Nearly 10 years ago the Capitals played a memorable game on Valentine’s Day on a road trip to that included stops in New York and Florida, where this game was played. The game against the Tampa Bay Lightning featured an outburst of goals and record night for then-Capitals defenseman Mike Green. In this latest Retro Recap, NoVa Caps’ Diane Doyle takes a look back on this Valentine’s Day spectacular.
This particular road trip encompassed the Capitals’ annual Fathers’ trip, during which fathers of the players accompany the team on the road. The Capitals had recalled rookie goaltender Michal Neuvirth from the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears since their backup goaltender Brent Johnson had sustained an injury and their other top goaltending prospect, Semyon Varlamov, was also out with an injury, which necessitated the call-up of Neuvirth. Forward Alexander Semin was returning to the lineup after a one-game absence, due to injury, while Viktor Kozlov remained out of the lineup with a groin injury.
Going into their Valentine’s Day contest with the Lightning, the Caps held a record of 34-16-4. They were first in the Southeast Division and had the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, behind only the Boston Bruins. The Tampa Bay Lightning were having a poor season and were in last place in the Southeast Division. In the individual statistics department, Green had a seven-game goal scoring streak going into the game.
With the Florida trip being a back-to-back set of games, the Caps’ coaching staff figured it would be a good game for Neuvirth to make his NHL debut, especially with Tampa Bay being a last place team.
The Caps opened up the scoring a little over five minutes into the game when Semin scored his 21st goal of the year on a pass from Nicklas Backstrom. At the 13:21 mark, Alex Ovechkin scored the team’s second goal (and his 38th of the season), on assists from Semin and Backstrom to give the Caps a 2-0 lead over the Bolts.
With less than a minute left in the opening frame, Capitals defenseman Shaone Morrisonn scored on assists from David Steckel and Boyd Gordon to give the Capitals a commanding 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
At the 4:55 of the middle frame, former Capitals captain Jeff Halpern took a hooking penalty, putting the Caps on the power play. A little over 30 seconds later, Green scored on the ensuing power play on an assist from Semin. This goal extended Green’s consecutive goal-scoring streak to eight games, breaking the record for consecutive games with a goal by a defenseman, previously set by Mike O’Connell of the Boston Bruins during the 1983-84 season. The goal was Green’s 22nd of the season and it gave Washington a dominating 4-0 advantage.
Tampa Bay’s Ryan Malone broke the shutout bid of Neuvirth about halfway through the period, inserting some life into the Lightning before the end of two periods of play.
The third period was largely uneventful, with Eric Fehr scored the Capitals’ fifth and final goal of the game at the 13:31 mark on an assist from Tomas Fleischmann.
The Caps won the game 5-1, starting the road trip off well. Green’s father, David, was in the audience for his son’s record-setting goal and spoke about the record after the game. The Caps traveled to Sunrise, Florida for a game the next day against the Florida Panthers. While the Caps won that game, it proved to be the end of Green’s consecutive goal-scoring streak.
By Diane Doyle