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Matt Niskanen's second career two-goal game helps Caps sink Isles

Matt Niskanen's second career two-goal game helps Caps sink Isles

Matt Niskanen came into the season hoping to contribute more offensively. And through his first 26 games, the Capitals defenseman had done a decent job of chipping in here and there.

But he hadn’t scored a goal. That is, until Tuesday night in Brooklyn, where he began making up for lost time by scoring twice to lift the Caps to a 4-2 victory over the Islanders.

The two tallies marked Niskanen’s first multi-goal performance in 191 games as a Capital and the second multi-goal game he’s produced in 682 NHL games. His only other two-goal game came as a member of the Penguins in 2013-14, which was the year he scored a career-best 10 goals.

Niskanen now has three points in the last two games, marking his most productive stretch of the season.

“It feels good,” he told reporters at Barclays Center. “It’s nice to see the puck go in. On that first one, it might have been the best chance I’ve had this year, so I’m glad that one went in at least.”

RELATED: Niskanen scores twice to give Caps their fifth straight win

Indeed, Niskanen’s first goal of the night was a big one.

Just 1:34 into the third period, he took a feed from Dmitry Orlov and, from the circle, picked his spot and ripped a wrist shot over Jaroslav Halak’s glove. And like that, the Caps were back up 3-2.

Niskanen’s second goal put the game on ice. With a 1:58 left to play, he fired a slap shot past a screened Halak, whose sightline was obscured by Justin Williams, T.J. Oshie and an Islanders defender.

“Matt is known more for his shutdown role. So, any time you get a couple of goals, I think that’s a feather in his play,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “The guys were excited. They were trying to get him a third one.”

Niskanen's second goal came his sixth shot of the game. No one else, on either team, had more than four.

Asked about his preseason comments about producing more offense, Niskanen said he doesn’t measure his success in that area solely by goals.

“My goal is to keep putting myself in that position, so I’m getting opportunities,” he said. “As a defenseman, you’re going to have a string of luck. I did tonight. Then you may go have another dry spell. So, just keep putting myself in the position to support the forwards on the rush, in the offensive zone and try to create by shooting the puck.”

Niskanen also addressed the Caps’ five-game winning streak, which matches their longest of the season.

“At that the start of this thing we weren’t too happy with the way we were playing. Guys were having meetings and coaches were pissed and all this,” he said. “And we still had a pretty good record. It’s better to fix things when you still have a good record; it’s a little bit easier. Each game we’re playing a little bit better, a little bit better. I thought we generated a lot tonight, a lot of shots, obviously, had the puck a ton.”

He added: “Our game is coming, and that’s a good thing.”

MORE CAPITALS: Islanders center takes skate blade to arm

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Alex Ovechkin teaching his son hockey might be the most adorable thing ever

Alex Ovechkin teaching his son hockey might be the most adorable thing ever

The Capitals had an off day on Sunday ahead of their Monday matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets, giving the opportunity for Alex Ovechkin to spend some time with his son.

Sergei and his dad came across a baby hockey stick and Ovechkin decided to teach his son a few moves.

The 2035 NHL mock drafts have yet to be released, but we have an early pick for No. 1…

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Backstrom's back: Caps will get their top center back for Monday's game

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Backstrom's back: Caps will get their top center back for Monday's game

ARLINGTON, Va -- The Capitals are riding a six-game win streak and already have the most points in the NHL and now they will be adding one of their best players back into the lineup. Nicklas Backstrom said Sunday after practice that he is "ready to go" for Monday's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. It will be his first game since Nov. 18.

An upper-body injury forced Backstrom out of the lineup for the last eight games. Despite returning to practice during the team's road trip through California, he did not get into a game as the team preached caution with its star center. As the team returned home, Backstrom took line rushes on Sunday and both he and head coach Todd Reirden confirmed he would be back in for Monday's game.

"It was good to see him out there in full practice," Reirden said. "Did some drills specifically to help prepare him for tomorrow. He's good to go for tomorrow."

Backstrom said he knew when he woke up on Sunday that he was ready.

"As of today I'm good to go," he said. "I woke up and felt good. It's like that guy in 'Mighty Ducks,' I woke up, no pain."

It does not appear as if Backstrom will be eased back into the lineup as he skated on the top line in practice alongside Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson. Evgeny Kuznetsov had been playing in that spot, but the top line had grown stagnant. Ovechkin, Wilson and Kuznetsov combined for only one even-strength point in the past three games.

Barring something unexpected, the return of Backstrom should give the Caps their full lineup for the first time all season. Considering what the team has been able to accomplish thus far while having to shuffle the lineup because of injuries and suspensions, this has been an impressive start.

"I think that shows the depth that we have all the way through our lineup: forward, defenseman and our goaltending has been strong," Reirden said. "I think it's a clear understanding that it's a competitive situation that we've had since training camp that players are ready to take advantage of their opportunities that they get and they know that they need to otherwise there's a chance they could find themselves on the outside. The inner-competition we've had has probably helped push that a little bit. That's been a good problem to have, and it's allowed us to see some other players get opportunities and showcase some of the abilities they have."

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