Mike Green Breaks NHL Record
Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green has broken the NHL record for consecutive games with a goal for a defenseman notching his 22nd goal of the season at 5:33 of the second period. This was the eighth straight game that Green has scored and he broke Boston Bruins defenseman Mike O’Connell’s record that had stood since 1984.
On the Caps first power play of the game, Green took an Alexander Semin pass in the slot and fired a shot that was blocked by former Cap Matt Pettinger but the puck came right back to Green and he blasted it through the five hole past Karri Ramo, who had come in to replace Tampa Bay’s starting net minder, Mike McKenna at the start of the period.
The Caps currently lead Tampa Bay 4-1 in the third period in rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth’s NHL debut. Check back for more after the game.
Caps Bury Tampa
As mentioned above this was a historic night for Green and it was made even more special as the Caps buried the Lightning, 5-1, to push their record to 35-16-5 and tie the New Jersey Devils with 75 points for second place in the Eastern Conference. In addition the Caps players had their dads in town for a father/son weekend and Green’s father, Dave, was interviewed by Comcast’s Joe Beninati live after the first period shortly before Green would break O’Connell’s record.
The Caps scored first in this contest at 5:02 of the first period when a Martin St. Louis giveaway led to a beautiful passing play between Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom that ended with Semin depositing a sharp angle shot up and over the outstretched McKenna. This was the start Washington wanted in front of Neuvirth but shortly thereafter they went to sleep for awhile but the rookie goalie delivered. A bad Caps giveaway gave Vincent LeCavalier a clear breakaway on Neuvirth and the young net minder flat out robbed him with a glove save with 10:52 remaining in the first period to keep it 1-0 Washingon. Then on a Lightning power play he stopped Martin St. Louis on a direct shot from 10 feet away and then slid to his right to stop the rebound try from Cory Murphy. At one point in the first period the shots were 11-5 in favor of Tampa but Neuvirth was excellent.
Then the Caps offensive machine got rolling and a bad giveaway in the offensive zone by Tampa’s Ryan Malone was intercepted by Semin who tipped it ahead to Alexander Ovechkin and the two of them raced in two on one with the Great #8 holding onto the puck and he snapped it five hole past McKenna to give the Caps a 2-0 lead. Alexander the Great now has 38 goals on the season and leads the NHL in that department. Neuvirth then made a big save on St. Louis late in the first period after a Jeff Schultz giveaway allowed Ryan Malone to spring #26 in alone.
The Caps then made it 3-0 with 39.8 seconds left in the first period on a Shaone Morrisonn point blast that found the net thanks to a great screen in front by Donald Brashear. The point shot was set up by some hard cycling work down low by Dave Steckel, Boyd Gordon, and Brashear.
The second period would bring Green’s NHL record setting goal and the entire Caps bench came onto the ice to celebrate with #52 (this is usually a penalty but apparently the Caps had worked out an arrangement with the officials to do this should Green get the record).
The Lightning finally got on the board at 10:30 of the second period after defenseman Staffan Kronwall, who was making his Caps debut tonight, gave the puck away which led to a Ryan Malone shot that then hit Kronwall on the way towards the net and past Neuvirth and spoil a potential shutout. Right after that #30 then made a great save, while the Caps were shorthanded, on a blast by Lecavalier with 4:22 to go in the second period that kept Washington’s lead at three.
Ovechkin and Green then had a two on zero break and passed it back and forth only to have the Great #8 swing and miss on what would have been a tap in. The Caps then got another power play as a result of Tampa having too many men on the ice but Ramo made a very good save on a Bacsktrom shot in the slot and with 15 seconds left in the man advantage the Lightning were called for another penalty giving Washington a short two man advantage. Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau used his timeout to keep his top power play unit fresh and the team got some great chances for Ovechkin and Semin but both of their shots went wide. Towards the end of the second Lightning penalty the Caps got lazy and the Lightning had a three on two shorthanded break but they also shot the puck wide.
After two periods Neuvirth made 27 saves on 28 shots and he would save 31 of 32 shots in his NHL debut which was made even more special for him because both of his parents were in attendance. Neuvirth showed all evening the great glove hand and positioning that he possesses and if there is a knock on him it is his rebound control but that will come with more game experience and practice work with Caps goaltending Coach Dave Prior.
The Caps don’t get much time to celebrate Green’s record and Neuvirth’s first NHL win as they fly tonight to Fort Lauderdale and face the hot Florida Panthers (winners of three in a row and five of six – with the only loss at the Verizon Center last Saturday night) on Sunday at 5pm. Washington now leads the Panthers by 11 points in the Southeast Division, although Florida has a game in hand. Jose Theodore will be in net for the Caps on Sunday.
Notes: Eric Fehr closed out the scoring tonight at 13:31 of a rather listless third period in which Tampa only fired four shots on Neuvirth. Defensemen John Erskine returned to the lineup for the first time since the loss against the Kings on February 5th. Rookie Karl Alzner and Milan Jurcina were scratched on defense as a result. I expect Alzner to be back in tomorrow and Kronwall will likely sit. Semin had a goal and two assists and I thought he played his best game since he was injured back in November. #28 looked like the guy who led the NHL in scoring before he got hurt as well as the guy who was outstanding in the playoffs against Philadelphia last spring. Boudreau’s move to put him back on a line with Backstrom and Ovechkin was a good one and if those guys continue to play strong like that the Caps will be a very tough team to beat. Also, any ideas or talk of trading Semin, who will be due big money following the 2009-10 season, will go away.