by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com
Orpik scores in overtime, Ovechkin and Backstrom reverse roles, Caps win sixth straight playoff game for first time in franchise history, more
Get On The Stick – Brooks Orpik may not score a lot of goals, but he has certainly scored some big ones over the course of his lengthy NHL career. In Saturday’s Game 2 of the Caps’ first-round playoff series with the Carolina Hurricanes, Orpik hopped over the boards for his first shift of overtime, and five seconds later he leaned into a hard one-timer to the top right corner, giving the Caps a 4-3 victory and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The goal came at 1:48 of the extra session, and just five seconds after Orpik’s skates hit the ice. Orpik now has four goals in 151 career Stanley Cup playoff games, but three of them are game-winners, two were scored in overtime, and the first of the four – scored in his 78th career playoff game on May 11, 2013 – came in overtime and was a series clincher when Pittsburgh prevailed over the New York Islanders in a first-round series.
“It always feels good,” says Orpik, of supplying the game-winner. “I think when you get to this time of the year, I’m probably not counted on for too many goals. But if you want to have long runs, you need everybody chipping in and doing things they don’t normally do.”
Orpik and the Caps cashed in on Carolina’s misfortune on that shift. During Washington a rush up the ice, Canes defenseman Brett Pesce lost the handle on his stick in neutral ice while trying to slow up Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov. Left-handed winger Teuvo Teravainen handed off his own stick to the right-handed Pesce, and when Orpik came off the bench, he was on Teravainen’s side of the ice and was able to exploit his lack of a twig.
Orpik has picked up a point in three straight playoff games now. In addition to assisting on Nicklas Backstrom’s opening goal of this series in Thursday night’s Game 1 and supplying the game-winner in Game 2, he picked up the lone assist on Devante Smith-Pelly’s game-tying tally in the third period of Washington’s Cup-clinching contest in Vegas last June 7.
That matches the longest scoring streak of Orpik’s Stanley Cup playoff career. He had assists in three straight games back in May of 2009 while with Pittsburgh against the Capitals, picking up helpers in Games 5, 6 and 7.
Few players are as beloved and appreciated by their teammates as much as Orpik is, and there is no player the Caps would rather see score such an important goal.
“It means a lot to the group, and he means a lot to the group,” says Caps winger Tom Wilson. “There is really no better guy to score an overtime game-winner. We were pumped up, and he deserves it. Huge goal for us.”
Number Nine – Orpik is the ninth different player to supply the game-winning goal in Washington’s last nine overtime games in Stanley Cup playoff competition, a run that dates back to April 28, 2016.
Starting with T.J Oshie’s overtime winner against Pittsburgh in Game 1 of the second round series on that date – a goal that completed the hat trick for him – eight different players have followed him in generating that joyous outbreak in the extra session.
Tom Wilson (Game 1), Justin Williams (Game 5) and Marcus Johansson (Game 6) scored overtime winners for Washington in the team’s first-round series against Toronto in 2017. Kevin Shattenkirk scored the extra-session winner in Game 3 of the second-round series against Pittsburgh in 2017.
Last spring, the Caps got overtime game-winners from Lars Eller in Game 3 of their opening-round series with Columbus and from Nicklas Backstrom two games later. Evgeny Kuznetsov supplied the series-clinching game-winner in Game 6 of the Caps’ second-round set with Pittsburgh in 2018, and then Orpik turned the trick on Saturday against Carolina.
Orpik joins Rod Langway, Mike Green and Shattenkirk as the fourth defenseman in franchise history to score an overtime game-winner in the playoffs.
I’ll Be You – Two games into the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, we’ve seen a bit of a role reversal with Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, and we’ve seen both players playing at the top of their respective games, too. Backstrom leads the team with three goals, and Ovechkin picked up a pair of pretty primary helpers on Saturday, setting up both Backstrom and Tom Wilson.
Ovechkin has also played well defensively in the series; he made a trio of strong backchecking plays in Saturday’s game, and two of them resulted in Ovechkin-assisted goals just seconds later.
“We have to play both ways, it doesn’t matter who you are,” says Ovechkin. “It’s that time of year, and it works.”
“I think a lot of people and a lot of players out there expect him to shoot it all the time,” says Backstrom of Ovechkin. “When he comes like that and dishes the puck, he creates so much room for other guys, too. He’s not just a great goal scorer, he is a great set-up man, too. That’s something [where] maybe he is flying under the radar.
We Just Disagree – Both teams came out of Game 2 at least slightly miffed at officials’ calls that didn’t go their way. The Canes scored their first goal of the contest at 15:54 of the first, a Lucas Wallmark goal that came on a redirect from the slot. During the play, Carolina winger Saku Maenalanen brushed Caps goalie Braden Holtby – who was still in the crease – spurring Washington’s coaching staff to issue a coach’s challenge for goaltender interference.
Upon contact with Maenalanen, Holtby spun around and was not set when the shot came; it went through his legs. The play was similar to one the night before in the Vegas-San Jose game, in which the Sharks’ Logan Couture had a goal called off under fairly similar circumstances.
“It’s one of those plays where there have been some inconsistency with how things have been called,” says Holtby. “So we have tried to look at plays to see how to keep battling through things if there is interference or not, whether it’s your guy or their guy. One of those things is if a guy kind of clips you on your right side and takes your stick, we felt that if you spin off it, it’s the only way to still have a chance to stop the puck. If I would have stayed there, he would have dragged me across the crease. It’s one of those were you are a little too proactive, and they don’t see that.
“But it’s a tough job making those calls, too. Obviously personally, playing the position, you know that that’s interference. But there is a point in hockey where you’ve just got to battle through. I’m not going to complain about a call or a no call. I know that doing that is going to give me the best chance to stop that puck. So we’ll move on.”
In the second period, Carolina had a beef about a match penalty assessed to winger Micheal Ferland for a hit on Washington pivot Nic Dowd at 4:09, a hit the officials called a match penalty for a hit to the head. The Canes had to play the remainder of the game without Ferland, and were immediately tasked with a five-minute penalty killing situation, which came just after they successfully killed off a hooking minor on Ferland.
“I thought it was a good hit,” says Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour of Ferland’s hit. Originally it did look bad, when you first watch it live. But then you watch and you see it, I get to stare at it on a screen, and [Ferland] doesn’t hit [Dowd’s] head. It’s body contact; the first point of contact for sure was not the head. So that’s frustrating. We lose a player and have to kill a five-minute penalty. That gets frustrating for sure.”
A Six Pack To Go – For the first time in their franchise history, the Capitals have won six straight playoff games. They won the last four games of the Stanley Cup Final against Vegas last spring, and the first two contests of their first-round series with the Canes in 2019.
Washington won five straight playoff games in 2009, taking the last three games of its first-round set with the New York Rangers to rally from a 3-1 series deficit, and then winning the first two games of its second-round series with Pittsburgh.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears were at home on Saturday night, playing their penultimate game of the 76-game regular season schedule. The Bears prevailed 4-1 over the visiting Utica Comets at Giant Center.
With help from Lucas Johansen and Devante Smith-Pelly, Nathan Walker staked the Bears to a 1-0 lead with his 17th goal of the season at 14:32 of the first.
After Utica tied the game in the second, Hershey responded quickly to retake the lead on Jayson Megna’s 20th goal of the season, a power-play goal at 8:03 of the second. Mike Sgarbossa and Aaron Ness picked up the assists.
Midway through the third, the Bears went up 3-1 on Shane Gersich’s eighth goal of the season, Ness and Chris McCarthy assisting. Ness’ assist was his 50th of the season, tops among all AHL blueliners. In the game’s final minute, Johansen scored his third goal of the season into an empty net to account for the 4-1 final.
Vitek Vanecek made 31 saves in the game, improving to 21-10-6 on the season. The Bears finish the regular season on Sunday afternoon when they host the Hartford Wolf Pack. Hershey will open the Calder Cup playoffs on the road this Friday when it takes on the Sound Tigers in Bridgeport in the opener of a best-of-five series.
By The Numbers – John Carlson led the Caps with 28:01 in ice time … Carlson also led Washington with five shots on net, and he and Ovechkin tied for the team lead with eight shot attempts … Ovechkin led the caps with seven hits … Matt Niskanen and Oshie led the Capitals with three blocked shots each … Carolina won 39 of the game’s 62 face-offs (63 percent), led by Wallmark, who won 13 of 15 (87 percent) … Nic Dowd was the only Caps player to do better than 50 percent on the dot; he won four of six (67 percent).