By Chris Gordon
Photo credit: Greg Fiume
The golden years of the Capitals’ “Young Guns” — Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Alex Semin — are over. Back in 2009, they were scoring almost constantly, having career years as the Caps blew out teams on the way to the Presidents’ Trophy.
Three years later, Bruce Boudreau is gone, the goals are way down, and Washington barely made the playoffs. But Saturday afternoon against the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals they made a reappearance.
“We’ve been here the longest,” Backstrom told reporters after the game. “We need to step up.”
Ovechkin — whose struggles the past few seasons have been well documented — started the scoring off with a knuckling slapper that Henrik Lundqvist could not handle. Then, after New York tied the game up, Backstrom unleashed a fantastic snipe from the slot. And with the contest knotted at two with 5:48 left in the third, Green fired a bullet from the point on the power play to send the series back to New York even at two games apiece.
“Game over Green, I guess,” said Brooks Laich. “He’s a game breaker, he makes a great shot, and it ends up being the game-winning goal.”
According to Stats LLC, this is the 13th time the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Green trio has tallied in the same contest. The Caps are 13-0 in those games.
“Young Guns?” Green said with a laugh in the Caps locker room when asked about the group. “We’re not so young anymore.”
For Green, the goal was only his second since November of last year. It’s been a difficult last couple of seasons for the 26-year-old defensemen. He has played just 81 games since the start of the 2010-11 campaign, missing time because of multiple concussions and a lingering groin injury that required surgery.
“I know that I can still score at least — it’s been so long,” Green chuckled. “I think my role has changed a little bit around here since my injury. It’s never easy after one with surgery. [I’m] just doing what’s asked of me. I was fortunate enough to get the game-winning goal tonight.”
A long way from the 30 goal scorer and Norris Trophy finalist of yesteryear, Green has had to adjust to less ice time as John Carlson and Karl Alzner have become the team’s top defensive pairing and Dennis Wideman has taken over some of his responsibilities as a big minute offensive blueliner.
Said Alzner of his teammate: “He’s been having a lot of chances, he’s been doing all the right things, and whatever he may have lacked this year in goal scoring he’s made up for in defensive play in my opinion.”
“I think it’s good for his confidence,” Alzner continued, referring to the game-winner. “He’s had so many close chances. Goalies have made big saves, posts, crossbars, and ones that he normally puts in. It nice that he can get not only a goal, but a huge goal. I’m hoping that it kick starts something extra for him because that guy, when he gets fired up, he gets really fired up. He can help his team like crazy.”
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