Felix Auger-Aliassime was one point away from a win over world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and a spot in the Australian Open semifinals.
But the young Canadian couldn’t finish the match off, and the Russian veteran made the most of his reprieve.
One hour and 14 minutes later, Medvedev had come back from a two-sets-to-none deficit at a Grand Slam tournament for only the second time in his career and stunned Auger-Aliassime 6-7 (4), 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5, 6-4.
“You step on the court, you want to have no regrets,” Auger-Aliassime said after the four hour, 42-minute quarter-final marathon that ended early Thursday morning in Melbourne. “I can go back and think I wish I’d made different choices or wish Daniil didn’t play as well in certain moments. But, yeah, it was a good effort.
“At the end of the day, I can’t regret the effort that I put in, and the chances I gave myself.”
WATCH | Auger-Aliassime drops heartbreaker to Medvedev:
With the lion’s share of support from a good crowd held down somewhat by government-imposed limits due to COVID-19, the 21-year-old from Montreal was in control for much of the early going.
“Of course I would have loved to win. I love to win every time. It sucks to lose in the end, but that’s life. I just need to accept it,” he said.
Rain delay flips momentum
A surprisingly erratic Medvedev looked subpar physically. An effortful grunt accompanied his every move, and he was sweating heavily. The 25-year-old had issues with everything from the crowd, to the editorial choices on the giant screens, to the moving roof atop Rod Laver Arena.
He was searching for solutions, and not finding any holes in Auger-Aliassime’s game.
“I was not playing my best, and Felix was playing unbelievable,” Medvedev said during his on-court interview after the win. “He was serving unbelievable. He was all over me. I didn’t really know what to do.”
And then, a little rain changed everything — at least for Medvedev.
With the Russian serving at 2-1 in the third-set tiebreak, there was a seven-minute delay as a brief shower led the retractable roof to be closed and the court dried off with towels by the ball kids.
Medvedev went off court briefly as Auger-Aliassime sat in his chair, muttering to himself.
The Russian returned and won five of the next points, and the third set.
“In the first set and in the tiebreak I was sweating like hell and made a few double faults, because my hand was really slippery,” said Medvedev, who tried swapping out his wristbands for dry ones but still couldn’t get a good grip.
“When they closed the roof, I felt the momentum changed, and I felt like I could go through the ball better.”
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Once the air conditioning kicked in, the temperature inside Rod Laver Arena dropped a good 10 degrees. And that helped.
There was no rain for the rest of the match. But the roof remained closed.
Small missed opportunities
Auger-Aliassime conceded that there were small moments of opportunity even before that tiebreak — little openings that, if exploited, might have given him a straight-sets win.
The experienced champions recognize those moments, and put pedal to metal to finish things off. At 21, Auger-Aliassime is still learning.
Still, in the fourth set, serving to stay in the match at 4-5, Medvedev double-faulted and gifted the Canadian a match point.
And then he wrenched it away with a massive 213 km/hour serve — his fastest of the night.
Medvedev was trying everything. Even then, Auger-Aliassime had opportunities to break early in the fifth set. But every time the door was slightly ajar Medvedev found a solution, or Auger-Aliassime couldn’t quite make the play.
“I told myself: what would Novak [Djokovic] do?” said Medvedev, to a chorus of boos of the Melbourne crowd at the mere mention of the absent nine-time champion’s name.
“That’s what came to my mind, because he’s one of the greatest champions — and Rafa [Nadal] and Roger [Federer], to be honest,” he added. “I’m going to make him work.
“If he wants to win it, he needs to fight for the last point.”
Medvedev changed his return position from well beyond the Melbourne banner behind the baseline, moving up several metres into the court.
He wasted as little time as humanly possible between points on his serve — a couple of times, he was ready to serve before chair umpire Damien Dumusois had even started the 25-second serve clock.
He gave no time for his opponent to get set for the return, and Auger-Aliassime’s return effectiveness dropped.
Medvedev came into the net a lot more in the tiebreaks, and when he was behind.
Suddenly, none of the external distractions bothered him. He no longer looked as though he was struggling physically.
For Auger-Aliassime, who had a medical timeout at 2-3 in the fifth set to have some tape added to an already tightly wrapped right ankle, the plan in 2022 is to find the silver lining — no matter what.
“It’s no surprise [Medvedev] is where he is now. He fights, tries to find solutions. He plays well when he needs to,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I think he was just a little bit more clutch than me — a little bit more solid at times.
“It comes with experience as well, I think. But I’m looking forward to the next time I can put myself in that situation. I believe I can cross the line.”
Auger-Aliassime was looking to reach his second straight Grand Slam semifinal. He made it to the final four of last year’s U.S. Open, where he also lost to eventual champion Medvedev.
Still, the Montrealer has made it to at least the quarter-finals in his last three Grand Slams.
Medvedev is looking to become the first man in the Open era to win his first two Grand Slam titles in consecutive tournaments. He faces French Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas on Friday.
Nadal, seeking a men’s record 21st major title to break a tie with Djokovic and Federer, will play Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini in the other semifinal match.
Instigator call the turning point in Rangers’ Game 4 win over Hurricanes – Sportsnet.ca
Yep. They picked up right where they left off.
Game 3 between the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes ended with tensions high and there was some obvious carryover into Tuesday’s Game 4 at Madison Square Garden that saw the Blue Shirts even the series with a 4-1 victory.
Whistles were few and far in between during a frenetic first half of the opening period as both teams traded chances. The Rangers controlled much of the high-paced action and eventually began winning more puck battles than the Hurricanes.
Then the key turning point of Game 4 occurred.
Jacob Trouba absolutely walloped Max Domi near the penalty boxes with a hard hit at the 11:38 mark.
Steven Lorentz was in the vicinity when the open-ice hit was delivered. Instead of merely taking Trouba’s number, Lorentz immediately came to the defence of his teammate and dropped the mitts with Trouba in a rare playoff scrap.
Trouba unquestionably contacted Domi’s head, just as the Hurricanes’ forward’s feet were sliding out from beneath him mind you, yet the officials deemed it a clean hit.
The sequence resulted in an instigator call on Lorentz.
Carolina’s bench, plus head coach Rod Brind’Amour, were visibly upset when Trouba only received five for fighting.
Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant told the broadcast at the first intermission “it was a great hit” before adding “Domi had his head down a little bit.”
Domi, of course, was involved in the rough stuff at the end of that heated Game 3 over the weekend.
The instigator call certainly seemed to affect the Hurricanes on the penalty kill and the Rangers capitalized with Lorentz in his team’s locker room as part of the 2-5-10 he was assessed.
Carolina was relatively sloppy while a man down and a turnover in their own end led to a missed opportunity to clear the zone. That led to Adam Fox patiently making a cross-ice saucer pass to Andrew Copp who neatly slide the puck to Frank Vatrano and the winger beat Antti Raanta low glove to open the scoring.
Brind’Amour, while wanting his players to be more disciplined, was fairly subdued in his post-game comments. He did mention he thought Trouba should’ve been given a cross-checking minor for getting his stick up on Lorentz prior to the brief punch-up.
“We’re not out there to catch guys (with their heads down) or play stupid or anything like that,” Copp said of Trouba’s hit after the game. “We’re just trying to finish our checks when we’re there and play physical when we can and make smart decisions. At the end of the day, them taking the two minutes changed the course of the game. … It’s not headhunting at all. It’s a good hit and their response warranted a penalty.”
Copp added his second assist of the period moments later when Fox, who leapfrogged Cale Makar for the active post-season lead in points among blueliners, tipped in his fourth of the playoffs on a Ryan Lindgren shot.
Lindgren, who has been excellent for the Rangers since returning to the lineup, was named the second star thanks to his two-assist night. Copp and Vatrano, both acquired in March trades, were named first and third stars of the game, respectively.
While there’s plenty of blame to go around on the Carolina side of the equation, Raanta’s performance is not why the series is even as it shifts back to PNC Arena.
Raanta did allow four goals on 28 shots, sure, however he also made a handful of highlight-reel saves to keep his team in it.
Alexis Lafreniere and Artemi Panarin were both separately stopped by Raanta on breakaway backhand deke attempts and he flashed the leather on Chris Kreider, yet his best of the night was against Mika Zibanejad.
The bigger concern for Carolina continued to be the lacklustre power play. It was only 5-for-43 in the playoffs prior to Game 4 where the issues persisted.
Carolina didn’t have trouble entering the zone when a man up. It’s just they couldn’t do much beyond moving the puck around the perimeter once the zone was established.
Their first man advantage of Game 4 occurred midway through the second period although the best scoring chance and only shot on goal during that PP was generated by the Rangers.
Brind’Amour’s group couldn’t get anything going with Lafreniere in the box serving a goalie interference minor early in the final frame either and they finished the night 0-for-2.
The Hurricanes were down by three goals heading into the third period and to say putting three behind Ilya Shesterkin in a single period is a tall task would be an understatement.
The soon-to-be Vezina Trophy winner had his shutout bid ended by Teuvo Teravainen in the third but that’s all Carolina could muster.
Brind’Amour didn’t even bother pulling his goalie in the final few minutes with the score 4-1.
There was some more pushing and shoving at the final horn with Ryan Reeves giving Domi the business – which was likely more fallout from the Game 3 rough stuff – but nothing escalated further.
The Hurricanes are winless on the road this post-season but perfect at home so they’ll appreciate Game 5 is scheduled for Thursday in Raleigh, N.C.
This series is now officially a best-of-three.
Oilers push Flames to brink of elimination behind Nugent-Hopkins, Kane's 4 combined goals – CBC Sports
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his second goal of the night with 3:27 left in regulation as the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Calgary Flames 5-3 on Tuesday to take a 3-1 lead in the teams’ second-round playoff series.
Evander Kane, with his NHL-best 11th and 12th of the post-season, and Zach Hyman had the other goals for Edmonton, which got 29 saves from Mike Smith. Leon Draisaitl added three assists.
Connor McDavid also had two assists to give him a league-topping 25 points in 11 playoff outings this spring for the Oilers, who kept their foot on the gas with a third straight victory over their provincial rival.
Jacob Markstrom stopped 21 shots.
“The main thing was that we had to keep pushing,” Nugent-Hopkins said after Rasmus Andersson scored short-handed from 150 feet away to claw the visitors all the way back from a 3-0 deficit. “Stuff like that happens, it’s hockey. Bounces happen.
“There was no quit.”
Edmonton interim head coach Jay Woodcroft credited Nugent-Hopkins, who was playing just the 32nd playoff game of his 11-season career, for stepping up with the team wobbling.
“It’s inspiring,” said Woodcroft, whose Oilers are now one win from making the Western Conference final for the first time since 2006. “There’s room for greatness from everybody on our team.
“Tonight was Ryan’s moment.”
After trailing 3-0 after the first period and 3-2 through 40 minutes, Calgary improbably knotted things in the third on an Edmonton power play when Andersson fired a 150-foot clearing attempt from his own end that somehow fooled Smith at 10:56 and stunned Rogers Place.
WATCH | Flames’ Andersson scores short-handed goal from distance:
But with the Oilers wobbling, Nugent-Hopkins shovelled home his fourth of the playoffs from Markstrom’s doorstep to send the nervous crowd into a frenzy.
Andersson then took a four-minute penalty for high-sticking with 2:40 left to effectively kill off the game before Kane iced it into an empty net.
“I can laugh now, right?” a relieved Smith said as throngs of Edmonton fans cheered wildly on the street outside the Oilers Hall of Fame Room where the team conducts its media availabilities. “I don’t think there’s been a time in my career where I’ve lost the puck, where I have no idea where it went.
“You don’t want that to happen … ever. It was an unbelievable goal by Nuge at the end there … a win is a win.”
WATCH | Nugent-Hopkins leads Oilers to big victory over Flames:
Edmonton also held a 2-1 series lead in the first round against the Los Angeles Kings only to play what the Oilers described as their worst performance of the month in a 4-0 loss.
They won’t be thrilled with this Game 4 either, but got the victory for a stranglehold on the series.
“We all believe in this group,” Andersson said. “We’ve been a good team all year and we’ve been strong on home ice. We’ve just got to go home and focus on winning one game and take it from there.
“Obviously we’re in a tough situation.”
Markstrom’s struggles, Oilers’ early lead
Markstrom, who had allowed 14 goals in the series before getting pulled after two periods with Calgary trailing Sunday’s Game 3 by a 4-0 score line, played the puck behind his own net on the first shift, but put it right on Nugent-Hopkins’ stick for him to bury his third inside a deafening arena.
The goal was the third-fastest in Oilers’ playoff history, just short of McDavid (19 seconds in 2020) and Fernando Pisani (16 seconds in 2006).
Calgary winger Tyler Toffoli then took a tripping penalty and the Oilers made the visitors pay when Hyman outmuscled a hobbled Chris Tanev — back in the lineup for the first time since Game 6 of the opening round despite a suspected upper-body injury — in tight to bury his fifth goal of the series and seventh of the playoffs at 9:53.
The Flames, who topped the Pacific Division in the regular season, pushed back with a couple of decent shifts, but Kane, who was coming off a natural hat trick in Game 3, made it 3-0 with 66 seconds remaining in the period on a shot that nicked off blue-liner Nikita Zadorov.
Calgary finally showed some life on slick power play in the second with Kane off for slashing, and Lindholm eventually picked the top corner for his fifth at 9:04 after the Oilers twice failed to clear the defensive zone.
Backlund got the Flames within one at 3-2 just 36 seconds later when he stepped past Duncan Keith and fired his fourth past Smith.
Smith made a good stop on a Lindholm power-play chance early in the third before the home side got its second man-advantage with 11 minutes left in regulation.
Markstrom kept his team within striking distance with a terrific pad stop on Draisaitl, who became the first player in NHL history to register three-plus points in four straight playoff games with an assist on the Oilers’ empty-net goal.
Button believes Vasilevskiy is the best in the business: 'There's not even a debate' – TSN
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