WASHINGTON – Mike Green’s buddy back home in Calgary needed a little boost for his fantasy hockey team – a roster that just happens to feature a certain high-scoring Washington Capitals defenceman.
So when he chatted via cyberspace Wednesday with Kyle Lieske, a teammate when they were kids, Green jokingly promised that two goals were on the way. And then he delivered.
Green scored twice on power plays less than 1 1/2 minutes apart to become only the eighth defenceman in NHL history with 30 goals in a season, Alex Ovechkin added his NHL-leading 54th tally, and the Capitals beat the New York Islanders 5-3 on Wednesday night.
“I said I was going to do it, but I had no idea it was going to happen,” said Green, the first defenceman to reach 30 since Washington’s Kevin Hatcher in 1992-93. “It’s just funny that I did it, and now I can tell him, ‘I told you so.”‘
Green’s 18 man-advantage goals set a franchise record for a defenceman, breaking the mark of 16 held by Scott Stevens.
“When he’s on,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said, “he’s pretty good to watch.”
Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen each had a goal and an assist for New York, which led 2-0 early in the second period, then 3-2 after Richard Park scored 2:12 into the third.
But that’s when Green took over.
First, he took a cross-ice pass from Alexander Semin and sent a one-timer past Joey MacDonald 10:55 into the third period to tie it.
Then, at 12:18, Green was barely inside the blue line when he intercepted a clearing attempt by Nate Thompson and flicked the puck in while Tomas Fleischmann screened MacDonald to make it 4-3.
“That’s why he’s so good. That’s why he’s probably going to win the Norris Trophy this year,” MacDonald said about Green. “It’s not the big, one-timer shot. It’s a nice floater right through, and it’s tough for a goaltender.”
Before those two power plays, Washington only had one.
Islanders coach Scott Gordon wondered in particular about the validity of an interference call on Tim Jackman that led to the waving off an apparent goal by New York – and was followed 12 seconds later by Green’s go-ahead goal.
“I didn’t think Jacks did anything wrong,” Gordon said. “It’s a huge momentum swing.”
Nicklas Backstrom added a final-minute, empty-netter for Washington, which completed its first season sweep of the Islanders since 2002-03.
The Capitals closed in on a second consecutive Southeast Division title: They would clinch first place if the Carolina Hurricanes lose to the New York Rangers on Thursday.
A year ago, Washington didn’t seal its first division championship since 2000-01 until its final game.
Also, the Capitals are up to 47 wins, a total they haven’t eclipsed since 1983-84, and have 101 points, a mark they haven’t topped since getting 102 in 1999-00.
And yet they struggled against the last-in-the-league Islanders until after some rough stuff in the second period. First, Washington’s John Erskine and New York’s Joel Rechlicz fought.
About 1 1/2 minutes later, Green levelled Andy Hilbert along the boards, prompting a brawl involving nearly everyone on the ice.
Green wound up sitting alongside Erskine, whistled for charging, while Jackman and Washington’s Jeff Schultz drew fighting penalties – as Boudreau yelled colourfully at the officials.
“We started showing some passion and emotion a little bit,” Boudreau said. “You’ve got to play this game with emotion or you can’t play it at all.”
Notes: Ovechkin’s 33rd home goal of the season broke the team mark he set in 2007-08. … Washington’s Keith Aucoin scored his first NHL goal since March 2008. … Islanders D Mark Streit, the team’s leading scorer, sat out with a strained groin. He’s day to day. … New York’s Dean McAmmond had fewer than 10 minutes of ice time, and Gordon said he was sick. … Washington’s Donald Brashear missed his ninth consecutive game with a knee injury, but the team expects the enforcer to be available for the playoffs.