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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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Alex Ovechkin challenges Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin to shave while in isolation

Alex Ovechkin challenges Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin to shave while in isolation

While we all focus on social distancing and staying at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus, this difficult time has basically given us a license to take time off from shaving. 

Don't tell that to Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin, who has seemingly started a new shaving challenge on Instagram with his wife, Nastya (music NSFW). 

As Ovechkin goes for the clean shave with Nastya dancing by his side, the caption translates to him challenging fellow Russian hockey stars Ilya Kovalchuk and Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin. 

Neither player has considerable facial hair, but credit to Ovechkin finding another way to keep busy during isolation. Even if he's fraternizing with a Penguin. 

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With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 4

With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 4

While we wait for the NHL to hopefully resume its season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the 20 best wins of the Capitals' season so far. Mark Zaner, producer for Caps Faceoff Live and Caps Overtime Live, has watched every game. His rankings continue with No. 4, a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 16 that featured a bloodied Alex Ovechkin getting revenge against the Devils and Braden Holtby getting a fancy new hat. 

WHAT HAPPENED 

Ovechkin made his presence felt in the first period. He scored on a blistering one-timer during a 5-on-3 power play to get the Caps on the board first. Then with less than a minute remaining, after Nicklas Backstrom won an offensive zone draw, Ovechkin picked up the loose puck and fired a wrister that Louis Domingue never saw. 

  

Just 16 seconds in the second period, Ovechkin got some help. Lars Eller’s forecheck forced New Jersey into a turnover. Eller and Richard Panik eventually found Carl Hagelin in front of the net for the easy score. Hagelin’s goal came on Cory Schneider, who replaced Domingue at intermission. 

  

Despite being dead last in the Metro Division, the Devils didn’t roll over. Wayne Simmonds scored less than a minute after Hagelin’s goal. Blake Coleman scored shorthanded for his 19th of the season early in the third period to make it 3-2. 

Order was eventually restored. Jakub Vrana took advantage of a bad clearing attempt by Pavel Zacha and snuck one through Schneider. And at the 15:42 mark, the Capitals put the game away for good. Tom Wilson made one of the best passes of the season right to Ovechkin on the doorstep. Washington wins 5-2. 

  

MEMORABLE MOMENTS 

This was Ovechkin’s second hat trick of the season. It looked like it would be a rough night early on for the Captain. On one of his first shifts of the night, Ovechkin took a high stick from Miles Wood that drew blood. Ovi spent most of the period getting stitched up in the dressing room. He returned to the game just in time to score two goals in the final five minutes of the period. Don’t make Ovechkin angry, you won’t like him when he’s angry. 

  

Ilya Samsonov continued a brilliant stretch of games. He made one of the more remarkable saves of his young career. 

  

WHY IT WAS SIGNIFICANT 

Just five days earlier, the Caps hosted New Jersey and lost 5-1. It was arguably their worst game of the season. Washington didn’t take the Devils lightly in this contest and got a much needed two points with the All-Star break looming. 

Ovechkin scored career goals 687, 688 and 689. That put him one behind Mario Lemieux for 10th place on the all-time scoring list. He would jump Super Mario less than 48 hours later. 
 
WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT 

When throwing hats on the ice, fans usually just chuck cheap baseball caps and toques. This is the first time I can remember someone throwing a women’s fedora on the ice. 

  

Braden Holtby pulls off the look well. The whole incident begs the question: who wears a fedora to a hockey game? 

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