- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

If anyone could have predicted the amount of success Mike Green would have in the NHL, it’s Bruce Boudreau - and even he is amazed at what his defenseman is accomplishing.

Green had a pair of landmark goals to help the Washington Capitals rally for a 5-3 win Wednesday night against the last-place New York Islanders in front of an announced sellout crowd at Verizon Center.

“I knew he could skate and he competed his rear end off, but I never knew he had the offensive capabilities that he has,” said Boudreau, who has coached Green in the minors and in the NHL. “He has grown so much as a player.”

With his team trailing in the final period, Green potted a pair of power-play goals to spark the comeback. The first was a one-timer on a pass from Alexander Semin at 10:55 and was his 17th extra-man marker of the season - a franchise record for a defenseman.

The second, his 30th of the season, came 83 seconds later. Green knocked down Nate Thompson’s weak clearing attempt at the right point, then wristed a shot past New York goaltender Joey MacDonald for his 18th power-play goal.

“I definitely had a goal for myself to score over 20, and I play with some of the best players in the world,” Green said. “I am very fortunate to have as many as I do.”

Added defenseman Brian Pothier: “Sometimes I just wonder like, ‘Did he really mean to put that shot there? Is he that lucky or is he just really good?’ You don’t get lucky 30 times. He is special.”

Green is the first NHL defenseman to score 30 goals in a season since Washington’s Kevin Hatcher in the 1992-93 season. Green has nine more goals than any other player at his position, and his 70 points are also eight better than the next defenseman.

He promised one of his childhood friends, Kyle Lieske, that he would score Wednesday night - because Green’s former youth hockey teammate has the Caps defenseman on his fantasy team.

“That’s good - whatever gets him going,” Boudreau said. “I hope he has a couple more friends that have him [on their teams].”

With the victory, the Caps surpassed the 100-point barrier and moved three in front of the Devils after New Jersey lost in Pittsburgh. Washington would clinch the Southeast Division title if the Hurricanes lose Thursday night against the Rangers.

The Islanders had taken the lead earlier in the period. The puck was chipped out from along the boards and Richard Park corralled it, split two Caps defenders and faked out Jose Theodore before scoring on a backhand shot 2:12 into the third.

Earlier, when the Islanders were up 2-0, Alex Ovechkin scored 5:37 into the second period. Green chipped the puck past Jeff Tambellini, and Sergei Fedorov beat Islanders defenseman Jack Hillen to the puck in the corner and then made a beautiful drop pass as he skated behind the net to Ovechkin. Ovechkin one-timed the pass off MacDonald for his league-leading 54th marker of the season.

Keith Aucoin’s first goal with the Caps leveled the score. Eric Fehr knocked down a outlet pass, and Aucoin picked up the puck at the top of the circles. His first shot was denied, but he slipped the rebound through MacDonald’s legs at 9:54.

Aucoin, who signed with the Caps this offseason, leads the American Hockey League with 94 points in 69 games, and he now has a goal and two assists in seven games with Washington.

“He’s been really good,” Boudreau said. “He’s a spark plug. He works very hard, and he wants to stay in the NHL. He’s really making a good account of himself.”

Notes - Goaltender Brent Johnson was on the ice near the end of the team’s morning skate Wednesday. He was in full gear and taking shots from his teammates. Both Johnson and Boudreau declined to put a timetable on Johnson’s potential return. Johnson had hip surgery Feb. 12 and was expected to miss six to eight weeks.

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