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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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Capitals enter All-Star break on sour note in Toronto as losing streak extends to seven

Capitals enter All-Star break on sour note in Toronto as losing streak extends to seven

The Capitals enter the All-Star break losers of seven straight after a 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

In desperate need of a win before the All-Star Break, the Capitals kept Alex Ovechkin in the lineup delaying his one-game suspension and started Braden Holtby for the second consecutive night. Yet, the result was the same as they gave up six goals for the third straight game and for the fourth time during the current losing streak. Washington has been outscored 36-18 during the streak.

Here are four reasons the Caps lost.

Nazem Kadri

Kadri is always a thorn in the side of the Caps, most notably for his knee-on-knee hit on Alex Ovechkin in the playoffs back in 2017. He was again a pest against Washington with a hat trick for the Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

The Caps scored late in the first period, but Kadri scored with 26 seconds remaining to even the game at one. Kadri also extended Toronto’s lead to two goals for the first time at the 2:10 mark into the second period of a one-timer from the high slot. He completed the hat trick later in the third as William Nylander shot the puck, hit both posts and the puck went straight to the stick of Kardi who had an empty net yawning.

Washington has now given up a hat trick in three straight games and in four of their last five.

A quick response

A growing problem for Washington during this losing streak is allowing quick response goals. Nicklas Backstrom put the Caps on the board with less than 90 seconds remaining in the first period.

Great, Washington is headed to the locker room up 1-0, right? Not so fast.

Morgan Rielly dumped the puck and tried to pass it to the middle. Nylander kicked it back behind the net and the play should have been dead, but Michal Kempny tipped it back out to center and no one seemed to know where it was except Kadri who came streaking in and tapped it past Holtby to tie the game.

The goal came just 47 seconds after Backstrom put Washington on the board.

An untimely penalty

Ovechkin is doing just about everything he can to keep the Caps in this games and he scored again on Wednesday. But tonight's game really turned on an Ovechkin penalty in the second period.

Ovechkin was called for cross-checking Kaspari Kapanen about two minutes after Nikita Zaitsev tied the game at 2. At that point, Washington had never trailed in the game. They had yielded leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but overall were playing significantly better than they did on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks.

Auston Matthews would go on to score on the resulting power play. That would be the first of three unanswered goals for Toronto.

A rough penalty kill for John Carlson

The Leafs were able to cash in on the penalty kill because of a rough shift for defenseman John Carlson. With the puck on his stick behind the net, Carlson did not try clearing the puck around the boards. Instead, he turned up ice and fired it right to John Tavares. Tavares blocked the clear and kept the puck in. Later on in the shift, Matthews was skating in looking for a shot. Carlson dropped to a knee looking for the shot block, but he was too quick. Matthews curled it around a now helpless Carlson, then fired the puck through Holtby to give Toronto a lead they would not relinquish.


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Why a smiling Ovechkin was forced to leave Wednesday’s game briefly in the first period


Why a smiling Ovechkin was forced to leave Wednesday’s game briefly in the first period

A nasty collision between Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie resulted in Ovechkin getting pulled into the locker room in the first period of Wednesday’s Capitals game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Early in the first period, Oshie skated past Morgan Rielly attempting to chip the puck away from him along the boards. As he kept skating, he came directly into the path of Ovechkin and the two collided violently in the neutral zone. Oshie popped up quickly, but Ovechkin stayed down on the ice.

After a few nervous moments, Ovechkin got back onto his feet and was seen smiling on the bench and joking with Oshie about the hit. He also appeared to be grabbing his chest.

A few moments later, head athletic trainer Jason Serbus was seen talking to Ovechkin and Ovechkin got up off the bench and walked into the locker room.

It was later confirmed by the NBCSN broadcast that Ovechkin was pulled by the concussion spotter after it appeared Ovechkin’s face crashed directly into Oshie’s shoulder.

Concussion spotters are authorized to require a player’s removal from play in order to evaluate them for a concussion following a blow to the head. If the player passes all concussion tests and is deemed not to have suffered a concussion, he is able to return.

While it appeared Ovechkin was fine after the hit, the concussion spotter saw enough on the hit to believe Ovechkin needed to be evaluated. It may be an inconvenience, but could prevent players from remaining on the ice after suffering a concussion.

Luckily for the Caps, Ovechkin returned late in the first literally just in time for Washington’s first power play of the game. The Caps did score on the power play, though Ovechkin did not record a point on the play.