Hurricanes rally for 5-4 overtime win over Canadiens

calexander@newsobserver.comDecember 31, 2013 

— The Carolina Hurricanes ended a five-game winless streak and closed 2013 with a victory.

And what a victory it was.

Alexander Semin’s goal lifted the Canes to a wild 5-4 overtime win against the Montreal Canadiens at PNC Arena on Tuesday night, leaving everyone in a festive mood on New Year’s Eve.

Trailing 3-0 after two periods, the Canes appeared headed to another deflating loss and the arena was quiet.

But Jeff Skinner scored a pair of power-play goals in the first two minutes, 15 seconds of the third period as the Canes rallied. Eric Staal then tied it 3-3 a little more than four minutes into the period, leaping into the glass behind the net.

When Manny Malhotra scored for Carolina, on a nice centering pass from Zach Boychuk, the Canes had a 4-3 lead and PNC Arena was rumbling.

Canes coach Kirk Muller said he didn’t rant and rave during the second intermission. But he did get his point across.

“At the end of the second we just said, ‘Guys, there’s two things we can do,’ ” Muller said. “We can just play this out or we can just go for it. This could be the period that turns the season around or we just finish it up the way it (was) in the first two periods.

“They played hard. They didn’t want to quit.”

It took some fight for the Canes (15-16-9) to get to overtime. P.K. Subban’s power-play goal tied the score 4-4 for the Habs midway through the third, and Eric Staal was called for a double-minor – for boarding and then unsportsmanlike conduct – with 3:26 left in regulation.

But the Canes killed off the penalties. Semin then struck at 3:27 of overtime, on a shot from the left wing that beat goalie Carey Price, who had been so smooth and sharp the first two periods.

“I made it a little bit difficult on the fellows and they picked me up,” Staal said. “It was a fun game. We had a choice in the second intermission – either fold the tent or rip it hard.”

Skinner ripped it hard, beating Price with a top-shelf bullet on a 4-on-3 power play and then blocker side on a 5-on-4. His two goals, 37 seconds apart, gave the Canes energy early in the third.

“We just needed to find one (goal) and everybody started loosening up,” Skinner said. “We got on a little bit of roll and the atmosphere in the rink … it was definitely loud.”

Cam Ward, starting in net for the Canes, continued his steady play while the Canes fired away at Price, closing with 42 shots.

Max Pacioretty scored twice, Lars Eller got the Habs (23-14-4) off to a good start with an early goal and Montreal’s penalty killers were efficient for the first 40 minutes. The Canes had brief 5-on-3 power play in the first and then 1:45 of a 5-on-3 in the second period but couldn’t score. A few boos were heard.

“We threw a lot of pucks at (Price) and couldn’t sort of solve him the first two periods,” said Skinner, who scored his 15th and 16th goals of the season. “But we stuck with it. That’s what made it so nice, because that’s what we’ve been preaching the last couple of weeks while we’ve been going through this tough stretch. We stuck with it for the whole game and it paid off for us tonight.”

The victory came a day after popular forward Kevin Westgarth was traded to Calgary, after general manager Jim Rutherford said there could be a team shakeup.

“These things don’t go unnoticed by the guys,” Muller said. “Who knows if that’s what it was (in) coming out slow. But when you have the options of folding or playing the third period the way they did, and they all jelled and went for it … that’s a huge win to build momentum.”

And send out 2013.

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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