When it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the intense emotions of players and fans are unmistakable.
That was strikingly evident on Saturday afternoon during the Washington Capitals' 6-1 victory over the Florida Panthers in Game 3 to take a surprising 2-1 series lead.
Leading the charge in the win was 25-year-old Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov, who made 29 saves in the matinee performance, prompting the Capital One Arena faithful to get loud for their netminder in his first start of the 2022 playoffs.
After Saturday's game, Samsonov was asked about the ovation from the crowd, and admitted it left him on the verge of tears.
Ilya Samsonov said he was close to crying when he heard the chants of “Sammy! Sammy!” at Capital One Arena today.
He said was nervous in the beginning of the game but settled in, was a “fun” experience.
— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) May 7, 2022
Samsonov also thanked the fans during his emotional postgame press conference and said he felt his team did everything it needed to do to get the win.
“It was important, too. Thank you, team. A lot of blocks today. It's more important we play together, and we got [a] great result,” he said.
Samsonov has been excellent for Washington since coach Peter Laviolette called his number to start the third period of Game 2, stopping 46 of the 47 shots he has faced. He posted a 3.02 goals-against average and .896 save percentage over 44 regular-season games in 2021-22.
The Panthers and Capitals will be back in action on Monday evening from D.C. as Washington will look to grab a stranglehold on the series against a heavily favoured Florida squad.
Even though they’re in a hole, the Panthers still feel they have it in them to right the ship, according to Hart Trophy candidate Jonathan Huberdeau.
“I think we’re playing a little nervous,” he told reporters. “We’re not playing the game that we should play. I think we’re a way better team.”
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