RBC CENTER, RALEIGH—Sergei Samsonov looked sad.
After Carolina downed his new squad 2-1 on the strength of 41 Cam Ward saves and a goal and assist from Cory Stillman, Samsonov felt bittersweet about leaving. "That's the tough part. You battle through a lot of things with your teammates. You feel like you're a part of it, and all of a sudden you're not," he shrugged. "That part is a bit difficult to overcome."
Cory Stillman, who came to Carolina from Florida in a separate trade five days ago, crafted both Canes goals and again looked like he never left the line with Erik Cole and Eric Staal, who returned to the lineup. Five minutes in, Stillman went to the net after trailing Cole's rush down the wing, chopping the puck in as he fell to his knees. On a power play late in the first period, his artful shot-pass to Staal at the side of the net made for such an easy tap-in that the captain was laughing almost as he shot the puck.
"Those are the ones you want," Staal chuckled. "You want the net with no goalie in it and some time. It was a nice pass by Cory."
Stillman's enjoying the reunion too. "It’s fun to play with them," he said. "We can still be a lot better than what we were. We do know each others' tendencies. It’s a matter of not guessing on it, and knowing that you’re going to be able to move the puck and be there. And if we can do that, I think we’ll see better things."
The Canes left the remainder of the game up to their goalie, who faced shot after shot, only allowing Stephen Weiss' finish of a David Booth wraparound centering pass four minutes into the second period. In typical fashion, Ward made the 34 saves over the last 40 minutes look routine, although many of them were on quality chances that had him moving post to post frequently.
Bryan Allen was effective in his first game with the Canes, paired with Jay Harrison. Policing the front of the net on the penalty kill, he also threw a few good checks on his former teammates in the corners throughout the game.
Harrison's two-game goal-scoring streak was snapped, but not for lack of trying. He and Joni Pitkanen both got the puck to the net throughout the game, but Canes forwards couldn't finish plays each time. Pitkanen's perfect breakout pass, however, sprung the rush that resulted in the first Carolina goal.
Aside from the victory, it was a night for Canes fans to say thanks and goodbye to Samsonov. And he felt the same way. "I had a great time here. It was fun to be a part of the team and I took that to heart. Whether I was on the first line or the fourth line, I gave it all I had."
"My thoughts are with this team now. At some point, you have to cut the cord, you know?"