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Brooks Orpik scores first goal with Capitals

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Tom Wilson glided from behind the net and to the left faceoff circle, drawing four New Jersey Devils players to him. He fed Brooks Orpik, all alone in the middle. Orpik blasted a one-timer and was instantly covered by four players in red jerseys pulling him in for a hug.

“Willie made a great play,” Orpik said in the dressing room after the Capitals5-3 win. “He kind of held onto it for an extra second. He let the one guy kind of get out of position and open him up. He made the whole play. It was a pretty easy spot for me.”

Orpik’s description was subdued and analytical, telling of what he thought of his score. He was in the right place at the right time, and it gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead en route to a season-opening win. What was missing was that it was his first in a Capitals jersey.

The defenseman played 78 games for Washington last season and had a career-high 19 points, all assists. He’s not known for his offensive prowess, never scoring more than two goals in a season. Capitals wingers Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie, playing in their first game for Washington on Saturday, had better odds to score a first goal with their new team.

“It was a long time coming for sure,” winger Jason Chimera said. “He probably would have hoped it would have happened a little sooner for sure, but it was nice to see him get a goal. I think [Michael Latta] was trying to say he tipped it, but we were saying, ‘Don’t take it away from the guy.'”

Orpik spent most of training camp with injured center Nicklas Backstrom (hip), skating around cones before team practices as he recovered from a July wrist surgery. After not appearing in any exhibition games, he was activated off the injured non-roster list a couple hours before Saturday’s game. Earlier in the week, Orpik had groused about having to wear a small brace on his wrist that he said limited his range of motion. He estimated that he had practiced taking 100 shots on Friday.

“It actually isn’t too bad shooting,” Orpik said. “With the range of motion in shooting, you kind of want it locked in because it actually probably gives me more support. … I don’t put a lot of value into offensive numbers, but it’s always nice to help out when you can.”

Orpik said games “are just a step quicker than practice,” so after not playing in any since May, he felt rusty early on, joking that John Carlson made it easy on him in the game. Reflecting on his performance after, he said he felt better than he expected.

“I thought he was okay,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “You could tell that he hasn’t had a lot of game stuff, but he conditions himself so well that he managed it.”