Former Washington Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov Saturday was in net for the Toronto Maple Leafs in his first game in D.C. since the Caps did not declare for the offseason.
In contrast to his successful start against the Toronto Caps earlier this season, Samsonov was far less productive and struggled inside the Capital One Arena in a 5-2 loss. The five goals scored were a season high with the Leafs.
Samsonov spoke after the game about playing in his former team and the return game.
“A difficult loss for me,” said Samsonov. “I think I’m playing badly in this game. A few bad bounces, but we have to work. We’re back tomorrow and back to work. For my game, I have to play better.”
That’s 3 goals in 4 games for TVR 🔥! pic.twitter.com/AVOtVwJPpK
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) December 18, 2022
In Sam’s first start in front of Capitals fans, he made just 23 saves on 28 shots. MoneyPuck had him save 2.3 fewer goals than expected. A less than ideal look that can be influenced by circumstances.
“I’m nervous, I have a lot of emotions,” said Samsonov. “The result is not so great.”
At one point in the first period, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin had a net opportunity that he just couldn’t get past Samsonov enough. A goal there would have tied Ovie with Gordie Howe for second all-time in NHL goals. After the whistle, former teammates exchanged words. Ovechkin was seen smiling.
“He just said.
During that first period, the Capitals also welcomed their former netminder to the Capital One Arena jumbotron. Caps fans gave the backstop a hearty ovation.
Greeting message to Ilya Samsonov. pic.twitter.com/qohAPZ08yY
— David Alter (@dalter) December 18, 2022
“Yes, I see it,” said Samsonov. “Thank you so much. Thank you, Washington fans. The fans are always in my heart.”
In 12 starts for the Maple Leafs this season, Samsonov has posted a 9-3 record with an astronomical 1.98 goals-against average and a sparkling .929 save percentage. Both of those latter totals rank second in the league among qualified netminders.
Screenshot via Toronto Maple Leafs