Caps defenseman Mike Green has shown a proclivity for potting overtime goals during his NHL career, and he moved another rung up the NHL’s all-time ladder in that regard on Tuesday. Green’s goal – his second of this game – just 60 seconds after the start of overtime lifted Washington to a 5-4 win over the Sabres in Buffalo.
Green made his presence known first verbally and then offensively to help the Caps to a pair of much needed points.
Washington winger Martin Erat gained the zone and left a drop pass for Alex Ovechkin on the left wing wall just inside the Buffalo blueline. Ovechkin glided in, sold Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth on the shot before feeding Green beautifully as the defenseman jumped up into the play on the right side. Green let loose a wrist shot from the bottom of the circle that beat a sprawling Enroth, giving the Caps their second win in a row.
“He was screaming so loud so I knew he was out there,” says Ovechkin. “I gave him the pass; it was a little bit forward but good for him and good for our team that he reached it and put it in.”
“I just saw that there was wide open ice,” recounts Green. “And as soon as that player went over to Alex, I knew that I would either have a rebound [chance] and hopefully [be able to] pop it in, or [a shot]. Alex heard me, and he made a great play. I know it’s tough for him not to shoot that puck, but what an unselfish play.”
“I think it’s the right play,” says Caps coach Adam Oates. “The goalie is out, expecting him to shoot. He’s a great shooter. You freeze the guys, and Greenie’s there. He makes a great pass and we put it in.”
Green’s goal was the eighth game-winning overtime tally of his NHL career, one more than longtime New York Rangers defenseman – and Hockey Hall of Famer – Brian Leetch for second place all-time in overtime goals by a defenseman. Fellow Hall honoree Scott Niedermayer had 13 during his career; he is the only defenseman in NHL history with more overtime game-enders.
The Caps got off to a swift start, a rarity for Washington of late. Erat drew a tripping call on Sabres’ forward Matt Ellis at 3:18 of the first, giving the Caps the game’s first power play. Washington’s beleaguered extra-man unit got the job done. Troy Brouwer won an offensive zone face-off at the right dot, and Nicklas Backstrom bumped the puck to the slot where Ovechkin one-timed it past Enroth to give Washington a 1-0 advantage at 3:49 of the first.
Washington doubled its lead less than a minute later when Green’s point shot bounced off Ovechkin in front and went behind Enroth for a 2-0 lead at 4:42.
It wasn’t until the 7:16 mark of the frame that the Sabres were finally able to record their first shot on net of the night, a dribbler from rookie Philip Varone that Caps goalie Braden Holtby was easily able to scoop up.
Minutes later, Buffalo started a wave in the Washington end, putting a series of six shots on net. The last three came on rapid succession, and Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff bagged his fourth goal of the season on the last of those at 13:45.
After taking that 2-1 lead into the first intermission, the Caps found themselves in a spot of trouble early in the second. Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov was assessed a questionable tripping minor just 52 seconds into the middle frame. The Sabres needed less than half of Orlov’s sentence to pull even.
A series of sharp passes brought the puck to Matt Moulson down low on the right side. From the goal line, Moulson precisely threaded a cross-crease feed through a narrow lane to Cody Hodgson, one of only two right-handed forwards in the Buffalo lineup. Hodgson snapped off a shot high into the near corner of the net. A precision pass and a precision shot were required to make it a 2-2 game.
Midway through the middle period, the Caps retook the lead for a second time. Orlov faked a shot from the high slot, and instead dished to defensive partner Mike Green, who was drifting down near the right dot. Not seeing a shot to his liking, Green scooted around the back of the cage and tucked a wraparound shot just around the pipe to Enroth’s right.
“I didn’t have much to shoot at,” notes Green. “I tried to readjust in the middle and still had nothing. So I took a chance to wheel around the net and I just got lucky that [Enroth] kind of came out to play me.”
As has been the case all too often this season, prosperity wasn’t for the Caps. Only 62 seconds after taking a 3-2 lead, Washington relinquished it. Sabres winger Marcus Foligno carved down the right side with the puck, going to his backhand to avert Caps defenseman John Carlson. Foligno then made a power move toward the net while trying to get the puck back on his forehand for a shot attempt. Instead, the puck rolled off Foligno’s blade and right to Varone, who was camped near the left post. Varone easily tapped it home for his first career NHL goal at 11:11.
Brouwer drew a hooking call on Sabres rearguard Henrik Tallinder at 15:14, giving the Capitals their third man-advantage opportunity of the evening. The Caps began funneling the puck to Ovechkin, and he fired a couple of shots from his office. Those didn’t work, so Ovechkin snaked a laser of a pass from the left wing half wall across to Erat down low on the right. Erat neatly teed up a one-timer for Brouwer, who netted his 10th of the season from the diamond spot in the slot, the real estate that proved so fruitful for him last season.
Brouwer has now reached the double-digit level in goals scored for the sixth consecutive season.
“They’re keying on the few shooters on our PP,” says Brouwer. “It’s tough to try and get those open looks like we were previously able to. Teams know what we’re doing now, they have a good pre-scout on us, and we’ve got to try to change it up a little bit. I think the reason why I was open was it came from Ovi’s side over across and Marty had a good heads-up play. Sometimes we’re going to have to ad-lib if we’re going to be able to get some good looks on the PP.”
Washington led 4-3 with 20 minutes to play. Just before the seven-minute mark of the third period, Caps left wing Jason Chimera lost control of the puck to Hodgson on the half wall in the Washington end, and Hodgson took off towards the net. Chimera collared him, drawing a delayed call, but Hodgson stayed on his feet. He eluded Washington blueliner Karl Alzner, and went to the backhand as he skated into the slot. Hodgson’s backhander glanced off defenseman John Carlson and through Holtby to make it a 4-4 game.
Although the Caps let loose of a two-goal lead and surrendered a goal within two minutes of an opponent’s goal for the 23rd time this season, Holtby didn’t see Tuesday’s instances of those occurrences as being particularly egregious.
“I don’t think it was as bad in this case,” says Holtby. “They made a great play on their power play goal, the second one. And the last two were just … they happen. When the guy tries to stuff it and it rolls off his stick to a guy wide open, I don’t know if you can blame that on us. It’s just one of those plays that happens. The last one, it goes off Carly’s stick in between his legs and finds a way in. I don’t think it falls into that category as much.”
Buffalo kept buzzing in the third. Despite playing on the road the night before and then enduring a morning skate less than a dozen hours later, the Sabres were fresh and energetic in the third. The Caps spent more time than they’d have liked chasing the Sabres, and on more than one occasion Washington needed Holtby to make a strong save to gain a whistle and a change of personnel.
“Their game picked up,” says Oates of the Sabres. “We gave them life. They scored one, so obviously they’re feeling good and we’re on our heels a little bit. I think that’s a little bit of a non-confident team; we’re not playing with as much confidence as we should. Once again, in the third we still shot ourselves in the foot a few times with where to put the puck. They’re a frustrating team to play because this league is all about pace, and half the game they play very passive. As a player, you’re not used to getting time. So when you get some time, it’s like ‘what do I do?’ And we made some mistakes because of that.”
In the third period, Buffalo had 26 shot attempts and 13 shots on net to 10 attempts and five shots on goal for Washington. The Capitals had the only two shot attempts in an overtime session that lasted exactly one minute.
“The guys were really resilient tonight,” says Brouwer. “I thought after we went up 2-0 we maybe kind of relaxed a little bit maybe thinking it was going to be an easy game. That team on the other side has got a lot of pride. They worked real hard and got themselves back into the game a few times. But we found a way to win tonight. That’s a positive, but we also have to be a little bit nervous about giving up the lead three times in the game.”
Century City – Green’s goal was the 100th of his NHL career and it came in his 483rd career contest in the league. He is the fourth Caps defenseman to score 100 or more goals in a Washington sweater, joining Kevin Hatcher (149), Sergei Gonchar (144) and Calle Johansson (113).
With 30 points (seven goals, 23 assists) on the season, Green is tied for 14th among all NHL defensemen in scoring.
Rear View – Ovechkin’s four points give him 790 (409 goals, 381 assists) for his NHL career, moving him one ahead of Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Gartner and into second place on the Capitals’ all-time scoring ledger.
With 825 points (472 goals, 353 assists) in a Washington sweater, Peter Bondra is the current lifetime leader in Capitals scoring.
Four Score – Ovechkin’s four-point game was his second of the season; he had four goals against Tampa Bay on Dec. 10. He has now enjoyed a four-point night on 13 occasions in his nine NHL seasons. Ovechkin’s single-game best is five points in a game, achieved four times. The last of those five-point games came more than four years ago, on Jan. 15, 2010 when Ovechkin recorded a goal and four assists against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ovechkin’s second goal in Tuesday’s game was his 38th of the season, matching his best single-season total since he netted 50 in 2009-10.
First Things First – The Caps’ pair of first-period goals in Tuesday’s game snapped a string of five straight games in which Washington had failed to score in the first frame. The last time the Caps endured a streak of that nature that lasted at least that long was a seven-game run of first period futility from Feb. 9-22, 2012.
That’s One – The Caps’ Tuesday night win over the Sabres in Buffalo was their first in a nationally televised (United States, not Canada) game this season. The Caps are now 1-6 under the national TV spotlight in 2013-14. They’ll get their next chance to improve upon that mark this Sunday when they host the Detroit Red Wings at Verizon Center.
In Pairs – Ovechkin netted two goals in a game for the seventh time this season. Green did so for the second time this season and the second time this month; he also scored twice in a 5-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul on Jan. 4.
Erat had two or more assists in a game for the fifth time this season and the second consecutive game. He is fifth on the team with 20 assists this season and he leads the Capitals with 17 even-strength assists.
Killing With Kindness – There were four power plays spread amongst the two teams in Tuesday’s game, and three of them resulted in goals.
Washington has allowed at least one power-play goal in nine of its 13 games this month. Since the turn of the calendar, the Caps’ penalty killing outfit is 33-for-45 (73.3%).
Discipline – Each of the three games between the Capitals and Sabres this season went into overtime and two of the games required a shootout. The two clubs played 191 minutes of hockey against one another in 2013-14 with a combined total of just 13 power plays.
Washington had seven power plays against the Sabres in the three games, and the Sabres had six. Five of Buffalo’s extra-man chances came in the Jan. 12 game at Verizon Center, the only Caps-Sabres game to take place in the District this season.
The Caps faced only one power play in 126 minutes against the Sabres in Buffalo, the one on which Hodgson netted the Sabres’ second goal in Tuesday’s game.
Shots Fired – The Caps outshot Buffalo 35-27 on the night, marking the fourth straight game that Washington has managed more shots on goal than its opponent. This also marks the first time in about 23 months that the Caps have managed to outshoot their foe for as many as four straight games.
Washington’s last streak of at least four games was a six-game run in which they outshot the opposition in every game from Feb. 25-March 8, 2012.
Five Straight – With Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Capitals, the Sabres have notched at least a point in five straight home games against the Caps (3-0-2) for the first time since a 5-0-1 home ice spree against Washington from March 31, 1991 through Jan. 27, 1994.
By The Numbers – Green led the Caps with 23:43 in ice time … Green and Ovechkin led the Caps with seven shot attempts. Ovechkin got all seven of his on net and led the team in shots for the game … Joel Ward paced the Capitals with four shots on goal … All 18 Washington skaters logged at least 11 minutes on the night … Tom Wilson’s 11:11 was his second-highest ice time figure of the season; he logged 11:36 against the Oilers in Edmonton on Oct. 24 … Jay Beagle picked up an assist to record the second two-game scoring streak of his career and first since April 11-13, 2013 … Foligno led the Sabres with six hits.