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Capitals vs. Panthers Game Three Recap: Caps Return Favor To Florida and Win in Dominant Fashion

Samsonov plays his best game to date in Game 3

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Florida Panthers at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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The Capitals might have had a poor last half of the game in game two, but they still played above expectation in Florida. Splitting the series 1-1 was huge. The Caps might not have been great at home in the regular season, but the playoffs bring a different atmosphere so hopefully they can feed off the fans this time.

Brett Leason was replaced by Connor McMichael, which should have been the move last game but better late than never. Ilya Samsonov also replaced Vitek Vanecek in net, after the latter didn’t have the best outing in Game Two and the former played a great third period in relief.

PLUS: The easy answer is Samsonov, but another positive is that the Caps made sure to capitalize on the Panthers taking stupid penalties, unlike in Game 2. Ovechkin’s power play goal put the game away. If they don’t score there, the Caps are only up two goals with 10 minutes left. Plenty of time for Panthers to storm back.

MINUS: Any time your goalie plays great it’s awesome, but that usually means your team is giving up too many chances. But that’s being very nit picky considering how well the Capitals played.

1) The Capitals played well the first three minutes, winning the puck possession battle. But the Panthers are the highest scoring team in the modern era for a reason, they can strike at any moment. Jonathan Huberdeau came in streaking the left wing and ripped a perfect shot bar down to give the Panthers a 0-1 lead. As Craig Laughlin noted on the broadcast, Huberdeau is a superstar for a reason. Whoever has scored first has done extremely well, so the Caps would have to really turn it on pull a W out.

2) The Caps got back at it, putting the pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky, who was giving up some rebounds. The Caps eventually drew a penalty and got on the power play. They have two PP goals this series and needed to continue that trend. Nothing much came from the man advantage, though at the end Dmitry Orlov fed Conor Sheary in the slot and Sheary shanked it. That has been a problem for the Caps this series; they have had a handful of great chances that they have completely whiffed on, which isn’t good in a series against the best team in the league. Need to convert on your chances.

3) With three minutes left in the period, Anthony Mantha fed a nice pass to Nicklas Backstrom in the slot, who had a golden chance. Unfortunately, Bob came up with a huge save not once but twice. The second shot went off the top of Bob’s ass and it stayed out. As usual in the playoffs, the Caps couldn’t catch a break.

4) Shortly after, Mantha took a cross checking penalty. The Panthers could have taken a late 0-2 lead on the power play, but the Capitals not only killed it but also drew a penalty. And just a couple seconds into the power play, Alexander Ovechkin fired a shot that TJ Oshie tipped by Bob to tie the game. There was less than a minute left in the period, so it was huge to get.

5) Samsonov came up with a big save from the slot to start the second period, which is exactly what the Capitals needed from him. He was also strong on back to back penalty kills shortly after that to keep the game 1-1.

7) To continue his strong play, Samsonov made a huge save that got the Caps going down the other end of the ice. Mantha made a nice cut to the slot for a backhand shot where, finally, Caps got a good bounce that went off a Panthers defensemen and allowed Marcus Johansson to put home a backhander to give the Caps a 2-1 lead. It’s always nice to be on the good end of a huge save at one end to a goal at the other.

8) Samsonov again came up big with two huge saves. This time it didn’t lead to a goal but it did lead to a drawn penalty giving the Caps an important power play with eight minutes left in the second. They had a couple two great chances but were unable to convert.

9) Sorry to keep talking about Samsonov (actually I’m not) but holy hell, he came up huge the rest of the second period with massive save after massive save. This led to the Capitals being able to stay above water and led to an elite Mantha forecheck that ended with two great chances for the Capitals. Trevor van Riemsdyk converted on the second one with a snipe to the top corner to give the Capitals a 3-1 lead. TvR had one goal all season and just came up with a massive playoff goal.

10) Samsonov kept coming up big for the Caps to start the third period and drew some Sammy chants. After one of these saves, Ovechkin made a highlight reel deke to backhand that Bob stopped. Ovechkin was, rightfully, upset that he was slashed and it wasn’t called.

11) The Caps drew a penalty on an unwise crosscheck from Huberdeau against Nic Dowd, and on the power play the captain came up with his vintage one timer to give the Caps a 3 goal lead with under 10 minutes ago.

12) The Panthers got desperate and pulled their goalie with four minutes left, and Carlson threw a puck from the boards into the empty net to ice the game 5-1 for the good guys.

13) To add icing on the cake, the fourth line came up with a goal with 40 seconds left in the game to make it 6-1.

Up Next: the Capitals and Panthers go at it for Game Four this Monday at 7pm ET, where the Caps will look to take a commanding lead of the series.