RALEIGH — It was like old times at PNC Arena on Tuesday.
Penalized for boarding Carolina’s Derek Ryan late in the first period, Washington defenseman Brooks Orpik had resumed his role as Public Enemy No. 1 in Raleigh.
It was back in 2006 when Orpik, then with the Pittsburgh Penguins, plowed Carolina forward Erik Cole headfirst into the boards, breaking Cole’s neck and jeopardizing not only his season, but his career.
It was poetic justice that Cole came back for Games 6 and 7 of the Stanley Cup Final and eventually lifted the Stanley Cup.
And it seemed fitting that Orpik, again the villain, would score an own goal to put the Hurricanes ahead for the first time in a matchup of longtime division foes.
It was Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, however, who got the last laughs, tying the game with less than eight minutes remaining on his first shot on goal of the night, then scoring in overtime — after Carolina’s Sebastian Aho hit the post at the other end — on his second to give Washington a 5-4 overtime win in front of 11,989 at PNC Arena.
“Good that we came back, bad that we gave it up,” Hurricanes winger and former Ovechkin teammate Justin Williams said. “It was a tough bounce and one of the best goal scorers made a couple plays and (won) the game.”
The point earned did move Carolina (18-13-8) into playoff position after the Islanders lost their third straight Tuesday night. Both teams are at 44 points, but the Hurricanes have a game in hand, giving them the tiebreaker for the second wild card slot.
“We have had two chances the last couple of times to get into a playoff spot, and we’re aware of that,” Williams said. “Once you get in there, you need to keep climbing and keep getting points. Good we got one? Yes, I suppose so. But two would’ve been nice.”
It looked like the Hurricanes would knock on the playoff door and have it slammed shut again. Or perhaps just ring the doorbell.
The Hurricanes hit four posts behind Capitals goalie Brayden Holtby — including twice when trailing by one in the second period — in perhaps some foreshadowing of Aho’s overtime post ringer.
Washington defenseman Dmitry Orlov’s goal at 8:48 of the second period, in which he shot wide and outraced Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin to the rebound, gave the Capitals (25-13-3) a two-goal cushion shortly after the Hurricanes had started the middle frame with two chances that hit the pipe on either side of Holtby (34 saves).
The Hurricanes got one back when Victor Rask’s power play tally — his second goal of the night — just past the midway point of the game pulled Carolina within one.
Then in an 84-second spurt in the third period, the Hurricanes looked like they had pushed themselves over the hump.
Jeff Skinner and Derek Ryan kept the puck alive in the Washington zone, and the latter found Elias Lindholm in the slot for the equalizer 5:40 into the third period
Then at 7:04, Orpik pushed the puck into his own net on a goal credited to Teuvo Teravainen, sending the crowd into a frenzy after they had spent most of the night booing the Capitals defenseman for transgressions past and present.
“Well, obviously, it’s a dangerous play, right? Or you wouldn’t be talking about it,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said of Orpik’s hit. “It’s a fast game, a hard game. He plays on the edge. Yeah, that’s what happened there.”
Carolina’s power play didn’t score following the earlier Orpik infraction, but it set the tone for a night where the Hurricanes had 15 shots on four opportunities and scored once — and brought a playoff-level intensity between two teams that will play two more times next week.
Rask’s first goal came courtesy of the kind of luck that was missing on the Hurricanes’ four posts and gave Carolina the early lead.
Capitals defenseman John Carlson collected a loose puck in front of Holtby and tried to feed it across, but the muffed pass instead went right to the forechecking Rask, who beat Holtby to make it 1-0 just 5:21 into the game.
Just over a minute later, the Metropolitan Division’s first place team responded.
Washington’s Chandler Stephenson beat Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk up the ice, then his centering feed went past Haydn Fleury — coming off five games as a healthy scratch — and was knocked in past Cam Ward (21 saves) by Alex Chiasson to tie the game at 6:39.
Another defensive miscue put Carolina behind.
A long pass by Orpik got the puck up ice, and Jay Beagle fed the puck to Devante Smith-Pelly on the right boards as they entered the zone. Smith-Pelly carried the puck toward the net, and Carolina defensemen Trevor Van Riemsdyk and Noah Hanifin got crossed up and allowed Smith-Pelly to walk in and beat Ward on the far side to make it 2-1 at 12:53.
“I gotta clean up those goals is what I’m worried about tomorrow in practice,” Peters said when asked if moving into a playoff spot was a silver lining. “… So there’s lots of hockey to be played. … We gotta find a way to get better.”
Skinner, still looking to play in his first NHL playoff game, didn’t take the one point or movement in the standings as a moral victory.
“It’s nice when you look at the standings, but there’s still a lot of hockey left,” he said. “I think, obviously, we’ve gotten some pretty good results over the last couple weeks, and we want to try to keep that going. It’s not sort of something that we’re going to look at and sort of try and savor, I think. We want to try and keep climbing. So that’s the mentality now.”