Hurricanes fall to Canadiens 4-2

calexander@newsobserver.comMarch 7, 2013 

— The Carolina Hurricanes went to their locker room after the second period Thursday feeling good about themselves, about the hockey game.

Canes coach Kirk Muller later would call it his team's best period of the season. Jordan Staal and Drayson Bowman scored and Carolina could have had one or two more goals, putting 21 shots on net in tying the score.

But the Montreal Canadiens were more than ready for the third period. Instead of folding, the Habs surged to a 4-2 victory that ended the Canes' four-game winning streak and quieted a PNC Arena crowd of 16,774 that sensed a comeback win in the making.

"The first 10 minutes of the game we didn't have our best, but the last 10 minutes of the first we were coming on and carried it into the second," Canes goalie Justin Peters said. "We had a lot of momentum going into the third. But they capitalized on their chances and turned the tide of the game."

The Canadiens, who got 42 saves from Carey Price, first killed off a Brian Gionta roughing penalty to begin the third period. That was timely for the Habs. Lars Eller then scored off a pass from Josh Gorges for a 3-2 lead with 13:51 left in regulation.

A half-minute later, Price made sharp stops on shots from the Canes' Alex Semin and then Tim Gleason. That was timely for Montreal, too.

Semin, perhaps frustrated, soon was called for high-sticking and the Habs made the Canes pay for the offensive-zone penalty. Defenseman P.K. Subban got off a shot that Peters said knuckled past him.

"I'd like to have that one (back) to give us a chance at the end," said Peters, who made his second straight start since being recalled from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL.

Brandon Prust and Gorges scored for the Habs (15-5-4) in the first period as Montreal, a 6-3 loser Tuesday to the New York Islanders, took the 2-0 lead. But the Canes came out with jump in the second, firing away.

The Hurricanes (13-9-1), who lead the Southeast Division, limited the Habs to five shots in the period while peppering Price. Staal scored on a shot from the right circle and Bowman on a bullet from the left circle that tied the score 2-2 with 9 minutes, 33 seconds left in the period.

With a little more than five minutes left in the second and Montreal on a power play, Eric Staal took off on a shorthanded breakaway. Habs defenseman Yannick Weber was called for hooking, setting up a penalty shot.

With the crowd standing and roaring, Staal had his forehand attempt stopped by Price.

"In the second we did everything we possibly could and pushed hard," Muller said. "But we went into the third and they got that third goal, which was the breaker in terms of now they really sat back and played safe.

"I thought the guys played hard but fell short. We threw 40-something shots at the net and Price came up big."

Price came into the game having given up big numbers -- 12 goals on 59 shots in a 7-6 loss to Pittsburgh and then the loss to the Isles. But he was solid enough Thursday.

While the Habs got the power-play score from Subban, the Canes were 0-4 with a man advantage.

"We say all the time you've got to get momentum from your power play," Muller said. "For some reason our guys play hard five on five and drop the pace on the power play. … It probably cost us tonight."

Peters, the winner Tuesday in the 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, had 24 saves. Peters was in net again as Dan Ellis continues to recover from the flu.

Center Riley Nash missed the game with flu-like symptoms and Jeremy Welsh was recalled Thursday from the Checkers. Welsh earned his first NHL point, assisting on Bowman's goal.

Prust and Eller each finished with a goal and two assists for the Habs, who lead the Northeast Division.

"We didn't keep the pressure on them," Jordan Staal said. "We kind of lost our hunger for the puck. One little mistake and it's in the back of our net, and we took one too many penalties as well and it cost us. Against a team that plays well defensively, it's tough to come back."

See the box score from the game

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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