The Capitals entered Game 2 of their series with the Florida Panthers looking to carry over their success from the playoff opener after jumping to a 1-0 series lead.
Vitek Vanecek was a big reason why Washington was able to pull off the upset in Game 1, stopping 30 of 32 shots in a sturdy performance that earned him another start. Sergei Bobrovsky played well in his own right, but the Capitals’ forwards made just enough plays to bury a few goals and steal the win on the road.
Here’s how the goalies fared in Game 2.
Sergei Bobrovsky (FLA)
2021-22 regular season: 54 G (53 starts), 39-7-3 record, .913 SV%, 2.67 GAA
Similar to Game 1, the Capitals came out firing in the first period. They kept Bobrovsky busy with 11 shots on goal including four high danger attempts. Despite receiving more help from the post than his defensemen, he stopped them all to blank Washington over the first 20 minutes.
Yet the Capitals were making the Panthers play their style of hockey, maintaining control of the puck and dictating the pace early. A wild four-minute stretch (more on that later) resulted in a sudden 2-0 Panthers lead at the first intermission, but Washington entered the second period with more momentum that a team down two goals usually has.
They turned that momentum into a goal three minutes into the period. Nicklas Backstrom found a wide angle he liked and fired a shot over Bobrovsky’s shoulder to convert a power play opportunity. While the 33-year-old had been making much more difficult saves than that, the Panthers’ lack of defensive pressure was going to cost them eventually.
Even so, Bobrovsky held his composure and stopped the other 12 shots the Capitals fired at him in the second period. Washington continued to outshoot Florida even as the score grew to 5-1 in favor of the home team. The difference was Bobrovsky, who entered the third period with an expected goals allowed of 2.02 per Natural Stat Trick.
Washington then appeared out of steam, generating very few scoring opportunities against Bobrovsky with zero high-danger chances the entire period. Bobrovsky was able to coast to his first victory of the series, earning a win in his second-straight impressive performance to begin the playoffs.
Vitek Vanecek (WSH)
2021-22 regular season: 47 G (39 starts), 20-12-6 record, .908 SV%, 2.67 GAA
For the first 16 minutes of the first period, Vanecek could’ve taken a nap and still prevented the Panthers from scoring. Florida mustered just three shots on goal over that span, offering Vanecek few serious challenges for him to handle.
Then came the four-minute mark, when Aaron Ekblad fired a shot off the blocking Martin Fehervary that bounced off his leg, onto the ice and over Vanecek’s head for a freak goal.
Only 90 seconds later, the Panthers were back in the Capitals’ defensive zone making a play that looked more like it came from the NHL’s highest-scoring team. Anthony Duclair dug a puck out from the wall and passed it to Jonathan Huberdeau, who made a nasty move with his stick to get some separation and dished a pass over to Aleksander Barkov for the easy score.
After the Capitals responded with a goal early in the second, the Panthers quickly regained a two-goal advantage when Mason Marchment fired a shot through Vanecek’s five-hole. Florida’s aggressive puck movement gave Marchment plenty of room to make a play, but it was a shot Vanecek should’ve blocked.
Vanecek appeared to settle in from there, handling a barrage of Panthers shots over the next 10 minutes without letting one slip through. The two sides battled for puck control with neither team holding it for long. However, a Capitals turnover caused the wheels to fall off.
The Panthers took advantage of a weak pass by Lars Eller to set up Anton Lundell and Sam Reinhart right in front of Vanecek with no defensemen between them. There was nothing Vanecek could do as the Florida forwards made a couple of passes back and forth until Lundell got the opening he was looking for.
Then Vanecek truly fell apart, allowing Carter Verhaeghe to shoot a wrister from the slot right past his outstretched glove. It would be the final goal Vanecek allowed as head coach Peter Laviolette pulled him during the second intermission. Only two of the goals Florida scored on him were truly Vanecek’s fault, but five goals on the board with only 13 saves will never result in a high grade.
Ilya Samsonov (WSH)
2021-22 regular season: 44 G (39 starts), 23-12-5 record, .896 SV%, 3.02 GAA
Ilya Samsonov took over for Vanecek to begin the third period and the Panthers didn’t let up. He saw 10 shot attempts in his first seven minutes on the ice including several pucks fired from right in front of the crease that he gobbled up.
In an outing that will likely serve as a tune-up before he starts Game 3 in D.C. on Saturday, Samsonov ended up garnering more saves than Vanecek. He stopped all 17 shots he faced, giving the Capitals at least one positive in a game where there were very few.