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Varlamov stops 27 shots, Isles beat Panthers 2-1 in Game 1

TORONTO — Semyon Varlamov stopped 27 shots and the New York Islanders opened their best-of-five playoff series with a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Saturday in the NHL’s return following a 4 1/2-month break.

Anthony Beauvillier scored the decisive goal on a power play at 3:39 of the second period. The goal was scored a little over a minute after Florida’s Mike Matheson was penalized for a hit to the head on defenceman Johnny Boychuk, who did not return.

Coach Barry Trotz didn’t have an update on Boychuk following the game, but was pleased in how the Islanders not only stayed disciplined immediately following the hit, but also capitalized on the penalty.

“The best way to respond after a hit or whatever is a goal on the power play,” Trotz said.

Islanders trade deadline addition Jean-Gabriel Pageau opened the scoring re-directing in Derick Brassard’s centring pass 12 minutes into the game.

Jonathan Huberdeau scored 23 seconds into the third period for Florida’s lone goal.

The Islanders entered the NHL’s 24-team expanded playoff as the Eastern Conference’s seventh seed, while the Panthers are 10th.

Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 26 shots in his first start since Feb. 29. Bobrovsky missed the Panthers’ final four games due to injury before the NHL season was paused on March 12.

The Islanders beat Florida for the fifth straight time, dating to the 2018-19 regular season, and continued keeping the high-scoring Panthers in check.

“We did it the right way,” Beauvillier said. “A really quick pace. It was a tough game out there. The whole team was ready for it.”

Florida finished this coronavirus pandemic-shortened season ranked fourth in the NHL in averaging 3.3 goals per game, but has now managed just five goals in four games against the Islanders.

Aleksander Barkov, who assisted on Huberdeau’s goal, said the Panthers lacked second-chance opportunities.

“We were kind of like one and done,” Barkov said. “That’s how (the Islanders) are going to play, and we just need to figure out how to create more chances.”

The Panthers managed just four shots after Huberdeau scored. And their most sustained pressure occurred midway through the second period, when they controlled the play in the New York zone for about a minute.

The Islanders finally cleared the zone after defenceman Ryan Pulock blocked a shot, forcing a turnover.

The Panthers are suddenly in a familiar hole in their bid to win just the franchise’s second playoff series, and first since reaching the 1996 Stanley Cup Final, which Florida lost in four games to Colorado.

The Panthers have not advanced beyond the first round in each of their past five playoff appearances since.

Varlamov shook off a late-season slump in which he went 0-2-2 and allowed 18 goals in five appearances, and earned his 14th career playoff win, and first since with Colorado in 2014.

Boychuk was hurt while crossing the Florida blue line after dumping the puck into the zone, when Matheson lowered his shoulder and caught the Islanders player directly in the head.

Boychuk lay face down on the ice before slowly getting up and headed directly to the locker room.

An officials’ review led to Matheson being issued a minor penalty for an illegal check.

The Islanders capitalized on the ensuing power play with Beauvillier one-timing in Devon Toews’ pass into the right circle.

Huberdeau scored on an odd-man rush, in which he was allowed to cut in alone from the left wing and slip a shot under Varlamov.

NOTES: Panthers’ Joel Quenneville coached his 216th career playoff game, which ranks second on the all-time list. His 118 wins ranks third on the list, and remains five short of matching former Islanders coach Al Arbour, who ranks second. … This is the second playoff meeting after the Islanders eliminated the Panthers in six games of a first-round series in 2016. Florida has four players left on its roster from that series, Huberdeau, Matheson, Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad, while the Isles have 10. … The Islanders got the benefit of celebrating Pageau’s goal to the familiar home-arena sound of The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.”

UP NEXT

Game 2 Tuesday at noon EDT.

___

For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

John Wawrow, The Associated Press

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Ontario

Toronto FC loans young defender Rocco Romeo to Danish second division side

Toronto FC has loaned Canadian youth international defender Rocco Romeo to Danish second division team HB Koge through June 2021.

Romeo, 20, signed with Toronto FC as a homegrown player in January. He spent the past four seasons with Toronto FC 2, where he made 25 appearances with one goal.

Romeo had a short loan spell with the Danish side in January 2019, making eight appearances.

Earlier this month, Toronto loaned Canadian youth international defenders Julian Dunn and Dante Campbell to Winnipeg’s Valour FC of the Canadian Premier League for the 2020 season.

The eight CPL teams are currently in Charlottetown for the Island Games, which marks the start of the league’s pandemic-delayed second season.

Toronto FC 2 also loaned 22-year-old defender Nyal Higgins to Nykopings BIS, a Swedish club third-division club.

 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 14, 2020.

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Using reserve funds to cut class size a financial risk: TDSB

TORONTO — The interim director of Canada’s largest school board says a plan to “unlock” reserve funds to lower class sizes to address COVID-19 concerns is a financial risk.

Charlene Jackson says the Toronto District School Board has already set the millions in reserve funding aside for future obligations.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Thursday that boards will be allowed to access $500 million of their own reserve funds to achieve physical distancing in classrooms.

In a memo to trustees, she says it would not be “prudent or good financial management” to use the funds to cover the entire cost of smaller class sizes.

The government will also spend $50 million to update school ventilation systems, and another $18 million to hire principals and support staff to administer online learning.

Meanwhile, Ontario is reporting 92 new cases of COVID-19 today with one new death due to the virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on August 14, 2020.

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Competition Bureau launches probe of Amazon, seeks input from businesses

OTTAWA — The Competition Bureau has launched a new probe into Amazon’s conduct to determine whether the online retailer is harming competition.

The investigation, which is seeking confidential information from Canadian businesses, will include a particular focus on “potential abuse of dominance.”

The competition watchdog is reviewing whether Amazon policies impact sellers’ willingness to offer their products at a lower price on other retail channels, such as their own websites or other online marketplaces.

It is also looking into any efforts by Amazon to tilt consumers toward products it sells over those offered by third-party vendors, as well as potential obstacles that sellers confront when opting out of Amazon’s shipping and advertising services.

The bureau’s request for public input comes amid rising concerns of monopoly power in the tech world and questions around the use of sellers’ data to create rival products.

Amazon says it is co-operating with the bureau’s probe and will continue working to support small businesses who sell products on Amazon.ca.

The Competition Bureau says its investigation is ongoing and there is no conclusion of wrongdoing at this point.

The bureau’s request for public input comes amid rising concerns of monopoly power in the tech world and questions around the use of sellers’ data to create rival products.

In July 2019, the European Commission launched a formal antitrust investigation into Amazon to examine whether its data use violates competition rules, while the U.S. Department of Justice has opened one into major online platforms including Google, Facebook and Apple.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 14, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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