The Washington Capitals, down 1-0 to Pittsburgh in Game 6, had been without Brooks Orpik before. But never like this — with Orpik relegated to the penalty box for high-sticking Patric Hornqvist and drawing blood, Karl Alzner across the ice from him glued to the Capitals’ bench with a groin injury, and a four-minute Penguins power play to kill.
Pittsburgh scored twice in less than a minute to take a 3-0 lead, and after the game, Washington Coach Barry Trotz would point to that moment when asked, “What went wrong?”
“Well obviously, I thought when we took the double penalty,” Trotz started. “I knew in the first it was gonna be tough because they came out with a real good push and obviously we fell behind, we took the double minor, they scored on two, you’re sitting in a 3-nothing hole. It just said a lot about our team having the fortitude to stick with it and come back.”
The Capitals did pull even in the third period only to lose 4-3 in overtime, but Orpik’s double minor penalty will be remembered as a costly one in a series that many Washington players said Thursday came down to a few unlucky breaks. Orpik’s three-game suspension for interference on Pittsburgh’s Olli Maatta had also cost the team, as they lost two of the games he missed, falling into a 3-1 series deficit.
“It’s 1-0 and we’re in a pretty good spot there,” Orpik said of his double minor on Washington’s breakdown day. “Our penalty kill had been really good all year, and especially in the playoffs. I think against a power play that good, you’re asking for trouble the more penalties you take. Really, it’s frustrating. I don’t even think you get upset about it. I think even watching when it happened, I didn’t know what happened.
“Then you watch the replay and it’s probably even more frustrating because I think he was trying to trip me or hook me and you just kind of lose balance and I guess the rule is you have to be responsible for your stick. But when you’re falling down, that’s kind of tough. So off a penalty like that, it’s probably as frustrating being in the box for shooting a puck over the glass like they were. There was some odd calls, to say the least.”
Washington’s penalty kill had been excellent all postseason and entered Tuesday’s game having killed 15 of 16 Pittsburgh power plays. But having just four blue-liners to kill a full four minutes at Consol Energy Center without Alzner, the Capitals’ best penalty killer, was too large a task. Washington was desperate enough to deploy Dmity Orlov, who played just 11 minutes 21 seconds of shorthanded ice time during the regular season.
It was one too many moments that, to quote Orpik’s summation of the Eastern Conference semifinals, “didn’t go as planned.”
“I don’t know about the last game, but this series as a whole obviously didn’t go as planned,” Orpik said Thursday. “It’s just something, it’s obviously really frustrating. You’ve just got to learn from it. Can’t change what happened.”
“I think when you look at the series as a whole, the four losses we had, two were in overtime and the other two were by one goal. Obviously, the margin for error wasn’t very great. If the two teams played another series, I really think it was anyone’s series. The two teams were really evenly matched, but obviously when you don’t get the outcome you’re looking for, you’re frustrated.”