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Demko channels ghost of Hasek with scorpion save, halting Canucks’ home crisis

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VANCOUVER – With the ghost of Bill LaForge looming over the Vancouver Canucks, goalie Thatcher Demko channelled a far less ghoulish apparition and played like Dominik Hasek.

In a stunning sequence late in Tuesday’s third period with the Canucks playing two men short and trying to avoid being the first Vancouver team since 1984 to lose its first four home games in regulation, Demko made a “scorpion” save, raising his heel while lying flat on his stomach to rob Artemi Panarin of a game-winning goal.

To follow this, Demko made another pad save on the New York Rangers’ superstar with literally one hand behind his back, as the goalie was not only without a stick but his blocker glove as well.

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Demko’s retro freestyle got the desperate Canucks to overtime so J.T. Miller, who was trying to play goal behind Demko when Panarin was trying to win it for the Rangers with three minutes left in regulation, collected the puck after he was stopped on a breakaway by Igor Shesterkin, then wrapped it into an open net to give Vancouver a 3-2 win and end their home losing streak (and crisis) at three games.

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But it’s even better than that: the Canucks trailed 2-0 going into the third period and, after scoring only four times in 220 minutes at Rogers Arena this season, tied the game on goals less than four minutes apart by Miller and rookie Vasily Podkolzin, both of them set up beautifully by sparkplug Conor Garland.

“That five-on-three was pretty awesome,” Miller said of the decisive penalty kill that began at 16:20 of the third period. “That was the loudest I’ve heard this place — by far, probably. Obviously, Thatcher made some unbelievable saves. A lot of scramble by the guys just to get to overtime.

“You can sit in (the dressing room) and pout and feel bad for ourselves because we’re not getting any breaks. But the only way (to) turn the tide and get through this little scoring slump by a lot of guys is to keep playing the same way and add a little more.

“You’ve got to have faith that it’s going to turn at some point and we’re going to start getting the uglier goals. It’s nice to see them go in when we really needed them.”

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For those whose National Hockey League history is mostly this century, LaForge authored a brief and infamous chapter in Vancouver as the worst coach in Canucks history.

His 1984 team was outscored 27-12 in its first four games at the Pacific Coliseum and he was fired after 20 games and 119 goals against. Those Canucks players were never much impressed by LaForge’s PHD – his rhetoric about pride, hustle and desire – after he had the losing team in training-camp scrimmages run in full hockey gear.

Nearly every time LaForge’s name has been mentioned since then it has been as a cautionary tale about the Canucks. Travis Green is no Bill LaForge, but the Canucks coach was a period away from becoming the first in 37 years to have his team lose its first four home games in regulation time.

Defending, however, hasn’t been this team’s problem. And neither has been goaltending.

Tuesday’s third-period carnival chaos was one of Demko’s finest moments. It was the loudest a Canucks crowd has roared in nearly two years.

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“Guys battling,” Demko summarized for reporters. “It’s ugly, you know? Guys made a couple big plays. I mean, it’s just great to see that third period from our group. Obviously, a lot a lot of ups and downs this game emotionally. I thought we carried the play and got some rotten luck on both sides of the red line, but we stuck with it and came out and found a way in the third.”

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On his scorpion save against Panarin, when Demko had neither a stick, blocker nor much hope, he said: “I don’t know if I’ve ever done that before. I got my eyes on the puck and I was trying to get a piece of it.”

Seconds earlier during the scramble, Canucks defenceman Tucker Poolman saved a goal, too.

“I’m just glad that those pucks didn’t hit me and they hit him,” Miller said of Demko. “It felt like he didn’t have any of his gear on for a second. It was a full scramble and panic. You’re doing whatever you can just to keep the puck out of the net. He was like laying on his stomach when he threw his leg up, so that was nuts.

“That seemed like it could be a little turning point for us. We needed that.”

A turning point not only for Tuesday’s game, Miller meant, but for the Canucks’ homestand. Their start to the season. They have three more games at Rogers Arena, starting Friday against the Nashville Predators.

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“We weren’t panicking or anything; it was calm room,” Garland said of the second intermission. “There’s a ton of leaders in that room. It’s not just one or two, there’s a bunch. It’s just hard to score goals in this league. I’ve had plenty go off my foot, off my face. It’s just sometimes they go in in odd ways, and we need that.”

Demko said: “It’s easy to kind of stray away. . . when things aren’t going your way. But it was actually quite the opposite in the third there. I thought guys were picking each other up and working hard for each other and it ended up paying off.”



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What should USMNT fans expect from Christian Pulisic with Chelsea? | SOTU

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After not appearing in Chelsea’s champions league match against AC Milan, Alexi Lalas and David Mosse break down what to expect from Pulisic moving forward with newly appointed manager Graham Potter.



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Flames Takeaways: PTO hopefuls lacklustre in attempts to secure top-nine vacancy

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Two tryouts for the Calgary Flames all but officially ended Wednesday night, as another one began.

With the Flames looking to shore up their lines and pairings in preparation for next week’s season opener, it was telling that the starting lineup in Wednesday’s 5-0 loss in Winnipeg did not include PTO hopefuls Sonny Milano or Cody Eakin.

Neither appears destined to stick with the team much longer.    

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Instead, the Flames got their first look at the 6-foot-6, 220-pound winger they plucked off waivers Monday from Pittsburgh, Radim Zohorna.

As hard as it is to miss a man of that size, the 26-year-old did little to impress on the third line with Adam Ruzicka and Blake Coleman.

In ten minutes of ice time he had one shot on a goal — a solid rebound chance in tight — and two hits.

To be fair, he joined the team at their morning skate Wednesday and will benefit from a practice Thursday before getting another look in Friday’s pre-season finale, at home against the Jets.

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“I know I can be an NHL player full time,” said the man who played 25 NHL games over the last two seasons with the Penguins.

“I try to play hard, and physical, and use my speed. I will have an opportunity to make the team here and play with these guys.”

Based on the advice of Flames scout Steve Pleau, Zohorna was brought in with hopes he can help shore up a top-nine vacancy the Flames have tried in vain to fill through camp.

By virtue of a solid camp and winning another fitness testing title, Dillon Dube has earned the chance to fill the second line role alongside Nazem Kadri and Andrew Mangiapane.

He had another strong outing with them Wednesday, firing five shots on goal and providing energy on a line that should be a crowd pleaser for Dome dwellers.

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Depending on how many players the Flames want to keep on their roster ahead of Thursday’s opener, Zohorna or Brett Ritchie could be a candidate to be placed on waivers with an eye on going to the AHL Wranglers.

But the Oilers had interest in Ritchie, so he might not clear.

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The Flames will also have an interesting decision to make on the back end, as they have nine defencemen in camp, which includes Michael Stone on a PTO.

Stone has been great in camp and will earn a deal in some fashion from the team, although it may have to wait past the opener.

That leaves the possibility of having to try pushing Connor Mackey, Juuso Valimaki or Nicolas Meloche through waivers.  

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NOTES
+ The game’s first star was former Flames backup David Rittich, who made 37 saves for the shutout as part of his preparation to play for his fourth NHL team. 

+ Despite the score, it was another good showing from starter Dan Vladar, who allowed two power play goals on 15 shots before he made his scheduled departure. All told, the Flames backup has compiled an impressive .942 save percentage this fall. Dustin Wolf was hung out to dry by a series of Flames mistakes, allowing three goals on 11 shots.

+ With the lineup just two or three bodies short of its opening day look, the Flames top power play unit included Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, Elias Lindholm, Tyler Toffoli and Rasmus Andersson. Lindholm rang one off the iron in the second period, but the unit went 0-for-6 on a night the team struggled with special teams.

The second unit included Dube, Ruzicka, Andrew Mangiapane, Noah Hanifin and Stone/MacKenzie Weegar.

+ One thing that has looked razor sharp for the Flames through the first six games was its penalty killing unit, which stymied the opposition on 25 of the first 26 man-advantages over six games. On Wednesday they allowed three goals on five chances, which had plenty to do with Flames mistakes and the fact two chief penalty killers, Mikael Backlund and Trevor Lewis, did not dress.  

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+ The Flames (4-3 in the pre-season) open their regular season Thursday against the defending champs from Colorado. 

“Funny how that worked out,” said former Avs star Nazem Kadri.

“I’m hoping maybe I’ll get my ring then.”

THE LINES

Huberdeau-Lindholm-Toffoli

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Dube-Kadri-Mangiapane

Zohorna-Ruzicka-Coleman

Lucic-Rooney-Ritchie

Weegar-Tanev 

Hanifin-Stone 

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Zadorov-Andersson 

Vladar

Wolf

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C.J. Stroud, Caleb Williams highlight Joel Klatt's Heisman Tiers

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Joel Klatt released his Heisman Trophy tiers on the latest episode of “The Joel Klatt Show.” See who made the cut.



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