Samsonov snapped a 19-game drought with two goals against his former team to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 4-3 win Tuesday over the Boston Bruins.
Samsonov was this summer’s prized free agent acquisition for Canadiens GM Bob Gainey, who has taken a leave of absence from the team to be with his family following the disappearance of his 25-year-old daughter Laura, who went overboard from a tall ship about 700 kilometres off the coast of Cape Cod on Friday night. The search was officially suspended on Monday evening.
“It’s on everybody’s mind, obviously, but from our side all we can do is worry about winning hockey games and make the GM’s job a little easier,” said Samsonov, who Gainey signed to a two-year, US$7.05-million contract this summer.
“The last thing he needs is to worry about hockey right now. As a team, I think we realized that and we were ready for this game.”
Andrei Markov and Guillaume Latendresse also scored for the Canadiens (17-8-5), who have registered at least a point in four straight games (2-0-2).
Marc Savard scored twice and assisted on Petr Tenkrat’s last-minute goal for the Bruins (14-12-2), who lost their second straight game but only their fifth in their last 15.
There was a moment of silence prior to the game to honour Gainey’s daughter, and you couldn’t hear a whisper from the sellout crowd of 21,273 during the 30 seconds or so of silence.
“I’m sure that Bob was watching the game and he was touched by that,” said Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau, who has been in daily contact with his friend and GM since he left the team on Saturday. “I think tonight, maybe Bob will go to bed with a smile.”
The game was also the first for the Bruins since they learned 19-year-old rookie winger Phil Kessel underwent cancer-related surgery in Boston on Monday.
“We tried to pull one out for the kid,” said Savard, who rooms with Kessel on the road.
David Aebischer made 31 saves for the Canadiens to win for the first time since Nov. 7, snapping a five game winless streak. He made 29 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss in New Jersey last Wednesday and was relieved to finally be rewarded with a win.
“I was pretty pleased with my effort the last two games,” Aebischer said. “When you play well, it’s only a matter of time until you win.”
Hannu Toivonen made 36 saves for the Bruins in his first start since Nov. 4.
With the game tied 2-2 just past the midway point of the third period, Tomas Plekanec took the puck off Zdeno Chara behind the Bruins net and sent it in front to a wide open Samsonov, who buried it for his sixth of the season and second of the night at 12:49.
“(Plekanec) forechecked and basically took the puck away from two defenders,” Samsonov said. “He made that goal happen.”
Latendresse provided the eventual winner at 16:00 of the third with his seventh of the season on a quick turnaround shot from the slot that surprised Toivonen to make it 4-2 Montreal.
Boston got to within a goal when Tenkrat tipped-in a point shot, beating a screened Aebischer at 19:09 of the third.
The Canadiens went ahead on Markov’s power-play goal in the first period, converting a rebound of an Alex Kovalev shot for his third of the year at 6:36.
The Bruins tied it at 2:09 of the second with a power-play goal of their own when Savard converted a nice passing play from Patrice Bergeron and Chara with a one-timer.
Montreal regained the lead 2-1 at 6:52 on a 4-on-4 effort from Samsonov, who dangled his way through the offensive zone before converting his own rebound.
“You carry a burden everyday, you can’t stop thinking about it,” Samsonov said of his goal drought. “So it’s definitely a relief.”
But the lead lasted less than a minute for the Canadiens as a Kovalev giveaway in his own end led to Savard’s second power play goal of the period at 7:34.
Notes: The Canadiens were without D Sheldon Souray (wrist) and centre Steve Begin (ribs). Both are considered day-to-day. Their spots in the lineup were filled by D Janne Niinimaa and centre Maxim Lapierre, who was called up from the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs on Monday and played his second career NHL game. Lapierre got an assist on the Latendresse goal for his first career point. … Kessel’s spot in the lineup was taken by C Yan Stastny, called up from the AHL’s Providence Bruins on Monday. …Bruins winger P.J. Axelsson missed his fifth game with a foot injury. … The Bruins had a scare in the first period when a Mike Johnson slapshot caromed off Glen Murray’s stick and dangerously close to his ear. Murray went off to the Bruins dressing room with blood flowing from his left ear, but he was back before the end of the period…The Canadiens will hold their 42nd annual visit to two Montreal-area children’s hospitals on Wednesday.