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US defeats South Africa 2-1 at Hopman Cup

US defeats South Africa 2-1 at Hopman Cup

PERTH, Australia (AP) Venus Williams and John Isner led the United States to a 2-1 victory over South Africa at the Hopman Cup mixed team competition Sunday.

Williams rallied to defeat 60th-ranked Chanelle Scheepers 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. After Kevin Anderson beat Isner 7-6 (0), 7-6 (5), the match came down to mixed doubles. Williams and Isner beat the South Africans 6-3, 6-2 to clinch victory.

Williams took some time to settle in against an opponent who rallied well and hit the ball deep. Scheepers broke Williams at love to serve for the first set. But after that, the seven-time Grand Slam champion looked increasingly comfortable and began to play more aggressively.

Williams clinched the second set when Scheepers double-faulted. She then won the first four games of the third.

Williams was playing for the first time since winning at Luxembourg in mid-October.

``I was just trying to find some rhythm out there,'' she said. ``She's obviously a really good player having maintained a top-40, top-50 ranking the last couple of years. She played a match yesterday, too, so had an extra advantage. It felt good out there.

``I'm not expecting to be perfect now, but I'm thinking that my game will get better every match. I think the doubles will help as well to hone everything. More than anything I was just so excited to be out there playing, and I'm ready to go for it.''

Spain beat France 2-1 after Fernando Verdasco and Anabel Medina Garrigues won the mixed doubles against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mathilde Johansson.

Tsonga beat Verdasco 7-5, 6-3 in the singles, and Medina Garrigues defeated Johansson 6-3, 6-2.

On Monday, top-ranked Novak Djokovic and former No. 1 player Ana Ivanovic represent Serbia against the Italian team of Andreas Seppi and Francesca Schiavone.

Andrea Petkovic, who retired with a right knee injury against Australia on Saturday, has withdrawn from the competition with a ruptured meniscus and will miss the Australian Open. She will be replaced by Tatjana Malek for Germany's remaining matches against Italy and Serbia.

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Braden Holtby picks up first regulation loss in five weeks

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Braden Holtby picks up first regulation loss in five weeks

Braden Holtby’s stretch of 11 consecutive starts without a loss in regulation came to a screeching halt Wednesday night, when the depleted Capitals lost 4-1 to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

The Caps’ goalie was 10-0-1 since Oct. 14, when head coach Todd Reirden benched him for allowing the Colorado Avalanche to score three times in the first eight minutes of the game.

Holtby looked good through the first two periods Wednesday, allowing just one power play goal off the stick of Artemi Panarin entering the third.

But things fell apart from there. New York scored two goals within 23 seconds of each other early in the third period, and while Evgeny Kuznetsov’s power play goal closed the deficit to 3-1 with a little less than 13 minutes to play, Brett Howden put the game away with a goal late.

Holtby is tied with the Vegas Golden Knights’ Marc-Andre Fleury for the most wins in the NHL with 11 but wasn’t able to take advantage of the opportunity to move into sole possession of first place while Vegas had the night off.

The Capitals will be back in action on Saturday when they play host to the Vancouver Canucks, with puck drop scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET.

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Shorthanded Caps suffocated by Rangers in loss

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Shorthanded Caps suffocated by Rangers in loss

A shuffled Capitals lineup took the ice in New York on Wednesday and was handed a 4-1 loss by Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers. Washington was without Nicklas Backstrom, Carl Hagelin, Nic Dowd (all injured) and Garnet Hathaway (suspended) and that proved to be too many losses for the team to overcome. This loss ends a streak of seven-straight wins over the Rangers by the Caps.

Here is how Washington lost.

Panarin's 2 power play goals

Tom Wilson was called for boarding with less than a minute remaining in the first giving New York a power play at the start of the second. Artemi Panarin would cash in to put the Rangers on the board.

The Caps' penalty killers did their homework on Adam Fox who is pivotal to the Ranger's power play. As the main distributor, clearly Washington wanted to keep the pressure on him when he had the puck. As the power play set up, Fox got the puck and Richard Panik came hard after him at the blue line. Fox managed to get the puck away to Kaapo Kakko and then Washington was in a bind.

With Panik up high after Panarin and Jonas Siegenthaler still down low, that left Panarin open in the middle. That's the wrong guy to give too much room to and he made the most of it, writing the puck past the glove of Braden Holtby.

Just after the Caps killed off an Alex Ovechkin penalty in the third, Dmitry Orlov was called for high-sticking 40 seconds later. Panarin extended New York's lead to 2-0 as Kakko tried a spin move to get a shot off close in on Holtby. He lost the puck and it came to Panarin on the far side with an empty-net yawning.

Buchnevich's knockout punch

Going down 2-0 in the third period is a tough blow. Going down 3-0 just 23 seconds later is deflating.

As the Rangers broke the puck into the offensive zone, Siegenthaler was on the far left of the ice as Pavel Buchnevich skated in. Seeing that Buchnevich had a step on Siegenthaler and with Tom Wilson to his right, Gudas got caught in no man's land as he tried to step up to challenge Buchnevich while also getting his stick in the passing lane. Filip Chytil had a step on Wilson and was in alone after the pass from Buchnevich. Gudas took a weird angle on Buchnevich and ended up colliding with Siegenthaler. Buchnevich got behind them both and was open for the pass and the slam-dunk goal to make it 3-0.

A horrendous defensive zone breakdown

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored on the power play to breathe some life back into Washington. That life was extinguished when Buchnevich found Brett Howden all alone in front of the net.

  

Yeah, that's a bad breakdown.

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The Caps may have struggled to put points on the board Wednesday, but it wasn't for a lack of offense. Washington outshot the Rangers 62-48 and managed 31 shots on goal. They beat Lundqvist five times, but four of those times they were met with a loud "PING" as the puck hit off the post.

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