WASHINGTON – Mike Green is on the best goal-scoring streak by an NHL defenceman in a quarter-century.
Green tallied twice in the third period and helped kill off a five-minute penalty that expired with a second left Saturday night, leading Washington to a 3-1 victory over Florida and giving him goals in six consecutive games.
That’s a franchise record and something no defenceman had done since Hall of Famer Ray Bourque had a six-game run for Boston in 1984, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“It certainly has been Mike’s last two weeks. Every game, everything he’s touching is turning to gold,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “And I hope it doesn’t end.”
Now there is no doubt: Green has joined Alex Ovechkin as a player the Capitals can count on as a game-changer.
“It’s nice to be able to talk about more than one guy,” said Boudreau, so accustomed to speaking about reigning MVP and current NHL goal leader Ovechkin.
Green’s initial breakthrough came last season, when he led NHL blue-liners with 18 goals. That seems like a nice, little number now: Saturday’s tiebreaker on a power play 43 seconds into the third period and late empty-netter give him a career-high 19 goals and 46 points in 2008-09. He leads the league’s defencemen in both of those categories, despite having missed 13 games while injured.
All that, even though Green has noticed a significant increase in the amount of attention paid to him by opponents.
“If there’s another guy that they can watch, then that means somebody else is open and somebody else will score,” he said.
Green’s first goal came off assists from Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, while Panthers centre Stephen Weiss was in the penalty box for holding.
“I picked up the puck too late, when it was going by me,” Florida goalie Tomas Voukon said. “It was a good shot. Good players make good shots.”
Green’s second was unassisted and came with 1:13 left on a length-of-the-ice shot.
“He’s got tons of confidence right now. He can play for 30 minutes and never look tired,” Boudreau said. “And his shot is so accurate. It must be a little bit like a baseball player that’s in a groove, just hitting everything they throw to him.”
Jose Theodore made 21 saves for the Capitals. The Southeast Division leaders have won four of five games and put a little more distance between themselves and Florida, which entered the night in second place, 12 points behind.
Green will get the headlines, of course, but Washington’s penalty-killing unit deserves plenty of credit for the victory. A five-minute penalty on defenceman Shaone Morrissonn for checking from behind gave Florida a 5-on-3 chance for more than a minute and a power play that expired with a second left in the game.
“It wasn’t a very smart play by Mo,” Boudreau said. “You’ve just got to be able to control your emotions out there.”
Still, the Capitals held their lead, ending a stretch of 13 straight games in which they allowed a power-play goal.
“We were embarrassed by that,” forward Dave Steckel said.
Notes: Detroit’s Bobby Connors, a defenceman, scored a goal in 11 straight games in 1928, Elias said. … Eric Fehr put Washington ahead only 33 seconds into the game, the second game in a row the Capitals scored in the first minute. … The Panthers tied it 8:35 into the game on Keith Ballard’s fifth goal. … Ovechkin took six shots in the first period – one fewer than the entire Panthers team. … The Capitals recalled F Alexandre Giroux from AHL affiliate Hershey, in case F Brooks Laich (bruised leg) was unable to play. But Laich was in uniform – he’s one of three Capitals to have appeared in every game this season – and Giroux was scratched.