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Ilya Samsonov shuts down the Islanders in strong NHL debut

Ilya Samsonov shuts down the Islanders in strong NHL debut

Ilya Samsonov allowed only one goal in his NHL debut as the Capitals spoiled another home-opener in their 2-1 win over the New York Islanders on Friday. The Caps are now 2-0-0 to start the season despite being without Evgeny Kuznetsov and Michal Kempny.

Here are four reasons the Caps won.

Jakub Vrana’s second goal of the season

Vrana was one of the Caps’ top players in the season-opener after scoring the overtime winner. He picked up right where he left off on Friday with the game’s first goal.

Lars Eller passed it up on the breakout. It looked harmless, but Vrana used his speed to turn this into a scoring opportunity. He zipped past Jordan Eberle, leaving defenseman Ryan Pulock the only one between him and the net. Because Eberle was suddenly behind Vrana, he shifted to the left to cover Martin Fehervary who jumped into the rush, and Pulock shifted over to cover Vrana. The shift gave Vrana room to work with as he entered the offensive zone and he took advantage, lining up the shot and snapping it past the glove of goalie Semyon Varlamov.

That’s two goals in two games for Vrana.

John Carlson’s stick

The Islanders tied the goal on a triple deflection that beat Samsonov. Then the ice began to tilt in New York’s favor in the second period.

Brock Nelson thought he had the go-ahead goal when he pounced on a turnover. He showed great patience skating through the slot and holding onto the puck until Samsonov committed and made a desperate dive to try to force Nelson, skated around the outstretched glove, then went backhand to forehand looking to tuck it into the net from behind the goal line. Nelson’s easy goal was met by Carlson, who got his stick on Nelson’s just at the right time, knocking the puck back to Samsonov who smothered it.

Another power play goal

T.J. Oshie put the Caps up late in the third period on the power play. The refs were stingy with the whistles, so the Caps had to make their opportunities count. John Carlson had the puck at the blue line and wristed a puck in looking for a deflection. Oshie had his stick out, but the shot was blocked by Scott Mayfield. The puck bounced right into the slot and behind Johnny Boychuk. Oshie found it first, pulled his stick in, turned and chipped the puck with the backhand that went right over the shoulder of Varlamov.

Ilya Samsonov’s impressive debut

Samsonov made his NHL debut on Saturday and boy did he look impressive. The first shot on goal came at 2:41, which he gloved confidently to freeze the play. Of the 26 shots he faced, he turned away 25 of them. The only shot that beat him came from Devon Toews and it was a complete fluke. The shot hit off of Brendan Leipsic, Garnet Hathaway and Radko Gudas and even then Samsonov came very close to getting a pad on it.

Still, you can forgive the rookie for giving up a triple deflection. He did not allow another goal the rest of the game.


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With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 3

With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 3

While we wait for the NHL to hopefully resume its season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the 20 best wins of the Capitals' season so far. Mark Zaner, producer for Caps Faceoff Live and Caps Overtime Live, has watched every game. His rankings continue with No. 3, a 5-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Nov. 9 that featured a complete effort from the Capitals, a first for Jonas Siegenthaler and some pregame espionage from Brent Johnson. 

You can re-watch the game tonight on NBC Sports Washington at 8pm. 


In a 2018 Stanley Cup Finals rematch, and perhaps a matchup you could see in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, Washington came out flying. Dmitry Orlov feathered a perfect two-line pass past three Golden Knights defenders and right to Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov had no problem beating Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury 58 seconds into the game 


The Capitals make it 2-0 just minutes later. Amid a line change, the Knights coughed up the puck in their own end. Tom Wilson, who was about to go off the ice, jumped back into the attack and beat Fleury with a wrist shot. 


Two Vegas goals sandwiched a Siegenthaler tally to make it 3-2 Capitals entering the third period. Enter Nicklas Backstrom. His first goal came on the power play. With all the Knights attention focused on Ovechkin, Backstrom threw a wrister on Fleury from the right faceoff circle. Fleury got a piece of it, but let it trickle through for the score.  


Backstrom scored a rare empty-net goal late in the period instead of deferring to Ovechkin. The Capitals owned the third period on their way to an impressive 5-2 win. 


Siegenthaler made his NHL debut on Nov. 9 in 2018. Exactly one year later he scored his first career goal. Travis Boyd and Nic Dowd executed a picture-perfect dump-and-chase. Boyd waited in the corner for a line change and fed Siegenthaler, who was streaking to the net without anyone marking him. 



If you look at the rest of my Top 10 Caps wins, most of the games are exciting comebacks or see-saw affairs. Games that were generally exciting to watch or something crazy happened. This game makes the list because it’s peak Washington Capitals. This team was playing almost flawless hockey from the middle of October through the end of November. This was Washington’s sixth straight win. In this game, the Caps got more shots, earned more power plays, won more faceoffs, blocked more shots and out-hit their opponent. And they weren’t playing the Ducks (entry #9) or the Kings (#7). The Vegas Golden Knights were - and are - a legitimate Western Conference contender. I would argue that the Capitals win over Vegas was their best 60-minute effort against a quality opponent all season long.  

Backstrom was an assist short of a Gordie Howe hat trick. Backstrom and T.J. Oshie started a bit of a fight towards the end of the second period. Not a shock to see the Caps and Knights chirp at each other, but it was unusual to see those two at the center of it. 


If Fleury looked a little sluggish, he might have had a good excuse. NBC Sports Washington’s Brent Johnson, who played with Fleury in Pittsburgh, took his good friend out to a big steak dinner the night before the game. That’s how you work the long con. Good job, Johnny. 


Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.


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Holtby shuts out Islanders to start NHL 20 simulated playoffs with a Capitals victory

Holtby shuts out Islanders to start NHL 20 simulated playoffs with a Capitals victory

The Capitals opened the playoffs on the right foot on Wednesday with a 3-0 shutout victory in Game 1 over the New York Islanders in an NHL 20 simulation.

Result: Caps 3, Islanders 0

1st period

No goals

2nd period

1-0 Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin from Tom Wilson and Brenden Dillon

A breakout pass from Dillon set-up a 3-on-2 rush for the Caps. Wilson fed the puck to the high-slot where Ovechkin one-timed it past goalie Semyon Varlamov into the top corner.

2-0 Caps goal: John Carlson, unassisted

The Islanders halted T.J. Oshie as he entered the offensive zone with the puck. A trailing Carlson picked up the loose puck and fired a slap shot that hit off the cross bar and planted itself on the goal line. Defenseman Andy Greene tried to take the puck off the line behind Varlamov, but accidentally knocked it over instead.

3rd period

3-0 Caps goal (empty-netter): Carl Hagelin, unassisted

Defenseman Scott Mayfield got a bit too cute in the offensive zone as he tried to bank a pass off the boards. It was intercepted by Hagelin who took it from the Caps' defensive zone to the other end of the ice, finishing off the game with the empty-net goal.

How the Caps won

1. The 2nd period

Things were pretty even after the opening frame. The Islanders were dominating in shots on goal 11-5, but the Caps had more higher-quality opportunities in what was, to that point, a scoreless game. Washington took complete control in the second period. Not only did Ovechkin and Carlson give the Caps a 2-0 lead, but the team put on a possession clinic, keeping the puck off the sticks of the Islanders at every turn.

The Caps outshot New York in the middle frame 7-0.

2. Braden Holtby

Despite misfiring in the second, the Islanders did manage a few quality shots and fired 11 shots on goal in the third period, but Holtby was there to turn each one of them aside. After not getting a shutout almost the entire season, Holtby now has two in as many simulations. He blanked the Florida Panthers in the regular-season finale as well.

3. Physical hockey

The blue and orange were left black and blue by the Caps who manhandled them physically throughout the game. New York had a tendency to hold onto the puck a bit too long looking for open passes and Washington made them pay each time. Carlson in particular was a wrecking ball. He was credited with only three hits, but in all three he knocked his opponent down to the ice.

Round 1 scoreboard

Washington leads New York 1-0
Philadelphia leads Pittsburgh 1-0
Boston leads Toronto 1-0
Tampa Bay leads Florida 1-0

Minnesota leads St. Louis 1-0
Colorado leads Dallas 1-0
Winnipeg leads Vegas 1-0
Edmonton leads Calgary 1-0

Next game

Game 2 will be simmed on Thursday.

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.