Green Night – Caps defenseman Mike Green scored a goal for the eighth consecutive game, immortalizing himself as the first NHL defenseman ever to achieve the feat. With his father Dave in attendance, the 23-year-old Calgary native scored on a Washington power play at 5:33 of the second period to erase Boston’s Mike O’Connell from the record books. O’Connell had scored in seven straight games for the Bruins in 1984.
Green is now just one game shy of matching the Washington franchise record for most consecutive games with a goal, jointly held by Alan Haworth (1985-86) and Mike Gartner (1986-87).
Green’s eight-game streak is the longest in the NHL since 1998-99 when both Miroslav Satan of the Buffalo Sabres and Teemu Selanne of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim had eight-game goal streaks.
Tonight’s goal was Green’s 15th power play tally of the season, tying him with Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek for the league lead in that category. Green is now one power play goal shy of Scott Stevens’ franchise record for most power play goals by a defenseman in a season (16).
Green leads all NHL defensemen with five game-tying goals. His plus-27 is tied for second best among league blueliners. His 50 points is tops among NHL defensemen, and is six more than any other rearguard in the league.
Clash of the Kids, Part Deux – Washington goaltender Michal Neuvirth, a 20-year-old rookie, made his NHL debut tonight for the Caps, becoming the eighth player to achieve that distinction for the team in 2008-09. He went up against another relatively inexperienced NHL netminder, Tampa Bay’s Mike McKenna. For McKenna, tonight’s game against Washington was just the sixth of his brief NHL career.
But it wasn’t the first time Neuvirth and McKenna have gone head-to-head.
On Jan. 31 Neuvirth was in goal for the AHL Hershey Bears against McKenna and the Norfolk Admirals. Neuvrith stopped 25 of 27 shots he faced that night to best McKenna, who stopped 31 of the 35 shots he faced in a 4-2 loss to the Bears.
Neuvirth’s “welcome to the NHL” moment came early in the first period of Saturday's game when Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier put the Lightning's first shot on the Washington goal. The shot somehow went through Neuvirth, but trickled just wide of the far past. It wasn’t a conventional save or a pretty one, but it was Neuvirth’s first in the NHL.
Neuvirth made a legitimately strong stop on Lecavalier at 9:08 of the first when the Lightning sniper – whose 152 goals the last four seasons are fourth most in the NHL over that span – came in all alone on a breakaway. Neuvirth didn’t bite, held his ground and made a flashy glove save on Lecavalier’s bid to go high on the kid’s glove side.
At night’s end, Neuvirth had 31 saves and his first NHL victory.
Two months and a day after fellow 20-year-old freshman Simeon Varlamov notched his own first NHL win over the Habs in Montreal, Neuvirth became the second rookie goaltender to enter the win column for Washington this season.
The last time the Caps had more than one rookie goaltender record a win in a season was 2003-04 when Rastislav Stana, Maxime Ouellet and Matt Yeats all recorded victories. The Caps have never had two rookie netminders finish the season with records better than .500. Varlamov is currently 2-0 while Neuvirth is 1-0.
Another Newcomer – Swedish defenseman Staffan Kronwall made his Washington debut tonight, skating in his first NHL contest since April 5 when he played for Toronto at Montreal.
Kronwall skated 12:46 and was credited with two shots on goal, a hit and a blocked shot in his Capitals debut on Saturday.
One Up – With its Saturday night road win in Tampa Bay, Washington moves one game better than .500 (13-12-4) on the road for the first time this season.
And Then There Were Two – Caps defenseman Milan Jurcina sat out tonight’s game as a healthy scratch. It’s the first game this season that Jurcina has missed. That leaves forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich as the only two players who have played in all 56 games for the Capitals this season.
Shooters – The Caps’ 32.4 shots per game in road contests this season is second most in the NHL. Washington put 32 shots on McKenna and Ramo tonight.
With veterans Mike Smith and Olie Kolzig sidelined, the Lightning has tightened up defensively in front of their kid goaltenders of late. Heading into Saturday’s game with the Bolts had permitted fewer than 30 shots on goal in four of their previous five games. For the season, the Lightning has allowed the fourth most shots per game in the league (32.1).
Who Else Have Ya Got? – The Capitals have now outscored the Lightning by a combined 16-7 in going 3-0 in the first three meetings between the two teams this season. The Caps have defeated three different Lightning goaltenders in 2008-09: Kolzig, Smith and McKenna.
Power Movers – With 29 power play points, Alex Ovechkin leads the NHL in that department. Caps center Nicklas Backstrom is tied for second in the league with 27 power play points.
Century City – With a pair of assists in Saturday’s game against the Lightning, Backstrom now has 100 helpers in just 138 games for his NHL career.
Clutch Cargo – Ovechkin’s 18 third period goals are tops in the league, and he has added two more in overtime. He has five more third period tallies than any other NHL player.
Sacrifice – Caps rookie defenseman Karl Alzner sat this one out as a healthy scratch, and he has played in just 29 of Washington’s 56 games this season. Even so, Alzner’s total of 52 blocked shots ranks third among all NHL rookies. He trails only Drew Doughty (71) of the Kings and Luke Schenn (68) of the Maple Leafs among all NHL rookies.
Happy Birthday – To Caps right wing Viktor Kozlov, born on this date in 1975 and to ex-Caps defenseman Calle Johansson, born on this date in 1967.
Keeping A Good Man Down – The Caps accomplished a relatively rare feat for them in keeping Lightning winger Mark Recchi off the scoresheet on Saturday night. The 41-year-old Recchi has done a lot of damage against the Caps in his career, and he is in some elite company in that regard.
Recchi has 108 career points against the Caps, tied for top spot all-time in points against Washington with Hockey Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne. Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky has 105, Hockey Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier has 103 and Hockey Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux has 101.
We’re not exactly sure when Recchi will get his next chance to nudge ahead of Dionne on the all-time list. The Caps and Lightning don’t meet again until March 19, by which time Recchi may have moved on to another locale. With Tampa Bay well outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture, the still-effective Recchi is a reasonably good candidate to be dealt at the March 4 NHL trading deadline.
Down on the Farm – While the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning did battle on Saturday night in Florida, the respective AHL affiliates of both clubs faced off at Giant Center in Hershey where the Bears hosted the Norfolk Admirals.
The Bears poured the offense on Admirals goaltender Craig Kowalski and an undisciplined Norfolk team early and often. Keith Aucoin gave Hershey a 1-0 lead with a power play goal – his 18th tally of the season – at 3:17 of the first period, Alexandre Giroux and Chris Bourque assisting.
Just over a minute later, the Bears added to their early lead with another power play strike. This time it was Giroux from Aucoin and Bourque at 4:31. The goal was Giroux’s 37th of the season. Twenty-three seconds later, Patrick McNeill’s power play goal made it 3-0 Bears. McNeill’s third of the season came with help from Helmer and Perreault. The Bears outshot the Admirals 17-9 in the first.
After the first 20 minutes, it was all Admirals. The Bears outshot Norfolk 19-15 in the middle frame, but the Admirals outscored the Bears 4-0 to take a 4-3 lead.
Hershey pulled even at 7:37 of the third when Aucoin scored his second of the game and his 19th of the season. Giroux and Tyler Sloan assisted. But Norfolk’s Brandon Segal scored what would prove to be the game-winner with just 3:04 remaining. Despite outshooting the Admirals by a whopping 50-29, the Bears and goaltender Kris Mayotte fell to a 5-4 defeat.
Down a level, the South Carolina Stingrays trounced the Gwinnett Gladiators 9-3 on Saturday night in Gwinnett. Eight different players scored for the Rays, while Spencer Carbery netted a pair. Jonathan Boutin stopped 31 of 34 shots to run his record to 3-2 on the seasond.
South Carolina hosts Mississippi on Sunday.
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