The first NHL goal for 29-year-old Dallas forward Justin Dowling will be a memorable one for many reasons.
For one, it was the game-winner as the resurgent Stars continued their strong play with a 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night. Second, it came in his hometown before a bunch of friends and family. Third, his mom missed it because she was in the beer line at Scotiabank Saddledome.
"That's why we've got TV and highlights and everything," Dowling said with a smile. "So she'll see it eventually. It's OK. I'm just happy they were here."
Undrafted out of Swift Current in the Western Hockey League, Dowling has played 495 games in the minors. Wednesday was his 34th NHL game.
"It felt great," said Dowling, who entered with just three career assists. "I've had a lot of close calls with pucks sitting on goal lines, hitting posts. I think my first game last year I had one disallowed. Long time coming, but it feels good. A lot of weight off my shoulders."
Dowling toe-dragged around Calgary goalie Cam Talbot and fired from a sharp angle just inside the far post to make it 2-0 at 6:38 of the third period.
"Your first NHL goal in your hometown for the game-winner. It doesn't get much better than that," Stars goaltender Ben Bishop said. "I don't think you can draw it up as a kid any better. ... Maybe if he was playing for the other team, but I'm glad he's on ours."
The unassisted goal on a 2-on-1 came just seconds after the Flames blew a chance to pull even. Mark Giordano and Mikael Backlund went back and forth with short passes on a 3-on-1 before Backlund fired wide from directly in front.
"Unfortunately, we had a 3-on-1 the other way and we didn't bear down when we needed to. Instead of 1-1, it's 2-0 and that's just how hockey goes sometimes," Talbot said.
Joe Pavelski scored twice for Dallas, including into an empty net. The Stars are 8-1-1 after stumbling to a 1-7-1 start this season.
"We've had a good little stretch but we're not out of the woods by any means. We're one game (above .500). Our team's got higher standards than that," Pavelski said.
Sean Monahan scored for the Flames (10-8-3), who lost for just the second time in regulation at home (6-2-2).
"Tight game the whole game,” Calgary forward Matthew Tkachuk said. “That second goal hurt a little bit when they got it, then we got one right back and it's still a one-goal game. We gave a little bit of a push in the third, but not enough."
Bishop made 24 saves to improve to 6-5-1.
Talbot turned aside 29 shots but fell to 1-4-0. He was especially sharp in the second, keeping the Flames close in a period when they were outshot 18-6 but only gave up one goal.
Dallas grabbed the momentum early in the second thanks to a goaltender interference penalty on Sam Bennett. It was on the sixth shot of that power play that Pavelski put a bouncing puck past Talbot.
"I gave up a few too many rebounds in the second period, made myself and some of the guys work a little extra hard. But overall, I made a lot of key saves when we needed it in the second period to keep it a one-goal game heading into the third," Talbot said. "Just needed that one more save in the third to make it more attainable."
Monahan's power-play goal cut Calgary's deficit to 2-1 at 9:57 of the third.
Both teams had eight shots on goal in a scoreless first period. Calgary had the better chances, but could not solve Bishop.
The best opportunity came in the opening minute when Andrew Mangiapane appeared to have Bishop beaten, but couldn’t tuck the puck behind his outstretched pad.
Alex Bregman will try to give the Houston Astros an unprecedented sweep.
If the All-Star slugger is selected the American League’s Most Valuable Player when voting results are announced Thursday, the Astros will become the first team to have an MVP, Cy Young Award winner and Rookie of the Year in the same season. Justin Verlander took Cy Young honors, and Yordan Álvarez was a unanimous pick as the AL’s top rookie.
Mike Trout is probably Bregman’s top competition, and the National League MVP figures to come down to Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers or Christian Yelich of the Brewers, with Anthony Rendon of the Nationals also a worthy finalist.
Both MVP races were impacted by injuries. Trout was having another spectacular year for the Los Angeles Angels when right foot problems ended his season early. He did not play after Sept. 7 and was limited to 134 games.
Trout still finished with a career-high 45 home runs, along with a .291 batting average, 104 RBIs, 110 runs and a 1.083 OPS. Trout won MVP awards in 2014 and 2016 and has finished in the top two in the voting six of the past seven years.
Bregman, however, has a strong case after his Houston team finished with a major league-best 107 wins. He hit .296 with 41 home runs, 112 RBIs, 122 runs and 119 walks. He also showed versatility by playing third base and shortstop.
Bregman played in 156 games, and that extra availability helped him match Trout in wins above replacement, a stat that always reflects well on the Los Angeles outfielder. Bregman finished at 8.4 WAR and Trout at 8.3, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
In the NL, Bellinger finished at 9.0 WAR and Yelich at 7.1, although the FanGraphs.com version of WAR has those two neck and neck. Again, availability was an issue. Yelich broke his kneecap late in the season and wasn’t able to play during the Brewers’ run to an NL wild card.
Yelich still might have done enough to win a second straight MVP award. The Milwaukee outfielder hit 44 home runs and won the so-called slash line Triple Crown by leading the NL in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Yelich played in only 130 games, though. That’s not a deal breaker — Barry Bonds was the NL MVP in 2003 with 130 games played, and just last year, Mookie Betts of Boston won the AL award despite playing in only 136. But it may be hard for Yelich to beat out Bellinger, who led the NL in total bases and hit .305 with 47 homers in 156 games while playing excellent defense.
Bellinger would be the first position player for the Dodgers to win MVP honors since Kirk Gibson in 1988, the year of the team’s most recent World Series title.
Rendon is another NL contender. He emerged as the World Series champion Nationals fought their way to the postseason after a poor start. The voting is done before the playoffs, so Rendon’s postseason performance won’t be a factor, but he’d already done plenty before that.
The 29-year-old third baseman hit .319 this year with 34 homers, and led the NL in doubles and RBIs.
The belated congratulations came to Roger Staubach on a February afternoon in 2008 at the Daytona 500.
A Notre Dame alumnus wondered how Staubach, an owner of a NASCAR team with fellow Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, felt about Navy’s 46-44 triple-overtime victory at Notre Dame the previous autumn. The ear-to-ear smile spoke volumes for Staubach, who at the time was the last Navy quarterback to beat the Irish — back in 1963 while winning the Heisman Trophy.
It’s been 56 years since Staubach led Navy to a 35-14 win at Notre Dame Stadium and the Midshipmen will return Saturday for the 93rd meeting in what is billed as the nation’s longest continuous intersectional football rivalry.
It will be the first time since 1978 that both teams come in ranked in The Associated Press Top 25: Notre Dame (7-2) is No. 16 and Navy (7-1) is No. 21. The Midshipmen are coming off a bye week following their fifth straight victory, 56-10 over Connecticut. The Irish beat Duke 38-7 last week and return home, where they’ve won 16 consecutive games.
Notre Dame won 43 straight games against Navy — the longest in history between two FBS rivals — before that 2007 win that had Staubach smiling months later. Notre Dame’s 78-13-1 dominance has often provoked criticism from outsiders as to why the series has continued. Notre Dame’s response remains one of honor and perpetual thanks to the U.S. Navy for putting a V-12 training center in South Bend during World War II.
“For both of us to be ranked, it’s kind of cool,” said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, an assistant to coach Paul Johnson in that streak-ending 2007 Navy victory who has since orchestrated three victories over the Irish starting with a 23-21 triumph over Charlie Weis’ last team in 2009.
Niumatalolo’s last two wins came against Brian Kelly-coached teams in which Navy was the designated “home” team: 35-17 in New Jersey in 2010 and 28-27 in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2016. That team finished 4-8 for Kelly’s only losing season with the Irish.
“We had a nine-win team that beat them in Jacksonville,” Niumatalolo recalled. “They only had the ball six times and we played about as perfect as you can play, and we only beat them by a point and that wasn’t one of their better teams.”
Despite the annual difficulty of preparing for Navy’s triple-option attack, which is averaging a nation’s best 357.9 yards per game, Kelly enjoys the traditions of the series, including both teams standing together after games to hear the other’s alma mater.
“I think just the respect part of it in terms of who we’re going against, (future) leaders of our country,” Kelly said. “That, to me, is what’s great about this game – the history and tradition behind it and why this game is being played today.”
The Midshipmen are 2-4 in their last six games at Notre Dame Stadium following a 24-17 setback in 2017 when they controlled the block for 42:42 and forced the Irish to rally on a pair of Brandon Wimbush touchdown passes.
Though the teams have never played at the 34,000-seat Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, the series has been played around the country – last season Notre Dame prevailed 44-22 in San Diego – and twice in Ireland (in 1996 and 2012), where the teams will meet Aug. 29, 2020, at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.
“My wife loved seeing the castles,” Niumatalolo remembered, “but for us, we got our butts whipped for three hours or so.”
The Toronto Raptors defense gave the team another reason to celebrate.
The Raptors held Damian Lillard to just nine points in a 114-106 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
Pascal Siakam scored 36 points and Fred VanVleet had 30, but the story for Toronto was a defense that made life difficult for yet another star player on their road trip.
After holding LeBron James to 13 points and Kawhi Leonard to just 12 points in their last two games, taking Lillard out of the equation was another notch on the belt for the defending champions.
“It's the defense,” VanVleet said. “Offense comes and goes but defense has been pretty consistent for us. The good thing about our game is that most superstars are pretty unselfish so if you throw 2 or 3 guys at them they're passing. We want to make them pass and make somebody else make shots.”
“They’re really trying to guard from the start of the game to the end,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of his team. “I always talk about, can we execute our schemes, where we’re supposed go, and they’re doing pretty good job of that.”
Siakam scored 13 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter to help close out the Trail Blazers and help Toronto bounce back from Monday night’s loss to the L.A. Clippers.
“It felt like college a little bit just posting up every possession. It was fun,” Siakam said. “That hasn't happened in a while.”
Rodney Hood led the Blazers with 25 points.
Lillard, who entered Wednesday trailing only James Harden in points per game, had his worst outing of the season. Lillard had 2-fof-12 shooting from the field and was 2 of 7 from 3-point range. He did dish 10 assists.
“It’s the fourth team in a row to come out denying me full court. Box-and-one, I don’t remember seeing that many box-and-ones in the NBA, but I mean, they make me play against a crowd. Even when I try to get downhill and be aggressive, there’s four guys right there. The right play is to kick it ahead, get it out, that was the only option they gave me a lot of times. It’s just what it was.”
Hood stood up to the Raptors’ challenge, returning from a two-game absence with back spasms. CJ McCollum also pitched in 18 points while Anfernee Simons had 17 off the bench.
Still, the Trail Blazers once again found themselves staring at a familiar postgame script.
“I get frustrated sometimes losing games, especially losing games that we were in,” Lillard said. “If we was getting blown out, I would be getting upset about that but it wouldn’t be the same feeling. We in every game, down the stretch when it’s time to win a game we’re not doing the necessary things to get a win.”
The Raptors attacked in waves, with Siakam scoring seven straight points to close the quarter and give the Raptors an 87-78 lead heading into the fourth.
The Raptors also got solid bench contributions from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Terence Davis (15 points).
The Blazers went on an 11-2 run to start the fourth quarter, tying the game at 89 with 9:06 left as Lillard watched from the bench.
Nassir Little made his first NBA start against the defending champs. Little drew the job of guarding Siakam.
“I thought he had a really good game,” Stotts said of the rookie Little. “I thought he held his own with Siakam defensively, brought a lot of energy and played hard.”
Little finished with seven points and five rebounds.
A dunk by Hollis-Jefferson with 5:29 left gave the Raptors a 101-94 lead. Another jumper by Siakam with 3:38 left gave the Raptors a 108-94 lead, their largest of the game.
Raptors: The Raptors made a line-up change on Wednesday night as they were without starting small forward OG Anunoby, who is dealing with an injury to his eye.
Anunoby, who walked into the Moda Center Wednesday with an eye-patch over his right eye, will likely be available to play when the Raptors finish their road trip later this weekend.
“They told me it was close for this game, that he might make it, but it’s not going to happen,” head coach Nick Nurse said. “He will be ready to go Saturday in Dallas.”
Nurse gave the starting opportunity to reserve forward Malcolm Miller, who had only appeared in two games heading into Wednesday.
Trail Blazers: After entering the season with high expectations, the Blazers have sputtered out of the gate through the first 11 games of the season.
Tuesday night’s loss to a short-handed Sacramento Kings group was as painful as any of the losses they’ve had to start the season.
“We’re not where we want to be,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “The losses at Golden State and (Sacramento) really took a toll. Those two teams were undermanned and if those two games are wins that changes the outlook of where we are. We’ve played a lot of close games, we’ve played a lot of good teams competitively but I’d say right now we’re a middle of the road team trying to find ourselves.”
Now, the Blazers will look to find themselves as they embark on a 10-day, six-game road trip.
A serious health concern is emerging in Australian cricket. The first test of the home summer starts in Brisbane next week and Australia has three players out of the selection frame because of mental health reasons.
Veteran allrounder Glenn Maxwell and ex-test batman Nic Maddinson made themselves unavailable for the series against Pakistan before 21-year-old Will Pucovksi informed selectors that he didn’t want to be considered for national duties.
Pucovski was playing in an Australia A tour game against Pakistan in Perth when he made the call, and the decision was announced Thursday, hours before Australia’s chairman of selectors, Trevor Hohns, was due to announce the test squad.
The mental health issue isn’t isolated or, seemingly, new in cricket. Senior England batsmen have left tours going back more than a decade because of mental health issues.
And India captain Virat Kohli spoke openly this week about his own struggles. Kohli is one of the world’s premier batsmen and respected leaders, and is involved in a home series against Bangladesh.
“I’ve gone through a phase in my career where I felt like it was the end of the world,” he told a news conference in India. “In England 2014, I didn't know what to do, what to say to anyone, and how to speak and how to communicate. And to be honest, I couldn't have said ‘I'm not feeling great mentally and I need to get away from the game.’ Because you never know how that's taken.”
That kind of statement is being taken seriously by the sport’s administrators now.
Cricket Australia national teams manager Ben Oliver commended Pucovski “for having the courage to discuss his situation."
"Will's decision not to nominate for test selection was the right one in the circumstances,” Oliver said. “By Will bravely taking this position, he will undoubtedly inspire others facing similar challenges to speak up and take positive steps toward improving their mental well-being.
“The most important thing now is for Will to be given the time, space and expert support that he needs to return to full health as soon as possible.”
The 31-year-old Maxwell, who has played seven tests, 110 one-day internationals and 61 Twenty20 internationals, has been in and out of the Australian team throughout his career. He withdrew from selection during a series against Sri Lanka last month.
Maddinson, who was rushed into the Australian team against South Africa in 2016, has played three tests but didn’t appear comfortable at the highest level of the game. He ruled himself out of national selection not long after Maxwell’s announcement last month.
Pucovski played the first of his 18 first-class games in 2017. He has a high-score of 243 and a first-class average of almost 41. He was set for a test debut in January but withdrew, citing mental health issues. He was back in calculations for this southern summer before making the same call.
Cricket Australia’s sports medicine manager, Alex Kountouris, said player welfare was paramount.
“There is much society still needs to learn in relation to mental health, but we know enough to say with great certainty that silence is not the answer,” Kountouris said. “Will has demonstrated great strength in being open about his situation. While no one wants to see a fine young man like Will confronting mental well-being issues, we are heartened by the fact he is surrounded by excellent people who will support him.”
Kohli described the example set by Maxwell as “remarkable.”
“He set the right example for cricketers all over the world — that if you’re not in the best frame of mind, you try and try and try, but as human beings you reach a tipping point and you need time away from the game,” Kolhi said. “These things should be respected and not taken in a negative way.
“This is happening on a human level, it’s got nothing to do with what you do on the field. It’s not having the capacity anymore to deal with (everything), which I think can happen to any person in any walk of life.”
Ex-England captain Marcus Trescothick quit a tour of India in 2006, initially cited a viral problem, but later said it was related to mental health.
“I didn’t have a clue what was happening. I wasn’t aware of depression but whatever was going on, I didn’t want to have to say anything about it on TV,” Trescothick told Men’s Health magazine in 2016. “I was terrified.
“There was a lot of naivety and ignorance. People would say ‘What do you have to be depressed about? You play cricket for England. You travel the world. You get paid well.’ To try and experience the dark place when you’ve never experienced it is very tough.”
England opener Jonathan Trott left an Ashes series in Australia after one test in 2013, saying later he’d struggled in the previous series and didn’t know how to cope.
So-called mental toughness has long been a part of cricket, where sledging — often nasty banter between players — was a fundamental part of the game. That has been changing over the last decade. Cricket Australia has had a full-time sports psychologist working with national teams and player development squads.
Robert Craddock, a long-time cricket analysist and television host in Australia, said cricket was facing a mental health crisis. He said while it may not be a contact sport “its mental challenges, with so much waiting time, are much tougher than they look.”
“Even though cricket is only starting to go public with its mental issues, it has always been a supremely demanding mental game,” Craddock wrote in a column for News Corp. “The victory of the current crisis is that at least players are talking.
“If the current issues have taught us anything it is that success and failure can sometimes have little to do with it, and that the causes of the anguish are many and varied.”