Hockey is a team sports and rarely fans, players and management are quick to point the finger to just one player to blame. It's just not how team sports work... However, there was no arguing with Washington Capitals veteran defenseman Matt Niskanen last night. The defender was not budging during his sad post-game media scrum, and shouldered the burden of Saturday’s 3-2 loss, putting the blame squarely on his shoulders for all three of Tampa Bay Lightning’s goals.
“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,” a dejected Niskanen told reporters, referencing the Lightning’s quick goal just 19 seconds into the start of the game. “First three goals are all my fault. I had a tough first 20 minutes and 30 seconds. So I’ve got to be better next game.”
Of course, the rest of the Capitals roster refused to have him take all the blame, stating the classic response that last night's contest was a team loss, however, Niskanen was having none of it. In 19:44 of ice time, Niskanen was a -2 on the night, despite the fact that Washington came very close to tying things up in the last minutes of the third period to push the game into do or die overtime.
At least, Niskanen seemed somewhat hopeful at the end of his post-game media scrum.
“A lot of people counted us out when we were down 0-2 in the first round [against Columbus]. Things got hard in the last series [against Pittsburgh], where we could’ve melted, and we just kept playing,” Niskanen added. “So that’s what we’ve got to do again. Bring our best effort for Game 6 at home, win a game, and then we’ll go from there.”
“Obviously, best of three, we said it before the game and we just have to win two games. Our goal is to come back here and play a Game 7," said Caps captain Alex Ovechkin after the loss.
Now on the brink of elimination, the Capitals, and especially Niskanen, will have to forget about this Game 5 disaster and focus on the next two games they have no choice but to win to move forward to the Stanley Cup finals.