- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 12, 2008

Even when his team scored first, Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green didn’t feel immediately comfortable last night in his Stanley Cup playoff debut.

He was passive in his own zone. He wasn’t aggressive during the Capitals’ first two power plays.

“Mike looked odd,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I’m sure some of our guys were [nervous] as well as some of their guys who were getting a first taste of this.”

But there’s nothing like a two-goal third-period deficit to bring a player back to reality.

Settling back into his game, Green scored two goals in the third, paving the way for Alex Ovechkin’s game-winner in Washington’s 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Flyers last night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at raucous Verizon Center.

Green’s first goal came just 1:50 into the third period. He tied the game with a power-play goal less than five minutes later.

“A very important couple goals,” said center Sergei Fedorov, who assisted on Green’s first goal. “I’m sure he’s feeling like he’s on cloud nine about now, but it’s our job to bring him down a bit and keep him grounded. I’m sure he will because he understands what we’re up against.”

Green, who led all NHL defensemen with 18 goals during the regular season, already was playing the even-keel game in the locker room.

“It’s a seven-game series and they’re going to come out hard [tomorrow] and we know that,” he said. “We’re very lucky to come out with the win tonight because of how they played and how we played. We’ll take a step back, regroup and be ready for Sunday.”

Green’s first goal came at a critical juncture, cutting the Flyers’ lead to 4-3 early in the third period.

Fedorov gained control of the puck above the crease and saw a pinching Green to his left. His backhanded pass hit the tape of Green’s stick and the 22-year-old defenseman lifted a shot over Martin Biron.

“I was going to swing it toward the net, but I saw him coming so I barely pushed the puck his way,” Fedorov said. “That was an important goal because it was right at the beginning of the period and we kept building from that. That was a big step for us.”

Said Green: “Fedorov made a great pass and I just had to put it upstairs. … My guy was on Fedorov and anytime that happens, it’s an opportunity to jump back-door, and I went for it because we were down two goals. I was very surprised he saw me. I had no idea he would bump it to me, but he can find guys no matter what.”

The Caps’ power play finally got going to set up Green’s second goal. Washington’s first two power plays netted only one shot.

Green’s slap shot from the right point was blocked by Patrick Thoresen. As he lay on the ice with a serious groin injury, Ovechkin corralled the rebound and fed Green, now stationed at the left point. A couple of strides later, Green’s blast beat Biron to the glove side.

“We moved the puck pretty well, and an opening was presented to us because we penetrated the box against them,” Fedorov said. “Obviously, Mike saw the perfect low-glove corner shot.”

Green won his first game and scored his first two goals. He also learned a valuable playoff lesson.

“Anytime you sit on your heels, whether as a player or as a team, you’re not going to get the bounces,” he said. “They came at us so hard, we were sitting back and weren’t being aggressive. For myself, it took a little while to calm down and get going.”

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