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Playoff Atmosphere: Canes Close Out Season Series With OT Win

Montreal's Carey Price shook off some early rust and made several key stops late for the Canadiens. At the other end of the ice, Carolina's Cam Ward had no problem matching his counterpoint down the stretch. In the end, it took overtime to decide the winner, and it was Ward who prevailed against a team he has owned over his career.

Tuomo Ruutu, from his stomach in the crease, tucked in an Eric Staal shot that had trickled through Price's pads for the overtime tally and a 3-2 Hurricanes victory. The win gave Carolina seven out of eight possible points in the four-game season series against Montreal and moved the Canes one point ahead of Buffalo for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Staal played a part in all three Hurricanes goals, finishing the night with a goal and two assists.

Sergei Samsonov — who was booed every time he touched the puck — continued his dominance of his ex-team by registering a goal and an assist. He opened the scoring, dancing into the Montreal zone and firing a shot off Price. Price sent a juicy rebound right back at Samsonov and the Hurricanes forward outwilled Roman Hamrlik and put home the second chance for his fifth goal of the season with just more than six minutes left in the opening period.

He later helped Carolina regain the lead late in the second when, on a 5-on-3 power play, Staal banged home a backdoor pass from the Russian winger for Staal's third goal in the past two games against the Canadiens.

Montreal twice overcame a one-goal deficit, first tying the game six minutes into the second when Matt D'Agostini scored his sixth goal in 11 games since being recalled by the Habs. Ward was unable to handle a Hamrlik shot and the rebound slid into the slot where D'Agostini buried it into the open net.

Robert Lang's power play shot from the left circle knotted the score at 2-2 at 13:08 of the third period. The Habs seemed to have tied it just a minute earlier, but Guillaume Latendresse's apparent goal was waved off because there was a delayed penalty on Matt Cullen and the play was whistled dead before Latendresse knocked in a loose puck.

The good:

  • The top line of Ruutu-Staal-Samsonov combined for seven points. You could tell Staal wanted the puck on his stick late in the game, and in the end it was his shot that beat Price and led to Ruutu's tap-in game-winner.

  • Ward was brilliant for 99 percent of the night and made several key saves, particularly in the third period.

  • Team toughness — Carolina has had no problem standing up for themselves against the Habs this year, and they again established it early, with Chad LaRose and Joni Pitkanen both jumping in to defend their teammates in the first 10 minutes of the game. Montreal had more hits (34-19) and the bigger ones, but the Canes never lost their cool and delivered a few of their own.

  • It's always nice to get a new opinion, and the NHL Network gave us a good one with Bill Clement. Clement, whether on TV or the radio, always has a fair and interesting assessment of the league.

  • The 5-on-3 power play appears to finally be untracked. Staal's goal from Samsonov and Ray Whitney was a clinic in two-man advantage execution.

  • Pitkanen continues to be a factor in the defensive zone. He had a few blocks and deflections on what otherwise could've been good chances for the Habs, plus he didn't hesitate to use his body when needed.

  • Carolina benefited from a couple whistles that kept Montreal at bay. None of the calls were really all that questionable — don't tell that to the Bell Center faithful — but just one slower whistle could've been the difference between an overtime win and a regulation loss.

  • Carolina held Alexei Kovalev pointless and snapped his three-game goal streak.

  • Joe Corvo assisted on the game-winning OT goal. It's the third straight win in which Corvo has been in on the deciding goal. Last week he became the first Hurricanes defenseman to register the GWG in consecutive games.

  • Would there be a more intriguing first-round playoff opponent for Carolina than Montreal? For whatever reason, when the Canes and Habs get together the atmosphere is electric and the games are tight — all of the matchups were decided by one goal. It's too bad the regular-season series is over this early in the campaign.

The bad:

  • Carolina hit the post numerous times and even had one puck bounce off the glass, then the top of the net and off Price's mask before skittering toward the corner. One fortunate bounce for Carolina could've put the Canadiens away in regulation.

  • The power play — outside of the two-man advantage — struggled to muster any good scoring chances in three 5-on-4 opportunities.

  • The team again relinquished a third-period lead, a trend that needs to be corrected.

  • Brandon Sutter and Patrick Eaves each played less than seven minutes in the game.

  • Rod Brind'Amour — whose seven-game point streak was snapped, but was a plus-1 — was the only Cane with more wins (14) than losses (11) in the faceoff circle. Staal won just three of 14 draws.