Sometimes, overtime games end on pretty goals. Sometimes, they end on a slap shot from the circle. Sometimes, they end on gritty, garbage goals. The Bruins’ goal to end Game 3 of their Stanley Cup playoff series against the Capitals was none of those.
Less than six minutes into the second overtime Wednesday, young Capitals netminder Ilya Samsonov went behind the net to play a dump-in by Kevan Miller. He left the puck in the trapezoid, but instead of his teammate scooping it up, the Bruins’ Craig Smith did. The Boston forward then wrapped it around and put it behind Samsonov for a 3-2 Bruins win.
After the red light went on, it was obvious there had been a miscommunication between Samsonov, who was making his first NHL playoff start, and defenseman Justin Schultz. It looked as if Samsonov was expecting Schultz to continue around behind the net while Schultz, who peeled off a bit, may have thought the goalie was going to chip it to him with Smith bearing down.
As the Bruins were celebrating, cameras caught Washington captain Alex Ovechkin yelling at someone. The assumption is that, because it looks as if he’s yelling in Russian, he was aiming his unhappiness at the 24-year-old Samsonov. Ovechkin had scored the first goal of the game.
“It’s a tough ending,” said Capitals bench boss Peter Laviolette. “You can tell just by the two motions of the players there was a miscommunication there. . . . It’s a tough ending but I thought Sammy coming in off the 14 or 15 days that he had off, I thought he came in and played a heck of a game.”
Samsonov had been out since May 1 because of COVID-19 protocols. He became the third goalie used by the Capitals already in this postseason. Vitek Vanecek started Game 1 but left injured in the first period. Craig Anderson entered the game and earned the win before getting the start in Game 2. The soon-to-be 40-year-old goaltender was given a maintenance day Wednesday; Pheonix Copley backed up Samsonov.
“He was huge tonight for us so I wouldn’t say anything other than keep your head up,” Caps defenseman John Carlson said when asked postgame what he’d say to the backstop, who did make 40 saves. “There’s a lot more hockey to be played. He did a great job for us tonight. If he didn’t stand on his head, we probably wouldn’t have gotten to that point.”
Game 3 marked the third game to go to overtime in the series. Nic Dowd scored the game-winner for Washington in Game 1 and the Bruins’ Brad Marchand won his team Game 2 to even the series. With Smith’s winner, the Boys from Beantown now have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven East Division first-round series. Game 4 is Friday at Boston’s TD Garden.