The Washington Capitals goaltending race could be up in the air again. Vitek Vanecek’s night ended early after a rough first 40 minutes against the Florida Panthers in Game 2.
Head coach Peter Laviolette elected to pull Vanecek for Ilya Samsonov to start the third period. Vanecek surrendered five goals on 18 shots (.722 save percentage) as Washington trailed 5-1 after two periods.
In the opening frame, Vanecek gave up two goals on six shots, but one of them came on a rather strange bounce. In the second, he surrendered three goals on 12 shots, including back-to-back goals less than two minutes apart late in the period.
While the numbers are far from ideal, it’s hard to fault Vanecek on some of those strikes, given tough bounces, turnovers and poor defense in front. However, switching netminders could provide a spark.
It’s a tough situation for the Capitals, whose starter remained a major question mark going into the postseason Vanecek nor Samsonov could claim sole possession of the crease. Ultimately, though, Vanecek’s slightly stronger season led Laviolette to choose No. 41 to open the series against Florida, and he didn’t disappoint with a strong outing in Game 1. Vanecek stopped 30 of 32 shots (.938 save percentage) in the win.
This marks Samsonov’s fourth playoff appearance. Through three career playoff games, he is 0-3 with a .899 save percentage and 2.99 GAA.