Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik absorbed a wicked slash at the end of his team’s 3-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday night, a potentially dangerous play that soured a special night for the 37-year-old veteran. He had scored his first goal in more than two years to help the Capitals tie the series, but the slash — courtesy of Golden Knights center Erik Haula, who received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct — appeared to injure Orpik’s left pinkie.
He received stitches after the game and had his pinkie wrapped as he held court with reporters after the team’s optional skate Friday morning, in which he didn’t participate. He nonetheless shrugged off the injury and confirmed he will be ready for Game 3 on Saturday night. He also kept the mood somewhat light. At one point, a reporter asked Orpik about the hit and mistakenly identified it as coming from Vegas’s Alex Tuch — who, like Orpik, played at Boston College.
“It wasn’t Alex Tuch. It wasn’t a BC guy. It was a Minnesota guy,” Orpik said with a smirk without mentioning the name of Haula, who played at the University of Minnesota. “I don’t know. It’ll be fine for the game. Address it later on.”
Orpik’s first goal in 220 games gave his team a 3-1 lead and held up as the game-winning tally. It was a stunning score given that Orpik had put just 54 shots on goal during the regular season, and that he had scored just two goals in 145 career playoff games entering the night.
“I can’t remember if I celebrated, so I don’t know. It was obviously a big moment, so it was pretty exciting,” Orpik said of his second-period goal. “It’s probably not expected from the team. But you try to do other things that help the team win, and obviously you’re expected to do other things. But any time you can do something that you’re not really counted on, it’s an added bonus.”
‘Kind of so-so at home’
Wednesday night’s win in Game 2 was the just the latest crucial win on the road for the Capitals, who have a 9-3 road record during these playoffs. Washington won all three road games in the first round against Columbus. It clinched a second-round series win at Pittsburgh in Game 6, then followed with a win at Tampa Bay in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
But the Capitals’ performances at home have been another story. They are just 4-5 at Capital One Arena during the postseason, and there have been some ugly moments.
That includes falling into a 2-0 series deficit against the Blue Jackets, blowing a two-goal lead in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to Pittsburgh and suffering home losses in Games 3 and 4 against Tampa Bay in the conference finals. Washington did not win the first home game of any of its first three series, and while it responded with its back against the wall to win each of those, Saturday night’s Game 3 is a chance to reverse the narrative.
“For whatever reason, we’ve been a really good road team this spring and just kind of so-so at home,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “We’ll try to be a little better here for Game 3. I can’t put my finger on why that is. I love the road record, but we would like to be better at home here.”
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