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Woods, McIlroy face off in Abu Dhabi

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Woods, McIlroy face off in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) The world's two top golfers are meeting more and more often on the course, but neither No. 1-ranked Rory McIlroy or Tiger Woods are ready to call it a rivalry.

The pair, set to meet at this week's Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, has established a blossoming relationship since playing together for the first three rounds of last year's tournament and expressed a mutual respect for one another's game.

But for a more heated rivalry to emerge, they both agreed they need to face each other on Sunday with a tournament at stake. It has yet to happen, although Woods did make a run at McIlroy in last year's Honda Classic with a birdie-eagle finish.

``It would be similar to saying that I had a rivalry with Phil (Mickelson) two years into my career. That wasn't the case. It takes time,'' Woods said Tuesday.

``Over the course of my career, I've gone head-to-head against Ernie (Els) and Vijay (Singh) the most and that has happened over 17 years,'' he said. ``But it takes time. Certainly we've done it once at Honda. ... But we really haven't had the amount of matches or head-to-head duels with Phil and Vijay and Ernie. But then again, it's only been a few years. Let's give it time and see how it pans out.''

Speaking Monday to The Associated Press, McIlroy agreed.

``I don't know if you can call it a rivalry yet because we haven't battled each other down the stretch of a major,'' McIlroy said. ``It's not like we have been playing in the final group of a tournament and we are battling each other. Hopefully at some point that can happen this year and it would be great to be part of that.''

McIlroy joked that that budding friendship would go out the window should that battle take place.

``He is going to try and beat my brains out. I know that,'' McIlroy told the AP. ``I'm trying to do the same. We are both trying to win a golf tournament.''

Woods and McIlroy are paired together for the first two rounds at Abu Dhabi starting Thursday.

``We've certainly hit it off, and our relationship has grown and our friendship's gotten better,'' Woods said. ``We've just had a good time. Certainly give each other the needle quite a bit. That's always fun.''

McIlroy said the relationship in many ways is built on mutual respect.

``Before this time last year, we would say hello in passing but not really anything else. I think once Tiger sort of gets to know you and trusts you, I guess, and lets you in, then it's great,'' McIlroy said.

``It's great to just spend time with him and pick his brain about a few things if I feel I need to, but it's a relationship that's definitely based on respect, because you know, he's been a huge hero of mine growing up and he's done some incredible things in golf. I think he respects me for what I've done on the golf course, too. So it's good.''

But when it comes to the golf course, McIlroy joked that that the friendship would go out the window should that encounter take place.

``He is going to try and beat my brains out. I know that,'' McIlroy said. ``I'm trying to do the same. We are both trying to win a golf tournament.''

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Remembering the other series-clinching goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov

Remembering the other series-clinching goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov

When you think about Evgeny Kuznetsov in the playoffs, most probably think of his overtime-winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018 that ended the series and handed Washington a long-awaited victory over its archrival. But that wasn’t the first series-clinching goal Kuznetsov scored.

Before the Stanley Cup was brought to Washington, before the bird celebration, there was another epic moment of Kuznetsov’s career that now feels overshadowed by the 2018 run.

In 2015, the Caps returned to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus. They entered the postseason as the second-place team in the Metropolitan Division, drawing the third-place New York Islanders in the first round.

A back-and-forth series, it ultimately went the distance with Game 7 being played in Washington. As even as the series had been, the Caps dominated that Game 7, suffocating the Islanders and giving up only 11 shots on goal. Joel Ward put Washington ahead 1-0, but Frans Nielsen tied it early in the third period. Despite the dominant defensive performance, Jaroslav Halak (remember him?) would not allow the Caps to the chance to put the game away.

Just when it began to feel as if Halak was going to steal away another Game 7 from the Caps, a young Russian center in just his first full NHL season took over.

With less than eight minutes remaining in the third period, Kuznetsov took a pass along the half wall, showed Frans Nielsen his back and when Nielsen bit, he spun and cut to the center of the ice. Nielsen was caught a step behind and whacked Kuznetsov in desperation, actually diving to the ice to try to keep him from breaking loose. In one slick move Kuznetsov had cut through the Islanders’ defense and was in alone on net. Halak went down to the butterfly as Kuznetsov cut to center, but Kuznetsov showed incredible patience and did not immediately shoot. Suddenly, Halak was committed and helpless. He dove to his right desperately holding up the glove as Kuznetsov kept gliding across the ice, but Halak had left too much of the net open by going down too soon and Kuznetsov hit the corner.

With 7:18 remaining in the game and the series, Kuznetsov had given the Caps the 2-1 lead.

The series was a breakout performance for Kuznetsov who returned the following season and earned a top-six role, something not all that easy for young players to do under head coach Barry Trotz. It also gave a franchise still bearing the scars of Halak’s 2010 upset a measure of revenge.

And the rest is history.

What heroics does Kuznetsov have in store for the Islanders on Saturday when the two teams meet at 1 p.m.? Tune in to NBC Sports Washington at 12 p.m. for coverage.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Whether it's good or bad, nothing the Wizards do is subtle. 

They'll score a million points and give up two million points. They'll beat the Heat, Nuggets and Celtics without Bradley Beal but also blow an 18-point fourth quarter lead to the Bulls. 

The Wizards had some turnover issues Friday night, but again, they're never subtle. 

Washington committed 28 turnovers on the way to a 29-point loss. Following the first seven minutes of play, the Wizards had seven turnovers and seven points. 

The last time the Wizards turned the ball over that much was April 2, 1994, in a 104-96 win over the Bucks. The last time an NBA team turned it over 28 times? The 2010 Suns. 

Nine Wizards players had multiple turnovers, while five players had at least three. 

Following Bradley Beal's comments criticizing the team's culture and need to develop winning habits, the Wizards' response left more than enough to be desired. Credit the Raptors defense utilizing their length and ball pressure to take advantage of when the Wizards were loose with the ball, but it takes more than good defense to turn it over 28 times. 

The bright side is this was an uncharacteristic performance for the Wizards. They currently average the 10th-fewest turnovers per game in the NBA, so there's a good chance they clean things up on Monday against the Pistons. 

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