Canada’s women down U.S. in potential dress rehearsal for hockey gold medal game

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The U.S. and Canadian women’s hockey teams, predictably, have been the two best squads at the 2022 Winter Olympics by an enormous margin, and Monday night the bitter rivals faced off in what could very well be a dress rehearsal for the gold medal final.

As expected, their heated preliminary tilt was must-see material for hockey fans across North America, and it was Canada who ended up getting the 4-2 win over the U.S. to remain unbeaten at this year’s Games.

Aside from a miscue from U.S. goaltender Maddie Rooney behind the net that nearly resulted in a Canada goal just seconds into the game, the U.S. was largely in control throughout the opening stanza. They led Canada in shots 16-5 through the game’s first 20 minutes and generated several high-danger scoring chances — the most notable of which coming from forward Abbey Murphy on a breakaway. Canada netminder Ann-Renee Desbiens made the initial stop on Murphy, but the puck then bounced off the post — twice — and somehow stayed out of the net.

Despite the strong play from the U.S., though, Canada managed to break the ice on the power play after U.S. defender Caroline Harvey was assessed a cross-checking penalty. Brianne Jenner netted the first goal of the night off a terrific behind-the-net feed from Sarah Fillier, who at 21 years old already appears to be a rising star for Canada.

Goals were hard to come by in the opening period, but the game was busted wide open in the middle third. There were a combined five goals in the second period, which ended up being a 20-minute rollercoaster for both squads. It was the Americans who netted the first pair of goals in the period. Dani Cameranesi slid her own rebound past Desbiens to tie the game, and just over a minute later Alex Carpenter gave the U.S. the lead with a gorgeous backhander off a terrific feed from Amanda Kessel on the rush.

The Canadians immediately came roaring back, though. Just 26 seconds after Carpenter’s marker, Jenner scored her second of the night to tie the game up at two goals apiece. Jamie Lee Rattray followed up her tally with a goal of her own, and with 2:35 remaining in the period, Marie-Philip Poulin earned a penalty shot after being interfered with on a shorthanded breakaway. She beat Rooney on the one-on-one, and the Canadians took the two-goal lead into the second intermission.

“In the dressing room, we talked about not letting momentum swing, so that’s something that we’ve been focusing on,” said Desbiens on her team’s response after allowing two U.S. goals. “Whenever we let a goal in, it’s just a fresh start when the puck drops and forget what happens, so I think it just shows how resilient we are, how we can just change the focus and don’t let momentum swing for too long.”

Unlike in the first two periods, the U.S. struggled to get many quality shots on net in the final frame. The Canadians did an excellent job of limiting the Americans to shots from the perimeter, and when they did give the U.S. breathing room, Desbiens came up with timely saves to keep the momentum in her squad’s favor. Canada also excelled at blocking shots throughout the night, and this was particularly true in the third period.

In the end, the U.S. dominated in terms of possession. They outshot the Canadians by a huge margin (53-27) and limited their time in the penalty box — both traits that typically equate to a winning formula. Unfortunately, they only managed to convert on one of their six chances on the power play, and those missed opportunities ended up costing them dearly.

“I thought we played a great game as a team. Obviously you saw that on the shots,” said Rooney after the loss. “We’ve just got to get those better (scoring) chances in tight around the net and capitalize on those opportunities. We had a lot of shots from the perimeter.

“I feel good about our offensive game moving forward, we’ll learn from this game.”

With their victory, Canada will enter the playoffs as the top seed in Group A and will face off against the No. 3 seed from Group B in the quarterfinals. The U.S., meanwhile, will take on the Czech Republic in their quarterfinal tilt.

The gold medal game, for what it’s worth, is set for 11:10 p.m. ET on February 16.

Click here to view all the stats from the first clash between the U.S. and Canada, and click here to watch the full event replay from start to finish.

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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

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    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.