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Matt Niskanen scores twice to give the Caps their fifth straight win

Matt Niskanen scores twice to give the Caps their fifth straight win

The Caps won their fifth straight game on Tuesday as Matt Niskanen scored the game-winner and the insurance tally in a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders.

How it happened: The Islanders struck first in the first period thanks to a bad line change by the Caps. There appeared to be some confusion on the bench over who should be on the ice and Nelson took advantage of all the room he found in front of him, teeing up a beautiful wrist shot to the top shelf. Brett Connolly responded in the second period. Lars Eller did the dirty work with a physical breakout and Connolly deflected in the centering pass. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana teamed up on the power play later in the second to set up Justin Williams to give the Caps the lead, but the Islanders tied the game up as Nikolay Kulemin deflected a Nick Leddy slap shot past Holtby.

The third period turned into the Matt Niskanen show as he scored twice in the final frame to give the Caps the 4-2 win.

What it means: Tuesday's win was Washington's fifth straight, tied for the longest win streak of the season. The Caps have now improved their record within the Metropolitan Division to 3-4-2 on the season. Washington has earned points in 11 of their last 12 games against the Islanders (8-1-3) and in seven straight road games on the Island (5-0-2).

Scary moment: Islanders forward Casey Cizikas was rushed off the ice early in the first period after taking a skate to the arm. Just one minute into the game Cizikas was on the forecheck against Nicklas Backstrom when he fell to the ice. His momentum carried him along the boards into a scrum where it appears teammate Anders Lee stepped on his left arm (watch the replay here). As Cizikas was rushed to the locker room, he held a towel wrapped tightly around the arm. Proving hockey players are different from normal people, however, Cizikas actually returned to the bench later in the first period and resumed playing.

You shall not pass: Braden Holtby let in two goals on the night, but he slammed the door shut on the Islanders in the third period with three phenomenal saves including a juggling catch right on the goal line. Eleven of Holtby's 25 saves came in the final frame as he protected the Caps' lead.

Nisky business: Niskanen entered Tuesday's game with no goals this season. With his two goals on the night, he now leads the team's defensemen in goals.

Third line’s the charm: The Caps' third line of Connolly, Eller and Vrana combined for four points on the night. Connolly scored his third goal of the season to first get the Caps on the board. Eller played what was his best game as a Cap and Vrana earned the first two assists of his NHL career. Andre Burakovsky, meanwhile, was a healthy scratch for the first time this season.

Hot and cold: With his second-period assist on Vrana's goal, Kuznetsov extended his point streak to five games. Of his 15 points this season, six of them have now come in the past five games. Islanders star John Tavares, meanwhile, saw his five-game point streak snapped as the Caps managed to keep him off the scoresheet.

Look ahead: The Caps wrap up their brief two-game road swing on Friday in Carolina against the Hurricanes. Then it’s a quick turnaround as they host Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

las_vegas-sign-no_caps-stanley_cup_final.jpg
Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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