- The Washington Times - Friday, December 2, 2016

Heading into the the period against the New York Islanders, the Washington Capitals found themselves in a tight 0-0 game. But by the end of it all, they dropped a 3-0 loss.

All three of the Islanders’ goals came within a five-minute span, completely draining the life out of the Capitals, who seemingly were getting the majority of the scoring chances.

But the first two goals were all generated from a similar cause: a Dmitry Orlov turnover. On the first goal, the defenseman fumbled the puck on the Islanders’ blue line before turning it over mid-ice to New York forward Casey Cizikas.

Cizikas then fed the puck to forward Shane Prince, who capitalized on an easy break-away opportunity.

Just over three minutes later, Orlov gathered the puck behind his own net. Instead of pushing the puck along the boards, he fed it directly into the front of the Capitals’ net on a waiting stick of Jonathan Tavares. Capitals’ goaltender Braden Holtby originally saved Tavares’ stuff attempt, but the puck bounced back towards forward Brock Nelson, who placed it in the net.

“I did two bad mistakes, and it cost our game,” Orlov said. “I don’t need to do that anymore.”

This is a trend that has haunted Orlov for the past couple of seasons. Last year, Orlov frequently would have some sort of miscue in the Capitals’ defensive zone, and it would then directly lead to goals from the opposition. Orlov was even a healthy scratch in the playoffs last season against the Pittsburgh Penguins following a misplayed puck that led to a Nick Bonino goal.

Orlov said that he believes he is improving on making the right decision with the puck in comparison from last year.

“I tried to do less mistakes,” Orlov said. “I try to play every moment like it’s different. If I see I can make a play, I will try to make a play. If not, try to chip it, you know, get it out of the zone. [Last night], I did not, and it cost a goal. I need to see the play again and try to not do this anymore.”

This season, Orlov has recorded 19 giveaways, the 40th-most among NHL players. That’s fewer than his defensive partner John Carlson, who has 26 of his own, teammate Matt Niskanen, who has 25 and the same as Nate Schmidt.

“We all make mistakes,” coach Barry Trotz said. “I think he knows when he makes mistakes. We made the mistakes, and it’ll be a ‘we’ thing. Sometimes they’ll end up in the back of your net, sometimes they don’t. It’s about the ‘we’ in that one.”

Following the second goal, Orlov took just two shifts in the final 13:17 minutes of the game, suggesting he may have been in the dog house following his two turnovers. But Orlov’s role has grown in comparison to last year. Now relied on as a top-4 defenseman, Orlov is averaging 2:05 minutes more per game than he did last season. He’s also seeing nearly a minute more per game on the power play. 

“I’m pretty happy with Orly for the most part all year,” Trotz said.

• Tommy Chalk can be reached at tchalk@washingtontimes.com.

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