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.”
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.”
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