MONTREAL - Tomas Plekanec sure knows how to make a first impression. After suddenly finding himself flanked by Alex Kovalev and Sergei Samsonov, the Czech centerman looked right at home alongside his two Russian comrades.
"It's all about coaching," said head coach Guy Carbonneau with a smirk. "I had put him between Alex and Sergei earlier in training camp and they looked good together.
"I knew that Tomas was an intelligent player who could adapt to whatever situation he found himself in," added Carbonneau. "When you have players like Kovalev and Samsonov who rely on instinct, that's the type of player you need on that line."
Plekanec proved his coach right by setting up not only Samsonov's tying goal with under five minutes to go in regulation, but also Kovalev's game winner at the 18:08 mark of the third. The line combined for seven points, accounted for all three Canadiens' third period goals and almost single-handedly sank the Senators who carried a comfortable 5-3 lead heading into the final frame.
"We've got a lot of talent on this team and training camp proved how many good young players we have," said Kovalev. "You saw it tonight the way Tomas stepped in there and got the job done. And plus, I know how good a player he is and how he plays from seeing him all of last season."
Samsonov also felt a good vibe with Plekanec by his side.
"We had plenty of great scoring chances and it was nice to see our line to score a couple of goals," said Samsonov, who notched his first goal since signing with the Canadiens in July. "It wasn't tough to see that the three of us had some nice chemistry out there."
Though obviously thrilled with the vote of confidence from Carbonneau, Plekanec still has his feet planted firmly on the ground.
"Getting the chance to play on one of the top two lines is obviously a great feeling," admitted the 23-year-old Plekanec. "But I know I'm not the No. 2 center. I'm sure the team will try different combinations, like on the power-play. I just hope that I get to play on this line as long as possible."
Thanks to his pair of assists against the Senators, Plekanec wrapped up a solid preseason with five points in as many games, while also tying Saku Koivu for the team lead with four assists.
With the preseason now in the books and the Canadiens' season opener in Buffalo fast approaching, Carbonneau wasn't surprised to see Kovalev and Samsonov heating up at the right time.
"I think players like them know that the preseason is over and it's time to go."
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com
- Kovalev on the trade and his new linemate
- Samsonov on the instant chemistry with Plekanec
- Plekanec on centering Kovalev and Samsonov