Surprising Capitals rout Panthers, grab 2-1 series lead

Goalie Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves for his first playoff victory as the Washington Capitals defeated the visiting Florida Panthers 6-1 Saturday afternoon to gain the series lead against the NHL’s No. 1 team.

The eighth-seeded Capitals lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 against the top-seeded Panthers, who won the Presidents’ Cup as the NHL’s top team in the recently concluded regular season. Game 4 is set for Monday night in Washington D.C.

Samsonov, a 25-year-old Russian native who was Washington’s first-round pick in 2015, went 0-for-3 in his first playoffs exposure last season. Samsonov began this series as the backup to Vitek Vanecek and Saturday was making his first start of the year’s postseason.

The Capitals, who rallied from an early 1-0 deficit, got goals from T.J. Oshie, Marcus Johansson, Trevon Van Riemsdyk, Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson (empty-netter) and Garnet Hathaway.

Oshie and Ovechkin scored on the Washington power play, which went 2-for-5 in the game and is 4-for-11 in the series. Nicklas Backstrom and Anthony Mantha added two assists each.

The Panthers got a goal from Jonathan Huberdeau and 22 saves from Sergei Bobrovsky.

Florida opened the scoring 2:45 into the first period. Ovechkin put a heavy hit on Huberdeau, but the Panthers’ leader was unfazed and raced down the ice where Anthony Duclair found him with a cross-ice pass. Huberdeau zipped a shot past Samsonov’s glove.

Washington got a break when Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar was penalized with just 33 seconds left in the first period as he was called for holding the stick of Washington’s Hathaway, preventing a short-handed breakaway.

Immediately after, Oshie won the face-off and when Ovechkin launched a long shot, Oshie deflected it in to tie the score at 1.

Johansson scored with 10:09 left in the second period to give Washington a 2-1 lead. The sequence started when Barkov’s shot at the doorstep was stopped by Samsonov. The Capitals came right back on the rush, and when Mantha’s backhander was stopped by Bobrovsky’s left pad, Johansson was left with a juicy rebound.

The Capitals made it 3-1 with just 71 seconds left in the second period. Weegar lost the puck deep in his own end. Mantha got the steal, which led to Backstrom’s shot. Bobrovsky stopped that one, but again Johansson retrieved the rebound fed Van Riemsdyk who scored from the left circle.

After an interference penalty on Huberdeau, the Capitals made it 4-1 on Ovechkin’s blast from the left circle with 9:35 left in the third. Carlson scored five minutes later and Hathaway added an empty-netter in the final minute for Washington.

–Field Level Media

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