Mike Green knew he tried to make a play more complicated than it needed to be in the third period on Tuesday night and that his mistake cost the Capitals a chance at gaining at least a point against the New York Islanders.
With the memory of that error still in his mind four days later, Green wanted to make sure he made a positive impact as Washington kicked off its three-game road trip in Buffalo.
“I needed to have a big game,” Green said after Washington’s 4-3 shootout victory. “I had a rough last game and mistakes happen, accidents happen. It wasn’t a lack of effort, bad luck and a bad play and it was unfortunate. But we can’t have stuff like that happen right now. We can’t afford it, it’s more intensified when stuff does happen. It was important for us guys to come out and win tonight and for myself to have a good game.”
Like most of the Capitals, Saturday night started slow for Green. He was on the ice for the Sabres’ second goal but was boxed out by Drew Stafford, unable to get over and prevent Ville Leino from swatting a rebound past Braden Holtby.
But, as was the case for the entire team, as the game went on Green found a rhythm. He started putting pucks on net and in the third period, as the Capitals pushed for a tying goal, Green fulfilled his role as prime puck distributor at the blue line. He found his teammates for open looks and didn’t hesitate to shoot.
“Those clutch guys are the guys that want the puck and want to shoot you can tell when the game is close to the end, when the game’s on the line he wants it,” Holtby said. “He wants to be the guy and that’s a great characteristic to have as one of the leaders on our team.”
With 6 minutes 50 seconds gone in the third period, Green fired a booming slap shot from the point that rung off the left post. But he wasn’t done trying to beat backup Sabres netminder Jhonas Enroth on his blocker side.
Late in regulation with Holtby pulled for an extra attacker, Green got another chance to try that shot. This time when the puck clanked off the left post it caromed into the open net behind Enroth rather than out of it, tying the game for the Capitals with 39.2 seconds remaining in the third to ensure they would at least leave Buffalo with a point.
Karl Alzner said Green may have called his shot, but the Capitals’ top blue-liner played down any such assertion.
“After the first one hit the post and went out, I said I’m going to squeeze one in that side and it just worked out. I didn’t really call it,” Green said with a laugh. “But I appreciate his confidence in me.”
Given the way this season has gone for Green — with a nagging groin injury causing him to miss 13 games the latest in a series of ailments that have hampered him in recent years — it’s good to see the Calgary native come through in crunch time for Washington once again. With the memory of his mistake that led to the Islanders’ game-winning goal by John Tavares still weighing on his mind, the goal couldn’t have come at a better time for him, either.
“He could have had a couple tonight. He played a really good hockey game, I’m glad for him that he got the one to tie it,” said Coach Adam Oates, who added that he spoke with Green Saturday morning about the costly error against New York . “A lot of tough luck for him the other night. Very accountable guy, apologized to me, which I know how he feels. To apologize but still very professional. Great for him to bounce back and have a great one for him.”