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The Washington Capitals’ Thursday night game against the New York Islanders was more than just a regular season game between two division rivals, with playoff implications at stake in the final stretch of the 2020-21 season. In what was expected to be closely-fought contest, Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov stood on his head to help the Caps to a 1-0, shootout victory and an East Division lead.
While the game was much closer at the end of the shootout, which the Capitals came out victorious thanks to goals from Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov, the first period of play saw Washington struggle with just four shots to the Isles’ 15, and being heavily outplayed at Nassau Coliseum.
Caps-Isles scoreless after one. Isles led 5v5 shot attempts 21-9, scoring chances 13-4 and xGF% 87.1-12.9%. Hopefully Caps have dusted the rust, found their legs and step it up in middle frame. #ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/uZsLu9of5t
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) April 22, 2021
Samsonov’s first period highlight came with just over a minute left in the frame, as Islanders superstar Mathew Barzal found himself behind the Capitals’ defense all alone. Samsonov stopped a quick shot from Barzal to keep the visitors tied at 0-0.
locked in 🥪 pic.twitter.com/gAGe4M5r9M
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 22, 2021
In the shootout, Samsonov allowed a single goal to Anthony Beauvillier while stopping all other shooters to give the Caps’ shooters a chance to eventually win the game. In total, Samsonov stopped 26 shots for his second shutout of the 2020-21 season and third of his career. He improved his record on the season to 12-3-1, the only goaltender in the league with at least 15 starts to have recorded fewer than four losses.
Ilya Samsonov stopped all 26 shots against the Islanders, earning his third career shutout. Samsonov improves to 12-3-1 on the season. Samsonov is the only goaltender in the NHL this season with at least 15 starts and fewer than four losses.
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) April 23, 2021
After the game, defenseman John Carlson commented on Samsonov’s play, saying:
“He came up huge, they weren’t just good saves, they were great saves. Every time they did break through us, that was the difference”.
Head Coach Peter Laviolette added:
“He was really sharp in the first, had to make a few good ones in the second, few good ones in the third. While we were finding our legs from those three days off, he gave us an opportunity to come back in the second and third period to play a really strong game. I thought he made some big saves the entire night”.
With the win, Samsonov improved his career record to 27-8-3 in 38 career starts.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 23, 2021
By Michael Fleetwood