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Samsonov is stellar as Caps win in front of dads for fifth time in Tampa, Caps set league road mark, all four lines chip in, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps /

Daddy Just Wants It To Rain - Locked in a 1-1 tie in the second period of their game with the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Saturday night, the Capitals found themselves weathering quite a storm. Four times in the middle frame, the Caps took minor penalties to give the Bolts' second-ranked power play unit an opportunity to do some damage.

Washington's penalty killing outfit - spearheaded by goaltender Ilya Samsonov - managed to mostly navigate its way through those choppy waters, though the Lightning did tie the game on a power play early in the second, after Nicklas Backstrom had staked the Caps to a 1-0 advantage in the first.

"In the second period, Sammy was unreal," says Caps winger Brendan Leipsic. "We were penalty killing. I think halfway through the game we had 10 penalty minutes or something crazy like that. But the goalie has got to be the best penalty killer, and Sammy was that for sure."

But even during the stretches of 5-on-5 hockey in the middle period, the Caps were taking on water, finding it difficult to get out of their own end, and under siege from the black-sweatered Lightning attack. On one shift in between their final two shorthanded situations in the second, Caps defensemen Radko Gudas and Jonas Siegenthaler found themselves hemmed deep in their own zone for a marathon shift of 3:36 in length. Caps center Lars Eller was out for more than three minutes on that shift as well, and winger Garnet Hathaway was on for nearly three minutes.

"First off, you kind of just have to calm down and take a breath for a second when you can," says Hathaway, when asked about the mentality of surviving such a marathon shift without taking a penalty or giving up a goal. "We drill our system into our heads during practice and our video sessions, so at the point when you're tired like that physically, it's kind of instinctual that we know where we need to be, and we play to our system."

Video: Postgame | December 14

Despite that Bolts barrage, the Caps were able to somehow get out of the second period with the score still square at 1-1, and after one more great stop by Samsonov at the start of the third, Washington finally cranked up its formidable attack and put the Lightning to sleep.

At 1:58 of the third, Dmitry Orlov and Richard Panik combined to set up Eller's go-ahead goal, lifting the Caps to a 2-1 lead they would not surrender. Forty-five seconds after Eller scored, Hathaway supplied what would prove to be the game-winner, and the Caps tacked on two more for their first four-goal outburst in the third period this season.

Saturday's win came with a contingent of 33 fathers and mentors of Caps players and staff looking on from a suite in Amalie Arena on Washington's annual Mentors' Trip. The victory is the Caps' fifth in as many Mentors' Trip visits to Tampa over the years, and it raises Washington's all-time record on Mentors' Trips to 16-6-0.

"A tremendous game by Ilya tonight," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "We knew going into it that for him, this was another way to evaluate where he is at in his game and in his development. We put him up against a desperate team here that needs points and wants points, and obviously has the firepower that do. It was a test, and I thought he really was solid.

"The one thing that I would say that I liked the best about his game, is that when they made it 3-2, he made his best saves. So he rises to the occasion, he steps up in big moments, and I thought he had a real strong game."

Eight Miles High - In winning for the eighth time in 10 starts, Samsonov improved his record to 8-2-1 on the season (he suffered a loss in relief in mid-October). With eight victories in his first 10 NHL starts, Samsonov becomes the fourth goaltender in Caps franchise history to claim as many as eight wins in his first 10 starts, joining Bob Mason, Jim Carey and Semyon Varlamov on that list.

Playing in front of his father Alexsei at the NHL level for the first time, Samsonov made 26 saves including a handful of dazzlers.

"I'm happy because I win this game for him," says Samsonov, "his first time watching me play my game. It's really important. I'm so happy."

Samsonov owns a 2.38 GAA and a .918 save pct. in this, his rookie NHL season.

Video: WSH@TBL: Samsonov reaches out to rob Point in tight

Let The Four Winds Blow - For the first time in the three games in which Washington has been able to ice a full, healthy and unsuspended lineup, the Caps got goals at even strength from all four lines.

Backstrom started the scoring in the first, representing Washington's top line. Eller's goal was the first for his line in the three games in which it has been back together, and Hathaway's goal was a solid reward for the fourth line's ongoing excellence and consistency.

When T.J. Oshie engineered a wraparound goal on Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy just after the midpoint of the third, all four lines had been heard from. Tom Wilson added an empty-netter in the game's final minute.

The uniform numbers of the first three Washington goal scorers on Saturday night, in order, were: 19, 20, and 21.

Video: WSH@TBL: Eller, Hathaway score 44 seconds apart

Further On Up The Road - Saturday night's victory was Washington's fifth straight on the road, leaving it one shy of matching the franchise's all-time standard for longest road winning streak. It also leaves the Caps with a lusty 15-2-1 mark for the season on the road, and that sets an NHL record for best road record 18 games into a slate of away games.

The 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres set the previous standard with a 15-3-0 mark after their first 18 road contests.

Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears earned a 5-2 victory of their own on Saturday night, taking down the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at Giant Center to claim their fifth straight victory.

Brian Pinho put the Bears up early, netting his fourth of the season at 1:49 of the first with a solo assist from Axel Jonsson-Fjallby. After the Sound Tigers tied it at 1-1, Mike Sgarbossa scored his 10th of the season with help from Joe Snively, restoring the Hershey lead at 11:44. Less than a minute later, at 12:44, Philippe Maillet netted his fourth of the season with help from Liam O'Brien and Alex Alexeyev. Maillet's goal would prove to be the game-winner.

After the Sound Tigers closed to within a goal early in the second, Matt Moulson notched a power-play marker - his eighth goal of the season - at 5:59 of the middle period to restore Hershey's two-goal cushion, Sgarbossa and Bobby Nardella assisting.

Fourteen seconds after Moulson's goal, O'Brien bagged his sixth of the season with help from Pinho and Brett Leason. The two sides played scoreless hockey over the game's final 33 minutes.

With a 24-save night in the Hershey nets, Vitek Vanecek improved to 7-4-1 on the season.

The 13-9-2-3 Bears are now in fourth place in the AHL's Atlantic Division, eight points back of front-running Hartford. Hershey is back in action on Sunday afternoon at Giant Center when it hosts the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays made it a clean sweep Saturday night for the Washington organization, whitewashing the Greenville Swamp Rabbits 3-0 at North Charleston Coliseum.

Dylan Steman, Dylan Zink and Mark Cooper scored for South Carolina, supporting Parker Milner's 16-save performance in the Stingrays nets. Milner is now 10-0-2-0 on the season.

The 18-2-3-0 Stingrays lead the ECHL's South Division by five points over the Florida Everblades. South Carolina is back in action on Sunday afternoon when it entertains the Jacksonville Icemen at North Charleston Coliseum.

By The Numbers - John Carlson led the Caps with 24:09 in ice time … Radko Gudas led the Caps with five shots on net, and Gudas, Orlov and Alex Ovechkin led Washington with five shot attempts each … Hathaway led the Caps with five hits … Gudas led the Caps with four blocked shots … Eller won seven of 11 draws (64 percent) … Washington is 15-1-3 when it scores the game's first goal … Only three of Tampa Bay's 18 skaters escaped Saturday's game without a "minus" next to his name.

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