For two periods Friday, the Carolina Hurricanes were stymied.
Shots were few and scoring chances even fewer for the Canes. The Montreal Canadiens were playing their backup goalie, Al Montoya, but Montoya must have felt like he was on a busman’s holiday at PNC Arena.
And then in the third period, so much changed. The Canes changed up their lines, scored three times, energized the crowd and themselves and won 3-2.
Jeff Skinner, Teuvo Teravainen and Victor Rask provided the goals and goalie Cam Ward, continuing his strong play in November, had a host of quality saves among his 31 stops. The Canadiens, the Eastern Conference leaders, made a push in the final minutes but the Canes (6-6-4) kept their poise and came away with a third straight victory.
“We started feeding off the fans and you could feel a spark in the building,” Canes center Jordan Staal said.
The official turnout was 12,101, but the crowd was loud in the third. Skinner scored his seventh of the season when a Ron Hainsey shot glanced off his skate and took a wicked turn past Montoya to tie the score 1-1 a little more than three minutes into the third.
Teravainen scored off a tip of a Hainsey shot at 7:43 of the third, and Rask banged in a shot off an Elias Lindholm pass at 9:02 for his seventh of the season and a 3-1 lead.
“We stuck with our game plan,” Rask said. “We didn’t play our best in the beginning but we stuck with it.”
Ward took care of the rest. Andrew Shaw scored for Montreal (13-3-2) with 4:31 left in regulation on a redirection, but Ward shut it down from there.
The Habs pulled Montoya for a sixth attacker, but Shaw was called for hooking Canes defenseman Jaccob Slavin in the final seconds. That was that.
The Canes ripped Washington 5-1 on Saturday, then used Ward’s shutout Tuesday to blank the San Jose Sharks 1-0. Beating the Canadiens made it three quality victories.
“It changes the whole dynamic,” Ward said of the win streak. “Guys are excited coming to the rink. We’re having a lot of fun. Winning is fun.”
Canes coach Bill Peters switched up the lines in the third, flipping Skinner and Teravainen on the top two lines. Staal had centered Teravainen and rookie Sebastian Aho the past two games, but Peters moved Teravainen on Rask’s line with Lindholm.
“It was a good change,” Rask said. “We didn’t play good the first two periods, so it was a little change and it worked.”
The Canes had four shots in each of the first two periods. There was so little flow or excitement that even the Canes’ mascot, Stormy, was banging the glass behind the Habs net, demanding more action.
The Habs took a 1-0 lead in the second on a contested goal. Defenseman Jeff Petry scored as Ward was being knocked down in the crease after a collision with Montreal forward Daniel Carr, who was sandwiched by defensemen Noah Hanifin and Matt Tennyson.
Peters made a coach’s challenge, claiming goaltender interference, but the ruling was a good goal. Montoya, in turn, had some anxious moments of his own in the first two periods as Skinner had a couple of near-misses.
In the third, the Canes starting winning faceoffs — 13 of 20 in the period, including six of eight by Rask — and more puck battles. Peters, who likes to roll four lines, went with three and the Canes got off 10 shots and finally found the net.
“Being able to claw one out in the third period, and maybe you don’t deserve it the way the bulk of the game went, is certainly one we’ll take,” said Hainsey, who was named the game’s first star.
It helped that the Habs didn’t start Carey Price in net, giving Montoya a game. It helped that Montreal forward Alexander Radulov was ill and couldn’t play. But the Canes won it, earned it.
Peters said he’d like to see the team be more competitive on a consistent basis on Sunday, when the Canes host the Winnipeg Jets. It’s safe to say everyone remembers the season opener, when Carolina had a 4-1 lead at Winnipeg with 15 minutes left in regulation and lost in overtime 5-4.
“We’ve been playing good and we’ve been beating the top teams in the league,” Rask said. “We’re feeling comfortable with our team.”