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Takeaways: Capitals Overcome Adversity, Controversy, Best Pens In OT

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Capitals vs. Penguins

It wasn’t the smoothest of starts to the month of February for the Washington Capitals, who ran into quite a few obstacles on Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Special teams played a big role as both teams went back and forth, and ultimately, the game had to be decided in overtime

History hasn’t been too kind to Washington when it comes to regular-season OT against the Pens, as Washington dropped its last seven decisions decided beyond regulation in Pittsburgh. However, the Capitals didn’t let history repeat itself, as Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov helped power them to a vital 4-3 win.

Here are all the takeaways from the victory.

Capitals Lose Vanecek To Injury, Samsonov Steps Up Amid Scares

Tuesday’s tilt saw quite a few scary moments for Washington, and also saw their emerging No. 1 netminder exit with an upper-body injury. Early in the first, Kasperi Kapanen was hooked and toe-picked before slamming into Vanecek, sending both of them hard to the ice.

It looked like a helmet-to-helmet collision between the two, and after facing two shots and surrendering a power-play goal, Vanecek exited the game. Ilya Samsonov then came on in relief of Vanecek, and Hunter Shepard ended up dressing as the backup with Vanecek unable to return due to an upper-body injury.

Samsonov came up huge for the Capitals, especially in the second period when Pittsburgh tilted the ice with 23 shots on goal. He was moving well in the crease, controlling the tempo and reading the game well, while also making a couple of big stops.

The Russian, who wasn’t supposed to start at all and hasn’t played since Wednesday, ended up with 43 on 45 shots (.956 save percentage). He is now 14-5-3 with a 2.76 GAA and .906 save percentage this season. It was a major boost for Washington and something they needed as they took five penalties and also got dominated offensively.

There were a couple of more scares for D.C. too, as Tom Wilson and Trevor van Riemsdyk both went down the tunnel before returning and Evgeny Kuznetsov also went down after Jeff Carter caught him with the butt-end of his stick.

Penalties, Controversial Call Create Obstacles For Capitals

Despite an early shorthanded goal for Nic Dowd and a power-play goal for Dmitry Orlov in the first, special teams — and the officiating — were not working in the Capitals’ favor. Washington got called for quite a few penalties and ended up on the penalty kill five times. Pittsburgh made the most of that time on the man advantage with three PPGs from Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust, who struck twice. All three of the Penguins’ goals in regulation came on the power play.

Officiating would cost the Capitals again later on. Nic Dowd appeared to even the score in the second period on a deflection in front. However, Mike Sullivan would challenge for goaltender interference, and he got it. Due to what the NHL said was Dowd’s “significant presence” in the crease, the referees overturned the call.

Head coach Peter Laviolette and the team were irate with the decision, as Dowd didn’t seem to appear to make it impossible for Tristan Jarry to play his position.

Ultimately, though, Washington would be fine. Daniel Sprong tied the game in the final minute of the second, and ultimately, the team tightened things up and forced overtime before winning it.

Dmitry Orlov Puts On A Show

Orlov was by far one of the Capitals’ best players of the game, picking up two goals en route to a much-needed 4-3 overtime victory. He moved the puck well, got involved offensively and used his speed and vision to his advantage. The Russian blueliner also helped spark the man advantage before later scoring the overtime winner with just 43 seconds left in the extra period.

With seven goals and 15 assists so far this season, Orlov has matched his total of 22 points from last season in nine fewer games. He is on pace for a career-high 40 points this season.

Orlov was also solid in his own end and led Washington with four blocks. He also picked up three shots and a takeaway through 20:22 minutes.

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Carl Hagelin ended an 11-game point drought with a great assist on Dowd’s shorthanded strike. That SHG was Washington’s first on the road this season. Also, that goal was Dowd’s first since Jan. 2 against the New Jersey Devils (11 games).
  • Daniel Sprong scored a great goal against his former club thanks to great speed and a wicked shot. He now has goals in two of his last three outings since being a healthy scratch for a few games.
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov and Wilson picked up helpers on Orlov’s overtime winner. Kuznetsov now has three points in his last two games. Meanwhile, Wilson has assists in back-to-back games and is on pace for a career-high 58 points this season.
  • Speaking of Kuznetsov, he led all Capitals with seven shots on goal. Alex Ovechkin had five and led all forwards with 21:31 minutes.
  • Connor McMichael ranked last in ice time for Washington with 5:09 minutes played. Joe Snively played 7:45.
  • Wilson and Nick Jensen laid on the physicality, leading the Capitals with five hits apiece. Martin Fehervary supplied four.
  • Stick taps to John Carlson, who picked up an assist to tie Dale Hunter for the sixth-most points in Capitals history (556).
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