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Djokovic completes Australian Open hat trick

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Djokovic completes Australian Open hat trick

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) No shirt ripping or bare-chested flexing this time.

Novak Djokovic completed his work before midnight, defeating Andy Murray in four sets for his third consecutive Australian Open title and fourth overall.

It was also the second time in three years Djokovic had beaten his longtime friend in this final. So the celebration was muted: a small victory shuffle, raised arms, a kiss for the trophy. No grand histrionics, although that's not to say the moment was lost on him.

``Winning it three in a row, it's incredible,'' Djokovic said after his 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 victory Sunday night. ``It's very thrilling. I'm full of joy right now. It's going to give me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season, that's for sure.''

Nine other men had won consecutive Australian titles in the Open era, but none three straight years. One of them was Andre Agassi, who presented Djokovic with the trophy.

A year ago, Djokovic began his season with an epic 5-hour, 53-minute five-set win over Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open, the longest Grand Slam final. He tore off his shirt to celebrate, the TV replays repeated constantly at this tournament.

He mimicked that celebration after coming back to beat Stanislas Wawrinka in five hours in a surprisingly tough fourth-round victory this time.

Since then, he's looked every bit the No. 1 player. He said he played ``perfectly'' in his 89-minute win over fourth-seeded David Ferrer in the semifinals Thursday night. Murray struggled to beat 17-time major winner Roger Federer in five sets in the semifinals Friday night, and still had the bad blisters on his feet to show for it in the final.

In a final that had the makings of a classic when two of the best returners in tennis were unable to get a break of serve in the first two sets that lasted 2:13, the difference may have hinged on something as light as a feather.

Preparing for a second serve at 2-2 in the second set tiebreaker, Murray was rocking back about to toss the ball when he stopped, paused and then walked onto the court and tried to grab a small white feather that was floating in his view. He went back to the baseline, bounced the ball another eight times and served too long.

After being called for a double-fault, Murray knocked the ball away in anger and flung his arm down. He didn't get close for the rest of the tiebreaker and was the first to drop serve in the match - in the eighth game of the third set. Djokovic broke him twice in the fourth set, which by then had turned into an easy march to victory.

``It was strange,'' said Djokovic, adding that it swung the momentum his way. ``It obviously did. ... He made a crucial double-fault.''

Murray didn't blame his loss on the one distraction.

``I mean, I could have served. It just caught my eye before I served. I thought it was a good idea to move it,'' he said. ``Maybe it wasn't because I obviously double-faulted.

``You know, at this level it can come down to just a few points here or there. My biggest chance was at the beginning of the second set - didn't quite get it. When Novak had his chance at the end of the third, he got his.''

Djokovic had five break-point chances in the opening set, including four after having Murray at 0-40 in the seventh game, but wasn't able to convert any of them.

Then he surrendered the tiebreaker with six unforced errors. Murray appeared to be the stronger of the two at the time. He'd beaten Djokovic in their last Grand Slam encounter, the U.S. Open final, and had the Serb so off balance at times in the first set that he slipped to the court and took skin off his knee.

Murray held serve to open the second set and had three break points at 0-40 in the second game, but Djokovic dug himself out of trouble and held.

``After that I felt just mentally a little bit lighter and more confident on the court than I've done in the first hour or so,'' Djokovic said. ``I was serving better against him today in the first two sets than I've done in any of the match in the last two years.''

Djokovic said he loves playing at Rod Laver Arena, where he won his first major title in 2008. He now has six Grand Slam titles altogether. Federer has won four of his 17 majors at Melbourne Park, and Agassi is the only other player to have won that many in Australia since 1968.

Djokovic was just finding his way at the top level when Agassi retired in 2006, but he had watched enough of the eight-time major winner to appreciate his impact.

``He's I think one of the players that changed the game - not just the game itself, but also the way the people see it,'' Djokovic said. ``So it was obviously a big pleasure and honor for me to receive the trophy from him.''

Agassi was among the VIPs in the crowd, along with actor Kevin Spacey and Victoria Azarenka, who won the women's final in three sets against Li Na the previous night.

Murray broke the 76-year drought for British men at the majors when he won the U.S. Open last year and said he'll leave Melbourne slightly more upbeat than he has after defeats here in previous years.

``The last few months have been the best tennis of my life. I mean, I made Wimbledon final, won the Olympics, won the U.S. Open. You know, I was close here as well,'' he said. ``No one's ever won a slam (immediately) after winning their first one. It's not the easiest thing to do. And I got extremely close.

``So, you know, I have to try and look at the positives of the last few months, and I think I'm going the right direction.''

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'He's a heart-and-soul guy:' Capitals begin to process Oshie injury after Game 4 loss

'He's a heart-and-soul guy:' Capitals begin to process Oshie injury after Game 4 loss

RALEIGH — T.J. Oshie shuffled out of the Capitals locker room, hunched over, half dressed, his face a mask of anguish and pain, his right arm pinned against his body. 

He made it to the X-ray room at PNC Arena on his own, two medical staffers at his side, moaning as he entered to learn his fate. Moments later, his teammates came off the ice at that same spot, 2-1 losers to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of a Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series. 

Players clomped past in various states of frustration and distress. Nicklas Backstrom smashed his stick against a wall and, when it only half broke, finished it off with one last theatrical whack. 

It was a perfect summation of Washington’s visit to Raleigh, where it arrived with a 2-0 series lead and left tied 2-2 with a critical Game 5 back home at Capital One Arena on Saturday. 

Oshie will not be with them. He will be out “for quite some time,” said Capitals coach Todd Reirden. Carolina forward Warren Foegele nudged Oshie from behind as both skated near full speed and he crashed hard into the boards in Washington’s offensive zone. 

Oshie yelled out in pain and lay on the ice for several minutes. He was helped off the ice and Foegele received a two-minute penalty for boarding. That did not sit well with Oshie’s teammates, who failed to score on the power play. They thought the play deserved more – a major penalty, for sure, and supplemental discipline by the NHL Department of Player Safety. They didn’t get the five minutes. They might get a suspension when the league looks at the play.   

“It was a defenseless player that was quite a distance from the boards,” Washington coach Todd Reirden said. “It’s an extremely dangerous play and (Oshie) will not be with our team for a while.”

Added captain Alex Ovechkin: "Did you see that? What did you think? I was on the ice, I watched the puck, so I didn't see what happened there, but if you think it's not a dirty play, you have to watch it again."

The frustration was understandable. Oshie had 25 goals in 69 games this season. He missed 11 with a concussion in November before returning. On Thursday, he’d moved up to the top line with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and he’s been a staple on the second line much of the season. He is as skilled a player as there is on the Capitals and has a goal and an assist in the series. 

“It’s always tough. He plays the game so hard,” goalie Braden Holtby said. “He’s a heart-and-soul guy. I have no idea what it is or whatever. But the thing with [Oshie] is no matter what he’s going to find a way to have a positive impact on our team - whether in or out. It doesn’t matter. He’s a leader and he’s a guy that guys want to fight for.”

Carolina didn’t agree with the Capitals, of course. Foegele called it “an unfortunate play” where he was just trying to lift Oshie’s stick and he lost an edge and careened into the boards. It doesn’t matter now. With the series now even, Washington will have to build on a much better game than it played Monday night in a 5-0 loss, but without one of its best players. On Friday they can begin figuring that out. On the plane ride home Thursday night they were still trying to process what happened to Oshie. 

“We have all those meetings. GMs make meetings with referees and watch the video and it's two minutes?” Ovechkin said. “We're players and we have to go out there and play, but those guys have to make a decision. They can't be afraid. If the guy hurt, it's a dirty play, it has to be not two minutes. It has to be different call."

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'He barely hit him': Rod Brind'Amour finds a way to downplay T.J. Oshie injury

'He barely hit him': Rod Brind'Amour finds a way to downplay T.J. Oshie injury

The Capitals were incensed by Warren Foegele’s shove to the back of T.J. Oshie in Game 4 on Thursday that sent Oshie dangerously into the boards and knocked him out of the game. Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour, however, does not know what all the fuss is about.

“You see a lot of hits that are way, way worse than that,” Brind’Amour told the media after the game.

Oshie entered into the offensive zone with the puck and Foegele came in on the backcheck. Oshie had a good position on the puck, blocking Foegele out with his back. Foegele responded with a cross-check to the back of Oshie that knocked him over face-first awkwardly into the boards. Oshie appeared to strike the boards with his right shoulder and was doubled over in obvious pain as he slowly made his way off the ice.

Ovechkin was so angry that he followed Foegele and continued yelling at him after he went into the penalty box.

But Brind’Amour did not see it as a dirty play.

“I think [Oshie] just went in awkward,” Brind’Amour said. “I don't know the extent of the injury or whatever. Barely hit him I thought, really. He gave him a little shove, but it certainly wasn't what we've been seeing out here.”

In fact, Brind’Amour did not think a penalty was going to be called at all until Oshie stayed on the ice.

“There wasn't a penalty being called and then obviously he crashed into the boards hard and that's when the arm went up because he stayed down,” Brind’Amour said. “You don't like to see that, but I think more than anything he just was not ready for the hit.”

For those of you keeping track at home, Brind’Amour took issue with two consenting players fighting one another, but a cross-check to the back leaves a guy doubled over in pain and, well, he just was not ready for the hit.

Right.

Of course, you can file this away under, “What is he supposed to say?” It’s not as if Brind’Amour would come out and bury his own player for an illegal hit. He is going to defend his guy. Having said that, there were probably better ways to handle the injury of an opposing player rather than diminishing it quite as much as Brind’Amour seemed to.

“We've got way more injuries than they do,” Brind’Amour said. “I don't worry about their team.”

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