Capitals

Andy Murray no longer feeling pressure to win

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Andy Murray no longer feeling pressure to win

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Andy Murray will experience a new sensation when he starts play at next month's Australian Open - feeling like a Grand Slam champion.

The third-ranked Brit broke through at the U.S. Open in 2012, adding to his gold medal at the London Olympics.

``In the last three, four or five years there has been significant pressure in my mind, and now I feel more relaxed and relieved after winning the U.S. Open,'' Murray said Wednesday. ``So, I think from my side, I hope to take the pressure off myself and be able to play a little bit more relaxed - and I hope to repeat my Grand Slam win.''

Murray was promoting a winner-takes-all $250,000 exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi that serves as a warmup for the Australian Open, which runs Jan. 14-27.

Murray hired Ivan Lendl as coach on last New Year's Eve and is full of praise for the changes the eight-time Grand Slam champion made in his game.

``He helped with a lot of small things; you know, technical things, small mental and psychological things and small physical things as well as tactical things,'' Murray said. ``A lot of those small things add up to 5 to 10 percent to my game, and that was what I needed to find to make it past the last hurdle and win one of the major tournaments.''

After losing in the final at Wimbledon this year, Murray's next goals include going one step farther at his home major tournament and becoming the top-ranked player in the world - but he doesn't plan on playing more events to achieve the second of those.

``Every year when Wimbledon comes around I'm desperate to win and do well. It's an incredibly tough event and a lot of pressure during that time of the year,'' Murray said. ``The No. 1 ranking is what every player wants to get. I can improve my ranking just playing like I have done last season and the rest of the tour.''

Murray faces Janko Tispsarevic on Thursday in the opening match of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. That will be followed by David Ferrer taking on Tomas Berdych. Novak Djokovic and Nicolas Almagro, who replaced Rafael Nadal, are also in the field.

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

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NBC Sports Washington

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.