TAMPA, Fla. | While Mike Green was in one corner of the Washington Capitals‘ dressing room wiping shaving cream from his face, Alex Ovechkin made sure Michal Neuvirth didn’t feel left out at the opposite end.
Green set a record for defensemen with goals in eight consecutive games Saturday night, and Neuvirth made 31 saves in his NHL debut to help the Caps blow out the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1 at St. Pete Times Forum - and both received a faceful of shaving cream from the team jester for their efforts.
“That’s all really special - those are memories these guys are going to take forever,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I just hope they come down enough to play [Sunday at Florida].”
Green made history at 5:33 of the second period. His first shot from the top of the offensive zone hit former teammate Matt Pettinger, but Green was there when it came down between the hash marks and his second attempt found the back of the net.
Not only did the other guys on the power play mob him, but the rest of the team also streamed from the bench to offer their congratulations.
“At first I thought it was the next line coming out, but it was great,” said Green, whose father, Dave, was one of several dads on this trip. “It is great - I can’t wait to give him a hug. … I think he would have been here no matter what. That one was for him.”
One of Green’s sticks from the game will be sent to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. The 23-year-old is one game shy of the franchise record for any player, which is held by Mike Gartner (1986-87) and Alan Haworth (1985-86). Green is the first player in the NHL to have an eight-game goal streak since Miroslav Satan and Teemu Selanne did it 10 years ago.
Green’s goal gives him 22 for the season - eight more than any other defenseman in the league.
Washington staked Neuvirth to a 3-0 lead in the first 20 minutes. Alexander Semin potted his 21st of the season at 5:02. He worked a perfect give-and-go with Nicklas Backstrom before getting Tampa Bay goalie Mike McKenna to drop to the ice with a deke, opening up an easy shooting lane.
Ovechkin made it 2-0 at 13:21. Seconds after a pass from Semin was intercepted at the Caps’ blue line, he stepped in front of a pass from Tampa Bay’s Ryan Malone. Semin slipped the puck to Ovechkin, who took off on a 100-foot dash before recording his league-leading 38th goal.
Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn added another tally just before the intermission. It was Washington’s third goal on 12 shots, and Karri Ramo replaced McKenna to start the second period.
Neuvirth got a little lucky on the first shot he faced - an attempt by Vincent Lecavalier squirted through his legs but went just beyond the far post and harmlessly into the corner. Midway through the opening period, Lecavalier broke in alone on the rookie goalie, but Neuvirth robbed him with a glove save.
“That was just fast, and I was lucky,” Neuvirth said. “After that I was just like, ‘Well, I can play at this level.’ ”
The 20-year-old native of the Czech Republic stopped the first 19 shots he faced, but Malone’s pass was deflected by Caps defenseman Staffan Kronwall past Neuvirth at 9:30 of the middle period to put Tampa Bay on the board.
Eric Fehr added his fifth goal in six games in the third period. Tomas Fleischmann stole the puck from Ramo behind the net and then sent a backhanded pass in front to Fehr, who snapped in his eighth of the season.
When the final horn sounded, the Caps swarmed their freshman netminder.
“I still can’t believe this,” Neuvirth said. “This is my best feeling ever.”
Notes - Kronwall was playing in his first game with Washington since being claimed on re-entry waivers from Toronto on Feb. 6. …
Defensemen Karl Alzner and Milan Jurcina and forward Jay Beagle were healthy scratches.