The Capitals held a 2-0 lead heading into the third period and this time they were able to close. Washington earned a rare road victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday, snapping a three-game losing streak with the 4-1 win.
How rare is a Caps' victory in Dallas? The last time Washington beat the Stars in Dallas was Dec. 19, 2017. The last time the Caps won in regulation in Dallas? For that, you have to go all the way back to Oct. 17, 1995
Observations from the win
Caps protect the lead with offense, not defense
Heading into the third period, Dallas had the Caps right where they wanted them as they trailed 2-0. OK, so that's a stretch, but Dallas was probably feeling pretty confident they could come back given that they did it on Tuesday in Washington and that the Caps had blown a third-period lead in three straight games.
In the first game between these two teams on Tuesday, the Caps led 2-1 heading into the third period. They did not get a single shot on goal until past the midway point of the period after the game was already tied at 2. It was a very different story on Saturday as the Caps realized, hmm, maybe scoring more goals may actually help get the win.
Washington was much more aggressive with the lead in the third period than we have seen the last few games, drawing a penalty about three minutes in and extending the lead to 3-0 with a power play goal.
Shots on goal were 8-7 for Dallas in the last 20 minutes. That’s how you protect a lead.
Samsonov looks pretty darn good
For anyone who got a chance to see Ilya Samsonov play in Hershey last year, he looks like a completely different player. His play was very frantic last season and not always in the “Dominik Hasek, make a save in any way you have to” sort of way. Samsonov looked more calm and controlled than you would expect for a 22-year-old making his second NHL start.
So what does this mean? Has Samsonov earned more playing time? Sure. He has two starts in six games and that is a ratio the Caps should definitely try to stick to for now. There is no reason for Todd Reirden to try to force extra starts for Holtby.
Should Samsonov take over as the No. 1? Let’s pump the brakes. It’s just two games and, let’s face it, Samsonov got a heck of a lot more help from the defense on Saturday.
Here’s the 5-on-5 heat map from Saturday's game (from Natural Stat Trick):
Holtby did not get much net-front help at all against the Predators.
The fourth line is a home run for Brian MacLellan
We are six games in so you should be careful about drawing any conclusions from what we have seen. Having said that, I am going to anyway. MacLellan did a hell of a job upgrading the fourth line.
Garnet Hathaway adds some grit, Brendan Leipsic adds speed and both players have a lot more skill than you would expect from a fourth line. Their work on the forecheck led to John Carlson’s goal in the second period.
The phrase “rolling lines” is almost cliche at this point. Everyone says it, but when it matters no one does it (except for Mike Babcock because why play Auston Matthews in a Game 7 when you can play your fourth line for 20 minutes?). Hathaway is not about to top Alex Ovechkin in time on ice, but being able to give the fourth line consistent playing time even in the third period is a huge asset.
Too many penalties
The Caps were called for six minor penalties on Saturday. The penalty kill was great and killed off all six, but you are not going to win many games taking six penalties a night. That’s too many.
You know what is easier than protecting a two-goal lead? Protecting a three-goal lead.
Obviously when you are leading 2-0 in the third period you are in a good position, but you could be forgiven for not having a ton of confidence heading into the third period after seeing what happened the last three games.
Kuznetsov’s early third period goal set the tone and let everyone know this game was going to be different.
Play of the night
How different is the game if Samsonov lets this one in with the score 1-0?
SamsoNOPE pic.twitter.com/xzxDrVelPn— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) October 13, 2019
Stat of the night
The last time the Caps earned a regulation win in Dallas was Oct. 17, 1995. Three players in the lineup on Saturday -- Samsonov, Jakub Vrana and Jonas Siegenthaler -- had not even been born yet.
Quote of the night
John Carlson on protecting the third period lead:
“We talked about it enough the past couple days and certainly today going into the third so I think that first couple shifts really got everyone on board doing the right things and carried the momentum there.”
There will be NO third period collapse— jmfrie3 (@jmfrie3) October 13, 2019
Confidence and optimism are not usually a strong suit for Washington sports fans, but you got it.
They will be up two goals and still lose in the third period.— Obsessed Caps Fan (@juliejmoses) October 12, 2019
Well, you were half right.
Samsonov with his first NHL shutout— Bryan Patton (@bryanpatton84) October 12, 2019
He came close. Just one wraparound goal away.
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