Four years ago today, it seemed as though Mike Green and the Washington Capitals could do no wrong.
The Capitals were already well on their way to a second straight Southeast Division title when they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1 on Valentine’s Day 2009, while Green- en route to his first of two straight Norris Trophy nominees- made NHL history.
With the Capitals leading 3-0 in third period, Green beat Lightning goalie Karri Ramo for his 22nd goal of the season and extended his goal-scoring streak to eight games- the most all-time by an NHL defenseman.
“I just remember that everything I was shooting was going into the net and we were playing good hockey at the time,” Green recalled this week, as the Caps prepared for another Valentine’s Day showdown in Tampa Bay.
“What I remember about that trip is that it was our ‘Fathers’ Trip’ and all the dads were on the road, so I was trying my best to break that record.”
Green led all NHL defensemen in 2008-09 with a career-high 31 goals, ten of which came during the eight-game streak from Jan. 27 – Feb. 14. The Capitals went 5-1-2 over that stretch.
“I think at that time our power play was running really well and I had the freedom to jump up the ice, being coached under Bruce Boudreau,” Green explained.
“We were so skilled that [opponents] were taking away [Nicklas Backstrom] and [Alex Ovechkin] and I just seemed to be open at the time so it was just a matter of me putting the puck in the net.”
Of Green’s ten goals during the streak, five came on the power play.
“I remember that he was using the same stick the whole time and nobody dared touch it or even look at it,” said Eric Fehr, who had five goals and eight points himself over the course of Green’s streak.
“He was definitely feeling it and everybody knew what was going on. We were following it from around four or five [games] and you didn’t want to talk about it but everybody was thinking about it. And obviously the Fathers Trip just added to the excitement. The dads were so excited just to be a part of it so it was a really exciting trip.”
The three-game trip saw the Capitals fall 5-4 in overtime to the New York Rangers on Feb. 11 with Green scoring twice to tie Mike O’Connell’s 25-year-old record.
The record was then broken three nights later in Tampa Bay, with the streak ending on Feb. 15 in a 4-2 win against the Florida Panthers. Green managed four shots on goal that night but could not beat future teammate Tomas Vokoun.
“It seemed like that year that everything that Mike shot went in and it was nice to see a player rewarded like that,” Jeff Schultz told the Capitals Radio Network this week. “To be partnered with him and to see him do it on the ice, it was a great feeling.
“It was just one of those years where [many Capitals] were setting career marks. Not many guys since then have come close so it’s something that I’m sure Mike will cherish for the rest of his hockey career.”
As for whether another NHL defenseman can match or break Green’s record of goals in eight consecutive games, Fehr believes it’s a long shot.
“It’s tough now to come down to the slot from the D spot and beat the goalie clean in this league. You have to be up in the play a lot, which he was obviously, but there are a lot of elements involved in an eight game [goal] streak for a D-man. There’s a reason it’s only happened once before.”
VALENTINE’S DAY SPECIAL:
The Capitals are 7-5-0 all-time on Valentine’s Day, including a 2-0-0 mark against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Capitals beat the Lightning 5-4 in overtime on Feb. 14, 1997 with Steve Konowalchuk netting the OT winner before a sold-out US Air Arena…
The Capitals also needed overtime in a 4-3 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 14, 2001. Adam Oates scored twice that night, including the OT winner, and led all forwards with 24:10 worth of ice-time. Calle Johansson had a goal and an assist in the win and skated a game-high 27:08. Olie Kolzig stopped 22 of 25 Vancouver shots in the win.