Canadiens send Hurricanes to Olympics break with 4-1 loss

calexander@newsobserver.comFebruary 8, 2014 

— With three games at home before the break for the Winter Olympics, the Carolina Hurricanes were looking to make a move.

They did, but in the wrong direction.

The Canes dropped two of the three games at PNC Arena, falling 4-1 Saturday to the Montreal Canadiens in a game that had few highlights for the home team.

Drayson Bowman scored a second-period goal for the Hurricanes, who lost Tuesday to the Winnipeg Jets. Goalie Anton Khudobin made a few nice stops. But that was about it for the Canes, who did little to excite a sellout crowd.

The Canadiens got 31 saves from goalie Carey Price and a pair of goals from David Desharnais, using their counter-attacking speed to beat the Canes down the ice and taking advantage of some lax play by Carolina.

“We had some guys who played really well and played hard, but we didn’t have everybody on board and that doesn’t cut it in this league,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said. “It was disappointing because some guys didn’t bring their ‘A’ game here tonight.”

Muller was quick to note the Canes’ fourth line – Bowman, center Riley Nash and winger Tuomo Ruutu – was their best. None of the other three lines did much, and the top line of Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty was generally outplayed.

The Habs (32-21-6) played much of the game without forward Max Pacioretty, who has a team-leading 26 goals and will be a member of the U.S. Olympic team in Sochi. Pacioretty suffered a lower-body injury driving the net in the first period as Canes defenseman Brett Bellemore bodied him into the post and dislodged the net.

Pacioretty was helped off the ice. The Canadiens said after the game the injury was believed to be a bruise and that Pacioretty would not miss the Olympics.

It was the final game for both teams before the NHL’s Olympic break, which begins Sunday. The Canes (26-22-9) do not play again until Feb. 25 and will not be back at PNC Arena until March 7 as they will resume the season with five straight road games.

Bowman’s goal, on a bullet from the top of the right circle, gave the Canes a 1-0 lead in the second. But the Habs answered with two goals in 85 seconds late in the second as Desharnais scored off the rush and Ryan White banged in the rebound of an Andrei Markov shot.

“It happened pretty quick,” Bowman said. “That kind of swung the momentum in their favor.”

When Desharnais scored again off another well-executed rush about six minutes into the third, the Habs led 3-1. And there would be no stirring Canes comeback this time as Brian Gionta added a late empty-netter.

On New Year’s Eve, the Hurricanes trailed the Habs 3-0 entering the final period but scored four times on Price, then won 5-4 in overtime. That ended a five-game winless streak for Carolina and spurred a January surge and a move up in the Metropolitan Division standings.

But Price, who will play for Canada in Sochi, shut out the Canes with 36 saves in Montreal on Jan. 28. He was quick, smooth and effective again Saturday, twice denying Bowman in the third period with glove and pad saves.

“We had some good chances, I thought, and he definitely kept their lead for them,” Bowman said.

Canes defensemen Justin Faulk and Andrej Sekera, and forwards Alex Semin and Tuomo Ruutu all leave Sunday for Sochi. The Habs will have seven players competing in the Olympics.

“We wanted to get those two points before we left,” Faulk said. “We didn’t have the effort or the drive that we needed.

“In a game like that, especially before the break, we needed to leave it all out there. It didn’t go our way. We didn’t get it done.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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