Five seasons into his NHL career, Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green has made a living as a high-risk, high-reward player.
On Friday night, both sides of his game were on display; late in regulation, he made a turnover that led to a Carolina Hurricanes goal, but later redeemed himself by scoring 1:16 into overtime to give the Capitals a 4-3 victory.
“I felt like I had a few chances tonight – I didn’t really have my feel,” Green said after the game. “For that one, I got lucky there. I was just excited that it went.”
Green’s sixth goal of the season – and second game-winning goal – came after Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom beat a defenseman in the corner and found Green all alone in the slot, where he beat Carolina goaltender Cam Ward with a clean wrist shot.
It was redemption for Green, whose third-period turnover led to Carolina forcing overtime. With Hurricanes forward Joni Pitkanen in the penalty box for interference, Green skated to the top of the point and tried to make a pass in the opposite direction, but was picked off by Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason.
Gleason, wearing a full visor after an Alexander Ovechkin shot deflected off his stick and into his face (requiring 30 stitches), broke away from the Capitals defensemen and fired a slap shot over Capitals goaltender Jose Theodore, tying the game at three with just fewer than 7 minutes remaining.
“Their D-man made a great play,” Green said of the turnover. “I didn’t even see him.”
An aggressive play by Green was also the factor in the first goal of the game, when he skated into the Carolina zone, passed the puck and took a hard hit to the face. Green said that he “kind of went fuzzy” after the hit, and remained on the ice for a few seconds.
When he started to re-join the play, Carolina had a two-on-one break, and newly acquired Jiri Tlusty finished off the play by tapping in a pass from teammate Brandon Sutter.
“It was great,” Tlusty said. “It was [my] first shift. [Brandon] Sutter made a nice play and it was in the net.”
Carolina forward Eric Staal would add another goal in the period and the Capitals found themselves down by two heading into the first intermission, despite leading in shots 14-4.
“We were circling everywhere,” Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Even though the shots were pretty one-sided, I think on the basis of scoring chances, [Carolina] had as many or more than we did. We’ve gotta get back to it and just play the way we can. We weren’t getting the puck deep and we were trying to be fancy, and when we try to be fancy, nothing works.”
In the second period, Boudreau reunited the line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Alexander Semin, and saw huge dividends. Semin cut the lead to one 13:07 into the period by beating Ward with a wrist shot from the top of the circle, and then tied the game with 0.6 seconds remaining by scoring on his on rebound a breakaway.
“As I was skating forward, I looked at the clock and there was five seconds left and I was contemplating whether I should shoot or what,” Semin said through a translator. “And I just stopped and I got a lucky bounce and I saw the goalie down so I just shot the puck.”
Early in the third, Capitals forward Tomas Fleischmann gave the Capitals a 3-2 lead by beating Ward with a wrist shot after a pass from center Mathieu Perreault. Gleason’s late goal would tie it, setting the stage for Green to live up to the nickname given to him a few seasons ago: “Game over.”
“Really good players, if they’re having a bad game,” Boudreau said, “still have a tendency to step up and still be in the limelight.”