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Karl Alzner made one final visit to the Caps on Saturday

Karl Alzner made one final visit to the Caps on Saturday

After nine years as a Capital, Karl Alzner couldn’t leave without saying goodbye.

Washington’s longtime Iron Man stopped by Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Saturday to shake hands and say thank you to the Capitals’ training and medical staffs as well as other members of the front office.

“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Alzner told CSN as left the practice facility.

“It’s nice to see all the love from the trainers and stuff,” he continued. “It's going to be a little bit strange. At the same time, I’m excited to get a new opportunity. [Montreal] is the franchise in the league; it’s hockey. I don’t think it really gets much better than that. It’s competitive and [there’s] management and ownership that’s willing to do absolutely anything to win. That’s kind of the dream, for a player that especially hasn’t won a cup yet. So I’m pretty excited about that.”

Alzner signed a five year, $23.1 million deal with the Canadiens for an annual average value of $4.625 million on Saturday. The 28-year-old defenseman earned $2.8 million last season in Washington.

Although Alzner had known for a while that he wouldn’t be returning to the Caps, it didn’t make a hectic process any easier to stomach in recent days.

“It’s been crazy,” said Alzner, who was drafted by Washington 5th overall in 2007. “It hasn’t been a whole lot of fun. A lot of people say this must be awesome, you get the pick of the litter and figure out where you want to go, where you want to live. It's not really that way. For some guys it is. [But] there are so many decisions to make, especially when you have family and roots as deep as we have here. You have to be smart about your decision. We had some really good opportunities and Montreal was definitely the best one.”

As excited as Alzner is to be joining a franchise steeped in tradition and coming off a division title, he also acknowledged that he had a little trepidation—at first, anyway—about the intense scrutiny that players face in a hockey-mad city like Montreal vs. Washington.

“A lot of talking, a lot feeling nauseous at times because me and Mandy are homebodies and we’re pretty private,” he said, referring to his wife. “So there were a lot of uneasy moments but in the end we feel pretty good.”

So now Alzner is a Canadien. But before totally shifting into Montreal mode, he had a stop he needed to make—at the Caps’ rink where he greeted trainers, coaches and other team employees. He was flanked by Mandy.

“These guys are our family,” Alzner said. “We’ve spent a ton of time together. We’re pretty tight and they all wanted to say bye, too. I know that everyone kind of takes off for the summer so we knew was this was probably one of our only opportunities to do that.”

Oh, and there was one more reason he stopped at Kettler.

“And to send a few packages out before I get completely cut off,” he cracked.

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Niskanen takes the blame for all three Lightning goals

Niskanen takes the blame for all three Lightning goals

There was no tougher critic on Matt Niskanen’s Game 5 performance on Saturday than Niskanen himself.

Niskanen and his defensive partner, Dmitry Orlov, were on the ice for all three of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s three goals in the Capitals’ 3-2 loss. That was striking given the Orlov-Niskanen duo is typically Washington’s best defensive pair.

That was not the case on Saturday and Niskanen took full responsibility afterward.

“First three goals are all my fault,” Niskanen said. “I had a tough first 20:30 so I've got to be better next game.”

Pretty much no one played the first goal right.

The goal came just 19 seconds into the game. Orlov turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Evgeny Kuznetsov looked like he could have gotten the puck, but instead played the body of Cedric Paquette. Niskanen stepped up at the blue line, but the Lightning got the puck past him creating a short rush that beat Braden Holtby who was way too far back in the crease.

Yes, Niskanen got caught a bit high, but he was just as at fault as Orlov, Kuznetsov and Holtby.

The second goal happened because Steven Stamkos tripped Orlov to create a turnover and it wasn’t called.

Niskanen got in between Ondrej Palat and the puck, but Palat beat both him and Holtby on the shot. Not sure I would put this one on Niskanen.

The third goal…well, that one was a bad play by Niskanen.

When you go one-on-one with a player, a defenseman cannot allow that player to turn the corner. That’s especially true when that player is defenseman Anton Stralman who is not exactly gifted with blazing speed. This was just a complete misplay.

Regardless of how many goals were strictly on Niskanen, that’s not the point. This was a message not so much to the media but to the team. That message was this: This one’s on me, I will be better next game.

Leaders always take responsibility. Niskanen is taking the blame here and saying he will be better in the hopes the team around him will be better as well.

They will need to be to win Game 6.

“A lot of people counted us out when we were down 0-2 in the first round,” Niskanen said. “Things got hard in the last series where we could have melted and we just kept playing. So that's what we've got to do again, bring our best effort for Game 6 at home, win a game and then we'll go from there.

“But we're focused on bringing our best game of the season for Game 6 and we'll be ready to go.”

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3 reasons the Caps lost Game 5 to the Lightning

3 reasons the Caps lost Game 5 to the Lightning

When the Capitals take to the ice at home on Monday, they will be playing for their playoff lives. They lost their third straight game on Saturday as the Tampa Bay Lightning took Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead and push the Caps to the brink.

Here is why the Caps fell on the road for the first time in this series.

A rough start

Nineteen seconds was all the time Tampa Bay would need to score in Game 5.

Dmitry Orlov turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Evgeny Kuznetsov chased after it, but instead of getting the puck he inexplicably played the body of Cedric Paquette. Paquette was able to chip it into the offensive zone to Ryan Callahan. Callahan tried to pass to the slot, but it hit off of Orlov right to Paquette who buried it past Braden Holtby who was very deep in the crease.

If Orlov doesn’t cough the puck up in the neutral zone, if Kuznetsov plays the puck instead of the body or if Holtby challenges that shot, that goal doesn’t happen. An ugly play all around for Washington.

A no-call on Steven Stamkos

Later in the first period, Orlov went to corral a puck in the neutral zone, but was pressured by Stamkos, fell to the ice and turned the puck over to Nikita Kucherov. It was very clearly a trip on Stamkos, but there was no call. Palat would score on the play to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead.

You can read more about the play here.

A rough night for Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen

Orlov and Niskanen is normally the Caps' best defensive pair, but they had a very long night. They were on the ice for each of the Lightning’s three goals of the game.

Orlov’s turnover led to the first goal, Stamkos’ trip of Orlov led to the second. On the third, Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman was somehow able to drive and turn the corner on Niskanen leading to a scoring opportunity that eventually deflected off the glove of Ryan Callahan and into the net. Stralman is not the speediest of players. The fact he was able to go one-on-one with Niskanen and get in behind him was surprising to see.

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