Capitals top Devils on Orpik's late goal
Defenseman breaks tie by scoring with 3:58 remainingby Katie Brown / NHL.com Correspondent
WASHINGTON -- It took 13 NHL seasons and 798 regular-season games, but Brooks Orpik finally has a game-winning goal.
At first he wasn't sure if it was really his.
"There was so much traffic in front," Orpik said after his goal with 3:58 remaining in the third period gave the Washington Capitals a 4-3 victory against the New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center on Saturday. "I put it on net, I knew [Devils goaltender Cory] Schneider probably couldn't see it either. Either [T.J. Oshie] or [Alex Ovechkin] started celebrating, so I knew it was in."
Orpik, who missed more than three months with a lower-body injury before returning earlier this week, worked his way into the left circle, took a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov and one-timed it past Schneider for his second goal of the season, breaking a 3-3 tie. His other goal came on Oct. 10, also against New Jersey.
Video: NJD@WSH: Ovechkin nets his 38th goal of the season
As a stay-at-home defenseman, Orpik isn't known for his scoring prowess; this was his 15th career goal. However, the Capitals' system makes it easier for any defenseman to jump into the play. Orpik has three points in three games since his return.
"When you have defensemen [that] are aggressive against the walls and with the forwards that we have, we can make plays down low," said Orpik, who did score a series-clinching overtime goal for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. "You get rewarded sometimes when you find those holes, the way those guys can pass the puck."
The Capitals (43-10-4) have won three consecutive games and have points in 21 of their past 23 home games.
"Nobody really gets caught up in [streaks]," Orpik said. "We have the standings posted in the room so everybody's well aware of where we are in the standings but when it comes to streaks …. when you start worrying about stuff like that you start to lose focus on the process that you're trying to accomplish."
Video: NJD@WSH: Oshie ties the game on deflection
Oshie scored with 6:05 remaining to tie the game 3-3 after New Jersey's Reid Boucher's goal at 11:04 put New Jersey ahead for the third time.
Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov had goals for Washington, and Braden Holtby made 21 saves.
"I think we played terrible [in the] first period," Ovechkin said. "[Holtby] keeps us in the game and give us a chance to rebuild our game in the second, and that's what we did."
Forwards Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri had first-period goals for the Devils (29-24-7), who have lost three in a row. Schneider made 28 saves in his 50th start of the season and second in as many nights.
"I thought it was pretty competitive game either way," Devils coach John Hynes said. "I thought we had a couple of situations in the d-zone that weren't handled as sharply, as correctly as they needed to be, and they wound up in the back of our net."
Video: NJD@WSH: Palmieri scores from impossible angle
Zajac opened the scoring at 15:28 of the first period. Palmieri put the initial shot on net and Zajac knocked in the rebound with Holtby out of position for his ninth of the season.
Ovechkin tied the game at 17:02. Defenseman Dmitry Orlov sent a cross-ice pass to Ovechkin, who had time to settle the puck and beat Schneider from the left circle. Ovechkin leads the NHL with 38 goals and has 17 in his past 17 games. It was the 513th goal of his career, tying Jeremy Roenick for 37th on the NHL's all-time list.
Palmieri put the Devils back in front with 28 seconds remaining in the period. His sharp-angled shot from below the right circle squeezed between Holtby's right shoulder and the post. The goal was Palmieri's 22nd of the season.
Kuznetsov tied it at 9:16 of the second period. Schneider stopped Michael Latta's stuff attempt, but Kuznetsov buried the rebound for his 17th goal of the season. Kuznetsov has 23 points in his past 16 games and leads the Capitals in scoring with 60 points.
Boucher beat Holtby with a shot from the point for his fourth goal of the season to put New Jersey back in front.
Video: NJD@WSH: Kuznetsov's top shelf tally
But the Capitals turned up the offensive pressure and Oshie, playing his 500th NHL game, tied the game for the third time when his shot banked off the skates of two Devils defensemen and went past Schneider for his 17th goal of the season.
"That's a group character in this locker room," Ovechkin said. "Starts from our goaltending … everybody was all in in the third. We just have to be better in the first period and if not [for Holtby], it would be really hard to come back."
It was the first of four consecutive home games for the Capitals, who play the Arizona Coyotes on Monday.
The Devils, who lost 1-0 at home to the New York Islanders on Friday, are off until they host the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
"I think we have a chance to win any game," Hynes said. "We want to continue to win and be a competitive team. We didn't do that tonight, so there's nothing to be frustrated about. We've got to be better than what we were. We know what we need to fix, and that's what the process needs to be over the next couple days."