Home » Entries posted by W.G. RAMIREZ Associated Press

Lomachenko batters Nakatani, scores 9th-round TKO in return

Lomachenko batters Nakatani, scores 9th-round TKO in return

Former three-weight world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko was successful in his return to the ring, with a ninth-round TKO of Japanese veteran Masayoshi Nakatani on Saturday nightBy W.G. RAMIREZ Associated PressJune 27, 2021, 4:10 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLAS VEGAS — Former three-weight world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko was successful in his return to the ring, stopping Japanese veteran Masayoshi Nakatani int he ninth rund Saturday night.With Nakatani’s left eye closed after eight devastating rounds, Lomachenko (15-2, 11 KOs) used a flurry of battering lefts to finish off his much taller opponent in what was a statement return in his first bout since an upset loss to Teofimo Lopez in October.It marked the first time Nakatani (19-2) was stopped in a fight, with his only other loss coming by way of decision, at the hands of Lopez in 2019.Lomachenko landed 59% of his power punches, as he dominated from the opening bell, peppering Nakatani with a steady stream of hard, straight lefts. Lomachenko was only hit by 12% of Nakatani’s power punches.Lomachenko’s biggest round prior to the ninth was a destructive sixth, during which he landed a number of punches that caused Nakatani’s head to snap backward several times, eventually bloodying the Osaka-native’s eye, nose and mouth.Lomachenko also knocked down Nakatani in the fifth, using a three-punch combo near the end of the round.In his last fight, Nakatani was knocked down twice by Felix Verdejo before responding with a ninth-round KO win. This time, Nakatani never stood a chance as he was outclassed by the former pound-for-pound Ukranian great in every round.“I’ve accomplished my goals and I’m back on track,” Lomachenko said.With the win, Lomachenko is hoping to land a rematch against Lopez, who was set for his first title defense in Miami on June 19 until he tested positive for COVID-19. His mandatory bout against George Kambosos, and the entire undercard, has been rescheduled for Aug. 14 in Miami, but could be moved to Sept. 11 in Las Vegas.Lopez’s father, Teofimo Sr., was in attendance and told ESPN prior to the fight his son’s camp is willing to grant the rematch, but with the caveat it had to happened immediately after the Kambosos bout.Lomachenko’s loss to Lopez cost the 33-year-old his WBA and WBO lightweight titles and left the former unified champ on the outside looking in on a division that inherited a youth movement of undefeated fighters, including Lopez (16-0), Gervonta Davis (24-0), Devin Haney (26-0) and Ryan Garcia (21-0).A Lopez rematch could take place later this year or in early 2022, while Top Rank’s Bob Arum mentioned matches against Haney and Tank Davis for Lomachenko.In the 10-round middleweight co-feature, 2016 Olympian Janibek Alimkhanuly (10-0, 6 KOs) continued his ascension up the ladder of contenders with an impressive TKO destruction of former world champion Rob Brant (26-3, 18 KOs). The fight was stopped after the eighth round, when Brant’s cornemen requested referee Michael Ortega.While Alimkhanuly landed 46% of his power punches (65 of 142, including 20 to the body), Brant struggled the entire fight to find confidence to challenge inside, vivdly cautious of Alimkhanuly’s counter punches.“Ever since I turned pro, I wanted a big fight like this,” Alimkhanuly said. “Whenever a title shot comes, I’ll be ready.”More AP boxing: https://apnews.com/hub/boxing and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Vegas' offensive shortfalls create questions for offseason

Vegas' offensive shortfalls create questions for offseason

LAS VEGAS — Another season that began with expectations of winning a Stanley Cup concluded with a bitter taste for the Vegas Golden Knights.The surprising Montreal Canadiens, who finished the regular season 18th in the NHL with 59 points, won the best-of-seven series 4-2 to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for an NHL-best 35th time in franchise history.The Golden Knights were playing in their third semifinal in four seasons of existence but lost in the same round for the second consecutive year — and in nearly the same fashion.“This is probably the best team that we’re ever gonna play on,” Vegas forward Reilly Smith said. “Our players just have to be better and I think we expect that from each and every one of us.”Vegas’ stagnant offense scored just nine goals after winning the series-opener against Montreal 4-1. Much like the Dallas Stars did in 2020 in the Edmonton bubble, the Canadiens’ defense smothered a Golden Knights offense that ranked third during the regular season with 3.39 goals per game, averaged 3.07 in the first two rounds, then sputtered with 2.16 per contest against Montreal.“I can praise them all I want, but ultimately it falls down on myself, and the top players on this team,” said Vegas captain Mark Stone, who finished with no points and just seven shots in the series. “We had some guys produce night-in, night-out. But as far as myself, and a number of other guys, I mean I got skunked this series, that can’t happen.“I’m the captain of this team, the leader of this team. Take a lot of responsibility for what just occurred.”Stone finished the postseason with just eight points (five goals, three assists) and went without a point over the final seven games of the playoffs.But as coach Peter DeBoer inferred shortly after Thursday’s game, Stone isn’t the only one to blame.Vegas’ forwards accounted for only four of the 13 goals scored in six games against Montreal.Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s mishandling of the puck with less than two minutes left in Game 3 with the Golden Knights leading 2-1 led to a game-tying goal and the Canadiens eventually winning in overtime.The power play, or lack thereof, went 0 for 17 in the series, and finished 4 for 43 in the postseason.“I think everybody’s got to look in the mirror, obviously coaches included,” DeBoer said. “I think everything is on the table. We gotta look at everything. We’ve gotta look at what we can do different from a coaching perspective, we’ve gotta look at our personnel. I think everything is on the table.”NO OFFENSEVegas’ offensive drought was not indicative of a roster that was built to score goals by dominating in the offensive zone. DeBoer may find himself playing with a new deck dealt by team President George McPhee and general manager Kelly McCrimmon if they decide to shop any of their top nine forwards and possibly enter the Jack Eichel sweepstakes.POWER OUTAGEVegas’ power play was bad during the regular season, ranking 22nd with a 17.8% conversion rate. It was abysmal in the postseason, ranking last at 9.3%. It has to be one of the first things DeBoer addresses in the offseason.WILTED FLOWERLast summer’s failed attempt to move Fleury and his $7 million-per-year contract turned out to be a good thing, as the 36-year-old turned in a Vezina Trophy-worthy season. But moving forward, with a younger and capable Robin Lehner seemingly in place to take over, Fleury’s salary could help strengthen the Golden Knights’ center depth, something they showed a need for down the stretch.GLASS CEILINGCody Glass, the first-ever draft selection in Golden Knights franchise history, played in one game during the postseason after appearing in 27 during the regular season. Glass was taken sixth overall in the 2017 draft, seven selections higher than Nick Suzuki, whom Vegas took 13th and who was part of the deal that brought Max Pacioretty in and who shined for the Canadiens in the semifinals. But Glass didn’t appear to be part of DeBoer’s system and could also be packaged into a deal to land a more established center.FREE AGENTSDefenseman Alec Martinez and forwards Tomas Nosek and Mattias Janmark are unrestricted free agents. The Golden Knights acquired Janmark in a trade this year. Martinez will be the tricky option, considering other teams will likely target him with attractive offers, while Nosek and Janmark could be skating elsewhere next season.———More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Price makes 26 saves, Habs top Vegas 4-1, one win from Final

Price makes 26 saves, Habs top Vegas 4-1, one win from Final

LAS VEGAS — No team has been to the Stanley Cup Final more than the Montreal Canadiens. Now they stand one victory away from a 35th appearance and their first in 28 years.Carey Price made 26 saves to lead Montreal to a 4-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night, putting the Canadiens one step closer to the Stanley Cup Final.“You know, it’s the oldest cliché in hockey, but the fourth one’s going to be the hardest and we’re fortunate to have the opportunity at home and we’ll be ready to go in Game 6,” said Eric Staal, whose second-period goal held up as the game-winner.The Canadiens, who last won the Stanley Cup in 1993, lead Vegas 3-2 in their best-of-seven series, with Game 6 scheduled for Bell Centre in Montreal on Thursday.Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Cole Caufield and former Golden Knight Nick Suzuki also scored for the Canadiens, whose 11th playoff victory is the franchise’s most in one postseason since the 1993 championship run, also the last time a Canadian-based team won the title.The Canadiens, who rallied from a 3-1 series deficit in the first round against Toronto and swept Winnipeg in the second round, shook off Sunday’s home loss in Game 4 to win for the second time in Las Vegas.“I think that’s what our mindset has been this whole playoff, is getting to do what we do, regardless of what happens,” Staal said. “I don’t think we change much. We do what we do every single shift, every moment we have, every opportunity we have to try and be difference makers for our team.”Meanwhile, as Max Pacioretty was the only one to score for Vegas, the storyline remained the same with Vegas struggling to find its offense against Montreal’s suffocating tactics, in limiting space and dominating the neutral zone. The Golden Knights had 56 shot attempts, with 12 missing the target and 17 others being blocked.Marc-Andre Fleury, the league’s active leader in playoff wins (90) and games played (162), made 22 stops in front of an announced crowd of 17,969 that were left stunned with the Golden Knights now on the brink of elimination.The Golden Knights, who have scored 11 goals in the series, have gotten just four from their forwards.“You can point to a lot of things – we just weren’t sharp in our execution, in our decisions and it cost us,” Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer said. “We’ve got to find a way. You’ve got to find a way this time of year against the good teams, and against pressure, and against tension, against a good goalie. Those are the teams that end up standing at the end of the day.”Montreal’s forwards continued to stand tall, scoring all four goals in the win.Kotkaniemi was the beneficiary of strong defensive play in Vegas’ offensive zone, as Montreal defensemen Jeff Petry and Jon Merrill created a turnover to push the puck in transition. Josh Anderson streaked past Vegas defenseman Zach Whitecloud and pulled Fleury to his far right with a backhand that was stuffed. The rebound floated to Fleury’s left, where Kotkaniemi was in position to backhand the puck into a wide-open net to give Montreal a 1-0 lead.Suzuki, who was dealt to Montreal in the trade that sent Pacioretty to Vegas, set the Canadiens up for a two-goal lead in the second period with a perfectly timed backcheck on Jonathan Marchessault to the right of Price. At the other end, Suzuki’s patience paid off, as he waited until the precise moment to feed Staal between the hashmarks for a wrist shot that beat Fleury top shelf.With the confidence level clearly headed in opposite directions by the midway point of the second period, and the Canadiens feeding off momentum on a power play, another Vegas turnover ended up in transition with Corey Perry darting in on a would-be breakaway before shuffling the puck cross-ice to Caufield, who one-timed a snap shot up top to extend Montreal’s lead to 3-0.Pacioretty got Vegas on the board after he whiffed on an initial shot near the top of the circle, then followed up with a wrist shot over Price’s blocker to cut the deficit to two, at 3-1.It was all the Golden Knights would get, as Price stopped the final nine shots he saw, and Suzuki – who never got to suit up for one regular-season game with the Golden Knights – made an empty-net goal to provide the final margin.“We responded well and stayed under control,” Suzuki said. “They had their chances. We had great back pressure, great sticks and turning a lot of pucks over in the neutral zone.”Teams that win Game 5 when a best-of-7 NHL semifinal is tied have a series record of 47-15 (.758).———.More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Price makes 29 saves, Canadiens beat Golden Knights 3-2

Price makes 29 saves, Canadiens beat Golden Knights 3-2

LAS VEGAS — The Montreal Canadiens vowed to adapt after looking out of sync in the first game of their Stanley Cup semifinal series with the Vegas Golden Knights.It’s exactly what they did Wednesday night.Carey Price made 29 saves and the Canadiens beat Vegas 3-2 to tie the series at a game apiece.Price improved to 9-4 in the playoffs, his most victories in a postseason. He had eight in 2014.Paul Byron, Joel Armia and Tyler Toffoli scored for Montreal, with Bryon making it 3-0 with 2:45 left in the second period.Alex Pietrangelo scored twice for Vegas, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 20 saves.Abandoning the rugged approach they took in Game 1, the Canadiens looked more like the team that reeled off seven straight wins in the first and second rounds, dominating in all three zones in the first 20 minutes.“We showed some good composure,” Montreal coach Dominique Ducharme said. “At one point we felt the pressure, they were trying to come back. Overall, we showed pretty good composure. I think we can still do a better job. We wanted to support the puck better. I think we did that tonight and it paid off. I think we still can be better on a few occasions managing the puck and we’ll do that.”Game 3 is Friday night in Montreal.Montreal, which improved to 6-2 on the road in the postseason, has won 21 straight playoff games when scoring three or more goals.“Can’t go down 2-0 and expect to win the game,” Vegas captain Mark Stone said. “These guys play a good team game when they get the lead. We gotta do a better job with our starts and we gotta find our preparation.”With Vegas missing top-line center Chandler Stephenson, and third-line center Nick Roy skating in his place, Montreal opened the game with a first-period advantage in shots-on-goal (12-4), shot attempts (24-13), scoring chances (14-4), and high-danger chances (8-1).Armia got the scoring going after he crunched Vegas defenseman Alec Martinez into the end boards behind Fleury, allowing Corey Perry to gather the puck and feed Joel Edmundson in the right circle. Edmundson fired a shot that deflected back to Armia, who one-timed it past Fleury’s right skate.Jeff Petry made his presence felt in his first game back after missing Montreal’s last two. He played give-and-go with Cole Caufield, who opted to pass across the slot rather than fire on net and found Toffoli, who snapped a shot through Fleury’s pads to not only push the Canadiens’ lead to 2-0, but extend Montreal’s first-period scoring edge in the playoffs to 12-3.Vegas rookie Keegan Kolesar, who started the game centering the third line, switched place with Roy and gave top-line wings Stone and Max Pacioretty a bit more jump to bolster Vegas offense.But the Golden Knights continued to be their own worst enemy in the second period, as Pacioretty clanked a breakaway shot off the bottom of the right post. Then during a power play, Martinez broke his stick while teeing off on a shot to Price’s left, and moments later it was Pacioretty whiffing on a shot at the doorstep.“Gotta capitalize on some of those in the second period,” Stone added. “Hit a post and had a chance in the slot, we had lots of chances to score, power play needs to score.”Vegas was finally able to solve Price when Pietrangelo held the puck at the blue line long enough to find a right lane to the net, bringing the deficit back down to two goals late in the second.Vegas cut the lead to one with a little more than five minutes left in the game when William Karlsson won a faceoff to the right of Price, Jonathan Marchessault gathered the puck and fed Pietrangelo, whose wrist shot from the circle gave him his second goal of the night.But Price was a wall from that point on, stopping Vegas’ last seven shots over the final 4:36 of the game.“You know he’s going to shut the door,” Byron said of Price. “You know you’ve just got to do your job, win your battles along the wall, get your clears. You don’t want to turn pucks over and give the team high-danger chances. You just know Carey’s going to be locked in and he’s going to do his job, and it’s up to the rest of the team to win their battles, try to get the puck out of your zone, play some time in their zone and things will happen.”STREAKING HABSWith his assist, Caufield became just the second 20-year-old Canadien to post a playoff point streak of at least four games. … Toffoli has recorded a point in each of his last five road games. Only four Canadiens have recorded a longer such point streak in the postseason.———More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Vets Pietrangelo, Perry contributing for Vegas, Montreal

Vets Pietrangelo, Perry contributing for Vegas, Montreal

LAS VEGAS — Alex Pietrangelo and Corey Perry had very different free agent experiences last offseason.Pietrangelo got a private plane trip to Vegas for an in-person meeting with the Golden Knights when the market opened and got a long-term contract worth over $61 million. Perry waited until December to sign a one-year deal just above the NHL veteran minimum.Each veteran with Stanley Cup-winning experience has played a key role in helping his team reach the semifinals, a series the Golden Knights lead going into Game 2 at home against the Canadiens on Wednesday.Coach Peter DeBoer and general manager Kelly McCrimmon called Pietrangelo — whom the Golden Knights made no secret was their top target — the best player during the team’s second-round series against Presidents’ Trophy-winning Colorado, mainly for the work not seen on the stat sheet.“He played extremely well,” McCrimmon said. “Played big minutes every night. Maybe one of the things that’s not visible to people just watching the game is the poise, confidence, calmness he brings to a team is really valuable.”Those are attributes that DeBoer and McCrimmon said stem from his longevity in St. Louis, where he captained the Blues to the Stanley Cup in 2019.But the transition wasn’t as smooth as the veteran would have liked.“When you play somewhere a long time and you play a certain style with the same players, it becomes second nature,” Pietrangelo said. “When you go somewhere else, you have to relearn the way guys play and think on the ice. It’s an adjustment. It didn’t always go the way I wanted in the beginning here, but I knew there was the opportunity to continue learning from the coaches and players and to get more comfortable.”Comfortable enough to bolster the blue line and lead the team during the regular season averaging 24:26 of ice time. He’s kept pace in the postseason with a team-high 24:06 a game.Pietrangelo is also tied for third on the team with eight points in 14 playoff games, including his first goal of the postseason that broke a tie late in the second period of Game 6, helping Vegas eliminate Colorado.“This year, point-production number, people focused on too much,” DeBoer said. “His analytics were excellent. When you dug down below the actual stat line — goals, assists, points — his analytics were great. His defensive and offensive metrics were all really good compared to the previous year. We knew there was a real good foundation for his game: the pucks just weren’t going in.”The puck is going in for Perry this playoffs. He has three goals and four assists to tie for third in scoring on the Canadiens.But for Montreal interim coach Dominique Ducharme, much like DeBoer with Pietrangelo, it’s more than stats and analytics. It’s the passion, and experience, and leadership that Perry exudes to teammates.Ducharme said it’s nice to have the 36-year-old to bounce ideas off of, somewhat of an extension of the coaching staff.“Guys like him, quite often when we talk together, we talk a lot about the mindset of our team, where we’re at, the way we’re thinking, the way we’re reacting,” Ducharme said. “It’s more mental when we talk about things with Corey, Shea (Weber), and those guys when we sit down together. It’s more about those kind of things than really X’s and O’s.“There’s a reason why he’s been a part of so many teams that won championships. He was a big factor in those things because he can be a difference-maker at the right time.”Perry was on the Dallas Stars that beat Vegas in the Western Conference final in last year’s playoffs in the bubble. After 14 years in Anaheim, during which he hoisted the Cup in 2007 and won the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 2010-11, free agency in Perry’s mid-30s wasn’t easy.“I didn’t have anything and didn’t know what was going to happen, didn’t know where the future was going to go,” Perry said. “Some things, you just have to wait your turn. And good things happen to people who wait. I was fortunate enough to get the call.”The call the 16-year veteran got was that he might spend some time on Montreal’s taxi squad. He did, bided his time and put up 21 points on nine goals and 12 assists in 49 games, becoming a regular for a team that has made an improbable run.“I said, ‘No problem, I’ll do whatever I have to do,’” Perry added. “It’s just a matter of waiting your turn.”NOTES: Ducharme said Tuesday morning that key defenseman Jeff Petry, who hurt his left hand in Game 3 against Winnipeg and did not play in Monday’s opener in Las Vegas, practiced with the team but that it was too early to talk about Wednesday’s lineup.“We’ll evaluate everyone,” Ducharme said. “We’ll see where they’re at. We’ll see if we’re going to make changes.”———AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow contributed.———More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports