Ilya Samsonov had his best NHL performance on Saturday in a big 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Capitals got contributions from players all over the lineup in a big win.
Observations from the win
Everyone is pitching in
Look at Saturday's game and Wednesday's game. Whatever the Caps needed, they were able to get. Against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, they needed a key coach's challenge and the video coaches delivered. They needed someone to take over the game and T.J. Oshie delivered. They needed a big night from the penalty kill and Carl Hagelin and Co. delivered. They needed a response to Boston's tying goal and John Carlson delivered.
Now look at Saturday's game. Ilya Samsonov got the start and he delivered when the Caps had a slow start to the game. The fourth line settled everything down and Alex Ovechkin forced a turnover behind the net to give Washington the lead. The bottom-six scored twice to give Washington control, Oshie scored a quick response goal when Tampa Bay tried to battle back and the penalty kill delivered again.
The Caps are not being carried by Ovechkin, it's not a hot goalie or a dominant blue line, it is a complete team effort and it is extremely impressive to watch.
Samsonov had his best NHL game
We knew Samsonov and Braden Holtby were going to split the weekend's games for the dad's trip. I expected Holtby would get the tougher game in Tampa Bay, but instead Todd Reirden went with Samsonov. The rookie had three brilliant saves in the first five minutes of the game. Tampa Bay was the better team for the first two periods and Samsonov only gave up one goal in those 40 minutes. This was a big boy offense and some big boy hockey. Samsonov was up to the task.
Good penalty kill, too many penalties
The Lightning entered this game with the second-best power play in the NHL. Limiting penalties was a big key to the game for Washington and...they did not do that. The Caps gave up five power play opportunities to Tampa Bay, just daring the Lighting offense to take fire. Tampa Bay was only able to cash in only once.
On the one hand, it's great that the penalty kill is playing so well. On the other hand, the Caps must stop taking so many penalties.
Time to Panik?
I have stressed the importance of patience for Richard Panik who is not only adjusting to a new team, but who had an injury and missed 10 games on LTIR. Now, however, it seems like patience is starting to run out.
Panik played a team-low 8:10 on Saturday. Players who get that little ice time are usually either fourth line players or players who do not contribute to special teams. Panik is supposed to be a penalty killer, but despite five penalty kill opportunities, he registered only 14 seconds of shorthanded ice time.
Panik's offensive struggles have been well documented (he had an assist on Saturday), but if he is not contributing on the penalty kill either...well, that's an issue.
Tampa Bay looked like the better team for the first 40 minutes. Thanks to Samsonov, the game was tied at 1 at the start of the third. These two teams boast some of the top offensive stars in the NHL, but it was Washington's bottom-six that gave them the edge as Lars Eller scored early in the third and Garnet Hathaway added a second goal just 45 seconds later.
Suddenly the Lightning were on their heels after looking in control for the majority of the game.
Play of the game
Just when the Caps took the one-goal lead, Hathaway came swooping in to make it 3-1.
Hathaway hops & scores pic.twitter.com/gzWwT0z1F7— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) December 15, 2019
Stat of the game
The Caps' PK had a success rate of only 78.9-percent last season. This is a dramatic improvement.
The Capitals have killed 22 of the last 23 opposing power play opportunities (95.7 percent).— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) December 15, 2019
Quote of the game
John Hathaway, father or Garnet, stole the show between the first and second period:
"I think as parents, we try to teach them like two lessons as kids growing up. It's like, if you can dream it, you can do it and never, never, never give up. The dads are here tonight and I think they're not only so proud of their sons, but they're happy for their sons because they know that they had big dreams, they dared to dream big and they never gave up."
We officially stan John Hathaway pic.twitter.com/skQsZ9CdVa— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) December 15, 2019
My last two predictions were dismal, so I’m just hoping for a solid Caps win.— Jerome A Johnson (@JeromeAJohnson) December 14, 2019
Hey, two for two.
5-2, Ovi scores on PP.— 𝑽𝑰𝑹𝑻𝑼𝑨𝑳 Кassie 🏒 (80%) (@sad_ex_machina) December 14, 2019
No Ovechkin goal, but you got the score right.
The more games they play together the more this should be expected and not allowed to be a "bold prediction" but... 3rd line is going to finally start contributing on the score sheet tonight.— Frank (@Cappie2020) December 14, 2019
Eller with a big goal tonight assisted by Panik.
Backstrom 4 plus points.— Ryan Drury (@CKNX_Drury) December 14, 2019
Backstrom had only two, but just a few games removed from returning from injury, he looks like he hasn't missed any time at all out there.
Two words:— Officer Grape (@erp0dos) December 14, 2019
DAD! KO! GOAL!!!— Kate Monster 🏒❤️ (@KateMonster08) December 14, 2019
This bit will never get old to me.
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