WASHINGTON -- A game and a rivalry already missing some serious star power didn't need to lose any more, but Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green couldn't get the ringing out of his ears until it was too late. Sunday's game between Washington and Pittsburgh had to go on without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Semin and Green.
Green was struck directly in the right ear by Brooks Orpik's slap shot in the final moments of the first period at Verizon Center and fell to the ice clutching his head. Blood immediately started pouring out of his ear and Green had to be helped off the ice, but for right now it doesn't appear that the injury is anything more serious than a headache.
Green spoke to the media in the dressing room following Washington's 3-0 win and said there was no way he could have returned to the game.
"Everything happened so quickly," Green said. "It was just ringing a little bit and once it went away I was fine. I was a little unbalanced when I went off the ice, but I feel fine now."
Washington plays again Tuesday at home against San Jose. Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said Green will be reevaluated Monday.
"He's got a lot of stitches in the ear, but it's just day to day," Boudreau said. "He's got a little bit of a headache right now, but I mean, if you get hit the head with the puck you're going to have a headache."
The Capitals motored on with only five defensemen for the final 40 minutes and still managed to hand the Penguins their fourth shutout loss of the season, third since Crosby was forced out of the lineup with a concussion 13 games ago.
"We lost our best 'D' and everybody stepped up," Alex Ovechkin said. "We get the lead and we know we have to play more safely in our zone than we usually do."
Capitals rookie John Carlson wound up playing a career-high 27 minutes and 46 seconds and still was a plus-1 with two hits and a blocked shot. Scott Hannan played 24 minutes and John Erskine played 18 minutes, or three minutes more than he usually does.
Washington was credited with 18 blocked shots, including 10 from their blue line.
"It's all about commitment, commitment to winning," Boudreau said. "You block shots, you get in the way. One of your teammates go down and another one picks it up."
Boudreau said he started Michal Neuvirth in net on Sunday because Semyon Varlamov was sick Saturday night and still not feeling well Sunday morning. Varlamov was in net for Washington's 3-1 win over Pittsburgh in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and stopped 23 shots in the Caps' 5-2 win over Tampa Bay on Friday. He had started three straight games.
Neuvirth, who made 22 saves for his second shutout, remembered prior to the game Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was caught by HBO's cameras calling him "shaky" during the first meeting of the season between the Penguins and Capitals on Dec. 23. Neuvirth said he was motivated by that.
"Now I'm pretty happy I shut them down, so it's even better for me right now," Neuvirth said. "I looked at him during the warm-up and told myself I've got to shut these guys out."
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