December 5, 2020

Washington Capitals Game 57 Recap: Orpik (!) late goal lifts Caps over Devils

ORPIK GOAL WITH 3:58 COMPLETES THIRD PERIOD COMEBACK

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

There seems to be a new hero every night with this team. Well, Alex Ovechkin is a hero almost every night. But you get my drift.

Brooks Orpik, the unlikeliest goal scorer, beat Cory Schneider with a wrist shot with less than four minutes to go to lift the Washington Capitals over the New Jersey Devils 4-3 at Verizon Center.

Ovechkin won a puck in the right wing corner and shuffled it to Evgeny Kuznetsov behind the net. The playmaker held the puck patiently until he drew the Devils defenseman, then slid it to Orpik, who pinched in when the defender left his post. Orpik’s snap shot beat Schneider stick-side and eventually became the game-winner.

For Orpik, who recently returned to the roster after missing 40 games, it was his second goal in 17 games played.

And for the Caps, they move to a remarkable 43-10-4 for the season. The Caps are nine points clear of the Chicago Blackhawks for the President’s Trophy with four games in hand.

Travis Zajac (no relation) started the scoring late in the first. Kyle Palmieri came in on the right wing, gave Karl Alzner a head-fake and went around him, then went behind the goal and tried a wraparound. Braden Holtby overplayed a bit, and when the rebound popped out to Zajac in the slot, he banged it home into a mostly-empty net.

It didn’t stay that way long. The Devils botched a zone clear and Dmitry Orlov corralled the puck at the right point. That left the planet’s best goal scorer wide open at the top of the crease, and Ovechkin settled the pass and beat Schneider five-hole from about six feet for his league-leading 38th of the year.

But Palmieri victimized Alzner again. He grabbed a loose puck at the top of the faceoff circle, skated around Alzner like he was standing still, and from the goal line threw one on net that somehow snuck through Holtby (21 saves).

Midway through the second, the Caps used a strange combination to tie it up. Michael Latta skated the puck behind the goal and sent it into the crease, where it deflected off Brooks Laich and over to Kuznetsov just inside the right face-off center. While Laich was wrestling with a defender in the slot, Kuznetsov beat Schneider high glove-side for the equalizer and his 17th of the campaign.

At 11:04 of the third, the Devils broke that tie. Reid Boucher walked the puck from the left point to center, then sent a long knuckler on goal. Holtby only got a piece of it with his glove and it slipped past him to put New Jersey up 3-2.

But the Caps came right back. After a goal mouth scramble, T.J. Oshie got his own rebound and, from his knees, directed a backhander toward the net that glanced off a skate and trickled behind Schneider to even it up once again, setting up Orpik’s heroics.

NEXT GAME: Monday at home against the Arizona Coyotes at 7 p.m.

CAPS NOTES:

  • The Caps were outshot 14-8 in the first period, but held the Devils to 10 shots on goal in the last two periods combined.
  • There were just four minor penalties called in the game. The Caps were 0 for 3 on the power play.
  • The Alzner/Matt Niskanen defensive pair had a particularly rough night, on the ice for all three Devils goals.
  • Oshie’s goal was the 17th of the season. He had 19 in 72 games for St. Louis last season and his career high is 21.
About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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