Staff photo by Chris Seward
RALEIGH — Eric Staal has two power-play goals and Joe Corvo the game-winner Tuesday as the Carolina Hurricanes edged the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 at the RBC Center.
Staal's two scores gave the Canes a 2-0 lead after the first period but the Canadiens tied it 2-2 in the second. Guillaume Latendresse scored on a penalty shot and Alex Kovalev ended a 19-game drought without a goal with a shorthanded score for the Habs.
Corvo's power-play goal, on a 5-on-3, at 7:18 of the second gave the Canes the lead. Carolina, 4-28 on the power play the last five games, had 11 power-play opportunities.
"At the end of the day it probably was a good performance," said Canes associate head coach Ron Francis, standing in for head coach Paul Maurice after the game to address the media. "It's not easy when things hven't been going well on the power play and you're constantly hearing about how things aren't happening for you."
The Habs' 11 penalties had coach Guy Carbonneau steaming -- during and after the game. He said he did not want to talk about the calls, but did say this about his team's performance:
"Despite the fact they scored three power-play goals, we were right in the game. I thought we played better than them. We were all over them.
"They had nothing going unless they had the power play."
Cam Ward had 22 saves for the Canes and none bigger than one on a Kovalev shot with 12 seconds to play. Jaroslav Halak, starting his fourth straight game in goal for the Habs with Carey Price out, had 24 saves.
The game turned ugly when the Habs' Roman Hamrlik rammed Staal into the boards head-first, leading to a brief melee. Staal was not injured and quickly was back in the game. Hamrlik received a two-minute boarding call, much to the displeasure of Canes coach Paul Maurice and Canes fans.
A hooking call against the Habs' Ryan O'Byrne then gave the Canes 31 seconds of a two-man advantage and Corvo scored on a blast from the high slot, with Staal screening Halak in front.
Staal's first goal came at 10:08, on the Canes' third of five power plays in the period. Sergei Samsonov made a perfect pass to Staal, who easily beat Habs goalie Jaroslav Halak with a tap-in.
Late in the period, Staal got his second goal off a Joni Pitkanen pass. The puck hit Staal's right skate and skidded past Halak. The play was reviewed but the goal stood at 17:50.
The Canes botched the first two power plays, losing the puck on simple passes. But defenseman Joe Corvo kept a Canadiens clearing attempt in the zone at the blue line and passed to Justin Williams in the high slot. Williams fed the puck to Samsonov in the left circle and Samsonov set up Staal.
"We didn't start off as well as we'd like to on the power play but I give some credit to our fans," Francis said. "They didn't jump on the guys right away. They were patient with them and we ended up scoring some goals that weren't exactly pretty.
"But at the end of the day we scored three goals on the power play and we won the hockey game. That's what matters."
Pitkanen did most of the work on the Canes' second goal. The defenseman picked off a Tom Kostopoulos pass near the blue line in the Habs zone, then used a feint to get around a sprawling Andrei Markov and passed to Staal, again positioned and open near the right post.
Latendresse was awarded the penalty shot at 2:35 of the second after a slash from Canes defenseman Brett Carson. He beat Ward with a high wrister.
Kovalev scored after forcing Ward to smother the puck. The Habs won the faceoff and Kovalev smashed a quick shot past Ward for his first goal since Nov. 1.