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Caps' defensive depth will be put to the test with possible Orpik suspension

Caps' defensive depth will be put to the test with possible Orpik suspension

WASHINGTON D.C. -- Taylor Chorney played in place of Dmitry Orlov in Game 2 on Saturday night and he may be thrust into action again for Game 3 if Brooks Orpik is suspended by the NHL for his hit to defenseman Olli Maatta.

In the first period, Maatta took the puck in the offensive zone and shot on Holtby from the face off circle. As he began turning he received a high hit from Orpik and sent him to the ice. The play came several seconds after Maatta had already released the puck.

You can watch the play here.

Maatta had to be helped off the ice and did not return. Orpik was assessed a two-minute minor for interference. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was very critical of the hit following the game.

"I thought it was a late hit," Sullivan said. "I thought it was a target to his head. I think it's the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game."

RELATED: Orpik may face discipline after Game 2 hit

Barry Trotz said he talked to Orpik about the hit who explained to him that he thought the rebound from Maatta's original shot was going back to Maatta which is why he chose to follow through on the hit. The Caps' coach defended Orpik, but said they would respect the league's decision if there was any supplemental disciline.

"We'll let the league handle it," Trotz said. "If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He's not a dirty player."

If a suspension is forthcoming, Trotz will again have to dip into his team's defensive depth.

After a miscue by Orlov in Game 1 led to a Penguins' goal, Trotz benched Orlov for much of the third period and then elected to dress Chorney for Game 2.

As a former Penguin, Chorney brought experience to the lineup as he suited up against his former teammates. He made one of the defensive plays of the game as he was able to catch Bryan Rust on a breakaway and sweep away the puck without taking a penalty.

Overall, Chorney said he was satisfied with his performance on Saturday.

"It felt good. It's fun to get in there and play in an environment like that, playing at home against a real good team like Pittsburgh. ... It's good experience to get out there and compete against those guys. It would have been nice to get a better result, but overall I think it went pretty well."

Heading into the playoffs, defensive depth was considered a strength for the Caps as the team carried eight blueliners on the roster. Having bodies you can plug into the lineup is one thing, but defensive depth doesn't mean much if the coach doesn't trust the players on the bottom of the depth chart.

Through the first period, Chorney had only 2:44 of ice time while his partner, Nate Schmidt, had 2:28. Matt Niskanen, by comparison, had 9:25. Chorney finished the game with 10:50 of ice time total.

Trotz praised Chorney's play after the game saying but the lack of playing time for the third pairing seems to suggest the Caps coach may not have much faith in his third defensive pairing.

That's not a knock on Chorney specifically as both Schmidt and Orlov have spent some extended time on the bench during games this postseason. Now with Orpik's status in doubt, there's a good chance we could see both Chorney and Orlov in the lineup for Game 3.

Losing Orpik is a prospect the Caps have grown used to this season as the veteran blueliner missed 41 games in the regular season. He also missed the final three games of the series against Philadelphia with an upper-body injury.

The stakes, however, have never been as high as they are now. The opponent has never been as tough.

Trotz has clearly given his third defensive pairing protected minutes throughout the playoffs and has been able to do so thanks to a solid top four and an opponent in Philadelphia that is lacking in offensive skill. A possible suspension to Orpik with the series tied 1-1 heading into Pittsburgh, however, will put the Caps' defensive depth to the ultimate test.

MORE CAPITALS: Former Capital sinks Washington in Game 2

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

The Washington Capitals had not beaten the Dallas Stars at home since 2006, Alex Ovechkin's second season in the NHL. That streak ended on Tuesday in a 4-3 Caps win.

Here's how the Caps were finally able to down Dallas in Washington.

Oshie still hot

After going 19 straight games without a goal, T.J. Oshie has been red-hot of late with four goals in his last four games. He scored Washington’s first goal in what would become a three-goal period for the Caps as they battled back from a 1-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie through 40 minutes. Oshie also added an assist as he won a power play faceoff that John Carlson fed to Alex Ovechkin for the goal.


Ovechkin victimizing his favorite target

You knew Ovechkin would score given he was playing against one of his favorite targets. With his second period goal, Ovechkin now has 22 goals against Kari Lehtonen in his career, tied with Henrik Lundqvist for the most goals he has scored on any netminder. Lehtonen has not been in the Eastern Conference since the 2008-09 season. When he goes to sleep at night, Ovechkin is who he sees in his nightmares.

The Carlson-Klingberg duel

Carlson and John Klingberg entered Tuesday’s game each with 59 points, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. Carlson downplayed the matchup both before and after the game, but it was clear that both players were playing at another level all game long. While both players tallied two points on the night, you have to give the win to Carlson as he had the most significant point, a game-winning goal in the third period.


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Tarik's 3 Stars: Ovechkin further cements his place in history

Tarik's 3 Stars: Ovechkin further cements his place in history

Alex Ovechkin further cemented his place in NHL history, John Carlson stayed hot and Braden Holtby was good when called upon as the Caps downed the Stars, 4-3, at Capital One Arena on Tuesday night.

The victory was Washington’s fifth in the past six games. It also marked the Caps’ first win over Dallas in D.C. since 2006.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

Ovechkin scored his 44th goal of the season and the 602nd of his career in the second period to give the Caps a short-lived 3-2 edge in the second period.

The goal put Ovi back atop the league as he seeks a seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. It also pushed him past Jari Karri and into sole possession of 19th place on the NHL’s all-time list. Ovechkin has now victimized Kari Lehtonen 22 times, which is tied for the most goals he’s scored against a single netminder. (Henrik Lundqvist has also given up 22 goals to No. 8). Ovi also had a couple of secondary helpers.

2-John Carlson, Capitals

Carlson scored the game-winner 4:59 with left to play, blasting a one-timer past Lehtonen to put the Caps ahead 4-3.

Carlson also notched an assist, which allowed him to stay even with Dallas’ John Klingberg. Klingberg had two assists. Both players ended the game with 61 points—tied for the most among all NHL defensemen.    

3-Alexander Radulov, Stars

From his first shift, it was apparent that Radulov was determined to leave his mark on the game. And he did just that, recording a goal, an assist and boarding minor that bloodied Caps defenseman Michal Kempny. Radulov’s goal—a redirection of a John Klingberg shot—was his 26th and it evened the score, 2-2, in the second period.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.