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|19 ноября 2008
'Just another game' a boost for Samsonov // www.newsobserver.com
Nov. 19--RALEIGH -- The morning of the 19th game of the season, with Sergei Samsonov still looking for his first goal, he was asked if Tuesday night's opponent might not shake something loose.
After all, the slumping Carolina Hurricanes forward was run out of Montreal in the summer of 2007 after a dismal season for the Canadiens, only to resurrect his career last spring with the Canes.
"It's just another game," Samsonov said, shaking his head.
Maybe. Maybe not.
Early in the third period, with the Canes down a goal, Samsonov took a pass from Patrick Eaves on the rush, cut to the middle and slipped a shot past Carey Price to send the Canes on their way to a 2-1 win.
It was a big goal, but sometimes, the gap between zero and (1), as in "Samsonov (1)," is the biggest of all.
"It's a bit of a relief, you know?" Samsonov said. "Any time you're in a slump, it's a confidence thing more than anything. You get chances, and it's frustrating when they don't go in, so it was nice to see that one go in."
Samsonov's goal defibrillated the RBC Center and shocked the Canes to life. One penalty and less than four minutes later, Ray Whitney popped home a rebound on the power play to put the Canes in the lead for the first time.
They had dominated the first period, outshooting Montreal 18-8 with nothing to show for it. They struggled through penalty trouble in a sluggish second period, giving up a power-play goal to Robert Lang but otherwise relying on a strong performance from goalie Cam Ward.
And the third period started quietly, until Samsonov broke the silence on his fourth shot of the night, his celebratory roar drowned out by the crowd, his fists raised in the air.
His teammates greeted him at the bench the way they'd celebrate an 18-year-old's first NHL goal, Michael Leighton smothering Samsonov's head with his glove as he stepped through the doorway, Eric Staal reaching over to give him a similar rub after they sat down.
For Samsonov, whose last goal came in last season's last game, it only felt like his first.
"Hopefully, that opens it up for him," Whitney said. "I know he's been trying to keep a positive attitude as much as possible.
"It's good for him to break out. Our next one is to get the big guy going."
The "big guy," Staal, hasn't scored in eight games and has just one goal in his past 12 games -- a drought of equal, if not greater, concern to the Hurricanes. At one point in the first period, Staal and Samsonov went in on a two-on-one that seemed doomed to fail. (Staal kept the puck and shot, with Price making the save.)
For now, a goal from Samsonov will have to suffice. The timing may have been coincidental, but it also was slightly ironic.
With Montreal, Samsonov once went 19 games without a goal before he scored two against the Boston Bruins, with whom he spent parts of eight seasons.
Samsonov's offensive struggles in Montreal -- nine goals in the 2006-07 season-- saw him traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for two players the Canadiens subsequently released. He failed to score in 23 games with Chicago and was unceremoniously put on waivers twice.
The Canes claimed him in January, and Samsonov was a revelation in Carolina last season with 14 goals in 38 games, but his personal history appeared on the verge of repeating itself.
"It's great to see him get a goal," Ward said. "He's been frustrated, but as a team we were never worried about him. He's a guy who can make things happen on the ice. It's nice to see him get rewarded."
Now, he has a starting point, a foundation for building the rest of his season. It's just one goal, but after waiting 19 games, it's better than nothing.
"Yeah, just another game," Samsonov said afterward, but this time, he was smiling.