MONTREAL (AP) - The Carolina Hurricanes were thinking of the one that got away as they closed out January with a record-tying win.
Cole said the coaching staff told the players after the game that their 13-1 mark in January tied an NHL record for wins in a month. They became the sixth team to do it and the first since Detroit went 13-3 in March 2003, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"One of the comments in the room was, 'If we'd only beaten Washington,"' Cole said, referring to a 5-2 road loss on Jan. 21. "The mentality of the guys is we can win every game, we can play in every game, and if we show up and compete hard within the system, we've got the guys and we've got the character to get it done."
Buffalo set the record for points in a month with 27 by going 12-1-3 in November 1974, a record that was tied the same season by Philadelphia's 13-1-1 mark in March 1975.
Martin Gerber made 32 saves, and Kevyn Adams, Craig Adams and Niklas Nordgren also scored for Carolina, which leads the NHL with 78 points. The Hurricanes generated all that offense without newly acquired center Doug Weight in the lineup.
Weight, traded from St. Louis on Monday, is due to join the Hurricanes on Wednesday. Carolina has won five straight and 14 of 15.
"We haven't looked in the rearview mirror too much and we don't look too far ahead and I think that's one of the keys to our success," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "There just won't be any easy games from here on out."
Cole's third goal of the game, his 23rd of the season, beat Jose Theodore from a sharp angle and chased the Canadiens goalie 5:23 into the second.
Theodore, who was pulled for the third time in four starts, allowed five goals on 10 shots. He was replaced by backup Cristobal Huet, whose last name was chanted by some in the sellout crowd after Theodore was beaten by Cole on Carolina's first shot just 5:24 in.
"When it's not happening, for sure you don't like it but it's not the time to get down, it's the time to work twice as hard and keep working, working on details," Theodore said. "A lot of players go through slumps and I'm going through a slump here but it's not like I'm the only guy in the league that's happened to."
Theodore, the NHL MVP in 2001-02, has allowed 18 goals on 63 shots in his last four games for a .714 save percentage and an 8.44 goals-against-average.
"He's been a great goaltender in the past, I don't think it's just gone," Laviolette said. "I've coached against him for a while and I know what he's capable of."
Cole also scored on a 5-on-3 late in the first when he drove a slap shot past Theodore from short range. The hat trick was his first since Nov. 23, 2002, when he had three goals and an assist in his only other four-point game - a 7-3 Carolina win at Montreal.
"I don't know what it is but I really enjoy playing in this arena," Cole said. "It's a great place to come play. There's always a great atmosphere and the fans are in it from the start. Something about this place gets the blood flowing and makes me want to go out there and perform."
Steve Begin and Richard Zednik scored for the Canadiens, who returned from a 2-4 road trip and fell to 4-5 since general manager Bob Gainey fired coach Claude Julien and took over behind the bench.
Begin tied it at 1 at 6:54 of the first when he took a pass from Mike Ribeiro and put a quick shot past Gerber into the top of the net.
Zednik gave the home crowd a lift at 11:08 when he scored his 12th goal to give Montreal a 2-1 lead.
Carolina drew even at 16:57 as Kevyn Adams put away Ray Whitney's pass. Cole restored the lead with his second of the period on a two-man advantage.
Theodore was playing the puck behind his net when Staal stripped it from him and used his long reach to bring the puck around front before steering it into the unguarded net 2:41 into the second.
Gainey sent in Huet after Cole completed his hat trick at 5:23. Huet, who made 13 saves, allowed three goals on 10 shots in the third, including Staal's second of the game - his 33rd - on a power play at 12:28.
Notes: Cole scored twice in a 3-2 win in Los Angeles on Dec. 8, his only other multigoal game of the season. ... Weight is expected to practice with Carolina - which will remain in Montreal for two days - on Thursday. ... C Radek Bonk, D Mark Streit and D Raitis Ivanans didn't dress for the Canadiens.