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With Orpik injured, Caps must rely on 'backbone' of success

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With Orpik injured, Caps must rely on 'backbone' of success

Last summer, the Capitals decided to fortify their blue line by signing free agent defenseman Taylor Chorney. That seemed like a wise move when Brooks Orpik suffered a lower body injury and sat out 40 games.

Before the NHL trade deadline in late February, the Caps decided they needed even more insurance on the back end and traded for veteran stay-at-home blue liner Mike Weber.

Just in case.

Now might be just-in-case time.

Midway through the second period of Monday night’s 6-1 rout of the Flyers in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series, Orpik was helped off the Wells Fargo Center ice after taking a big, clean hit by Flyers forward Ryan White. The right side of Orpik’s head hit the glass along the boards, jarring loose a metal stanchion.

Orpik fell to his knees and needed assistance from defense partner John Carlson and athletic trainer Greg Smith to get down the tunnel for evaluation. After the game Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he’ll know more about Orpik’s upper body injury after he is re-evaluated on Tuesday.

“We’ll just have to make it work,” Carlson said. “He’s been out, I’ve been out this season for extended periods of time, and the guys that stepped up are great hockey players. We’re all confident in them. I think our backbone of success this year has been people stepping up when guys go down. They’ve played awesome hockey for us and if that’s the case we’ll be looking for that.”

In the 40 games Orpik missed this season while waiting for what he called a broken bone to heal, the Caps went 30-6-4. During much of that time, Nate Schmidt moved up onto a top pairing with John Carlson, while Chorney paired up with Dmitry Orlov.

That could be exactly what happens if Orpik is sidelined an extended period of time. Or, Caps defensive coach Todd Reirden could move Orlov onto a pairing with Carlson and use a third pairing of Schmidt and either Chorney or Weber.

Because of the physicality of Monday night’s game – the Flyers outhit the Caps 45-26 -- it seems more likely that the 6-foot-2, 212-pound Weber could make his Caps playoff debut in Game 4.

It was clear after Game 3 that the Caps were not happy with the Flyers’ tactics after falling behind by two goals in the third period, most notably Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s check from behind on Orlov, which resulted in a five-minute major, game misconduct and automatic review by the NHL Department of Player Safety.

“We just tried to stay positive and play through it and save our lives,” Orlov said. “They hit from behind and into the boards. It’s not hockey.”

Trotz was upset with the way the game deteriorated in the third period, when the Flyers took eight penalties and allowed four power-play goals.

“We’re OK with the physical play,” Trotz said. “They’re much different team here in Philadelphia than they were in Washington. They came with everything. We’re OK. I think we’re a bigger team than them physically, but we’re more concerned about winning the series.”

Braden Holtby said he expects to see a more disciplined Flyers team in Game 4 on Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

“They’ll be desperate, obviously,” Holtrby said. “I’m sure that’s something they’ll focus on, not taking so many penalties. They’re an NHL team. They’re going to be composed and come out with the best effort to extend their season.”

MORE CAPITALS: Have the Caps already seen the Flyers' best punch?

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn't beat Francouz.

RELATED: OVECHKIN HAS LITTLE DESIRE TO WATCH 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS

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3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

After a rough start, the Caps battled back to make a game of it against Tampa Bay, but ultimately fell 4-2 to the Lightning. Here's why.

The first period

To put it simply, this game was lost in the opening period. Washington was the better team for the second and third but they could not overcome the 3-0 lead they spotted the Lightning in the first. Beyond the goals, the Caps just did not play well. Even the simplest of plays looked difficult as Washington struggled to get the puck out of their own zone, gave up numerous turnovers and scoring chances and just looked overmatched. Braden Holtby also looked shaky allowing three goals on just eight shots. Usually he is able to cover up some of the mistakes the defense makes it front of him, but he was not there to bail the team out on Tuesday in what was a really rocky start.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-LIGHTNING

Taking a penalty 34 seconds into the game

Entering Tuesday’s game, Tampa Bay boasted the second best power play unit in the league. Playing a disciplined game is part of every game plan, but that is especially true against such a dominant unit. Giving up a penalty just 34 seconds into the game was not an ideal start. The call itself was debatable. Brett Connolly was called for interference when he knocked over Dan Girardi in the offensive zone. The puck was just behind Girardi as he had lost control of it in his skates. The sticking point here is that Girardi no longer had possession and Connolly could have played the puck instead of the player. Most referees would probably let that go with the puck so close, but Connolly was not so lucky. Whether it was a good call or not, the Caps found themselves down a man and down a goal soon after as Brayden Point scored the power play tally.

A missed opportunity from Kuznetsov on one end, a goal for Nikita Kucherov on the other

Even after spotting the Lightning a 3-0 lead, the Caps made a game of it. Lars Eller struck on the power play in the second period and Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington to within one with about nine minutes left to play. Just over a minute later, Evgeny Kuznetsov stole the puck away from Nikita Kucherov, the frontrunner for league MVP this season, at the Tampa blue line giving the Caps a short 2-on-1. Defenseman Andrej Sustr was textbook on the play forcing Kuznetsov as far wide as he could go while still covering the passing lane and Kuznetsov elected to shoot from the faceoff dot rather than attempt the pass to T.J. Oshie.Andrei Vasilevskiy made a routine blocker save to deny what looked like a great opportunity to tie the game. As always happens in hockey, a failed opportunity on one end led to an opportunity in the other direction. Less than a minute later, Kucherov made up for his mistake by scoring a breakaway goal to put the game out of reach at 4-2.

MORE CAPITALS: KEMPNY EXCITED TO MOVE FROM LAST PLACE CHICAGO TO FIRST PLACE WASHINGTON