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Matt Niskanen says Patrice Bergeron's hit wasn't dirty

Matt Niskanen says Patrice Bergeron's hit wasn't dirty

Matt Niskanen says he does not believe Patrice Bergeron’s hit was a dirty one and added that the Bruins center reached out to him via text message after Wednesday’s game.

“I appreciate that,” Niskanen said, referring to Bergeron’s text. “I have a lot of respect for him as a player.”  

In the first period of Washington’s 4-3 overtime win, Bergeron hit Niskanen from behind, sending the Capitals defenseman into the end boards headfirst. Niskanen did not return to the game. Bergeron, meanwhile, was assessed two minutes for boarding.

On Friday, Niskanen missed his first game since signing with Washington prior to the 2014 season, ending his streak of consecutive games played at 189.  

Niskanen returned to practice on Saturday and afterward said he did not believe Bergeron acted with malice. In fact, Niskanen believes his injury, which the team has only called upper body in nature, was likely caused by a confluence of events, including unfortunate timing.

“I don’t think it was that bad of a hit,” Niskanen said. “I didn’t think it was live, and even after watching it, I can see where that can happen.”

He added: “It was one of those where I lost my balance the wrong distance from boards. If I’m two feet closer to the boards, nothing happens. If I’m two feet further away, nothing happens. Those kinds of things happen. He’s not a viscous player. [Texting] was a classy thing for him to do. He didn’t have to that.”

Niskanen is in the NHL’s concussion protocol, though it’s unclear if he actually sustained a head injury. If he clears all of the mandated steps, it’s possible he’ll be cleared in time to suit up against the Canucks on Sunday.  

“He practiced well and said he felt pretty good, so we’ll what his status is tomorrow morning,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “There’s a protocol the NHL has for injuries and we’ll follow that protocol to a T. And that’s why we can’t give you an answer right now.”      

MORE CAPITALS: BARRY TROTZ PRAISES CAPS POWER PLAY AFTER WIN AGAINST SABRES

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Capitals survive 3-goal surge from Jets for shootout win

Capitals survive 3-goal surge from Jets for shootout win

WASHINGTON -- The Capitals saw a 3-0 lead evaporate, but still managed to earn the 4-3 shootout win on Tuesday, their second victory in as many games. On a night in which Alex Ovechkin was honored, he scored the first goal of the game and the shootout winner.

Here is how the Caps won.

701

Right after he was honored in a pregame ceremony for scoring his 700th goal, Ovechkin scored No. 701 less than two minutes into the game.

Evgeny Kuznetsov flashed some of his behind-the-net magic as he skated the puck behind the goal line, then abruptly spun and fed Ovechkin the puck. Ovechkin's first shot was blocked by Nathan Beaulieu, but he whacked the puck out of the air and behind goalie Laurent Brossoit for his 701st career goal.

This marked the second time in as many games Washington scored first, something that has been an issue of late.

Vrana's speed

Jakub Vrana scored a great goal on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins thanks to his speed and a great individual effort. He did it again on Tuesday launching himself on his own breakaway.

The Jets broke the puck into the offensive zone, but the rush was halted by the defense of Dmitry Orlov and the backcheck from T.J. Oshie. Jakub Vrana picked up the loose puck and zipped straight down the middle of the ice.

When Vrana grabbed the puck, there were two Jets between him and the net. By the team he reached the opposite blue line, there was only one Jet left who could catch him. Vrana managed one last burst of speed to turn the corner and get behind the defense, then score the breakaway goal to give Washington the 2-0 lead.

The bottom-six

The acquisition of Ilya Kovalchuk was meant to improve the offense of both lines in the bottom-six. Obviously he adds offense to the third line, but moving Richard Panik to the fourth should also provide that line with more of an offensive upside. For one game at least, the return on Kovalchuk was very good.

The third line looked tremendous with Kovalchuk skating on the right. The line had a number of dominant offensive zone shifts and was able to work the cycle really well to hem the Jets in their own zone.

Kovalchuk fired three shots on goal.

The fourth line, meanwhile, scored just its second goal in the year in 2020. The line picked up a turnover in the offensive zone off a great forechecking shift and Garnet Hathaway scored on a rebound off a shot by Nic Dowd.

Hathaway's goal was his first since Dec. 23 and he was assisted by Dowd and new linemate Panik.

Braden Holtby

Holtby had another strong performance in net ensuring the Caps could build on their early lead. The Jets fired 17 shots on goal in the second period alone and he stopped 16 of them. He finished the game with 30 saves and made an additional three stops in the shootout.

Physical play

The Caps pushed Winnipeg around in this one. Badly.

While the official hit total was pretty close (25-17), what the Caps lacked in quantity they made up for in quality. They laid a number of vicious hits on the Jets and they just did not have the muscle to match.

Dmitry Orlov in particular was in an ornery mood as he delivered two huge hits. One he delivered to Patrik Laine drew the ire of Andrew Copp. Copp went to defend his teammate and Tom Wilson decided to defend his. Copp qiuckly backed down and did not respond to a few jabs from Wilson or even a big hit from Wilson later in the shift.

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Monumental Sports' service pup Scout tries his talents on the ice

Monumental Sports' service pup Scout tries his talents on the ice

There are cute videos of dogs, and then there are cutie videos of dogs trying to ice skate.

Monumental Sports is helping raise a service-dog-in-training named Scout. The puppy will hang out with the Capitals (who have a dog of their own named Captain), Wizards and Mystics until he’s ready to graduate as a full-time service dog for America’s VetDogs.

Scout joined the Capitals on the ice for their pregame skate Tuesday night and tested his puck-handling skills while trying to figure out how to stay up on all fours.

Let’s just say he has a little work to do.

Luckily for Scout, he’ll have plenty of chances to practice as a frequent visitor of the Capitals’ facilities.

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