Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward looked in playoff form as he withstood a dominating opening period by the Montreal Canadiens, then stood on his head to stem a furious rally at the end of the game as the Hurricanes held on to defeat the Canadiens, 2-1 on Wednesday night at the Bell Centre.
His team came out flat early, but Ward looked as healthy as ever as he scrambled the entire opening period to keep the game close. The Habs finished that period with 12 shots on goal while the Canes only had two.
After getting a tongue lashing in the dressing room by coach Paul Maurice, the visitors came out with a bit more jump in the next period, but were still out-shot by the home team, 13-8.
"We were trying a whole new thing, to see if we could win a game without actually taking a stride in the first,” the Hurricanes coach said. “It was a short experiment, it wasn’t going particularly well. We tried first gear in the second period, but all joking aside, we were pretty good in the third.”
The Hurricanes did look much better in the third period as they matched Montreal's tenacity and finally got more shots than their opponents in that deciding stanza. Still, Ward needed to make a variety of highlight reel saves down the stretch, including a beautiful last second toe save to preserve the win.
The Habs started the scoring off eight minutes into the game with a powerplay tally just as a two-man advantage came to a end. Marc-Andre Bergeron rifled a blistering shot past Ward from the point.
Brandon Sutter would tie things up with his 20th of the year on a nice rush down the ice early in the second. The Montreal defender crashed into goalie Carey Price and the goal came off the pegs just as Sutter put the puck on net. The refs originally waived the goal off, but the replay showed that the puck crossed past the goal line before the net became dislodged.
In the third period, the Hurricanes finally found their legs and were skating with vigor all over the rink. At 2:55 into the period, Erik Cole made a nice play as he twisted around with someone all over him, and put the puck on net. Eric Staal was right on the doorstep to knock in the rebound for the game winner.
Both teams battled the rest of the way but Ward was the difference and the Hurricanes maintained their mastery of the Habs in Montreal. The Canes have not lost a game in regulation at the Bell Centre since December, 2003.
The Hurricanes flew right after the game to Ottawa for a contest in the Capital City Thursday night.
- Brandon Sutter had an exceptional game as not only did he score the tying goal, he led the team with six shots on goal, had two hits, and won a team high 67% of his faceoffs. Sutter made one play while killing a penalty where it seemed like he was faked out, but swept the puck away from the point man while down on the ice and then broke free for a breakaway chance. He is the first NHL player in over ten years to score 20 goals and have only two penalty minutes for the season.
Chad LaRose led the team with three hits. The Canes were credited with 20 for the game.
Joni Pitkanen and Brett Carson each had four blocked shots, a team high. Pitkanen had over 30 minutes of ice time again.
- Enough can't be said about Ward, who made 34 saves on 35 shots for his second consecutive win since returning from an 18 game hiatus because of an ailing back. Fans can only wonder what the season might have been like if he was healthy all year.