Capitals

Stephens tops Robson in matchup of rising teens

201301190312115374195-p2.jpeg

Stephens tops Robson in matchup of rising teens

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Tennis rivals don't normally get messages from their opponent's mother wishing them well in the next round. Particularly after a defeat.

Moments after American Sloane Stephens beat fellow teenager Laura Robson of Britain 7-5, 6-3 in a third-round match at the Australian Open on Saturday, she received a text.

``She was like, `Great job, good fight.' And she said, `Cathy says great job and good luck in the next round,'' Stephens said of the message her mother relayed from Robson's mother, Cathy.

Stephens, 19, and Robson, 18, are two of the most promising young talents on the women's tour, and the match between them felt like a glimpse of future Grand Slam encounters - perhaps a bit later than the third round.

They also just happen to be friends - and their mothers are friends, too.

``We're turning into the Fed-Nadal rivalry,'' Stephens said, jokingly.

She did think they'll get a larger venue than Court 2 next time. ``I don't think we'll play that court ever again.''

There are certainly enough similarities between the players to suggest a rivalry could be in the making.

Both are close in age - Stephens is nine months older than Robson, whose 19th birthday is on Monday.

Both are coming off breakthrough years. Stephens reached the fourth round at the French Open and rose to No. 38 in the rankings by the end of 2012, becoming the only teenager in the top 50. And Robson defeated two former Grand Slam champions - Kim Clijsters and Li Na - to reach the fourth round at the U.S. Open and rise to 53rd in the rankings by the end of the year.

And both are being touted as future stars in their respective countries - Stephens as a future replacement for the Williams sisters at the top of the game and Robson as the next hope for British tennis on the women's side, which hasn't seen a Grand Slam champion since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977.

Such was the interest in their match that Stephens bumped former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, who won her third-round match around the same time Saturday, out of the schedule for the main interview room at Melbourne Park after both of them came off the court. Two long-established British news organizations also live-blogged the match on their websites for all the Robson fans back in Britain.

The match itself, however, nearly didn't live up the billing. Stephens broke Robson twice to race out to a 4-0 lead in the first set before Robson, troubled by a sore shoulder, called for a medical timeout to have treatment.

Robson picked up her game after the break. Cheered on by the highly partisan crowd - Robson was born in Melbourne before moving to Britain - she began hitting shots deep into the corners and forcing errors from Stephens, leveling the score at 4-4.

Robson would be undone by her own errors, though. Stephens broke her at 6-5 to capture the first set and then again in the fourth game of the second set to close out the match.

Robson had 47 unforced errors overall, along with just 11 winners.

``I felt something in my shoulder yesterday, but we still don't know what it is because I haven't had time to see the doctor or anything yet,'' said a subdued Robson, who had upset 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in a three-hour match on Thursday.

``But these things happen, and you just have to play through the pain sometimes. I thought Sloane played really well today.''

Stephens, who next plays Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski for a spot in the quarterfinals, was equally complimentary of Robson afterward - and not just about her tennis.

``She's an awesome girl. She's pretty. I mean, what more do you want?'' she said. ``She's obviously a good player. We're going to have a rivalry, all that good stuff.''

So far, Stephens has the upper hand. She's now 2-0 against Robson after beating her last week in a tournament in Hobart, too.

But Robson believes there will be plenty of chances for revenge.

``We've played each other twice in two weeks, so I can see it happening again at some point,'' she said. ``I'm sure I'll play Sloane a lot in the future.''

Quick Links

3 stars of the game: Caps knockout the punchless Sabres

capture_ovibuffalo.png
USA TODAY Sports

3 stars of the game: Caps knockout the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson. Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's goals on Monday. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.

Quick Links

Carlson gets a goal, Kuznetsov simultaneously gets a penalty in bizarre sequence in Buffalo

capture_discussion.png
NBC Sports Washington

Carlson gets a goal, Kuznetsov simultaneously gets a penalty in bizarre sequence in Buffalo

If you take a look at the box score for Monday's game between the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres, you will see a bizarre stat line at 13:33 in the second period.

At that time, John Carlson scored a goal to put Washington up 2-0. At the exact same time, however, Evgeny Kuznetsov was also assessed a penalty for tripping Evan Rodrigues.

A Kuznetsov shot from the blue line hit off the boards and bounced back out to the right of goalie Chad Johnson, sparking a scrum next to the net. Carlson got his stick on the puck for a shot that got past Johnson, but Kyle Okposo kicked the puck off the goal line and out for an incredible save. On the resulting breakout, Kuznetsov was caught tripping Rodrigues and the play was blown dead when the puck was touched up by the Caps.

The Situation Room then initiated a review on Carlson's shot and he was ultimately awarded a goal. Here's a look at the image the NHL sent out after the review:

When a goal is rewarded on review after play is allowed to continue, the clock reverts back to the time the goal was scored, meaning the roughly 14 seconds that happened after Carlson's goal never happened.

Yet, when the goal was assessed, Kuznetsov was still assessed a tripping penalty. Barry Trotz was clearly incredulous with the referee's decision, but ultimately it was the right call.

Rule 78.6 of the NHL rulebook states, "Any penalties signaled during the period of time between the apparent goal and the next stoppage of play shall be assessed in the normal manner."

Had Buffalo scored a goal after Carlson's goal, it would have been called back. Penalties, however, are to be called as normal despite the fact that the extra time after goal technically never happened.

Thus, at 13:33, Carlson was awarded the Caps' second goal while Kuznetsov was given a penalty.