ARLINGTON – Dmitry Orlov went over a year between NHL goals from March 2014 to November 2015. A wrist injury kept him out the entire 2014-15 season and it took him a while to get his legs back under him in 2015. Then, on Nov. 21, 2015, Orlov finally managed to get one into the back of the net with the strangest goal of his career.
The goal came in a 7-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche. Braden Holtby said Orlov was dubbed “Houdini” afterward in the locker room.
With the Caps hosting the Avalanche on Thursday (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington), it gave Orlov a chance to reflect on one of the more bizarre plays you will ever see.
“It was funny goal and it was good goal for me,” Orlov said.
In the third period of the game with Washington already ahead 5-2, Jason Chimera had the puck along the boards and fed a streaking Orlov in the neutral zone. Both Nick Holden and Carl Soderberg had the middle covered for Colorado so Orlov faked a shot, slid the puck through his legs to get around them and got a shot off on Calvin Pickard.
That’s when things got weird.
“I get in the zone and I make a move and I shot it and kind of everybody lost it but me,” Orlov said.
Pickard made the initial save and reacted as if he was holding the puck against his chest. Everyone thought he had it…except Orlov.
“I find puck right away because it hit me right in the chest,” he said.
Orlov corralled the puck, looked up and saw no one reacting to him at all. He quickly realized no one knew he had it, wheeled around to the front of the net and fired it past Tyson Barrie who realized what was happening just before Orlov shot.
“I expect like first player who comes to me, maybe he's going to try to block it with one knee or put the full body to get the block,” Orlov said. “But it was defenseman I think he play like a goalie you know, try to block it and it's good.”
Luckily for Orlov, while none of the players knew where the puck was, the referee did. Had the referee lost sight of it, he could have blown the play dead. But when the puck hit Orlov in the chest, he was wheeling around the net and almost ran into the referee along with the puck. Obviously then the referee knew Orlov had it and not Pickard.
Still, Orlov had so much time and so much space, he actually stole a quick glance back at the referee to make sure the puck was still in play before shooting.
“I kind of look at the ref a second, if he going to blow or not,” Orlov said. “He kind of like [shrugged] no, take it. It was funny.”
So what goes through a player’s mind when he sees an empty net to shoot on and no one knows he has the puck?
“One thing it was in my mind, I can't miss it,” he said.
“I know if I going to miss it I'm going to be like probably top 10 worst plays of the season,” Orlov added. “So put my whole mind and focus to the goal.”
Braden Holtby has been great since returning from the All-Star break, but Pheonix Copley will get his first start since Jan. 15 and his first since inking a three-year contract extension.
Like everyone, Copley had a rough January. He is 10-5-3 this season, but his last win came back on Jan. 8.
Former Cap to start for Colorado, but not the one you think
Washington traded Philipp Grubauer to the Avalanche in the summer. The thought was that Grubauer would take over as Colorado’s starter, but so far this season he has started in 20 games and has struggled (9-7-3, .890 save percentage, 3.47 GAA) while veteran Semyon Varlamov (13-13-5, .905 save percentage, 2.89 GAA) has started in 32. On Thursday, Colorado will look to Varlamov again over the struggling Grubauer.
Burakovsky back on the third line
Based on the morning skate, Andre Burakovsky has been bumped back up to the third line alongside Lars Eller and Brett Connolly. Chandler Stephenson will take his spot on the fourth line and play with Travis Boyd and Devante Smith-Pelly. Dmitrij Jaskin and Nic Dowd are the scratches.
There is also a change to the defense as Madison Bowey will play with Brooks Orpik in place of Jonas Siegenthaler who had a rough night against Vancouver on Tuesday.
Colorado features arguably the best line in hockey with Gabriel Landeskog (29 goals, 25 assists), Nathan MacKinnon (27 goals, 45 assists) and Mikko Rantanen (23 goals, 51 assists). Stopping them will be tough to do, but there is some good news for Washington. First, this game is at home so the Caps will get the second line change allowing them to get the matchup they want against that line. Second, while Colorado boasts an incredible top line, depth scoring is a major weakness for this team.
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