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First Round

Orpik inspirational hero for Capitals in Game 2 win against Hurricanes

Steady defenseman's contributions go beyond OT goal

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals would have been happy regardless who scored the overtime goal for them Saturday.

But there was something special to them about seeing defenseman Brooks Orpik score 1:48 into sudden death to give them a 4-3 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at Capital One Arena.

Their enthusiasm in mobbing Orpik after his goal was as much about them being happy to see an unheralded leader be rewarded as it was about taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series, which shifts to Carolina's PNC Arena for Game 3 on Monday (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVAS2, FS-CR, NBCSWA).

 

[RELATED: Capitals extend lead in Eastern Series with win in Game 2 | Complete Capitals vs. Hurricanes series coverage]

 

"First of all, he's a terrific guy," Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. "He's like a dad in the locker room to everybody, very professional guy. It's a guy you love to have on your team, but you hate to play against. It feels good to have him on the team. I'm so happy for him that he scored this OT goal. 

"If anyone deserves it, I'd say it's him."

Orpik (38 years, 199 days) is the oldest defenseman in NHL history to score an overtime goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, surpassing Keith Carney (38 years, 68 days) of the Minnesota Wild against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 2 of the 2008 Conference Quarterfinals.

And maybe it shouldn't have been surprising that Oprik was the overtime hero. He's scored four goals in 151 playoff games in his 16 NHL seasons and three of them have been game-winners, including two in overtime.

Consider that Alex Ovechkin, who has scored a Capitals-record 62 goals in his career in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, has never scored a postseason overtime goal.

"It feels good in regular season and obviously feels even better at this point in the year," Orpik said. "But I'll be honest with you, I don't really care who scores the goal as long as we're finding ways to move on."

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

The Capitals are halfway to doing that thanks to Orpik. 

He also played a big role in Washington's 4-2 win in Game 1 against Carolina. 

His game-high seven hits helped set the physical tone and he helped kill off two Hurricanes power plays in the final 8:46 when the Capitals were clinging to a 3-2 lead.

"Come playoff time, you realize why that kind of game is so important," Capitals goalie Braden Holtby said. "The way he plays, how hard he plays, how hard he makes it, it would be tough to play that way all year, but in the playoffs you can tell no one's getting by him. He's leaving a mark on everyone, and that wears on a team through a series. That's how important he is on the ice. 

"And his leadership and his drive and mentality make everyone around him better. That's why we're a better team with Brooks Orpik."

Orpik's leadership was invaluable during their run to the Stanley Cup last season. He was their only player who had previously won the Cup, when he did it with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009.

"Guys like that, leaders that don't score a ton of goals, they come up in big moments for you," forward T.J. Oshie said. "It's a little extra special and you get a little extra excited to go and jump on him and rub your glove in his face and give him a hug."

The Capitals had a similar reaction when Orpik scored in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights last season. That goal ended his 220-game goal drought, including the regular season and playoffs, dating back to Feb. 26, 2016, and turned out to be the winner in a 3-2 victory that evened the series.

Orpik's previous playoff overtime winner, which came on a slap shot from the left point, gave Pittsburgh a series-clinching 4-3 win against the New York Islanders in Game 6 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

"Clinched the series," Orpik said. "I remember that one. Yeah."

A stay-at-home defenseman, Orpik does a lot of the grunt work in front of the net, in the corners and on the penalty kill. It wasn't surprising when coach Todd Reirden sent Orpik out to help kill the Hurricanes' 5-on-3 power play for 1:07 in the second period.

Video: Capitals strike in OT to grab 2-0 series lead

Orpik has never been much of a goal scorer. He scored two goals total in his three seasons at Boston College and his three goals in 41 games with the Capitals in 2015-16 represent his NHL regular-season career-high.

But Orpik showed some good offensive instincts on his overtime goal Saturday, beginning with recognizing that Hurricanes forward Teuvo Teravainen didn't have a stick after giving it to defenseman Brett Pesce, who had lost his. Seeing an opportunity, Orpik moved down from the left point into the circle to take Evgeny Kuznetsov's pass from behind the net and one-time it in over goalie Petr Mrazek's left shoulder.

"If you've got [Kuznetsov] or [Backstrom] with full possession that's kind of a dream come true," Orpik said. "Teravainen was supposed to be covering me, but he had no stick, so I just try to take advantage of that situation."

Orpik wasn't sure if he got all of his one-timer, but said, "I put it where I wanted to."

"He gets himself to a great spot and obviously it's a phenomenal shot," Reirden said. "That's what the playoffs all come down to. It's getting scoring from different sources and your leaders coming through in big times."

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