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Orpik Sticks it to Canes in Overtime

Caps defenseman takes advantage of stickless Canes defender in 4-3 overtime win to give Caps 2-0 series lead

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com

Brooks Orpik is not noted for his goal-scoring prowess, but the Caps defenseman netted a goal-scorer's goal at 1:48 of overtime late Saturday afternoon at Capital One Arena, giving the Caps a 4-3 win in Game 2 and a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Five seconds after he hopped off the bench and onto the ice for a personnel change in the second minute of the extra session, Orpik drove a hard one-timer to the top right corner of the net, eluding the glove hand of Canes goalie Petr Mrazek, and converting a sublime feed from Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was stationed behind the Carolina cage.

In 151 career Stanley Cup playoff games, Orpik has scored four goals. Three of them are game-winners, and two of those three have come in overtime.

"I thought he had a real strong first game," says Caps coach Todd Reirden of Orpik. "These are situations he is extremely comfortable in; he has played a lot of playoff games. You cannot put a price on experience in playoff hockey."

In Stanley Cup playoff hockey, the smallest of details are so important and can have an impact on the outcome of contest, and so it was with Orpik's game-winner. Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce - a right-handed shot - broke his stick, so Canes winger Teuvo Teravainen - a left-handed shot - gave his stick to Pesce. That left one Carolina defender without a stick and another with a wrong-handed twig, and Orpik and Evgeny Kuznetsov were able to process all that and exploit it.

Video: CAR@WSH, Gm2: Orpik rips one-timer for OT winner

"We had a great shift there in the offensive zone," recounts Orpik. "We kind of had them pinned in there. Somebody - I think it was Teravainen - didn't have a stick, and [Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen] came for a change. We stepped on, and it was the winger on my side who didn't have his stick. I saw Kuzy had full possession, so I just dove in there and he made a perfect pass."

"I didn't see him coming; I think he came from the bench," says Mrazek of the game-winner. "I got a piece of it, too. I thought it was enough, but it wasn't. I think I could have had that goal."

Orpik's goal ended a wild rollercoaster ride of a hockey game in which momentum frequently went back and forth from one side to the other, but also often hung there like a coconut on a tree, just waiting for one team or the other to grab it.

An old hockey adage holds that a team that doesn't cash in on a five-minute power play is likely to lose, and the Caps suffered that fate in the second period when they were unable to take advantage of a questionable match penalty to Canes winger Micheal Ferland for a hit to the head of Washington center Nic Dowd.

Another adage holds that the team that fails to score on a lengthy two-man advantage is destined to lose, and Carolina was unable to convert on a five-on-three power play of 67 seconds in duration, also in the second period. When adages collide, apparently overtime results.

"It's tough right now, obviously," says Canes coach Rod Brind'Amour. "But at the end of the day - well, [Sebastian Aho] has one goal - our top guys are not on the scoresheet. Theirs are.

"So right now, I feel pretty good that if we get those guys going - which they have all year - it will give us a better chance to win for sure. Because we're hanging around, and I don't think we're playing our best hockey. So I guess that's somewhat positive."

Washington was more assertive from the start of Game 2. The Caps had more of a forechecking presence and put some pressure on the net front on their first shift of Saturday's Game 2, as Tom Wilson got a shot on net from inside 10 feet away in game's first half minute.

On that line's next shift, it staked the Caps to a 1-0 lead. But that was after Alex Ovechkin made a strong backcheck as the only Capital back on a three-on-one Carolina rush, preventing a jailbreak situation for the Canes, and after he plastered Pesce into the corner boards in Washington's end.

Before going off for a change, Dmitry Orlov made a neat play at the Carolina line to feed Ovechkin, who carried down the right wing wall and pump-faked, all while Nicklas Backstrom was surreptitiously slipping behind Justin Faulk. Ovechkin fed Backstrom perfectly, and the Caps center had an easy tap-in for a 1-0 lead at 3:37 of the first.

Video: CAR@WSH, Gm2: Backstrom taps in Ovechkin's great feed

Breakouts were an issue for the Caps in Game 1, but they doubled their lead on a crisp Matt Niskanen breakout feed to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who gained Carolina ice and dished to T.J. Oshie. Oshie went to the net, used his left leg to shake off a Justin Williams backcheck attempt, went to his backhand, and flipped a shot past Canes goalie Petr Mrazek on the blocker side, making it a 2-0 game at 9:26.

The Caps killed off a pair of penalties in the back half of the first, but in between those successful shorthanded missions, Carolina's fourth line struck to halve the Washington lead. From the slot, Lucas Wallmark deflected a Jaccob Slavin shot from the half wall through Caps goalie Braden Holtby at 15:54. The Caps issued an unsuccessful coach's challenge on the play, but had to settle for a one-goal lead at the first intermission.

In Game 1, the Caps scored twice on the power play. In the second period of Saturday's game, Washington had a glorious opportunity to seize control of the contest when it spent slightly more than eight of those 20 minutes on the power play - including the match penalty on Ferland.

Carolina killed off all of Washington's power play time in the middle period, and the Caps answered in snuffing out Carolina's five-on-three opportunity for the equalizer.

The middle period was like a 20-minute jump ball for momentum, and neither team was able to fully grab hold of it, but the Canes were able to draw even late in the period when Aho pulled a bouncing puck off the back wall and tucked it between Holtby and the left pipe at 16:49, making it a 2-2 game.

Washington jumped back in front just ahead of the midpoint of the third when Ovechkin shook the puck loose with a hit in the Caps carried into Carolina ice with a full head of steam, surveyed, and then hit late-arriving Wilson with a tape-to-tape feed. From the top of the right circle, Wilson buried a wrist shot for a 3-2 Caps lead at 8:55.

With two terrific plays to set up goals on Saturday, and with Backstrom leading the Caps with three playoff goals, the two longest tenured Capitals have reversed roles early in the postseason.

"Right now, Backy is a scoring machine and I'm Backstrom," quips Ovechkin.

Video: Postgame Locker Room | April 13

When Dowd was sent off for hi-sticking Jordan Staal at 14:25, the Caps were tasked with yet another penalty killing mission. Washington killed off two Carolina power plays late in Game 1 to preser4ve a 3-2 lead but could not do so this time. Staal tipped Dougie Hamilton's center point shot past Holtby to tie the game at 3-3 with exactly five minutes left.

Mrazek made a strong stop on Wilson from in tight with less than two minutes remaining, and an even better one at the horn to deny John Carlson's bid for a buzzer-beating game-winner, setting the stage for overtime, and ultimately, Orpik's heroics.

"Brooksie does so much for all of us," says Caps winger T.J. Oshie, "on the ice, off the ice. He sets the tone physically out there for us, blocking shots, never complains about anything. Guys like that - leaders who don't score a ton of goals - when they come up in big moments for you, it's a little extra special and you get a little extra excited to go in and jump on him, rub your glove in his face, and give him a hug."

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