The Capitals first pairing, consisting of Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen, were on the ice for every goal the Lightning scored in Tampa Bay’s 3-2 Game Five victory.
In terms of possession, the pair has been the Caps’ best in the 2018 postseason despite playing against other teams’ best players. Orlov, at five-on-five, owns a 53.1 shot attempts percentage while Niskanen is 51.1 percent. They own an even goals-for percentage (50 percent).
But during the first period, the first pairing was dominated and after the game, Niskanen took the blame.
"I've gotta be better next game."
Matt Niskanen says every Lightning goal in Game 5 was his fault. pic.twitter.com/8D9tlO8Eqt
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 20, 2018
“The first three goals are all my fault,” Niskanen said. “I had a tough first 20 minutes and 30 seconds, so I’ve got to be better next game.”
Cedric Paquette scored first, 19 seconds into the game. Niskanen went for a poke-check and missed.
“It’s pinballing around in the neutral zone there. I stepped up, didn’t get the man or the puck, they got a 2-on-1 out of it and scored,” Niskanen said.
Nearly nine minutes later, Ondrej Palat scored after a controversial no-call on Steven Stamkos. Niskanen went down to one knee, attempting to block the shot. He missed and potentially screened Braden Holtby in the process.
On Ryan Callahan’s second period tally, Anton Stralman went wide on Nisky and the Lightning defenseman took the puck all the way in on Holtby. Callahan would eventually deflect the bouncing puck into the net with his body.
“He is a straight up guy,” Caps head coach Barry Trotz said of Niskanen. “But we win and lose as a team. It’s not one guy. I appreciate the thought, but there are 20 guys and myself and the coaching staff who are all responsible for losing. We’ll take the blame together.”
“I think that’s Matt just being a real professional and a real leader for our team,” Braden Holtby added.
Niskanen’s focus, however, has now turned for Game Six, where he hopes the Capitals can overcome adversity again.
“A lot of people counted us out when we were down 0-2 in the first round. Things got hard in the last series, where we could’ve melted, and we just kept playing,” Niskanen said. “So that’s what we’ve got to do again. Bring our best effort for Game Six at home, win a game, and then we’ll go from there.”
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