Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green leaned forward in his chair and dragged a hand through his sweat-filled hair, his mind drifting to the rage he felt when his team blew a four-goal lead only minutes earlier.
The 27-year-old had been so upset when a mishandled puck by teammate Karl Alzner allowed Tampa Bay forward Teddy Purcell to score a game-tying goal with 2 minutes 35 seconds remaining in the third period that he fired the puck from within the net, nearly inadvertently hitting a celebrating Purcell square in the jaw.
Soon, though, his anger at blowing a four-goal lead would dissipate. The player some have affectionately dubbed “Game Over Green” did it again, delivering Washington an overtime goal on the power play for a much-needed two points in the standings.
“I had to. They were giving me the shots on that power play and I just had to take it. I had to be confident shooting the puck,” Green said. “And yeah, it sucks. That last goal there, that could have cost us the game. Not that it’s one person’s fault or anything, but that shouldn’t happen.”
The goal was Green’s second game-winner in as many games, and the sixth time in his career he has ended a contest in overtime. He now has 15 game-winning goals over eight seasons. But more importantly, it kept Green streaking on a night when he was also on the ice for three of the Lightning’s five goals.
Green has played increasingly well since returning from a groin injury last month, logging more ice time than any other Capitals player in eight of the team’s past nine games. His regular appearance in the lineup, after missing 83 games over the past two seasons due to various injuries, has also coincided with Washington’s surge in recent weeks.
The Capitals have reeled off 11 wins in their past 13 games with Green back in the fold, and he has registered 10 points (eight goals, two assists) during that stretch. Washington enters the final two weeks of the NHL’s regular season riding a seven-game win streak.
But it’s the manner in which Green has performed — showing off renewed confidence in his skating and decision-making, as well as on Washington’s league-leading power play — that has fans and teammates alike excited for what could be in store. Green is once again displaying flashes of the player that scored goals in eight consecutive games for the Capitals and was twice a finalist for the Norris Trophy, given annually to the NHL’s top defenseman.
“We got so many skilled guys and sometimes it’s the sneaky defenseman that nobody’s looking for and be able to sneak in there,” he said with a wry smile Saturday, in reference to his game-winner.
As for the nickname, Green claimed to have never heard it before, even though it became popular years ago when he first burst onto the NHL scene. That, though, doesn’t mean he wants it to go away at this point.
“I like it, to be honest,” Green said. “I think it’s a good name. I’ll take it.”