MONTREAL – It took the arrival of the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes to get the Canadiens out of their funk.
The Hurricanes came to the Bell Centre riding a four-game win streak, and sporting one of the best records in January at 9-3-0.
But Montreal cooled them off on Tuesday night, winning 3-0 on the back of a 36-save shutout by Carey Price and an all-around team effort in front of him.
“The team was engaged,” said head coach Michel Therrien, celebrating a Habs victory for the first time in almost two weeks. “It was a nice team win. A lot of guys had great games.”
Coming into this one it was a tale of two teams.
The Hurricanes (24-20-9) had won four in a row and 10 of their last 13. They jumped four places in the Metropolitan Division in the month of January, good for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Forwards Alexander Semin and Eric Staal came to Montreal looking to extend six-game point streaks.
The Canadiens (28-20-5), meanwhile, had lost four in a row, including a 5-0 shellacking at the hands of the Washington Capitals on Saturday. Montreal had been outscored 19-5 on their losing streak, and had given up at least four goals in each of their last six games.
But the Habs kept the opposition off the scoreboard on Tuesday, relying on two first-period goals, a staggering 27-blocked shots and a goaltender at his best.
“As a group we knew what we needed to do,” said Price, who earned his third shutout of the season. “There’s no question that we talked about it enough, and it was time to do it.
“We played with a lot of confidence tonight. That’s what it comes down to. It came down to us just willing to win.”
After a big save by Price on Nathan Gerbe at one end of the rink, the Canadiens’ Brandon Prust scored what turned out to be the winner on a fast break the other way at 6:11 of the first period.
Rene Bourque, who had only one assist since the start of the year, started the tic-tac-toe play when he found Josh Gorges in the clear to Anton Khudobin’s right. Gorges, who finished the game with a team-high seven blocked shots, quickly dished the puck to Prust, who beat the Hurricanes netminder with a wrist shot under the blocker for his fifth of the season.
“My goals are usually when crashing the net, going off my leg or something,” said Prust. “This was a good one to get.”
The Canadiens doubled their lead late in the period when Brendan Gallagher persistently poked home his own rebound, getting the better of the Hurricanes in a six-player melee in front of Khudobin’s net.
Max Pacioretty added an easy tap-in at 1:41 of the second for his 22nd of the year to make it 3-0.
Therrien praised his team, but also the way they approached the recent bad form.
“It’s really important how you face adversity,” said Therrien. “We decided to stay positive with our players. It’s all about attitude. When you have the right attitude, it’s always helpful.”
The game was Carolina’s second in as many nights, and fifth in seven days. The Hurricanes beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 on Monday, scoring three third-period goals for the come-from-behind victory.
“We seemed to be out of gas a little bit,” said Eric Staal, who was frustrated on three occasions by Price. “You never want to use that excuse, but we have played a lot of hockey here.
“If we were really feeling good and jumping, we would have had a better attack. But when we did get chances, Price was real good and made a lot of key saves.”
Khudobin made 27 saves for the ‘Canes.
Montreal has now won six of its last seven against Carolina at the Bell Centre.
Notes: Before the game, Habs assigned forward Louis Leblanc to the Hamilton Bulldogs. Leblanc has yet to register a point in eight NHL games with the Canadiens this season.…Carolina starting goaltender Cam Ward has now missed 13 games with a lower-body injury.…Ex-Hab forward Aaron Palushaj, who played 41 career games with Montreal between 2010 and 2012, was in the starting lineup for Carolina.…The ‘Canes and Habs meet again on Feb. 8 in Raleigh, N.C., for the third and final time this year.