Photo: Gregory Shamus
Crazy-eyed Brooks Orpik spent 11 seasons in Pittsburgh before leaving for rival Washington as a free agent. Before that, he won a Stanley Cup with the Pens in 2009 and was a fan favorite in the ‘Burgh. Saturday night was his first time back in his old stomping grounds.
“[It’s] one of those things you’ve just got to get through,” Orpik said to The Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt the morning before the game. “Once you get through the first time, then it becomes a little more normal, I guess. I don’t know what to expect, to be honest.”
It ended up being a memorable homecoming.
Midway through the first period, the Penguins honored Orpik, Matt Niskanen, and Todd Rierden with a video tribute on the Consol Energy Center jumbotron. Orpik’s salute was especially powerful as the team showed video of the defenseman’s famed four-hits-in-15-seconds in the Stanley Cup Finals.
“Nice to see them acknowledge Brooks Orpik on the big board here,” Mike Lange said during Root Sports’ telecast of the game. “Obviously an emotional moment for Brooks as everybody stood and thanked him for his years of service, helping the Pens win a Stanley Cup in 2009.”
In 24:04 of ice time, Orpik was a plus-four in on-ice shot-attempt differential and shut down Sidney Crosby’s line. He was on the ice for every single Caps goal. He even assisted on a tally in the most Brooks Orpik way ever.
After blocking a shot with his, uh, borpik, Evgeny Kuznetsov pushed the puck up to Marcus Johansson, who fired a shot past MAF.
It gave the team some much needed breathing room. The Caps went on to shut out Pittsburgh 3-0.
After the game, Orpik deflected praise when asked about his success against Pittsburgh’s superstarts.
“Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr, Joel Ward– that line did a really good job [shutting down Crosby’s line],” Orpik said to the media. “It doesn’t happen a lot with those guys. I told Sid hopefully he’s a little heavy after the three days off the way he eats. Maybe that slowed him down a bit.”
The night could not have gone better, though Orpik revealed how much coming back home wore on him.
“I’ve played in some big games before,” Orpik, the veteran of Stanley Cup Final and an Olympic gold medal game, said. “But I probably haven’t been that nervous to be honest.”
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