Patriots

Haggery's Bruins-Maple Leafs preview

650732.jpg

Haggery's Bruins-Maple Leafs preview

The Bruins and Leafs both desperately need a win.

Both teams have lost more games than theyve won recently, and both are back-sliding within the Eastern Conference.

Of course things are a little more real for the Leafs as they sit five points out of a playoff spot and have newly hired Randy Carlyle behind the bench looking to spark a Toronto team bracing for a collapse. The Bruins havent won two games in a row since Jan. 12 and are an imperfectly .500 hockey club dating back to the seminal regular loss to the Vancouver Canucks in early January.

While the Bruins were encouraged by the losing effort against the Rangers, its results that matter this time of year. They showed some emotional spark, they got secondary goal-scoring outside the trio of David Krejci-Milan Lucic-Tyler Seguin and they managed to come back twice against a Rags hockey team that simply doesnt blow two-game leads.

But they didnt get the two points and instead sit mired in a two-game losing streak.

We know they have a new coach and they played well in Montreal, said Chris Kelly. They had a big win there. Ive been in that situation before with a new coach and you want to play well and gain his trust. We know theyre going to come at us hard.

We want to be consistent. Thats our main focus. We havent been consistent for 60 minutes or in consecutive games. So consistency is our main focus against a team that should be motivated.

Itll be the hockey club desperately seeking consistency against a Toronto squad clinging to their very lives with a new drill sergeant in town.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Tim Thomas has a .910 save percentage, a goals against average approaching 3.00 and a .500 record since the beginning of January, and needs to really show some of his characteristic moxie between the pipes. The Bruins need the 37-year-old goaltender to start raising his game and showing the Conn Smythe version of himself for last season as his teammates drop like flies to injuries all around him.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Im sure theyll be a little refreshed with a new coach. On the other side, though, we have enough that we have to worry about in this locker room. We have to get back to consistent hockey. Thats our focus right now. Shawn Thornton when asked if the Bruins are headed into a potential buzz-saw in Toronto with newly hired Randy Carlyle as Leafs head coach.

KEY MATCHUP: It will be the same as it always is when the Bruins and Leafs play each other these days: Zdeno Chara and Phil Kessel out on the ice attempting to conquer the other with their disparate skills. As with most years Chara has had the upper hand in this years battles and the Bruins are undefeated in four meetings with the Leafs entering tonights game. The 24-year-old Kessel is a point-per-game player in the NHL this season, but has a single assist and a minus-7 in four games against Boston this season.

STAT TO WATCH: 1 the number of years since anybody other than Tim Thomas or Tuukka Rask has played in goal, dating back to April 11, 2009 when Manny Fernandez dropped a 6-1 game to the Buffalo Sabres.

INJURIES: Rich Peverley (right knee sprain), Tuukka Rask (groin strainabdomen strain) and Nathan Horton (mild concussion) are long term injuries for the Bruins, and both Andrew Ference (lower body injury) and Daniel Paille (upper body) are day-to-day. Both Ference and Paille were expected to skate on Tuesday. For Toronto defenseman Carl Gunnarsson missed three games with an ankle injury but has returned to the lineup.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tim Thomas is expected to get the start against the Maple Leafs and will be appearing in his fourth straight game after appearing in 10 of 13 games during the month of February. Jonas Gustavsson will be getting his 36th start of the season sporting a 2.86 goals against average and a .905 save percentage as James Reimer has struggled in his sophomore season.

Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

falcons_seahawks_matt_ryan_112017.jpg

Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

SEATTLE - Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons did enough through 3 1/2 quarters that even the best comeback attempt by Russell Wilson fell short this time.

A couple of yards short to be exact.

Ryan threw a pair of touchdown passes, Adrian Clayborn returned a fumble 10 yards for a score and the Falcons watched Blair Walsh's 52-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds fall short, holding off the Seattle Seahawks for a 34-31 win on Monday night.

Atlanta won its second straight to stay on the heels of New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South, and handed Seattle a second consecutive home loss.

"What an absolute team win from the guys tonight," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "Coming here, in this environment, with the crowd, we thought it would be two competitive, tough teams that were going to battle for it in the biggest way."

Ryan threw TDs to Mohamed Sanu and Levine Toilolo, while Tevin Coleman added a 1-yard TD run on Atlanta's opening possession.

But it was Clayborn's fumble return that helped break the game open early in the second quarter and gave Atlanta a 21-7 lead. He scooped up a loose ball after Wilson was crunched by Takk McKinley and Courtney Upshaw.

"I think we're moving in the right direction. We keep proving we can finish games and beat guys. We have to take the momentum and keep rolling with it," Clayborn said.

With Seattle down 11 points, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin on a 29-yard TD with 3 minutes left and then threw to Jimmy Graham for the two-point conversion. Seattle got the ball back and moved in range for Walsh, whose attempt was on line but landed short of the crossbar.

"That was in our range, and in hindsight I would have just driven it more," Walsh said. "I would have driven it more and not left it short. I was too accurate and didn't have enough on it."

Wilson again was the entirety of Seattle's offense, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and running for another 86 yards and a TD.

But it was an awful night for the Seahawks, filled with more injuries and questionable decisions by coach Pete Carroll. He called for a fake field goal late in the first half rather than attempting a 35-yard kick. He also made a questionable challenge in the fourth quarter that didn't go his way and left Seattle with just one timeout.

That lack of timeouts came back to haunt Seattle on the final drive when seconds ticked away and rather than running one more play, Walsh was sent out to attempt the 52-yard kick. His long for the season is 49 yards.

The conclusion only amplified Carroll's baffling decision at the end of the first half, when Seattle ran a fake field goal rather than having Walsh attempt a 35-yarder that would have pulled Seattle within 24-20. Holder Jon Ryan completed his shovel pass to Luke Willson, but Grady Jarrett read the play and tackled Willson for a 4-yard loss.

Willson said Atlanta's defense on the play was different than what Seattle had seen on film.

"It would have been a really good call if we had made it," Carroll said. "Terrific opportunity right where we wanted it and the defensive tackle made a better play."

Seattle played a game for the first time since the end of the 2010 season without Richard Sherman. His streak of 99 consecutive starts in the regular season was snapped because of a torn Achilles tendon suffered against Arizona. The Seahawks were also without safety Kam Chancellor because of a neck injury, leaving their vaunted secondary with several new faces.

"Those two are phenomenal players. ... It was a lot different," Sanu said. "They did a lot of different things but we just had to take advantage of our routes."

MATTY ICE

Ryan was more than happy to pick on a defense without Sherman and Chancellor. He was 19 of 27 passing for 195 yards and rarely faced pressure. Seattle had one sack, and the Falcons went 9 of 14 on third-down conversions.

Sanu made a great one-handed grab for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Ryan found Toilolo on a 25-yard TD in the third quarter to give Atlanta a 31-20 lead. Matt Bryant added a 19-yard field goal with 3:49 left to put the Falcons ahead by 11, and Wilson's late heroics weren't enough.

Ryan's streak of 64 straight games passing for at least 200 yards was snapped.

INJURIES

Seattle's injury woes continued. The Seahawks lost rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin to a concussion on the second play of the game, forcing newly signed veteran Byron Maxwell into a more prominent role than expected.

Early in the second half, promising running back Mike Davis was lost to a groin injury after taking a screen pass 21 yards. Davis had two receptions and had carried six times for 18 yards before getting hurt. Seattle also lost starting guard Oday Aboushi in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.

Atlanta got a scare when safety Keanu Neal was checked for a concussion in the first half. He was cleared to return.

UP NEXT

Falcons: Host Tampa Bay on Sunday to open a three-game homestand.

Seahawks: Travel to division foe San Francisco on Sunday.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

We have seen the Boston Celtics play less-than-stellar basketball for long stretches, only to turn it on in the second half and escape with a win.

But Monday night’s game at Dallas was different.

Usually it has been Boston’s offense that has kept the game closer than expected, but on Monday it was the team’s defense that struggled more than usual.

MORE:

But this team continues to show an ability to withstand all in-game struggles to eventually emerge victorious which was exactly what happened as the Celtics rallied from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to knock off the Mavericks 110-102 in overtime.

The Celtics (16-2) have now won 16 in a row which ties the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

But this win, like so many of its predecessors during this historic run, was not one to celebrate afterwards.

“Quite a resilient comeback in the fourth,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Not our best foot forward before that. Of all the comebacks, that did not look good for a long time. We found a way to win it.”

Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 47 points, 10 of which came in the overtime period.

But his performance was just one of many Boston needed to extend its winning streak.

“In a game like this, you have to do whatever it takes, both ends of the floor,” Boston’s Jayson Tatum told reporters afterwards.

And he did just that.

In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Tatum’s defense forced a Harrison Barnes miss that would have won the game for Dallas.

And in the fourth quarter, Tatum’s rebounding was critical to Boston (16-2) extending its stay atop the NBA standings.

The 6-foot-8 rookie had a near double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds, with four of his boards coming in overtime.

Boston also got another strong game from Jaylen Brown (22 points, nine rebounds) and Marcus Smart, whose shooting was well off the mark most of the night (3-for-15) but like he has done too many times to count, Smart managed to make a positive impact on the game.

He led the Celtics with eight assists off the bench, in addition to a slew of hustle plays that included a desperation save of a ball going out of bounds that managed to find its way into the hands of Kyrie Irving, who drained a much-needed 3-pointer late in the game.

“Those are worth more than whatever the shot goes in,” Stevens said. “That’s why it’s hard to quantify Marcus Smart.”

The same can be said about Boston’s winning streak which has come about despite several stretches, every game seemingly, where the Celtics struggle.

But to their credit, they don’t allow the in-game setbacks take away from their focus night-in and night-out and that’s to find a way, any way possible, to emerge with a victory.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE