Mike Green Keeps On Going, But Washington Capitals Lose to New York Rangers in Shootout, 5-4

Markus Naslund beats José Theodore for the Rangers' third goal in their only win over the Capitals this season. (Getty Images)
Markus Naslund beats José Theodore for the Rangers' third goal in their only win over the Capitals this season. (Getty Images) (By Nick Laham -- Getty Images)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 12, 2009

NEW YORK, Feb. 11 -- It was a night of conflicting emotions for Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green.

He tied the NHL record for consecutive games with a goal by a defenseman. But Green, the league leader in goals and points at his position, could only watch from the bench in the shootout as the New York Rangers scored an odd goal to clinch a 5-4 victory before a capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers' Ryan Callahan tallied the decisive goal in penalty shots without actually putting the puck into the net. He whipped his wrist shot off the crossbar, but it ricocheted off the iron, trickled between José Theodore's skates, then deflected back across the goal line off the goaltender's stick. Theodore said afterward that he didn't attempt to get out of the way of the rebound because he thought the play was dead after the shot rang off the iron.

"To be honest, I thought when it hit the crossbar, when it comes back out that it was a no play," said Theodore, who fell to 11-4 all-time in shootouts. "So I didn't really . . . I didn't know where the puck was, but I knew it wasn't going in. I didn't really try to get out of the way because to me it was a no goal. Obviously, I was wrong. It's a lesson I learned."

Callahan's shootout goal, plus his goal and assist in regulation, helped Henrik Lundqvist (26 saves) and the Rangers snap their losing streak at five games, defeat the Capitals for the first time in six attempts and improve to 9-3 in shootouts this season.

Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau, meantime, said Callahan's shootout goal was not Theodore's fault but rather a fortunate bounce for a Rangers team that desperately needed one.

"We're at the point where we are disappointed when we don't get two [points] every night," Boudreau said. "But I thought we played a pretty good game."

Green, though, played a great one. The 23-year-old leads all NHL defensemen with 21 goals and 49 points and joined Mike O'Connell as the only defensemen to score in seven straight games. O'Connell accomplished the feat with Boston in 1983-84.

"I don't know if you seen my reaction, but I was pretty jacked," said Green, who celebrated his first goal with a scream and a punch to the glass. "I was pretty wound up. I think we're happy with the point. We wanted that second one, but we played well. It felt like a playoff game."

During his seven-game goal-scoring streak, Green has nine goals and seven assists and has moved solidly into the Norris Trophy conversation.

"Things just seem to be rolling lately," Green said. "Hopefully it can keep going. It feels pretty special. Right now, if it's on my stick I'm shooting it."

With Alex Ovechkin (game-high 13 hits) facing a double-team almost each time he touched the puck and Alexander Semin out with an injury, the scoring burden fell to Green.

He was up to the challenge.

After a pair of early fights got the capacity crowd into the game and charged up the Rangers, the home team needed a fluky goal from Lauri Korpikoski to tie the game at 2 near the midpoint of the second period. That was Green's cue to take over.

He netted his milestone goal at 10 minutes 32 seconds after snapping a cross-ice feed from Ovechkin and hammering it past Lundqvist.

The Rangers got goals from Markus Naslund and Paul Mara later in the period to pull ahead 4-3. But Green answered for the Capitals with a prettier goal than his first. Michael Nylander spun at the top of the New York zone, then slipped a pass to Green, who unleashed a slap shot that eluded Lundqvist with 57.6 seconds remaining in the second period, tying the game at 4.

Theodore was outstanding in the third period and overtime, turning away all 12 shots he faced to force the game to the shootout. But his effort was overshadowed by the Capitals' penalty-kill unit, which fended off four Rangers power plays in the final 20 minutes, including a four-minute high-sticking infraction assessed to defenseman Shaone Morrisonn, and is now 9 for 9 in the past two games.

Then, after a frenetic overtime, the Rangers' got their fortunate bounce in the shootout.

"It's frustrating to get scored on like that," Theodore said. "It's not a clean goal. But it counts and we lost."

Capitals Notes: With Semin sidelined with an undisclosed injury, Jay Beagle was recalled from Hershey (Pa.) of the American Hockey League. Boudreau wouldn't divulge much about Semin's injury other than to say that the star winger "came up lame" during Monday's practice. Beagle, meantime, became the seventh player to make his NHL debut with Washington this season and produced a pair of scoring chances in 7:41. . . . Veteran forward Viktor Kozlov missed his third consecutive game with a groin muscle strain. Boudreau said he expects Kozlov to return to practice on Friday and possibly suit up Saturday or Sunday. . . . Defensemen John Erskine and Staffan Kronwall were healthy scratches.

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