Photo: Geoff Burke

As Peter pointed out in the recap, Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen hadn’t scored since the first week of the season, a span of 115 days and 47 games. Sunday against the Flyers, Niskanen scored the game-winning goal.

It was random.

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Photo: Rob Carr

When the Capitals signed Mike Richards to a $1 million, one-year contract on January 6, Washington head coach Barry Trotz forecasted that the former Flyers and Kings forward would make his debut against the Anaheim Ducks on January 22 at Verizon Center. Richards hadn’t played since last April after having his contract voided by the Los Angeles Kings over the summer.

“There’s no assurances in anything, in life,” Trotz said at the time.

But after seeing Richards quickly get his legs under him and adapt to the Capitals’ system, Trotz had Richards debut almost a week earlier than planned when he skated on Washington’s fourth line on Saturday night in Buffalo.

“I probably went into this weekend thinking maybe in the seven-, eight-minute range,” Trotz said Sunday night, referring to Richards’s ice time. “Seven to eight minutes in the first game and seven to eight minutes in the second. Probably 10 at the high end.”

Despite a 4-1 Capitals loss, Richards was fantastic on Saturday, skating over 13 minutes, including a stellar three minutes spent penalty killing. One day later, Richards skated nearly 12 minutes against the New York Rangers. He spent another three minutes on Washington’s shorthanded unit, which was perfect in four opportunities.

“What you see is how competitive he is,” said Trotz. “You can skate all you want in practice, but when the game is happening there’s a fire inside that young man.”

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Photo: Jacquelyn Martin

Alex Ovechkin had a milestone night on Sunday in front of a home crowd and his friends and family. Ovechkin struck twice in Washington’s 7-1 trouncing of the Ottawa Senators, recording career goals 500 and 501 in thrilling fashion. The drama was not lost on Ovechkin, his teammates, or his head coach. Here’s some of what they said after the game.

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Photo: Washington Capitals

Earlier today, Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby were named to the 2016 All-Star Game roster, joining Alex Ovechkin, who was named Metropolitan Division Captain last weekend. This marks the first time since 1985 that the Capitals have had 3 players appointed to the All-Star Game at once.

The team was quick to react to the NHL’s choices. Nicklas has long been considered by Caps fans as All-Star material, but this will be his first time attending the All-Star game. His reaction was priceless.

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Our long national nightmare is over. After eight seasons of being ignored, Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom has finally been recognized as what he is: an all star and one of the game’s best players.

On Wednesday, the NHL announced that Backstrom along with goaltender Braden Holtby and head coach Barry Trotz will be joining Alex Ovechkin in Nashville for this year’s three-on-three tournament thing. Holtby hasn’t lost in regulation since December 10, 2015, while Trotz has led the Capitals to the league’s best record.

This will be both Holtby’s and Backstrom’s first all-star game appearance. Backstrom’s first nomination comes in his ninth season pro. Meanwhile, Trotz will coach the Metropolitan Division all stars.

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Photo: Jamie Sabau

The Capitals made it nearly halfway through the 2015-16 NHL season without suffering back-to-back loses, winning nine straight games in December. But with Brooks Orpik, John Carlson, and Jay Beagle missing from the lineup, the Caps dropped two games in a row against two of the league’s worst teams. The games were close, with Brandon Saad scoring with just over a minute left to send Saturday’s game against Columbus to a shootout after the Capitals almost came back against Carolina on Thursday. Still, the loses are disappointing for a team that desperately wants to raise the Stanley Cup this year.

“It’s going to have to be better, it’s that simple,” goalie Braden Holtby, who took just his sixth loss of the season against Columbus, said.

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As the Capitals finished off their ninth straight win on Wednesday, the sellout crowd roared in approval of the NHL’s best team. But 20 minutes later, there were only hushed gasps from the press corps as head coach Barry Trotz explained how costly Washington’s 28th had been.

Jay Beagle, who left the game with 5:52 left in the second period, will need upper-body surgery. Though Trotz refused to say what the injury was, the coach said Washington’s third line center, who has tallied six goals this season, will be out “for an extended period of time.” He is expected to be placed on injured reserve shortly.

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Photo: Kevin Hoffman

The Washington Capitals managed to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 at First Niagara Center despite missing their entire first defensive pairing in Brooks Orpik and John Carlson. While Orpik been out most of the year with a mystery lower-body injury, Carlson missed his first game in nearly six years after suffering a lower-body injury of his own against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night. Carlson played 25:11 that evening. On Monday, he was replaced in the lineup by prospect Connor Carrick.

Carlson, who ended a streak of 412 consecutive games, was just 10 games away from matching Bobby Carpenter’s franchise record of 422.

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Sportsnet recently released a well-produced five-minute video on the Washington Capitals, focusing on how the team has changed under head coach Barry Trotz. In the video, Trotz and star players talk about the broken and fragmented atmosphere left behind by (current Sportsnet analyst) Adam Oates two seasons ago.

“I think it was a big wake up call for a lot of guys who had been here before that we needed to change something in here,” Braden Holtby said. “The happy-go-lucky Caps weren’t going to cut it anymore.”

“[New management] came at the perfect time for us,” continued Holtby. “We had our ultimate lows as an organization.”

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Photo: Patrick McDermott

The Capitals have the best record in the National Hockey League. They are playing their most impressive hockey in years. On Saturday, after not skating for four days during the Christmas break, the Capitals pounced on the hobbled Montreal Canadians for their seventh straight victory, with Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jay Beagle, and Jason Chimera providing the scoring.

“I think it’s huge for us,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “I think with this team, we showed tonight, we don’t need everybody going. We have secondary scoring. It takes a lot of the pressure off some our top guys.”

One of those top guys, in fact, is Schmidt. Since Brooks Orpik went down with a lower body injury in early November, Schmidt has been called on to play on the top defensive pairing with John Carlson, one of the team’s stalwarts for the past five seasons. Against the Canadians, Schmidt tallied two assists, tying his career high in points and helpers.

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