That work-in-progress continued under the bright lights of the RBC Center courtesy of the Montreal Canadians on Tuesday night as the Canes scored three power play goals on a season-high 11 attempts to beat the Canadiens 3-2.
The Canes have picked up at least a point in five of six games under new coach Paul Maurice and got back to .500 at home with the victory. The win also comes on the heels of two disappointing shootout road losses, games in which the Canes could have easily won in regulation as they trailed Southeast Division-leading Washington by eight points entering the game.
“We need to start stringing together wins,” said Joe Corvo, who now has 13 game winners out of 52 career goals. “We need four, five or six wins in a row now if we want to make any headway.”
The power-play wasn’t pretty at times, but Carolina notched three man-advantage goals for just the second time this season, matching the three it scored in a 6-4 victory against Toronto on Nov. 2.
Corvo and Eric Staal scored power-play goals on that night, too, with Corvo notching the game winner this time, with Staal continuing his recent hot streak with two goals, giving him five in his last four games.
“For an offensive guy you want as many power plays as you can get,” Staal said when asked if too many power plays can at times disrupt the flow of a game. “If the whole game was a power play I would take it.”
It was fitting that associate head coach Ron Francis was on hand to address the media after the game and not Maurice. The Hall of Famer has the task of trying to turn Carolina’s power play into a well-oiled machine, not the squeaky rusted wagon we’ve witnessed for most of the season.
“At the end of the day, it was probably a good performance,” said Francis. “It’s not easy when things haven’t been going well on the power play and you’re constantly hearing about how things aren’t happening for you.
“We didn’t start off as well as we would have liked, but give some credit to our fans, 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.”
Playing without captain Saku Koivu and starting goalie Carey Price, along with three other regulars, the Canes outworked Montreal for most of the night. But the Canadiens hung around until the bitter end, and with Jaroslav Halak pulled for the extra attacker, Cam Ward had to make a nifty save on sharpshooter Alex Kovalev with 12 seconds left as a good outlet pass and defensive breakdown led to a 3-on-1 attack.
“He’s a gifted player and I was kind of fighting it in the second period, but it’s my job to come up with that big save with 10 seconds left,” said Ward, who improved to 90-61-16 in his career.
The second period had a little bit of everything, including Carolina’s third power-play goal on a blast by Corvo, a successful penalty shot and short-handed goal by Montreal, and a disallowed goal off a high stick by Andrei Markov that would have tied the score at 3-3.
Instead, Montreal continued its parade to the penalty box with six more minors on top of the five first-period infractions, much to the dismay of coach Guy Carbonneau, who gave referees Frederick L’Ecuyer and Brad Meier a 30-second stare-down as he left the ice at the end of the second period.
In a bizarre first period, the Canes went on the power play five times as the Canadiens managed just three shots on Ward. Carolina’s power play was dismal for the most part and the Canes registered a mere four man-advantage shots on Halak. But the Hurricanes were able to get two timely goals from Staal as he parked his big frame to the right of Halak for his 12th and 13th of the season.
“It’s a good feeling,” said Staal, who played in his 285th straight game and didn’t miss a shift after planting his face into the boards due to a cross-check in the second period. “That’s what it is, if you continue to work and not give up in your own end, staying with it on the defensive side of the puck, eventually you’re going to get those opportunities and chances and tonight I did. When you start to feel good things just start going for you and I’ll take them.”
NOTES: The Canes improved to 5-0-1 against the Northeast Division, but have yet to play Eastern Conference leader Boston or Buffalo. … Carolina scored at least two power-play goals for just the fourth time since the first two games of the season. … After going without a point in his first 10 games, Sergei Samsonov has 14 points in 21 games. … Rod Brind’Amour needs one more assist to reach 700 helpers for his career. … Ray Whitney’s five-game point streak came to an end. …. Ward has allowed four goals on nine career penalty shots. … Four of Maurice’s first six games have been decided by one goal.