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Matt Niskanen says he'll wait to reach out to Sidney Crosby after sidelining him with a concussion

Matt Niskanen says he'll wait to reach out to Sidney Crosby after sidelining him with a concussion

PITTSBURGH—Two days later, Matt Niskanen still wonders what he could have done differently.

He also said it’s way too early to reach out Sidney Crosby—a friend and former teammate—about the incident Monday night that concussed the Penguins’ captain.

“I regret that it happened,” Niskanen said Wednesday after the Capitals’ morning skate. “But I’m adamant that I’m not sure, at that game speed, what I could have done different.”

“Obviously,” he continued, “in super-slowmo and in hindsight, I wish I had one hand on my stick and my hands were way down. But the collision happened fast and Sid’s trying to score a goal and he’s getting lower and lower as it happens.”

[Related: Game information for Caps-Pens Game 5 released]

“My intent was not to forcefully cross check him in the face. Anybody that knows me [knows] I’m not trying to hit guys in the head. I’m trying to play hard within the rules, hit guys in the body. And to be honest, I wasn’t even trying to hit him on that play. It was a collision that happened because he was coming in with a serious amount of speed and trying to score and getting lower and lower partially because he’s falling down.”

Asked if he’s heard the criticism about his role in Crosby’s injury, Niskanen said he’s focused on Wednesday's game and little else.

“Lucky [for] me, I’m not on social media,” he said. “There’s going to be some outside noise.”

Niskanen was also asked about the possibility of retribution from the Penguins.

“Possibly,” he said. “It’s a hockey game. Hockey players are emotional guys. If that happens, we’ll cross that bridge when it happens.”

Crosby, of course, is sidelined for Game 4—and possibly longer— with another concussion, his second this season. As expected, he did not participate in the morning skate.

[Related: Capitals vs Penguins: Game 4 time, TV channel, how to watch, live stream]

Without Crosby, the Penguins would seem to be nearing their breaking point when it comes to injuries to key players. They entered the postseason without top defenseman Kris Letang and goalie Matt Murray hasn’t played a postseason game. In addition, the Pens will be without winger Conor Sheary, who also suffered a concussion on Monday night.

Niskanen acknowledged the magnitude of Crosby’s absence. But he was quick to point out that the Penguins remain dangerous.

“Well, they are still a darn good team, first and foremost,” Niskanen said. “And we’re going to have to be real good to beat them. But [he’s] the best player in the world [and] he’s playing as good anybody has ever seen him. So, he’s tough to replace, for sure.”

Niskanen and Crosby overlapped as teammates in Pittsburgh from 2010-14 and Niskanen said he considers him a friend. He also praised Crosby as a great leader and a solid teammate. But the Caps’ blue liner indicated that he intends to wait a little while before reaching out to him.

“I don’t think there’s anything I could say that’s going to make him feel better about it,” Niskanen said. “I’m sure he’s pissed. When the time is right, I’ll probably reach out to him, after the boiling over kinda cools down. At this time, there’s not much I can say to him that’s going to make him feel better about it, or believe me.”

More Capitals: Jay Beagle challenges Phil Kessel to...Mario Kart?

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Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida


Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

Vincent Trocheck scored on the power play with 18.7 seconds remaining and the Panthers escaped with a 3-2 victory on an emotional night in Sunrise, Fla.

Trocheck’s goal was Florida’s second in the final four minutes…and the Caps were left to lament yet another incomplete performance. Washington has now lost three of its last four games and fell to 4-5-2 in February.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Vincent Trocheck, Panthers

Trocheck did what Trocheck does in the third period: The Florida forward scored a clutch goal in the final seconds, redirecting a Jonathan Huberdeau shot through Brooks Orpik’s legs and past Braden Holtby. Eller was in the penalty box when Trocheck scored his 13th third period goal of the season.

2-Andre Burakovsky, Capitals

After losing a goal to Eller in the first period, Burakovsky made sure he didn’t go home empty handed. No. 65 scored on the power play in the second period to put the Caps ahead 2-1. It was Burakovsky’s third goal in six games. He also earned a secondary assist on Eller’s redirection score.   

3-Braden Holtby, Capitals

Following a handful of un-Holtby-like performances lately, Holtbeast roared Thursday night at BB&T Center. He made at least one game-saving stop in each period: an arm save on Trocheck in the first period; a pad stop on Denis Malgin in the second and another extended pad stop on Evgenii Dadonov in the third. Holtby finished with 30 stops.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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4 reasons why the Panthers beat the Caps


4 reasons why the Panthers beat the Caps

The Caps looked like they had the win as they led 2-1 late in the third period, but things went off the rails in the final four minutes of the game in a 3-2 loss for Washington.

Here's how the Caps lost.

An emotional start for Robert Luongo

Before the game, Roberto Luongo took the mic during an emotional tribute to the victims of the tragic Stoneman Douglas school shooting. As a writer, it was hard to get into the game after that. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for Luongo to focus after that. But he did. He started off the game very well, making several strong saves. Washington scored late in the first period after an offensive cycle of over a minute that completely wore out the Panthers' skaters. Otherwise, Luongo was brilliant turning aside 13 of the 14 shots he faced in the opening 20 minutes.

Another shaky start for Braden Holtby

This was the best game we have seen from Braden Holtby in a while as he made a number of phenomenal saves in the second and third period. In the first, however, he continued to struggle. Maxim Mamin scored his first career NHL goal and point as a puck trickled through Holtby and Mamin was able to slam it home. Holtby was dealing with a screen, but reacted late to the initial shot and late to Mamin.

Aleksander Barkov splitting Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson

With a 2-1 lead, the Caps looked like they had control. But with less than four minutes remaining, Aleksander Barkov was able to split Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson to set up Nick Bjugstad for the game-tying goal. Ovechkin was backchecking and Carlson stepped up on him and then...nothing. It looked as if both players thought the other would take Barkov and Ovechkin let up at the same time Carlson skated past giving Barkov a lane to the net.

A late penalty to Lars Eller

With the game tied late, the Caps were exerting their will in the offensive zone with the cycle that had been dominant all game long...and then Lars Eller tried to set a pick on Bjugstad, knocking him to the ice. It was an obvious interference call with just 42 seconds remaining in the game. Florida would score 22 seconds later to deny Washington not only the win, but even a point.