In his previous two starts, Sergei Bobrovsky had the opportunity to pick up his first shutout since his first season with the Florida Panthers only to see them disappear early in the third period.
Bobrovsky was not giving anything up Thursday night in Edmonton.
Bobrovsky was flat out fantastic against the Oilers, stopping all 40 shots he faced in Florida’s 6-0 win at Rogers Place.
It was Bobrovsky’s first shutout since stopping 22 against Detroit way back on Nov. 2, 2019.
That came in his 12th game with the Panthers.
It took him 87 games to get another.
Make no mistake: ‘Big Game Bob’ was back on Thursday night.
“We came out a little slow but Bob was dialed in from the start and he made huge saves for us all night long,’’ said Carter Verhaeghe, who made it a 2-0 game in the second.
“He kept us in the game and we finally got our feet under us and started to play a little better. … He was the best player on the ice, by far. He made some unbelievable saves. … The game could have gone a lot different.”
Coach Andrew Brunette could only chuckle when recalling that opening period.
“Bob definitely gave us the chance to find our legs,’’ he said, “and we are very grateful for that because they barnstormed us there early.”
Bobrovsky was locked in from the get — and he had to be.
Edmonton, which had lost 12 of 14 coming in, looked every bit the desperate team Florida was warned it would be.
Florida was dominated on both ends of the ice for much of the first period but it was scoreless after 1.
The Panthers survived the best the Oilers had to offer.
”I thought the opponent came with the strong start,’’ Bobrovsky said. “They were pretty fast and are a good team. But when we’re together, the guys had timely blocked shots and helped a lot in the d-zone. It was a great six-person effort in the first and all game long. It was definitely fun to be part of it.”
Bobrovsky was sort of nonchalant about the shutout that night against Detroit and, well, he had reason to.
The Red Wings were basically an AHL team that night and those 22 shots did not offer much of a challenge.
”Defensively, they kept the puck to the outside and made my job easy,” Bobrovsky said that night. “All the ingredients were there for us.”
Bobrovsky never could have imagined it would take this long to get another shutout.
Not after he got nine in his final season with Columbus before signing with the Panthers.
Last week, he had one going into the third against Dallas but the Stars scored in the opening minute.
Saturday, Columbus got him early in the third as well.
Thursday? No chance.
”Of course,” Bobrovsky said when asked about feeling good about a shutout, No. 35 by the way.
“But it’s more important for the game, the element, being the focus. Do the right things and the results will come. I am definitely happy with the result, happy with the shutout.”
Brunette was obviously not happy with Florida’s start but the team woke up and got rolling.
“I did not like our start at all,” Brunette said. “We knew we were coming into a desperate situation and hand it to them; they played really well in that first period. We weren’t sharp, but it was more of what they were doing.”
Sasha Barkov scored Florida’s first on a nice pass from Sam Reinhart on the power play at 5:28 of the second with Verhaeghe making it 2-0 on the team’s next shot.
Barkov got his second with 12:47 left to all but end it.
The Panthers kept coming, scoring three more: Anthony Duclair, Sam Bennett and Owen Tippett also scored in the final five minutes of the game.
Now, the roadie moves to Vancouver where the Canucks will be without a top forward and their starting goalie due to Covid.
SWAGGY LOVES EDMONTON
The last time Verhaeghe was in Rogers Place, he and the Tampa Bay Lightning were taking care of the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup bubble.
Verhaeghe ended up signing with the Panthers as a free agent a few weeks later.
“Yeah, the last time I was here I really enjoyed it,” Verhaeghe said. “Some good memories here. At the hotel, too. I enjoyed (Thursday) as well.”
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida
2. Sasha Barkov, Florida
3. Sam Reinhart, Florida
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Butler, Heat blast past Celtics in Game 1
Jimmy Butler scored 27 of his 41 points after the break, and Miami’s defense locked down Boston to flip an eight-point halftime deficit into a 17-point lead by the end of the third quarter in a 118-107 conquest.
The Celtics lost Al Horford to health and safety protocols in the hours before the series started and ruled Marcus Smart out with the right mid-foot sprain he suffered in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series. Whether they ran out of gas two days after their hard-fought battle with the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks or succumbed to Miami’s relentlessness, the Celtics collapsed after halftime and never recovered.
The Heat, who were also without Kyle Lowry (hamstring), found scoring from Tyler Herro (18 points, eight rebounds), Gabe Vincent (17 points) and Max Strus (11 points). Their defense changed the course of a game that nearly got away from them, amassing 12 blocks and forcing 16 turnovers (turned into 19 points).
The Celtics also lost center Robert Williams III with six minutes remaining in the game. He experienced cramping in his left leg, which also required meniscus surgery in March and suffered a bone bruise against the Bucks. After missing the last four games of the conference semifinals, Williams returned to the starting lineup against the Heat and anchored a defense that slowed Miami early, staking Boston to an 18-9 start.
Herro, the Sixth Man of the Year, settled the Heat’s offense, totaling seven of his points and three of his assists in the first quarter to withstand Boston’s early onslaught and keep their deficit respectable, 28-25.
Jayson Tatum scored 21 of his 29 points in the first half, when the Celtics led by as many as 13 points and 62-54 at the break. But Miami never quit. Butler and Bam Adebayo totaled seven points on a 10-1 run to start the second half, giving the Heat their first lead since they inched ahead for 16 seconds in the first quarter.
Butler inspired a stifling defensive effort after Boston shot 59% from the field in the first half. Two straight steals led to four of his 11 points during Miami’s 22-2 start to the third quarter. The Celtics trailed, 76-64. When the third quarter was done, Boston had eight turnovers and just two field goals on 15 attempts.
The Heat’s lead reached 96-76 on three Herro free throws to start the fourth quarter. Boston was lost. Jaylen Brown could not find any seams in the defense, and the Celtics were relying on Payton Pritchard, Daniel Theis and Aaron Nesmith off the bench — three players on the fringes of their healthy rotation.
The Celtics scratched back within nine points with seven minutes remaining and 114-107 just inside of two minutes, but Butler and the Heat had an answer for every run. His block of Pritchard erased Boston’s final hope, and his last-minute layup gave him the fifth 40-point game of his playoff career and third this year.
– – – – – – –
Cubs pitcher Brandon Hughes makes MLB history in remarkable debut
His Major League debut occurred more suddenly than he would have liked on Tuesday night, but Chicago Cubs pitcher Brandon Hughes made the most of the occasion as he made big-league history at the Friendly Confines.
Hughes, called up to the Cubs on Tuesday before the team’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, was summoned into the game when relief pitcher Daniel Norris was forced to leave the contest because of soreness in his right Achilles tendon.
Needless to say, Hughes made quite the impression, as he struck out the final two batters of the inning and then struck out the side in the seventh inning.
In addition to being impressive, the feat was actually historic. According to STATS Inc. (as cited by Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune) , Hughes is the first pitcher in modern baseball history to record at least five outs and to have them all come via strikeout in his MLB debut.
Infielder Christopher Morel, who was called up along with Hughes on Tuesday, also made his big-league debut, and he joined the party by smacking a home run into the left field bleachers in the eighth inning. In doing so, he became the first Cubs player since Willson Contreras to hit a home run in his first Major League at-bat.
To put the icing on the proverbial cake, the Cubs blanked the Pirates for the second consecutive night, winning 7-0 at Wrigley Field.
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Judge homers twice as Yankees edge Orioles 5-4
BALTIMORE (AP) — The new wall in left field at Camden Yards served its purpose, denying Aaron Judge a home run on his 399-foot drive in the first inning.
“I learned my lesson and decided to go to right field after that,” he said.
The ballpark couldn’t hold Judge’s next two hits, a pair of solo homers that helped the New York Yankees to a 5-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night. Judge and reliever Michael King were the biggest stars of this victory, New York’s 20th in its last 23 games.
Judge came within a few feet of a three-homer game. His bid in the first hit high off the wall — which was moved back and made taller before this season. He settled for an RBI double, then went deep in the third and fifth to increase his major league-leading home run total to 14.
Judge added a single in the eighth for his third four-hit game and first since 2019.
Ramón Urías homered for the Orioles, who matched a season high with their fifth straight loss. Down 5-3, Baltimore managed a run against Aroldis Chapman in the ninth on a two-out double by Ryan McKenna. With men on second and third, Chapman retired Cedric Mullins on a foul pop for his ninth save in nine chances.
Jameson Taillon (4-1) allowed three runs in five-plus innings. King came on after a leadoff double in the sixth and retired all nine of his hitters with six strikeouts before giving way to Chapman.
After Urías tied the game at 1 with a homer in the second, Judge began hitting to parts of the ballpark that are unchanged this year. His home run to right-center made it 2-1 in the third. After a pair of Baltimore runs in the fourth, Judge tied it with a shot to center.
In the sixth, DJ LeMahieu came up with the bases loaded and one out against Dillon Tate (0-2) and put the Yankees ahead with a groundball. Baltimore then pitched to Judge with first base open, and he grounded out.
An error by Urías at shortstop with two out in the seventh gifted New York an unearned run that made it 5-3.
Judge’s two homers went 410 and 422 feet, according to Statcast, after his double was just under 400. Judge’s reaction to the new dimensions at Camden Yards was about what you’d expect from a right-handed slugger.
“It’s a travesty man. I’m pretty upset,” Judge said. “It looks like a create-a-park now. I didn’t like it because I always like coming here and playing here. Hopefully maybe in a couple years they can put it back in.”
King induced 10 swings and misses, equaling the total by all of Baltimore’s pitchers combined.
“He’s been one of the best relievers in the league, especially considering the amount of innings we’ve been able to get from him,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Really impact innings.”
Before the game, the Orioles designated LHP Logan Allen for assignment and optioned INF Rylan Bannon to Triple-A Norfolk. They selected the contract of LHP Nick Vespi and recalled RHP Logan Gillaspie from Norfolk.
Gillaspie pitched the final two innings, keeping the Yankees off the scoreboard in his big league debut.
Orioles: OF Austin Hays (hand) returned after missing four games. He misplayed Judge’s drive in the first, allowing it to bounce past him off the wall, but he made up for that by throwing Judge out at third when the slugger tried for a triple.
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