Ilya Samsonov earned the fourth shutout of his career on Friday as he turned aside 16 shots from the Arizona Coyotes in a 2-0 win for the Capitals. You may see the 16 shots and think it was an easy night for the Russian netminder, but in reality, it was the kind of night that goalies universally hate.
“I thought he was great," John Carlson said. "They had a few flurries kind of throughout the game, he came up big. He looked stoic in there and never gave them anything extra."
The Capitals dominated much of the game on Friday, but struggled to get traffic in front of goalie Karel Vejmelka. With easy sightlines on most of the shots he faced, he was able to keep the Coyotes in the game.
Samsonov was not called upon nearly as much, but those games in which a goalie faces few shots can actually be tougher than when they are tested more.
"It was a little bit hard for me because hard to keep concentration," Samsonov said.
The Coyotes were officially credited with their first shot on goal 4:30 into the first period. Their next shot did not come until 12:23 later. At the end of the first, Washington was outshooting Arizona 14-4. The final shot tally for the Coyotes was 16.
“It wasn’t a lot of work out there but sometimes those games are even harder to stay in, to stay focused," head coach Peter Laviolette said, "Because then all of a sudden you do need to make a big save."
One of those moments came for Samsonov in the second period. The Caps held a 18-6 lead in shots about eight minutes into the period when a turnover set Arizona up for a prime scoring chance. Samsonov flashed a confident glove on Lawson Crouse to keep the score at 0-0 and prevent the momentum swing of a quick counter goal.
The shot came eight minutes into the period and was just the second shot Samsonov faced in that period at that point.
Not only did Samsonov make the stops, he also stopped whatever momentum the Coyotes could try to build with sustained zone time by controlling his rebounds and stopping play.
"When they did get chances, he seemed like he killed the play almost every time," Carlson said. "Nowadays when guys are flying around and the D are jumping down, there’s a lot more commotion. If he can eat a puck, that’s a great way to stop momentum and stopping the chances or opportunity, zone time to come after.”
In a 2-0 win in which the game-winner came late in the third and the second goal was an empty-netter, there was no margin for error. Samsonov had the kind of game the Caps needed him to have because anything less than a shutout would not have been enough.
Said Laviolette, "He was good, just stayed in the game, made the saves we needed him to make.”