for Alex Ovechkin’s 731st and 732nd goals and Hendrix Lapierre’s first. Ovechkin scored twice to pass Marcel Dionne for sole possession of fifth place on the NHL goals list, putting him a couple of steps closer to Wayne Gretzky’s record that had long seemed unbreakable. Ovechkin, one game into a new five-year contract to chase the mark, needs 163 goals to pass Gretzky.
The Nashville Predators have signed defenseman Mattias Ekholm to a four-year, $25 million extension, keeping him under contract through the 2025-26 season.
The team announced the contract Wednesday at a news conference. General manager David Poile says they couldn’t be happier to get this deal done before the season opener Thursday night against Seattle.
Ekholm was drafted by Nashville in 2009. He has played his entire career in Nashville.
In other NHL news:
The New York Islanders will start the season with 13 straight road games. That’s the second-longest road trip in NHL history and the longest to start a season. The NHL drew up the plan while construction of the team’s new home at UBS Arena is completed. Playing a few more games at Nassau Coliseum was not an option, so instead the Islanders will crisscross the country. New York will play its first home game on Nov. 20 against Calgary, more than five weeks into the season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs sported TikTok decals on their helmets for the season opener against the Montreal Canadiens. The social media platform’s logo to appear on players’ helmets throughout the season. The NHL added helmet advertisements last season and the board of governors has unanimously approved sponsor patches on jerseys beginning next season.
The Arizona Cardinals will be without two starters and probably a third as they try to stay unbeaten in a road game Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury has confirmed that tight end Maxx Williams is out for the season because of a right knee injury he suffered last week in the team’s 17-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. He also said three-time Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson will miss the game in Cleveland with an injury to his ribs while linebacker Chandler Jones is doubtful after testing positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, NFL sacks leader Myles Garrett and star running back Nick Chubb are two of several key Browns players not practicing because of injuries. Garrett, who has seven sacks and been dominant all season, is dealing with knee and ankle issues. The 2020 All-Pro defensive end sat out two practices last week but played in Sunday’s 47-42 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
In other NFL news:
The Kansas City Chiefs practiced without five key starters including wide receiver Tyreek Hill and pass rusher Chris Jones. Hill was out with a bruised quad that he sustained in Sunday night’s loss to the Bills, when the Chiefs also lost running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire to a sprained knee ligament. Jones continues to deal with a lingering wrist injury. Also out Wednesday were linebacker Anthony Hitchens, defensive back Charvarius Ward and guard Joe Thuney.
Daniel Jones has made some progress since suffering a concussion last weekend and there’s a chance the Giants quarterback will play against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. Coach Joe Judge said Wednesday that Jones remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol. It is unlikely he’ll practice Thursday since the next step in the protocol would be either increased physical activity followed by a non-contact practice.
Panthers coach Matt Rhule said running back Christian McCaffrey is 50-50 for Carolina’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. McCaffrey has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. Rhule thinks the decision will come right up until the game.
Indianapolis Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton was back on the practice field for Wednesday’s light workout. If all goes well over the next few days, he might be playing Sunday against Houston. The four-time Pro Bowler has been designated for return from injured reserve after having neck surgery in August and coach Frank Reich is optimistic Hilton will be cleared to play this weekend.
It has not been a good start to the week for the Los Angeles Chargers offensive line. The Chargers found out on Monday that right guard Oday Aboushi would miss the rest of the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee during Sunday’s 47-42 win over Cleveland. On Wednesday, the team announced that right tackle Bryan Bulaga will miss more time after having core muscle surgery. Michael Schofield stepped in after Aboushi was injured and will remain the starter. With Storm Norton filling in at right tackle, center Corey Linsley said that he expects everyone to continue to step up.
Houston Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor won’t come off injured reserve this week, and left tackle Laremy Tunsil will have thumb surgery and is expected to be out at least a month. Taylor injured his hamstring Sept. 19 against the Browns and was placed on injured reserve the following week. He is eligible to return this week, but coach David Culley said he still needs more time. Tunsil injured his left thumb in a loss to the Patriots on Sunday.
The Tennessee Titans have brought back linebacker Avery Williamson, signing the veteran off Denver’s practice squad. Williamson was a fifth-round draft pick by the Titans in 2014 out of Kentucky. He spent his first four seasons with Tennessee before signing a three-year deal in 2018 with the New York Jets. Williamson missed the 2019 season with a torn ACL and was traded to Pittsburgh during last season. The Titans also announced that safety Amani Hooker has been cleared to return to practice even as he remains on injured reserve.
Cornerback Tre Flowers has been released by the Seattle Seahawks as they struggle to find the right combination at the position. Flowers started the first three games but was benched in favor of Sidney Jones after Minnesota dissected Seattle’s secondary in Week 3. Coach Pete Carroll raved about Flowers’ performance in earning the starting job during training camp but didn’t have many answers on why his standing changed so quickly. The entire cornerback situation remains unsettled five weeks into the regular season.
Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell says center Frank Ragnow feels guilty about having season-ending toe surgery. Campbell said that the surgery went well, and that Ragnow does not need to feel bad about doing the right thing for his long-term future. Ragnow was hurt earlier this month at Chicago and went on injured reserve last week.
Ben Simmons has reported to the Philadelphia 76ers but the disgruntled All-Star guard still may not play for the franchise.
Coach Doc Rivers says he doesn’t know if Simmons has backed off his trade demand. Rivers said Simmons was scheduled to return to the practice facility late Wednesday for an individual workout and that he won’t practice with the team until he clears NBA health and safety protocols.
Rivers said he hasn’t ruled out Simmons traveling with the team to Detroit for their last preseason game Friday.
Elsewhere around the NBA:
The New Orleans Pelicans exercised options on four former first-round draft choices including star forward Zion Williamson and also added undrafted rookie guard John Petty Jr. to their roster. The Pelicans picked up fourth-year options on 2019 first-round draft choices Williamson, center Jaxson Hayes and guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, keeping them under contract through next season. New Orleans also exercised a third-year option on 2020 top draft choice Kira Lewis Jr., keeping him under contract through the 2022-23 season as well. The signing of Petty gives the Pelicans three ex-Alabama players including Lewis and 2021 second-round pick Herbert Jones.
The Western Conference has the best regular season team from last year in Utah. The West champion Phoenix Suns are primed for another run. But the team to catch might be the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James and Anthony Davis now have tons of proven players alongside them like Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook. James says he knows a popular narrative is that the Lakers are too old to win. He says he’s looking forward to disproving that.
Grigor Dimitrov beat top-seeded Daniil Medvedev 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open, extending the parade of upsets that has knocked out several top players. Medvedev’s defeat left the combined ATP and WTA tournament without its top two men’s and women’s seeds.
Karolina Pliskova lost in the third round as did No. 2 Iga Swiatek.
Former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka beat American Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-2.
Brittney Griner dunked while scoring 29 points, Diana Taurasi had eight of her 20 points in overtime and Phoenix Mercury evened the WNBA Finals with a 91-86 win over the Chicago Sky.
Griner kept the Mercury within reach of Chicago during a sluggish start and brought the Phoenix Suns players sitting courtside to their feet with her second career playoff dunk in the first quarter. She scored on a turnaround jump to help give Phoenix a late four-point lead in regulation, but just missed blocking Courtney Vandersloot’s tying layup with 4.4 seconds left.
Taurasi opened overtime with a four-point play and added a 3-pointer that put Phoenix up 89-86 with 1:24 left. Skylar Diggins-Smith, who had 13 points and 12 assists, sealed it on a layup with 12.8 seconds left.
The men’s Australian Open golf tournament and Australian Women’s Open scheduled for next year have been canceled because of COVID-19-related travel and quarantine restrictions. Golf Australia chief executive James Sutherland says “we believe it to be the right outcome under the current circumstances.”
The men’s Australian Open was originally scheduled for next month at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney but had already been re-scheduled for a date in early 2022.
ESPN has signed a five-year agreement with the NFL to broadcast the Monday night game during the first weekend of the playoffs, beginning this season. The announcement was made by ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro at the CAA World Congress of Sport.
The NFL announced last month that it was moving the Saturday early afternoon game on wild-card weekend to Monday night.
Ray Fosse, the strong-armed catcher whose career was upended when he was bowled over by Pete Rose at the 1970 All-Star Game, has died. He was 74. Carol Fosse, his wife of 51 years, said in a statement online that Fosse died Wednesday after a 16-year bout with cancer.
Fosse was a budding talent for Cleveland when he made his first All-Star team as a 23-year-old in 1970, the same year he hit .307 with a career-high 18 homers and won the first of two Gold Gloves.
Rose barreled over him to score the winning run in the 12th inning of the exhibition at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium.
Fosse fractured and separated his left shoulder, and he told The Associated Press in 2015 his body still ached 45 years later.
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