Happy Valentine's Day, fellow Vinglers! Like any other Sunday without the NFL, today was pretty quiet in terms of sporting events. There were some exciting EPL matches and, like always, a slate of entertaining hockey games. Let's get to it!
The Premier League only had three matches today, but they were certainly exciting. Arsenal got the action started by beating Leicester City 2-1 in the fifth minute of stoppage time with Danny Welbeck's deflection of a Mesut Ozil free-kick. It was Welbeck's first appearance for the Gunners in 10 months. The Foxes were down a man for the last 35 minutes of play after Danny Simpson was shown the red card. Despite the disadvantage, Leicester played strong the whole way through. Results matter more than heart though, and Arsenal's victory means this Premier League title race is wide open. Leicester remains two points ahead of Tottenham and Arsenal atop the table.
Liverpool continued the fun with a 6-0 thrashing of Aston Villa. The Reds converted 67% of their shots on goal while the Villans went 0 for 1. With only three wins through 26 matches, Aston Villa's relegation is assured. The once great club has played in the Premier League since it was founded in 1992.
Tottenham cleaned things up by beating Man City 2-1 to keep pace with Arsenal. Harry Kane opened up the scoring with a successful penalty kick in the 53rd minute, and Christian Eriksen finished the job in the 83rd minute. The Spurs showed remarkable defensive presence as usual, and capitalized on any Man City errors. Vincent Kompany returned to the starting lineup for the first time in three months, but even he could not ignite the Man City attack. Danny Rose blocked a potential goal form Sergio Aguero midway through, and Aguero failed to find any other openings. Tottenham is in 2nd place and their dream of winning their first league title since 1961 is very real.
It was business as usual in the NHL on Valentine's Day. The Sabres beat the reeling Avalanche 4-1 at home, and now have ten goals in the last two games after posting 8 across the previous four. The Sabres' number 2 overall pick Jack Eichel continues to impress, as he opened the scoring 2 minutes into the game. Buffalo has made great strides after the last several disappointing seasons, and finally looks like they are building some momentum.
The Devils spoiled the Kings trip to the Garden State, shutting out the Pacific division leaders 1-0. David Schlemko fired off the only goal of the game on a power play midway through the first and Keith Kinkaid stopped all 28 LA shots to record his first career NHL shutout. The Devils and Kings are two of the best defensive teams in the league, and that showed in the box score. New Jersey has now won three straight and looks to continue that momentum when the Flyers come to town on Tuesday. Philadelphia won their last meeting 2-1 in OT on Saturday.
The Red Wings topped the Bruins in a high scoring affair in Detroit 6-5, snapping a six game losing streak against their Original Six rival. Petr Mrazek finally notched his first win against the Bruins, despite allowing 5 goals on 22 shots. Tuuka Rask was pulled from the Bruins' net after letting in 5 goals on 24 shots, but Jonas Gustavsson failed to hold on. Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Darren Helm all scored twice for the Wings, who have now passed the Bruins for second place in the Atlantic division.
St. Louis trumped Tampa Bay 2-1 on the road behind Brian Elliot's stout netminding and goals by Patrik Berglund and Robby Fabbri. Elliot recorded 37 saves, but his shutout bid was foiled by Nikita Kucherov with 52 seconds left. The Blues trail Chicago and Dallas by 3 points in the Central division.
Finally, the New York Rangers beat the Flyers 3-1 at Madison Square Garden. Former Vezina winner Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 21 of 22 Flyers shots but failed to notch his 4th shutout of the season after he conceded a power play goal to Brayden Schenn with 10 seconds left. Derek Stepan scored twice and Derick Brassard added a goal and an assist in the victory, as the Rangers bounced back from Friday's OT loss to the Kings. Philly has now lost five of their last six, and is struggling to generate any consistency on offense or defense. A playoff berth seems extremely far-fetched at this point. The Rangers are still second in the Metropolitan, and it will be difficult to catch the leading Capitals. If they continue to play like they did tonight, they will definitely make another deep playoff run.
In tennis, there were several tournament finals played today. Dominic Thiem topped Nicolas Almagro 7-6 3-6 7-6 to win the Argentina Open. Thiem defeated the defending champ Rafael Nadal in the semis and beat Almagro for the second time this year to capture his 4th career singles title.
Over in Rotterdam, Martin Klizan rallied to beat Gael Monfils 6-7 6-3 6-1 to win the World Indoor Tennis Tournament. The Slovak won 6 of 7 of the break points he faced, preventing Monfils from gaining any traction. Klizan fended off 8 match points in the quarters and semis to get to the final, and didn't let his chance go to waste.
In Memphis, Kei Nishikori beat American teenager Taylor Fritz to capture his fourth Memphis Open title in a row, tying Jimmy Connors for the most wins at the event. Nishikori is now the fourth active player, alongside Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal, to win an event four times. Fritz is the youngest American to reach an ATP Final since Michael Chang won Wembley in 1989 at age 17. The 18 year old will rank around 103 in the world now, a huge improvement from where he was at a year ago (937). Nishikori's experience proved the difference, and he ended up winning handily 6-4 6-4. We can expect great things from Fritz in the future.
That's all for tonight folks! Let me know in the comments if you wish to be tagged in future VSNA cards. Smell ya later!