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Green makes history on the blue line

by John Kreiser
The two longest goal-scoring streaks by defensemen in NHL history both belong to players named Mike. Washington's Mike Green can bump former Boston defenseman Mike O'Connell out of the record book on Saturday if he gets a goal in the Caps' game at Tampa Bay.

Green tied O'Connell's 25-year-old record on Wednesday by scoring in his seventh consecutive game, getting a pair of goals in the Capitals' 5-4 shootout loss to the New York Rangers. The two goals, both in the second period, gave him nine during the seven-game streak. He needed only 26 shots to get the nine goals.

Three of Green's nine goals have come in the first period, 4 in the second and 2 in the third. He has 4 at even strength, 4 on the power play and 1 shorthanded (into an empty net for his second of the game against Florida on Feb. 7, when he also had the only game-winner during the streak). Two of the nine were first goals and three broke ties. The Caps have gone 4-1-2 during the streak, including one overtime and one shootout loss, and Green has 7 assists to go with the 9 goals, giving him 16 points in the seven games.

Green's 21 goals this season are already more than O'Connell had in 1983-84, when he broke the record of six consecutive games held by Montreal's Harry Mummary (1920-21), Boston legend Bobby Orr (1971-72) and Colorado's Barry Beck (1977-78). O'Connell had exactly one goal in each of seven games, beginning with an 8-3 home loss to Quebec on Jan. 5 and finishing with a 7-3 loss at Quebec on Jan. 17. Those were the only losses during the streak; the Bruins won the five games in the middle.

Four of O'Connell's goals came on the power play, and one was a first goal. He finished the streak with 7 goals and 4 assists for 11 points. After the streak was snapped in a 4-3 win over the Nordiques on Jan. 19, O'Connell scored the first goal (and game-winner) in a 2-0 win over Hartford. That was his 15th of the season in the Bruins' first 47 games; he scored only three in their last 33 games. His 18 goals were a career high and marked one of only three times he reached double figures.

O'Connell didn't even lead his own team's blue-line corps in goals in '83-84. That honor went to Hall of Famer Ray Bourque, who had a six-game streak of his own from March 14-24 that gave him 30 for the season. He finished with a career-best 31.

More Green -- Green's 21 goals are the most by a defenseman after 55 team games since Kevin Hatcher had 21 in 1992-93 -- though Green scored his in just 42 appearances while missing 13 games with injuries. Green joins Sergei Gonchar, Hatcher, Larry Murphy, Al Iafrate, Sylvain Cote, Robert Picard and Scott Stevens as the only defensemen in Caps history to score 20 goals in a season. Hatcher holds the club record with 34 in 1992-93.

Green has already scored more goals than any NHL defenseman managed all last season -- he was tops with 18. Since 1997-98, the only defensemen to surpass 25 goals are Pittsburgh's Sergei Gonchar in 2001-02 and Montreal's Sheldon Souray in 2006-07; both had 26.

Green also has six straight multi-point games, something that's been done by only three other defenseman in NHL history -- Paul Coffey, Bourque and Orr.

Comeback Cats -- It took more than 15 seasons, but the Florida Panthers finally overcame a three-goal deficit in the third period to win a game. They accomplished the feat on Tuesday by overcoming a 4-1 deficit with less than 12 minutes left to play against Toronto, scoring three times to force overtime before getting the win on Richard Zednik's OT goal.

But if the Panthers were going to make a comeback against any team, the Leafs were an excellent candidate. Toronto has lost after leading by three or more goals a League-high four times this season; no other team has had it happen more than twice.

Lead preservers -- In contrast to the Leafs, the Colorado Avalanche's problem isn't keeping a lead, it's getting one. The Avs are the only team that hasn't wasted a point when leading after two periods -- they're a perfect 17-0-0. It's the games when they don't have a lead after 40 minutes that are the problem. Colorado is 4-19-1 when trailing after two periods and 4-10-0 when the score is tied. The 10 losses are a League high.

Unwelcome firsts -- Boston's 5-2 loss to San Jose on Tuesday in a battle of conference leaders marked a pair of unpleasant firsts for the Bruins.

The Bruins lost by surrendering four third-period goals, enabling San Jose to overcome a 2-1 lead entering the final 20 minutes. That ended a streak of 65 games (58-0-7) in which the Bruins went home with at least one point when leading after 40 minutes.

Mike Grier's empty-net goal at 19:31 of the third period not only sealed the win for the Sharks -- it handed the Bruins their first loss by more than two goals. Boston was the only team that hadn't lost by three or more goals; every other team has at least two such losses.

They don't come easy -- Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has six shutouts since joining the Coyotes in November 2007 -- No. 6 came Wednesday when he blanked the Stars 1-0 at Dallas.

But it's not like his teammates make it easy for him.

The Coyotes haven't scored more than two goals in any of the six shutouts. Three have come by 2-0 scores, two were 1-0 games decided in regulation and the other was a 1-0 shootout victory over the Stars on Jan. 10.

In four of the six shutouts, including all three this season, Bryzgalov faced 33 or more shots (not including shootouts). This season, his shutouts have seen him make 33, 38 and 33 saves.

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