When Dmitry Orlov is on the ice, he gives the Washington Capitals a little bit of everything. He plays a physical style, has solid offensive instincts that allow him to make a good first pass and, above all, is a reliable and experienced defenseman.
Orlov’s well-rounded game was on display in the Capitals’ 8-4 win over the Canadiens in Montreal on Saturday night. Orlov had a four-point night — a goal and three assists — in his first game back in the lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury.
Orlov was back skating with Nick Jensen, giving the Capitals their ideal defensive pairings as they continue a crucial five-game road trip near the end of the regular season. The Capitals clinched the final Eastern Conference playoff spot when the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the New York Islanders, 4-2, on Sunday night.
Washington’s next test comes Monday in Denver, where Orlov and Jensen will be tasked with stopping a lethal offensive attack from the NHL-leading Colorado Avalanche. After Colorado, the Capitals (42-23-10) will close out their long road trip with games against Las Vegas and Arizona. Washington sits in the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference but is only three points behind Pittsburgh for third in the Metropolitan Division with two games in hand.
“I think everybody was ready to go [against Montreal],” Orlov said Saturday. “It was a huge win. We have a few games left in this road trip and I think we need to build on that game and be better.”
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Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette lauded Orlov and Jensen as “one of the top defensive pairings in the league” and praised their ability to defend opponents’ top lines.
The news is not all good, however. Washington has allowed 11 goals combined in its past two games. The hope is that Orlov’s return will help remedy that.
“We just need to tighten things up defensively,” Anthony Mantha said. “We allowed too many shots and too many second shots. Vitek [Vanecek] was solid for us again, and we need to change one or two things, and it is going to be awesome.”
Orlov, 30, has missed six games this season, and in those games Washington has allowed a combined 22 goals. Orlov said Saturday that he felt good in his return and his injury is behind him.
“[Orlov and Jensen] are both on the road for career years offensively, but we value them equally as much defensively and what they have been able to do together,” Laviolette said. “They have been a rock solid pair from the start of the year, and when [Orlov] has not been in a game like [Thursday’s 7-3 loss to Toronto]you miss him.”
Saturday was Orlov’s first four-point game in the NHL and helped him reach a career high of 34 points this season. He also has a career-high 12 goals. Jensen has a career-high five goals and 19 points overall — just one point off his career high from the 2018-19 season.
With Orlov and Justin Schultz both scoring against Montreal, Washington improved to 28-4-2 when a defenseman has a goal this season.
Orlov’s goal came in a four-goal third period for the Capitals. The defenseman scored from the high slot to give Washington a 6-3 lead. Schultz, who was on the ice for all four Montreal goals Saturday, scored his third goal of the season and first since Dec. 19. He has four points in his past three games.