From Comcast SportsNetMONACO (AP) -- Rafael Nadal finally managed to beat Novak Djokovic in a final, thrashing the top-ranked Serb 6-3, 6-1 on Sunday to win the Monte Carlo Masters for the eighth consecutive year and end a run of seven straight defeats to his rival in title matches.Nadal was hardly troubled by Djokovic in this one and broke the Serb's serve five times in a one-sided affair on clay to win his 42nd straight match at Monte Carlo. It was his first title since last year's French Open and the 47th of his career."I always loved this tournament since I was a kid. One of my dreams was play here," Nadal said. "It's a historic tournament (where) you see all your idols when you are a kid playing here."The 25-year-old Nadal thrust his hands in the air after clinching victory in style with an ace that flew past the beleaguered Djokovic, who beat Nadal in an epic Australian Open final this year."If you see the finals I win here, all the finals are against probably top-six players," Nadal said. "That's something that makes the victories even more difficult."Nadal now leads their head-to-head series 17-14, but it was his first win against Djokovic since an early match at the 2010 ATP Finals in London. The Serb had beaten Nadal in three consecutive Grand Slam finals and handed him his only defeats on clay last year."Winning against Novak in (the) final after losing a few ones is important for me," Nadal said. "My level of tennis was high during the last four matches."Nadal was also relieved to come through the tournament without further aggravating his troublesome left knee, having rested it and had treatment for three weeks before coming to Monte Carlo."I am very happy because my knee is not limiting (my) movement. I can run 100 percent," Nadal said. "You have pain, but (if) you feel you can run to every ball, (then) the pain never is a problem."Nadal has won a record 20 Masters titles, putting him one ahead of 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.Djokovic, who has been playing through grief since the death of his grandfather Thursday, said he felt emotionally drained and was unable to summon the mental strength he needed to dig deep against Nadal."I definitely don't want to take away anything from Rafa's win. He was a better player," Djokovic said. "But it's a fact that I just didn't have any emotional energy left in me."Djokovic's grandfather was buried back home in Serbia on Saturday."I've never been caught up in this kind of emotional situation before," Djokovic said. "I'm just happy to reach the finals really under the circumstances. It's been a very difficult week for me to go through mentally."He has not decided what his schedule will be over the next few days."I obviously have to go to visit my grandfather's grave and see, because I wasn't there (at the) funeral yesterday," he said. "So I'll be there."Nadal had promised to be aggressive and, after Djokovic held in his opening service game at love, the Spaniard was relentless in running the Serb all over the court."Fantastic, impressive. The way he's been treating this sport is a real example of a champion," Djokovic said of Nadal's eight straight wins at Monte Carlo. "I only have nice things to say about him. Every year he comes back and he looks like he's the first time in this place."Djokovic struggled to find a rhythm, making 25 unforced errors to just 11 winners. Nadal, meanwhile, timed most of his shots to perfection and pushed Djokovic further and further back."I think today he played just enough to win," Djokovic said. "I just wasn't there. You know, I didn't play well, play at all, you know. I just was out there trying to put the ball in the court."The breezy conditions seemed to bother Djokovic more than they did Nadal, although the swirling winds were not as intense as Saturday.Nadal, the 10-time Grand Slam champion, found his range quickly and broke Djokovic in the third game when the Serb's backhand sailed wide.In the second set, Nadal went up 3-0 after breaking Djokovic's serve then holding at love.That was soon 4-0 as Nadal won a long rally on break point. Djokovic looked to have won it with a big forehand, but Nadal somehow managed to lob Djokovic while fully stretched out. The ball landed right at the top of the court, surprising Djokovic, whose hurried return set up nicely for Nadal to whack another brutal forehand winner.Although Djokovic broke right back, any thought of a comeback was snuffed out by Nadal when he broke Djokovic at love.
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It wasn't pretty, but the Blackhawks found a way to pick up another two points and improved to 6-0-1 over their last seven games, and 18-3-1 over their last 22.
With Minnesota's loss to Philadelphia, the Blackhawks have taken an eight-point lead for first in the Central Division and are only two points away from the Washington Capitals for home-ice advantage throughout the entire Stanley Cup playoffs.
Let's take a look at Quick Hits from the 3-2 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night:
What Worked: The finish and shootout. While the Blackhawks scored the game's first goal, it was another slow start by a team that has had a few of those over the last several outings and has preached working on turning in more of a complete effort. They recorded only 14 shots on goal in the first two periods, and it took more than six minutes after Patrick Kane's goal to record their next one.
But they finished on a positive note yet again, and went 2-for-3 in the shootout thanks to Kane and Artemi Panarin, who potted the game winner. Kane said after the game that he tried his move on Scott Darling during morning skate and it worked. So he went with it tonight in an effort to snap a mini shootout drought and he did.
What Didn't Work: Controlling the puck. The Blackhawks seemingly have the puck more than their opponent does almost every game, but it doesn't reflect in the shot department because they often look for the perfect pass or shot and fail to record one at all. They had 50 shot attempts with 26 of them on goal compared to the Stars' 64 attempts with 44 on goal. They know they must get better at that.
Star of the game: Corey Crawford. After allowing four goals on only 10 shots in Tuesday's overtime loss to Vancouver, the Blackhawks netminder bounced back in a huge way. He matched a season-high with 42 saves, and recorded his 30th win of the season.
He Said It: "He played amazing tonight. Reason we won the game. Hats off to him, he's done that a lot this year. For a goalie it's probably tough to show up every night, even the goals he let in last game you can't put all the blame on him, but he was outstanding tonight." — Kane on Crawford's performance
By the Numbers:
167 — Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked one shot in the win, and it was enough to set a new career high in that department, previously established during the 2010-11 campaign (166).
15 — Trevor van Riemsyk assisted on Marian Hossa's goal in the third period, giving him a career-high 15 points on the season in 50 games. He had 14 points in 82 games last year. He also extended his point streak to three games.
6 — With the victory, Crawford has earned at least 30 wins in six of his seven NHL seasons as a full-time starter. The only time he didn't reach that mark was during the lockout-shortened year in 2012-13 when he went 19-5-5.