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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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Jakub Vrana ruins Blues' banner night with overtime winner

Jakub Vrana ruins Blues' banner night with overtime winner

The night began with a celebration of the St. Louis Blues' Stanley Cup and a banner raising. It ended with the Capitals celebrating a 3-2 overtime win. The Blues came out swinging with all the energy you would expect for the defending champs, but the Caps battled back from a 2-0 deficit with Jakub Vrana scoring the overtime winner.

Here are six reasons the Caps won.

Ovechkin pulls one back

The Blues came out with all the same energy the Caps showed in their banner-raising just one year ago. Sammy Blais scored just 53 seconds into the game and Alex Pietrangelo added a power play goal about seven minutes later. St. Louis was in complete control until Ovechkin got the Caps on the board.

John Carlson skated the puck into the offensive zone and backhanded to Ovechkin who skated in on the right. Ovechkin wound up for the slap shot and Jay Bouwmeester skated up to block the shot. Ovechkin faked the shot to get around Bouwmeester, who was completely beat, then fired a quick shot past Jordan Binnington.

The game was all St. Louis at that point. Pulling that one goal back late in the first was a huge turning point in the game.

Holtby comes up big to start the second

The start of the second period looked a lot like the start of the first, with the Blues coming out with a lot of energy. St. Louis fired four shots on goal in the first three minutes of the period and would have taken back control of the game if not for some stellar saves from Braden Holtby.

While fighting off a Blues’ power play, Holtby made an absolutely clutch toe save on a deflected puck. The puck wasn’t heading on net, but it was headed to the side of the crease where a Blues forward was crashing down looking for the loose puck. It may not go down as a save for Holtby, but it saved the goal and maybe even the game as it prevented St. Louis from taking a 3-1 lead.

Caps take control in the second

After Holtby came up big early, the Caps began to take control for the first time in the second period. They held the Blues without a shot on goal for over 13 minutes. During that stretch, Jonas Siegenthaler forced a tripping penalty and Dmitry Orlov scored on the resulting power play to tie the game at 2.

A late breakaway save

With under two minutes left to go regulation in a tie game, Holtby saw the reigning Conn Smythe winner Ryan O'Reilly bearing down on him on a breakaway. Feeling the pressure behind him, O'Reilly went backhand on the shot and Holtby was there with the pad for the huge save.

O'Reilly couldn't get much height on the shot allowing Holtby to save it with the pad, but it was still a huge save by Holtby in that moment to preserve the tie.

Vrana's jets and shots

Vrana was one of the Caps' best players on the night. Through 60 minutes he was held without a point, but his efforts were finally rewarded when it mattered most. In overtime, the Blues were doing a good job keeping Vrana and Co. to the perimeter, but as the Caps cycled, Vrana turned on the jets with the puck to get just a little bit of separation which he used to fired the game-winner past Binnington.

Lars Eller

How would the Caps look without Evgeny Kuznetsov for three games? Just fine.

Eller moved into Kuznetsov's spot on the second line and recorded two assists on the night. You can't lose a player as good as Kuznetsov and not miss his skill, but if there were any fears the second line would take a major step back with Eller there, he put those fears to rest on Wednesday.

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Capitals officially lose defensive prospect and draft steal Chase Priskie to the Carolina Hurricanes

Capitals officially lose defensive prospect and draft steal Chase Priskie to the Carolina Hurricanes

Former Capitals defensive prospect Chase Priskie has agreed to terms with Metropolitan Division rival Carolina Hurricanes, the team announced.

Priskie was a sixth-round draft pick of the Capitals in 2016. Despite being a late-round pick, Priskie developed into one of the top college defensemen in the country at Quinnipiac and was named one of the top 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award as the top college player in 2018-19.

"Chase was one of the best defensemen in college hockey last season," Carolina general manager Don Waddell said via a statement. "We believe he has a bright future in the NHL, and we're thrilled that he has chosen to come to Carolina."

The move is a blow for Washington. While the team has an abundance of left-shot defensemen, Priskie is a right-shot. Finding such a valuable player with a sixth-round draft pick was a coup for the Caps and its scouting staff...or at least would have been had the team been able to keep him.

“My dream is to play in the NHL and I feel like I've given myself every advantage to achieve that goal,” Priskie told NBC Sports Washington in March. “I think with the right motivation this summer, having a good summer, good training, I'm going to go into training camp and try to earn a roster spot.”

Priskie informed the Caps that he intended to become a free agent on Aug. 15.

Priskie joins a crowded blue line in Carolina as defense was certainly one of the team’s strengths last season. There is room in just about any NHL roster, however, for a right-shot puck-moving defenseman. If Priskie pans out the way he is expected to, he will be playing in the NHL, and against the Caps, sooner rather than later.

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