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2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Capitals Strike Back: Samsonov, Caps Power Past Cats For Series Lead

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — For the first time, “Sammy” chants flooded Capital One Arena on Saturday, as the Washington Capitals netminder made one of many clutch saves on the afternoon and left the Florida Panthers frustrated.

Ultimately, it was a first star-worthy outing for the 25-year-old in his first start of the series, as well as an impressive night for the top-6 and a scoring surge that helped Washington bounce back from a lackluster Game 2 and turn the tables with a dominant 6-1 victory in Game 3.

“We all know playoffs have their swings and momentums. A team wins one game, the other team is going to make some adjustments and come at you twice as hard the next game. They did that in Game 2, and it was our turn to respond in Game 3,” T.J. Oshie said. “I think the boys did a really good job, from the drop of the puck all the way through.”

The Capitals now lead the series 2-1. Here are all the takeaways from the:

Samsonov Comes In Clutch For Capitals

Following struggles for Vitek Vanecek in Game 2, head coach Peter Laviolette rolled the dice on Ilya Samsonov for Game 3 — and it paid off big time.

After surrendering a quick goal on an odd-man rush to open the game, Samsonov stood tall with an outstanding performance. He was quick and agile between the pipes and appeared calm and collected, while also coming up with quite a few big stops.

“Sammy was unbelievable for us tonight, he kept us in it when we needed to,” Marcus Johansson said. “That’s the way you need these games to go. He makes a big save and then we go the other way and get one, it makes a big difference.”

He shut down the high-flying Panthers and came up big, especially in a wild second period where he stopped all 13 shots against. In the end, Samsonov stopped 29 of 30 shots (.967 save percentage) for his first career playoff victory.

“[I was] a little bit nervous the first five minutes, but it’s just normal for a goalie. But after a couple saves, I feel pretty good physically, mentally,” Samsonov said.

Second Line Comes Up Huge

With Tom Wilson still hurting, the Capitals had to make some changes on the top-6 and ultimately, moved Anthony Mantha up to the second line to fill the void. The 6-foot-5 forward didn’t disappoint and clicked well with Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom.

All three of them put up multi-point performances and combined for six points on the night. Mantha was taking good care of the puck and making smart plays in the offensive zone while working hard to pile on the pressure. Meanwhile, Johansson was utilizing his speed and two-way play and getting to the high-danger areas. Backstrom continued to impress as well with strong passing and playmaking.

Johansson gave the Capitals the lead in the second with a great backhand goal off a rebound from a beautiful Mantha play in front. It marked his first postseason tally since 2019 when he made a run to the Stanley Cup Final with the Boston Bruins.

Mantha and Backstrom ended the night with two helpers each. Mantha now has three points in three playoff games so far this series, and Backstrom is on a three-game point streak to open the postseason.

Ovechkin Helps Capitals Power Play Find A Spark, Penalty Kill Stays Strong

After a far-from-ideal night on the man advantage in Game 2, the Capitals came back with a vengeance and went 2-for-6. And those PPGs were thanks to Alex Ovechkin.

The Capitals captain picked up an assist on a great point shot redirected in by Oshie to make it 1-1 late in the first period.

Later in the game, Ovechkin extended Washington’s lead by three with a rocket of a shot at the tail-end of a power-play chance in the third period.

Ovechkin now has a point in each playoff game to open the postseason, including assists in each outing. He has a goal and four points total so far in the first round.

Meanwhile, at the other end, the penalty kill was outstanding. Washington went 3-for-3 on the PK and blocked 14 shots on the night, and continued to shut down Florida’s PP, which was the fifth-best in the league during the regular season and features Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Claude Giroux and more.

“Florida’s done a good job at what they’re doing. Our guys have done a really good job on the penalty kill sacrificing. They’ve got a dangerous group and so it calls you to attention right away. Execution is usually the penalty kill,” head coach Peter Laviolette said of the special teams. “The power play, it scored some goals for us which we need. There’s still things that we can continue to work on and get better at. But certainly it’s produced.”

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Trevor van Riemsdyk made it 3-1 in the second period with his second career playoff goal and his first as a Capital.

  • Backstrom led Washington with five shots on goal. Mantha also impressed with four of his own.
  • Connor McMichael looked solid in his postseason debut. He skated 7:59 minutes and was moving his feet.
  • John Carlson dished a goal and assist and now has three points in three playoff games.
  • Garnet Hathaway put the icing on the cake in the final seconds of regulation with his third career playoff goal. Johan Larsson also picked up an assist for his first career playoff point.

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