Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik cracked a smile tonight. Actually, it was a full-out grin. That’s what happens when a team’s most stoic player scores his first game-winning goal in his 798th regular season game.
“I don’t think he scores too many goals,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said after watching Orpik give the Capitals a 4-3 win over the Devils with a goal with 3:58 remaining in the third period.
“When he scores a big goal everybody happy. The locker room was happy, the bench was happy. It was pretty amazing.”
The Capitals have been pretty amazing all season and on Saturday night they rallied from a 3-2 third period deficit to pull out their eighth win in nine games. At 43-10-4 and 90 points they’ve gotten to 43 wins faster than any team in NHL history.
“It definitely gives you confidence, knowing you can come back against the best defensive team in the league,” Orpik said. “They don’t give you much.”
Desperate for points as they try to climb back into the playoff picture, the Devils grabbed a 3-2 lead on goals by Travis Zajac, Kyle Palmieri and Reid Boucher, but saw the Caps rally back with third-period goals from T.J. Oshie with 6:05 remaining and Orpik just over 2 minutes later.
Orpik, who entered the game with 14 career goals on 561 career shots (0.2 percent shooting percentage) saw an opportunity to jump into the left circle and hammered a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov (1 goal, 1 assist) off Cory Schneider and into the net.
“There was so much traffic in front, I was just trying to put it on net,” Orpik said. “I figured Schneider couldn’t see it either, because I couldn’t see much of the net. When I saw Osh and Ovi celebrating I knew it was in.”
(For the record, Orpik scored a game-winning goal for the Penguins in a playoff win over the New York Islanders in 2013).
The Capitals on the ice were not the only ones happy to see the 35-year-old blue liner score.
“If we could have gone out to the blue line to hug Brooks and not get a penalty for it we would have,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “They all respect how hard he works.
“He’s one of the glue guys in our room. I think every young player on our team looks up to him, not only as a professional but as a person. I couldn’t be happier for Brooks. He was outstanding. He was heavy. He got a couple big hits on a couple of their top players. I think he was plus-4 tonight.”
He was, along with defense partner Dmitry Orlov, who picked up two more assists in the win.
The Capitals will now enjoy a day off on Sunday before taking on the Arizona Coyotes Monday night at Verizon Center.