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in the third quarter,
February 12, 2019
12:14 am
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shushu
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TORONTO – High above the ice, while practice took place on Thursday afternoon in Toronto, stood Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis. He watched his team work through various drills, hash out lingering points of confusion and prepare for the latest biggest game of the year - a Friday clash with the Philadelphia Flyers. Nonis can do nothing, however, to affect the fortunes of his skidding team at this very late stage in the season, one tumbling precariously close to another late-season collapse. "Eight games left," said Phil Kessel, shortly before departure to Philadelphia. "Weve got to win some games and get in the playoffs here." "This is desperation time," Nazem Kadri added. "Were playing for our lives, so weve got to go start acting like it." It was exactly two years ago that the 18-wheeler of 2012 officially crashed for good. Losing for a stunning 19th time in 24 games against the Carolina Hurricanes on a late March night, the Leafs were eliminated from the postseason, the culmination of an epic unraveling that would cost Ron Wilson his job. Can they avoid a similar and yet perhaps more stinging fate this time around? The thought would have been almost unthinkable only two weeks earlier, but with six straight losses - all in regulation - and not a single point gained, the Leafs are indeed facing that reality. With a blink or two of the eye, theyve been passed by seven teams, now trailing the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets for the final two wild card positions, and are in danger of fumbling away a second-straight trip to the postseason. Aspirations of capturing second spot in the Atlantic Division and home-ice advantage in the first round have been replaced by simply making it outright. The shift has been stunning. "I know right now it seems like were at a low point, but we will come through it," said captain Dion Phaneuf, speaking after a near 90-minute practice in Toronto, his performance and subsequent absence afterward a point of much consternation just a couple days earlier. "Im not going to stand here and say that weve played well. We havent. We havent won games, but theres been stretches that weve done some good things, we just havent found a way to win a game and were going to have to do that Friday." The pressure to do so has never been higher. At some point, the pit of despair becomes just too deep to dig out of, the snowball too large to stop from rolling. That was the case for the club in 2012. Four straight early February losses rapidly morphed into nine of 10, a souring fan-base and the sudden dismissal of Wilson. Things would get no better in the early days of Carlyles tenure with 10 more losses in the next 14 games, including the aforementioned knockout blow on March 27. "Theres pressure in any situation like this," said Kessel, "[but] weve just got to bounce back. If we can get a couple wins here, it would be positive for our group. Weve just got to keep going then." Fear of it all slipping away has seemingly seeped in. Head coach Randy Carlyle observed "tenseness" in the early stages of Tuesdays loss to St. Louis, pushing his club to be more assertive against Philadelphia, currently third in the Metropolitan Division - three points ahead of Toronto. "If youre going to stand there and youre in a street fight and youre not going to move, youre going to allow somebody to swing away, youre going to get hit," said Carlyle. "But if you move and try to avoid the hit and do what you do youre not going to get hit as many times, simple as that." Starts have become the most obvious foe to success during the two-week slide, early and often deep deficits too much to overcome. "So we have to move ourselves," said Carlyle. "We have to move our feet, we have to continue to move the puck effectively, we have to skate … Those are the things that we have to correct and we have to correct it for [Friday] night." "Were starting the games terrible," Kessel said. "Were getting down a couple goals. Theyre out-playing us the first half of the game and then all of a sudden we wake up and we come [back] and its just too late." The same could be said of their playoff fortunes. A collapse under these circumstances might pale in comparison to 2012, given their comfortable state with just weeks to go - they were up three points on the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning as recently as two weeks ago, now trailing both by a wide margin - and the heightened expectations of a club seemingly on the rise. Its a sting they wont want to experience again. "It snowballed on us," Phaneuf said after that season-sealing loss to Carolina two years ago. "We lost a lot of tight games and we just could not recover or find a way out of it as a group." Will they this time around time around? The answer will come soon enough. Thibaut Courtois Jersey . -- Ben Bishop had a milestone game against one of the NHLs greatest goalies. Axel Witsel Jersey . Thats when the eight-time champion revealed that a painful back is slowing his serves -- and, all in all, giving him more trouble than his opponents so far. http://www.belgiumsoccerpro.com/Toby-Alderweireld-Belgium-Jersey/ .com) - Pittsburgh Steelers running back LeVeon Bell, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil and New England Patriots punter Ryan Allen were selected as the AFCs top players for Week 14 of the NFL season. Dries Mertens Jersey . Messier, who had been a special assistant to Rangers general manager Glen Sather, announced Thursday in a statement that he is resigning in order to "expand the game of hockey in the New York area by developing the Kingsbridge National Ice Center. Simon Mignolet Jersey .com) - Lloyd Sam struck in stoppage time on Wednesday as Red Bull New York hung on for a crucial 1-0 win over Atlantic Cup rivals D. TORONTO -- Dwane Casey saw it as a sign of maturity on the part of his young team. After a first half in which he thought "the lid was on the basket," the Toronto Raptors coach watched his squad mount a second half surge to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers 98-91. "Thats another step in our growth," Casey said after Friday nights win at Air Canada Centre. "Last year at this time, if wed have missed shots like that wed have caved in. "But we kept grinding it, grinding it, grinding it and thats what you have to do when the shots arent falling." The Raptors (30-25) shot a woeful 32.7 per cent from the field in the first half and trailed 44-39. But, with second-year centre Jonas Valanciunas leading the way, Toronto shot an impressive 16-for 23, or 69.5 per cent, in the third quarter on the way to winning their fourth game in five starts. "We said we need to pick it up, we need to come out with energy," Valanciunas, who finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, said of the talk in the locker room at halftime. "Thats what it was all about. "We shot really bad the first half but we did a better job the second half and thats what matters." Valanciunas scored 10 of his 14 second-half points in the third quarter, including five in a row during a 4:07 stretch that saw the Raptors turn a one-point deficit into a 10-point lead. Second-year guard Terrence Ross had a team-high 20 points as the Raptors snapped the Cavaliers (22-34) six-game winning streak and widened their lead to 3-1/2 games over the idle Brooklyn Nets atop the NBAs Atlantic Division. With the win, the Raptors equalled the third-fastest time theyve reached the 30-win mark in team history, just one game off the best mark of 54 games in both the 2009-10 and 2007-08 seasons. The Raptors, who have missed the playoffs in each of the past five seasons, diidnt win their 30th game until their 78th outing last year.dddddddddddd Although Ross led the Raptors in scoring, it was his defensive play against Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving, who was named MVP of last weekends NBA All-Star Game, that drew rave reviews from his teammates. "Defensively, hes always been impressive, and hes getting better," Toronto guard Kyle Lowry said after Irving was held to 3-for-16 shooting on his way to 17 points. "I told him that on the bench tonight." Lowry had 14 points, nine assists and six rebounds. DeMar DeRozan added 14 points and five assists. Clevelands Luol Deng led all scorers with 21 points and added 11 rebounds while Tristan Thompson of Brampton, Ont., added 13 points and nine assists and Anthony Bennett, also from Brampton, who last spring became the first Canadian to ever go first overall in the NBA draft, had nine points in his first game here. "We just had to pick up our defensive intensity," Ross said of the message delivered at halftime. "The biggest thing, we were coming out, playing too lackadaisical and we had to pick that up." Toronto outscored Cleveland 37-21 in the third quarter to take control. Valanciunas made a layup with 7:22 to go in the quarter to put the Raptors up for good at 53-52. After Valanciunas and Amir Johnson combined for just four points in the first half, Casey said he gave the big men "a wake-up call" going into the second half and they responded at both ends of the court. "We reminded them theres more to the game than the offensive end," Casey said. "You can get rebounds. You can get back in transition. You can challenge shots and you can go vertical. "You can do a lot of different things other than make shots and I thought the second half (they) worked at it and got it done." 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