Photo: Evan Vucci
Thursday night, defense partners Mike Green and Dmitry Orlov were on the ice for two goals against. On Florida’s first goal, Jesse Winchester torched Orlov, blowing past him on the far wall. For the Panthers second goal, the duo left men wide open in front of Braden Holtby before Brad Boyes flipped the puck in.
Sunday afternoon, however, the pair was brilliant — at least for the first 50 minutes. Orlov had the first multi-goal game of his career while Green racked up three assists. It’s usually a zero-sum game with Greenlov: they either win big or lose badly.
Today, though, it was both. With 10 minutes left in game, Orlov went after Brayden Schenn, who had just hit him behind the net. Dima unleashed a brutal board in the corner, receiving a well-deserved five minute major. The Flyers got scored on the ensuing power play. They added two more to stun the Caps in their first game back at home since the Olympic break. Orlov and Green, naturally, were on the ice for the game-tying goal.
“He didn’t change,” head coach Adam Oates said of Orlov’s hit. “He was on the same shift and he went right back after him.”
“You’ve got to suck it up when it’s your turn,” the coach continued. “They hit hard too. They’re big boys too. They’ve got to push, they’re losing. They’ve got to push. We’ve got to be able to handle that.”
Earlier in the year, Oates was not happy with Orlov’s defensive play, which was likely the reason the Russian toiled in the AHL at the start of the year. The coach was less interested in Orlov’s offense than his reputation as a defensive liability. Orlov, though, eventually played his way into the top-four, becoming an important part of the team’s defense.
Ideally you could pair Orlov and Green with solid, shutdown defenseman, allowing them to jump up in the play without becoming a liability. The Caps, though, don’t really have one of those players outside of Karl Alzner, who is already mixed with an offensive defenseman in John Carlson. Green and Orlov, therefore, have been paired together most of the year, though that might change when Jack Hillen comes back from injury. Orlov is still only 22 though, in just his second full season in the NHL. The Caps defense isn’t deep enough to shelter him. They paid the price for that Sunday.
“I know he’s a young guy,” Oates, who devoted most of his five minute press conference to that single hit, said of Orlov. “We count on him a lot, but we need him to be under control.”
“You’ve had a great game, scored two goals,” Oates added. “Now’s not the time. We need to be disciplined. We talk about it all the time. That’s the type of game that team wants to play. They’re good at that. We’re not.”
For the Caps, Orlov’s penalty resulted in their 14th blown two goal lead of the season, the team’s third in the last three games. Against a division rival and after playing so well in the first period, this one hurt — emotionally and in the standings. Walking out of the locker room, Holtby slammed the door to the showers, disgusted with his team’s play and the final goal. He told reporters the loss was “embarrassing.”
“At this point in time you’re supposed to be better than that,” Oates said.