When games are at their most intense, when capacity crowds are at their most frenzied, when each shot holds game-winning potential, there are few players the Capitals like to have with the game on their stick more than Mike Green.
Eight minutes into overtime in Game 2 on Saturday afternoon, the defenseman reminded everyone why once again as “Game-Over Green” made a triumphant appearance.
After Mike Ribeiro faked out two Rangers’ penalty killers, he sent the puck over to Green at the top of the circles where the 27-year-old blue-liner fired a slap shot. The puck deflected off the stick of Derek Stepan and found its way past Henrik Lundqvist for a 1-0 Capitals win that increased their lead in this Eastern Conference quarterfinal to 2-0 as the series shifts to New York.
“Just a lucky one tonight. What an effort before we got that power play by the guys that were on the ice, pressuring their D,” Green said of Washington’s work that forced Ryan McDonagh to fire the puck over the glass for the key power-play opportunity. “They had no choice but to try to go off the glass and they made a bad play. It was just a lucky one. It could have been any of us.”
Despite Green playing down his decisive tally, he didn’t earn the moniker for nothing. The goal was Green’s 18th career game-winner, including eight in overtime, in the regular season and playoffs combined.
“He’s a big-time player. He handles the pressure well. He’s calm all the time with the puck in regulation,” Karl Alzner said. “So when it gets into overtime and guys start to get the shakes a little bit, he’s still calm Mike Green. Just is able to find those holes and it really is amazing. I wish I could do it like him.”
Green’s composure on the ice in key situations has earned him the nickname “Casual Mike” from his teammates, Alzner said. It’s a trait that comes naturally to certain players and it’s what makes him a vital asset in critical situations.
“It’s a reason I don’t want Mike to try too hard to be a scorer during the game because we need him to have the poise back there at a key moment,” Coach Adam Oates said. “It’s a big power play, the place is going crazy. You need guys out there that are calm and that’s one of his gifts.”
Said goaltender Braden Holtby: “He’s so patient. He’s patient in all situations, you see probably 95 percent of players when they get the game on the line in overtime and situations like that they want to get rid of it. They want to pound the puck through the net. He approaches it the same way he does all the time. It’s patience. You can’t teach that.”