- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 13, 2019

Of all the players across several decades of Washington Capitals hockey who could ever score an overtime goal and win a playoff game, 38-year-old defenseman Brooks Orpik isn’t the first player to spring to mind. He might actually be last on that list.

But that’s why it’s playoff hockey. Anything can happen.

Orpik slapped in the game-winner 1:42 into overtime as the Capitals survived a threat from the Carolina Hurricanes, winning 4-3 on Saturday in Game 2 to take a 2-0 series lead in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson also scored for Washington. Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov notched two assists apiece and Braden Holtby saved 25 shots.

Oshie dropped a pass behind Carolina’s net to Kuznetsov, who let the play develop and picked out Orpik sprinting toward the left circle.

“If you’ve got him or Nicky with full possession that’s kind of a dream come true,” Orpik said. “(Teuvo) Teravainen was supposed to be covering me, but he had no stick so I just tried to take advantage of that situation.”

Orpik’s teammates mobbed him; the whole scene was reminiscent of the veteran breaking a 220-game goal drought during the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

“I thought it was awesome,” Oshie said. “Kuzy did a great job slowing the play down and letting someone get open from behind the net there. And Brooksy obviously stepped into that one, putting it right where he needed to to score the goal. Always fun seeing Brooksy score goals. Seems like he likes to do it in big moments for us.”

Although he’s only scored 18 goals in 16 NHL seasons and three more tallies in the playoffs, this was Orpik’s second straight playoff series with an overtime winner and his fourth time overall (regular season and postseason) scoring a game-winner.

It was the 10th game to require overtime in the Capitals‘ last 14 first-round playoff games, dating back to 2017.

It was also an especially physical game, with a wacky second period that featured five total penalties — including a 5-minute match penalty for Carolina’s Micheal Ferland — but no special teams goals.

For the second straight game, Backstrom opened scoring. With the Hurricanes‘ blueliners not defending aggressively, Ovechkin threaded a pass through them and Petr Mrazek’s back door was wide open for Backstrom to score.

Oshie followed that up for a quick 2-0 lead. He picked up his leg to kick away Justin Williams’ stick and drifted left of Mrazek to pop in a backhand goal.

“I’ve done it in the past. Usually it doesn’t really work out,” Oshie said of the stick kick. “Heat of the moment, it’s just my first reaction. Fortunately I was able to get the puck far enough to the weak side so we could set the post.”

Carolina eventually answered with a fourth-line goal by Lucas Wallmark. The Capitals challenged, looking for goalie interference, because Holtby was bumped from behind and spun around about 360 degrees. But the challenge failed.

Ferland was ejected in the second period for running into Nic Dowd while pursuing the puck and knocking him in the shoulder and head with his back. Dowd briefly left the game to be checked out, but returned.

Meanwhile, Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour sounded off on the officials.

“When you first watch it live, you’re like ‘Ooh, that,’” Brind’Amour said, “but then you watch it and you see it. I get to sit and stare at it on the screen. He doesn’t hit his head. His body contact — the first point of contact for sure was not the head.”

But the Hurricanes weren’t affected too much, as Washington’s power play suddenly hit the mud. The Capitals peppered Mrazek with 16 shots on goal in the middle period but failed to convert on their chances. Soon, Sebastian Aho squeezed in the tying goal between the right post and Holtby’s glove.

It wasn’t until the 8:55 mark of the third period that the Capitals‘ top line broke through yet again. Wilson came off the bench as the last man on a line shift, just as Ovechkin carried the puck into the O-zone. He found Wilson sprinting up-ice and made the key pass, and Wilson wristed it home to take the lead and give the crowd a much-desired jolt.

Washington’s penalty kill finally showed a crack and allowed its first power-play goal of the series with five minutes left in regulation. Dougie Hamilton shot from the blue line and Jordan Staal tipped it in traffic to get it past Holtby.

That one forced overtime, despite the Capitals‘ best efforts in the waning minutes. They forced Mrazek to make four saves in the final 2:20 of regulation, including an elite save to rob a close-range John Carlson shot with one second left.

The Capitals will take their 2-0 series advantage to Raleigh, North Carolina, for Game 3 Monday night on the Hurricanes‘ home ice.

“Today was better but still not where we can be,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “We’ll have some other situations systematically that we can improve as well. They’ve earned their opportunity to be here. They’ve been, I think, a really extremely hard-working, desperate team for months now to be able to get into the playoffs so they are hardened to it. It’s going to be difficult going into their building.”

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