MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens had their biggest offensive outburst in two seasons but all they wanted to talk about was the stellar goaltending of Carey Price.
Tomas Plekanec had a goal and three assists as seven different players scored in a 7-2 victory over their old nemesis the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.
“We had some sloppy parts to the game but Price gave us a chance to win,” said captain Brian Gionta. “He made big saves in the first two periods.
“He’s been our No. 1 guy.”
The celebration was muted by a freak collision in the third period that saw their top defenceman Andrei Markov helped off the ice with an apparent injury to his right knee—the same knee he had surgery on in the summer after a collision with Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke during the playoffs.
Coach Jacques Martin called it a lower-body injury that was being evaluated by doctors. More will be known about how severe it is in the next few days, he said.
Markov, playing only his sixth game since returning from his last injury, was chasing a puck into a corner with Eric Staal when they banged knees. Markov, plagued by injuries in recent seasons, had his leg twist awkwardly and he threw his gloves off in pain and frustration as he fell into the boards.
“When you see him down like that it’s not a nice feeling,” said Plekanec. “He’s an important player for us and I hope it’s not serious.”
Gionta, Michael Cammalleri, Maxim Lapierre, Benoit Pouliot, Andrei Kostitsyn and Mathieu Darche also scored for the Canadiens (11-5-1), who have won three in a row and four of their last five. Seven goals was the most Montreal has scored since a 7-5 win over Ottawa on March 24, 2008.
It was their first regulation time win over the Hurricanes at the Bell Centre since Dec. 6, 2003. Carolina went into the game 8-0-2 since the 2005-06 season in Montreal.
Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos scored for the Hurricanes (8-9-0), who were coming off an 8-1 loss at home to the Philadelphia Flyers.
For a second game in a row, Carolina starter Cam Ward was lifted in the second period for Justin Peters. Ward, who stopped 18-of-22 shots, is 11-4-2 in his career against the Canadiens and had not lost in regulation time in their previous seven meetings. Peters stopped 8-of-11 shots.
“Our last two games were not a goaltending issue,” said coach Paul Maurice. “I thought we were the better team in the first period and we battled back in the second, but then we made some simple mistakes on reads.
“The fact is we have some consistency issues with our team that we have to sort out.”
The Hurricanes owned most of the first period, but were thwarted on 15 shots by Price, who has been spectacular in allowing only three goals in wins this week over Vancouver, Boston and Carolina.
The Canadiens power play, which had three goals through their first 13 games, went 3-for-6 to give them six goals for the week.
“The keys were our goaltending, our special teams and our support players, our third and fourth line players who were very important,” said Martin. “They were getting the puck in deep and outworking Carolina as opposed to our skill guys who weren’t doing that.”
Montreal took the lead on a fortunate bounce as Travis Moen threw the puck toward the Carolina net that got through Joni Pitkanen’s skates. Plekanec was there to bang it in at 11:18.
Plekanec then put a pass across the crease for Cammalleri to score his first goal in nine games at 18:32.
The Hurricanes tied it as Babchuk crept in from the point to score on Staal’s feed on a power play at 9:08. Former Canadien Kostopoulos then fired a Staal pass in off a stick at 11:21.
Montreal got goals one minute apart as Gionta, with his third in four games, lifted one over Ward on a rush and Lapierre was sent in alone, did a spin in front of the crease and slid the puck in at 15:34.
That prompted coach Paul Maurice to lift Ward for Peters, who was down in the crease when Pouliot scored on a power play at 18:09.
“I didn’t like the last two goals, and we tried to change the flow of the game,” Maurice said.
While leading 5-2, Price made a glittering save midway through the third as he reached his glove outto rob Chad Larose from scoring into an open side, drawing a big ovation from the crowd of 21,273.
Kostitsyn scored on a power play and Darche got a goal late in the game.
Notes: Plekanec’s four points gave him eight in the last four games while Staal had two assists, also for eight points in four games. Staal needs one goal for 200 in his career. … Dustin Boyd and Alexandre Picard were scratched for Montreal, while Patrick O’Sullivan didn’t play for Carolina. … Saturday’s game tickets featured a picture of defenceman Ryan O’Byrne, who the Canadiens traded to Colorado this week. … The Hurricanes players had their fathers with them on the trip to Montreal.