Cristobal Huet stops 31 shots as Canadiens get 4-0 win over Hurricanes

Cristobal Huet stopped 31 shots in his first shutout of the season to lead Montreal to a 4-0 win over the Hurricanes on Thursday night. It dropped the Hurricanes to 0-3-1 against the three Eastern Conference teams they beat mere months ago during their remarkable post-season run.

“It’s a good standard to start the year – if we can beat them, it’ll let them know that it’s not going to be like last year, maybe,” Huet said. “But there is no revenge or anything like that. We’re just happy to beat a very good team.”

Michael Komisarek had a goal and an assist for the Canadiens, who won convincingly despite being outshot 31-27 and beat Carolina in a regular-season game at the RBC Center for the first time since March 21, 2003.

The Canadiens lost all four regular-season games last season against Carolina by a combined 25-9.

Saku Koivu, Mike Johnson and Tomas Plekanec added goals for Montreal, which won a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference quarter-final series in which the Hurricanes rallied from a 2-0 series deficit to advance in six games behind then-unheralded goalie Cam Ward.

“We wanted to get this win, no doubt,” Koivu said.

Ward was inserted into the lineup during that series and emerged as one of the key components of Carolina’s run to its first Stanley Cup.

This time, the Canadiens beat him four times and took command midway through the second period by scoring twice within a span of 1:44.

Komisarek streaked down the right side, dodged a sliding Ray Whitney and snapped a shot past Ward for a short-handed goal at 10:45.

“One of their guys unorthodoxly came flying at me, and I went around and just tried to get the puck on the net,” Komisarek said.

Moments later, Koivu took a pass from Sergei Markov near center ice, made a nifty move on Whitney and manoeuvered into the slot, then beat Ward with a wrist shot for a power-play goal at 12:29.

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“They got kind of a fluky goal from the corner, and then a power-play goal and then it was a different game,” Carolina centre Kevyn Adams said. “They were stingy when they needed to be and they came in here and beat us.”

Koivu was playing against the Hurricanes for the first time since his career-threatening eye injury, which happened when Carolina’s Justin Williams accidentally poked him in the left eye with his stick.

Johnson and Plekanec added goals late in the third period.

“I liked the way we played through two periods,” Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. “Then once they got the third one, it zapped the wind out of us.”

The Canadiens, who entered as one of the NHL’s best teams both on and against the power play, were 1-of-5 with the man advantage and kept the Hurricanes scoreless in eight power-play chances.

“We were wide or high or into him,” Laviolette said. “He played a pretty good game, but we definitely had an opportunity there to take charge of the game, and we didn’t do that.”

Huet, who had seven shutouts in 33 regular-season starts last season, entered having allowed at least two goals in each of his five previous starts but finished with his first shutout since blanking Boston on April 1.

Notes: Hurricanes captain Rod Brind’Amour remained one point shy of 1,000 for his career. … Carolina forward Erik Cole, who entered with 13 goals and 20 points in 19 regular-season and playoff games against Montreal, was held scoreless. … The Hurricanes played on consecutive nights for the fifth time this season and fell to 1-3 in the second games of those stretches. … Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason sat out his second straight game with a strained shoulder. Forwards Ryan Bayda and Trevor Letowski also did not play for the Hurricanes. … Defenceman Mathieu Dandenault and forward Garth Murray were scratches for the Canadiens.