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Takeaways: Samsonov, Capitals Keep Rolling With Convincing Win Over Avs

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Capitals Avalanche

The Washington Capitals’ first game since securing a trip to the postseason certainly had a playoff feel to it in Colorado. From the get-go, the Capitals and Avalanche were throwing their weight around and playing with speed and size, as the best team on the road clashed with the best team at home.

Ultimately, thanks to Alex Ovechkin and the red-hot fourth line, Washington continued to add to its impressive road record with a statement 3-2 victory over the red-hot Avalanche, who were on a nine-game winning streak. This is the first time this season that an Eastern Conference team has defeated the Avs in regulation in Colorado.

The Capitals are now one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for third in the Metropolitan Division with one game in hand.Β Here are all the takeaways from the victory:

Hathaway Hits Century Mark, Fourth Line Keeps Rolling

Over the last two seasons, the Capitals’ fourth line has not disappointed, and as Johan Larsson fills in for Carl Hagelin, it continues to prove its worth and make a world of a difference, as was the case in the Mile High City.

Of late, the Larsson-Dowd-Hathaway trio has been bringing plenty of pressure on the forecheck. Ultimately, it was Hathaway who broke through first against Colorado on a great play. Hathaway forced a turnover and then went on a semi-breakaway, where he went bar-down on Darcy Kuemper to make it 1-0 early in the first period.

The goal marked Hathaway’s 14th of the season, a career-high, and his 100th career NHL point. He also now has goals in back-to-back games. Not only that, but Johan Larsson also picked up an assist on the goal, marking his fourth straight game with a helper. His 14 assists this season are also a single-season career-high.

Ovechkin Not Slowing Down For Capitals

While Ovechkin has been having one of his best seasons yet at age 36, the captain has kicked into a new gear down the stretch with the playoffs approaching. He has been dangerous around the net and scoring in all types of ways, and he did so again against the Avalanche.

With Washington tied 1-1 and on the man advantage, the Great 8 found himself heavily shadowed in his office. He moved up and snuck into ideal position and ultimately, caught an Evgeny Kuznetsov feed and tapped it in for an easy PPG to break the tie and make it 2-1 heading into the final period.

Ovechkin’s goal was his 48th of the season, tying him with Teemu Selanne for the most goals in a season by a player 36 or older. He also moved two goals shy of his ninth 50-goal season and he has also now scored in six of his last seven games. He is now 22 goals away from 800, 24 from passing Gordie Howe and 117 from breaking Wayne Gretzky’s all-time NHL goals record.

Through 15:54 minutes against the Avs, Ovechkin led Washington with four shots and six hits. He was getting to the right areas and leading the charge.

Samsonov, Blue Line Stand Tall Despite Controversial Goal Against

Prior to Thursday’s tough loss in Toronto, Ilya Samsonov had been coming up with some big saves and strong performances, and he got back on track as he got back between the pipes on Monday.

Samsonov had an outstanding game, stopping 24 of 26 shots (.923 save percentage) en route to his fourth win in his last five starts. He was reading the play well, keeping track of the puck and controlling the tempo, and also coming up big with the glove hand. Samsonov was able to stop the Avs’ star power, specifically a red-hot Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon.

The 25-year-old also had some fun to boot, stealing the highlight reel with this impressive play.

Valeri Nichushkin and Artturi Lehkonen had the goals for Colorado, and Lehkonen’s was a bit controversial. No. 62 crashed the net and whacked at the pad of Samsonov, and ultimately, the puck crossed the line. Head coach Peter Laviolette initiated a challenge for goaltender interference, but the officials determined that Lehkonen had not knocked the pad across the goal line, but that Samsonov hadn’t covered the puck and that Lehkonen pushed it over without help from Samsonov’s pad.

Despite that, Samsonov was outstanding, and also got strong play from the defense in front of him. Washington’s blueliners were making big hits and blocking shots, and the penalty kill also went 3-for-3. The Capitals blocked 23 shots, the second-most shots they’ve blocked in a game this season.

Trevor van Riemsdyk had an excellent showing in his own right, breaking up plays and taking good care of the puck while halting the team’s star power. Justin Schultz also worked well with No. 57 on that third pairing, and both led the team with four blocks each.

Johansson Comes In Clutch, Continues To Find Spark

Laviolette said after Monday’s morning skate that Marcus Johansson was doing all the right things for the Capitals since coming over at the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline, and that while it would be nice to see JoJo get some offense going, his 200-foot game and defensive play was the most important thing. Still, he made sure to find the scoresheet on Monday — and at the perfect time.

Soon after Lehkonen’s controversial tally, Conor Sheary found Johansson cross-ice with a beautiful feed. Johansson made no mistake, lifting it past Kuemper to make it 3-2.

The goal was Johansson’s eighth of the season, and he now has points in back-to-back games and goals in two of his last six outings. He is up to 26 points in 63 games this season.

Sammi’s Top-Shelf Takes

  • John Carlson picked up an assist on Ovechkin’s PPG and now has points in six straight games.
  • Kuznetsov also got a helper on that tally and has points in 19 of his last 21 appearances.
  • Schultz also picked up an assist and has five points in his last four games.
  • Sheary has points in four of his last six outings.
  • Since their “players-only” meetings at the start of April, Washington has not scored under three goals in a game. Monday marked the seventh straight game in which the Capitals have managed at least three goals.
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