Carolina Hurricanes vs. Washington Capitals
Series: Capitals lead, 2-0 | Next game: Monday, 7 p.m. ET, PNC Arena | TV: CNBC
• Game 2 recap: The Hurricanes wouldn't fade, but Brooks Orpik finally gave the Capitals a 2-0 series win with his OT goal. Read more
• Statistical stars: Nicklas Backstrom remains a central component of the Capitals' latest playoff push. Read more
• Game highlights: The Hurricanes knotted the score at 3 with a power-play tally with five minutes left in regulation, but Brooks Orpik gave the Capitals an OT win. Read more
• Postgame reading: Catch up on all The Post's coverage of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Read more
Final score: Capitals 4, Hurricanes 3 (OT)
Orpik’s OT goal sends Capitals south up 2-0 on Hurricanes
by Samantha Pell
Flying off the bench on a line change early in overtime, Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik found himself all alone at the left faceoff circle. Few noticed his arrival there, but Evgeny Kuznetsov spotted him from behind the net and sent a perfect pass to his stick. Orpik, a 15-year veteran with just three career playoff goals before Saturday, beat Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek to secure a 4-3 win at Capital One Arena and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Orpik, who admitted after the game that he “probably wasn’t counted on for too many goals” in the postseason, became the Capitals’ unexpected hero as the series shifts to Raleigh, N.C., for Game 3 on Monday.
“If you asked anyone on our team who you would be the happiest to see score an overtime goal, it’s probably Brooks Orpik,” goaltender Braden Holtby said. “It’s exciting. It’s a big moment. All his hard work and everything, it pays off in wins like that.”
His previous playoff goal? That would be the winner in Game 2 of last season’s Stanley Cup finals against the Vegas Golden Knights. Orpik, who has a whopping 18 regular season goals in his NHL career, is one of 11 defensemen with at least two overtime goals in the playoffs; he also scored one for the Pittsburgh Penguins to beat the New York Islanders in 2013.
In a game full of momentum swings and uncanny special teams play, the Capitals struck last to seize control of the series. In last season’s first-round playoff series, Washington found itself down 2-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets. This year, the Capitals have the advantage — thanks to an unlikely player and the strong postseason play of captain Alex Ovechkin and forward Nicklas Backstrom.
“We played hard to the finish; they played a good game, too,” Holtby said. “It was just a good playoff hockey game. They’re fun to play. I wouldn’t expect anything else in Game 3.”
The tone of the game was up and down from the start, with the Capitals jumping out to a 2-0 lead for the second straight game. The Hurricanes didn’t go away, however, and equalized with five minutes left in regulation when center Jordan Staal beat Holtby with Carolina on a power play.
Washington had its chances against Mrazek in the waning minutes of the third, but Mrazek saved a flurry of shots, including one each from Tom Wilson and John Carlson.
Wilson’s goal 8:55 into the third period snapped a 2-2 tie, and he appeared set to be the Game 2 hero before Staal changed the narrative. The Capitals were unfazed.
“It’s the response of an experienced team,” Capitals Coach Todd Reirden said. “No panic. No panic. . . . We’re going to get back on our toes here and play the right way and give ourselves a chance to have success, and that’s I think a strong showing by our team. I’m not surprised based upon what we were able to accomplish in the past that way.”
The second period set the stage for the drama to follow. The Capitals opened the frame with two failed power plays, with the more telling of the two a five-minute man-advantage after a major match penalty was assessed to Carolina forward Micheal Ferland for his illegal check to the head of center Nic Dowd 4:09 into the second period.
Dowd had to go down the tunnel and into the Capitals’ dressing room after the hit, but he returned to the bench shortly after.
After the Capitals’ power play produced two goals in Game 1, the unit struggled Saturday.
“I think today was a tough game,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter we got the lead 2-0; it was a tough game. We have too much chances in the second period, especially on the power play.”
However, the Capitals’ penalty-kill unit was formidable early, fending off 1:07 of five-on-three play by Carolina 9:11 into the second period before Carolina forward Sebastian Aho was able to sneak one past Holtby at even strength with 3:11 to play in the second period to knot the game at 2.
Ovechkin and Backstrom connected for the game’s first goal 3:37 into the first when the captain put a pass on Backstrom’s stick right on the doorstep of the crease and Backstrom beat Mrazek. T.J. Oshie tacked on the Capitals’ second goal nearly six minutes later with a smooth backhand shot.
“We’ve done a great job at the start of games of getting momentum on our side, especially with the crowd behind us out there, making noise for us,” Oshie said.
1. Nicklas Backstrom: Goal and an assist, three scoring chances
2. Tom Wilson: Goal, three scoring chances, one rebound attempt
3. Jaccob Slavin: Two assists, four shot attempts and three scoring chances
Washington’s top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Wilson tortured Carolina all game. The trio accounted for two of the team’s three goals in addition to a 6-to-3 scoring chance advantage at even strength, with four of those attempts occurring in the slot, a high-danger area.
Orpik also got redemption with the game winner in overtime (not a typo). Prior to that he was on the ice for a team-high 12 scoring chances against at even strength and three more on the penalty kill, giving him one of Washington’s lowest game scores -- an all-in-one number designed to take into account everything a player does on the ice -- of the night.
Low game score aside, his goal gave Washington a lot of optimism for the rest of this series. According to WhoWins, teams with home-ice advantage in the first round like the Capitals who take a 2-0 lead go on to win the series 88 percent of the time (77-11 all-time series record).
OT = Orpik Time: Brooks Orpik (he of the very few goals in the very many games) gave the Capitals the win in the early minutes of Game 2′s first overtime with a one-timer off a feed from behind the Hurricanes’ net from Evgeny Kuznetsov. No one expected that sequence, but now Capitals fan would turn it down. More to come after the locker room scrums.
End of regulation: Capitals 3, Hurricanes 3: Washington boasts of its ability to create quality shots but for the second straight game they are trailing Carolina in even-strength scoring chances, 23 to 14, at the end of regulation. Six different skaters have created at least two scoring chances for Carolina — Washington has four skaters with that many or more — and Jordan Staal leads the team with six, including a third-period equalizer that eventually sent the game into overtime.
Opportunities in the high-danger areas are much closer. The Capitals have created seven by seven different skaters and the Hurricanes have eight, with Staal, McGinn and Wallmark each contributing two. The Niederreiter-Aho-Williams line, however, has struggled: they have been on the ice for three high-danger chances against at even strength with none created.
More hockey ahead: The Capitals and Hurricanes are going to overtime, something Washington tends to do a lot in the playoffs. The team played five overtime games last postseason, including four times in the first round. Carolina goaltender Petr Mrazek had to come up with some pretty impressive stops late in the third period to keep this tied, robbing both Tom Wilson and John Carlson.
Canes knot it late: The Hurricanes have tied it again. Capitals center Nic Dowd was called for his second high-sticking minor of the game, putting Carolina on the power play with less than six minutes left in regulation. Dougie Hamilton’s point shot deflected off Jordan Staal and past goaltender Braden Holtby. That’s the second straight game Washington has taken a penalty late in the game, and after the Capitals killed the Hurricanes’ first seven man-advantages, Carolina was due.
Wilson scores off Ovechkin assist: The Capitals’ top line has come through once again. Washington’s skilled players have struggled on the power play this afternoon, but they’ve been awfully effective at five-on-five. On a rush into Carolina’s zone, Alex Ovechkin found Tom Wilson coming in late, all alone at the right faceoff circle. Wilson’s goal has lifted the Capitals to a 3-2 lead in the third period, but the bigger story might be Ovechkin’s playmaking today. That’s his second primary assist, and both have been beauties.
End of second period: Capitals 2, Hurricanes 2 | The Capitals’ power play hasn’t been able to get many clean entries into the zone, leading to futility on all three opportunities with the man advantage. Ovechkin has three shots on net, Carlson has two with Backstrom, Eller, Niskanen and Oshie putting one each on net — low production from a power-play unit that finished the regular season with the eighth-highest shot attempt rate per 60 minutes this season.
Ferland’s hit on Dowd gave Washington an all-you-can-eat five-minute power play but Carolina’s penalty killers, including goaltender Petr Mrazek, made sure the Capitals came up empty-handed: Washington mustered three scoring chances, just one from the slot, on that sequence. Carolina also blocked three shots and Mrazek turned away all seven pucks put on net.
The power play has been integral to Washington’s success this season. They were 28-8-4 during the 2018-19 regular season when scoring at least one power-play goal and 20-18-4 in games where they didn’t have any. During the Stanley Cup run they were 13-3 in games with at least one power play goal and 3-5 in the others.
Canes tie it up: This game is finally back to even-strength, and the Hurricanes have tied it. Justin Williams’s shot went wide off the end boards and rebounded right to Sebastian Aho at the side of the net. He jammed it past goaltender Braden Holtby, who’s been dinged for two funky goals today. That’s Aho’s first goal of the postseason, and including the end of the regular season and Thursday’s playoff opener, it was his first goal in 16 games.
The pendulum swings ... : This second period has featured some crazy swings in momentum. The Capitals failed to capitalize on a five-minute power play from Ferland’s illegal check to the head of Dowd, then Washington had to weather 1:07 of five-on-three by Carolina. It did, and Capital One Arena is fired up for the impressive penalty kill work. The Capitals will now get another power play after Dougie Hamilton was called for elbowing Evgeny Kuznetsov. Washington’s man-advantage has been getting the zone time, but the passing and shot selection has just been a little off.
No goals for Caps, but Dowd back: Capitals center Nic Dowd is back on the bench after Ferland’s hit. Washington didn’t take advantage of the five-minute power play. With 51 seconds left in it, T.J. Oshie was called for hooking, so the teams will go to four-on-four before Carolina gets an abbreviated power play. That’s a missed opportunity for the Capitals on what was arguable a harsh call against the Hurricanes.
Ferland gone, Caps get a huge power play: Micheal Ferland’s day is done after he was assessed a five-minute match penalty for head contact on center Nic Dowd, who went to the locker room for evaluation. The Capitals now have five minutes of power-play time to build their lead, and they’ve gotten rid of the Hurricanes’ main irritant for the rest of the game. Carolina Coach Rod Brind’Amour was peeved on the bench, presumably because he thought Ferland caught Dowd’s shoulder.
Djoos is too loose?: Christian Djoos played less than eight minutes last game, including just 1:13 in the third period, but Capitals Coach Todd Reirden explained that his low ice time was just situational with Washington defending a lead for most of the game. But including Lucas Wallmark’s goal in the first period, Djoos has now been on the ice for all three of the Hurricanes’ goals this series. The second-year defenseman was out of the lineup before Michal Kempny tore his hamstring last month, and he has the experience of playing in 22 playoff games for the team a year ago. But if he continues to struggle, might Reirden try rookie Jonas Siegenthaler in Djoos’s place.
End first period: Capitals 2, Hurricanes 1 | Coach Rod Brind’Amour has used both trios in his top six in an effort to stop Ovechkin, Backstrom and Wilson but so far it hasn’t worked out as planned. The Aho-Niederreiter-Williams line got torched for two even-strength goals and three scoring chances, all in the slot or crease, in the first period, with one of those goals by Backstrom off a sweet pass by Ovechkin.
That two-goal lead held in large part due to the Capitals penalty kill. Washington’s PK unit held Carolina’s power play to zero goals and just one scoring chance, with a scoring chance of their own, in two opportunities against the man advantage. Carolina’s power play is now 0 for 5 for the series.
Canes get one back: The Hurricanes are on the board after a fluky goal by Lucas Wallmark. Following the puck behind the net, Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby made an odd choice to spin around in the crease, which caused him to be out of position with his back to the puck when Jaccob Slavin’s shot was tipped in front. Washington challenged that Holtby was interfered with, but Saku Maenalanen wasn’t in the crease when he made slight contact with Holtby just before the goal was scored. Because the Capitals lost the challenge, they don’t have a timeout for the rest of the game.
Oshie makes it 2-0: For the second straight game, the Capitals have a multi-goal lead in the first period. On a rush into the offensive zone, T.J. Oshie drove the net, kicked out his left to ward off a stick and lifted a backhand over Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek, who has now allowed two goals on five shots. That’s Oshie’s first goal of this postseason, and he was a significant part of Washington’s Stanley Cup run a year ago with eight goals and 13 assists in 24 games.
Capitals strike first again: The Capitals felt their five-on-five play was lacking in Thursday’s 4-2 win, and the team responded with one of its most inspiring starts of the season. On the top line’s second shift of the game, captain Alex Ovechkin raced down the ice to disrupt a Carolina odd-man rush, then he laid a crushing hit on Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce and finally he set up Nicklas Backstrom for a tap-in goal at the backdoor. Washington is up, 1-0, less than four minutes into Game 2.
Hurricanes shake up the lines: While the Capitals kept their lineup from Game 1 the same, the Hurricanes moved Justin Williams to Jordan Staal’s line. Look for that to act as a shutdown line against Washington’s top trio of Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson and center Nicklas Backstrom. That also bumped Carolina’s Teuvo Teravainen to a line with center Sebastian Aho, the team’s top-scorer who finished the regular season without a goal in 14 games. Evgeny Kuznetsov will likely get that matchup again. The Capitals’ top six delivered on the power play in the first period, but the Hurricanes were the better team at five-on-five.
Rats are falling from the ceiling: Seriously. A lot of hockey players have a pregame ritual of getting loose by volleying a soccer ball around a circle outside of the locker room. When a touch by a Hurricanes’ player collapsed a ceiling tile from the hallways of Capital One Arena, it brought with it a little friend.
While ABC’s Joe Mazur has his interpretation that the rat means the Canes are “dead on arrival” in these playoffs, there was also the case of the Florida Panthers in the 1995-96 season. Just before the Panthers’ home opener, Scott Mellanby, so the legend goes, gave a furry intruder a grizzly demise with his hockey stick and then went on to score two goals in that game. The legend grew, rubber rats were made, fans purchased and tossed rats on the ice to celebrate rat, er, hat tricks that season and eventually the Panthers made an improbable run to the Stanley Cup finals. So, you be the judge of whether this is a harbinger of doom for the Hurricanes or the Caps.
Immerse yourself in the Capitals’ postseason with The Post’s coverage of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.