By Graham Dumas
Capitals goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov had two strong showings over the weekend in KHL action, during which he kept Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the running against a pair of worthy opponents. Samsonov’s technical ability and athleticism were both on full display as he made 47 saves on 49 shots. These two appearances were his first since backstopping Russia to a bronze-medal finish in the World Junior Championships.
On Friday against Spartak Moscow, Samsonov was perfect in relief after his team allowed three soft goals on just eight shots. It was the first time Samsonov had played for Magnitogorsk since a December 8, 2016, win against Vladivostok Admiral.
Just moments after taking the ice Friday, Samsonov was tested by a five-minute penalty kill, during which he was poised and confident, if not overly busy.
Samsonov stops two high-danger scoring chances
Samsonov’s quick lateral movement allowed him to shut down Spartak’s best two scoring chances of the extended power play. Metallurg forward Yaroslav Kosov noted that the team “gained strength and momentum” from the PK, allowing them to score on the rush after the sides returned to five-on-five.
With six minutes left in the second period, Samsonov shut the door again on what could have been a backbreaking goal by Spartak.
Samsonov shuts down one-on-none breakaway
The breakaway came after a blocked a shot from the point, with forward Lukas Radil blowing past Metallurg’s D-men right as he entered the zone. Samsonov came out of his crease to challenge, forcing Radil to a weaker-angle shot that the Caps prospect skillfully deflected.
Metallurg would go on to win Friday’s game 6-3, with Samsonov stopping all 23 shots he faced.
On Sunday, Samsonov was the starting goaltender against Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo. Though he was pierced by two even-strength goals, Samsonov again shone on the PK, erasing mistakes by his teammates and keeping Magnitogorsk alive for an ultimate OT win.
Samsonov darts across the crease to keep Magnitogorsk in the game
Samsonov displayed his renowned agility on the penalty kill, moving swiftly across the crease to counter Torpedo’s east-west puck movement on multiple power-play shots.
Though his rebound control was lacking on occasion, Samsonov’s timely stops kept the game close and gave Magnitogorsk’s shooters room to work with in coming from behind for the 3-2 OT win.
Samsonov controls wraparound, slot shots before being tackled from behind
In the third, Samsonov even bounced back from a punishing hit by his own D-men, shutting down a wraparound attempt and stuffing a shot from the slot before losing his stick in the chaos that followed. Despite the interruption, he sprang quickly back to his feet in search of the next shot attempt.
After the match, Torpedo defenseman Grigory Zheldakov was very complimentary of Samsonov’s development, noting that he will “quickly become a master” goaltender under the tutelage of Magnitogorsk’s coaching staff.
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