Hurricanes end year with dramatic 5-4 OT win over Habs

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network
Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes and the Montreal Canadiens met on New Year’s Eve at PNC Arena on Tuesday and both teams created a lot of fireworks before the first second of 2014 fell.

In playing what at first would look like a shutout drubbing at the hands of the Canadiens, the Hurricanes turned the two teams’ first meeting of the season into a year-end thriller.

Alexander Semin scored the game-winning goal in overtime while Jeff Skinner (2g, 1a), Eric Staal (1g, 2a), and Manny Malhotra (1g) all contributed to a four-goal third period that put Carolina back into contention to win a game that had them trailing 3-0 after two periods.

“You could go two ways,” Staal said of the choice his team faced during the second intermission.

“You’re down 3-0, we were playing hard, we’ve had a tough stretch. So you go into a third period and you fold your tent, or you gut it out and you compete and you work. Everybody in this room decided to do that.”

Coming into the game, Max Pacioretty led the Canadiens in goals scored (15) while defenseman P.K. Subban carried the team’s overall points lead (5g, 22a).

On the other side of the puck, Skinner’s 14 goals and Staal’s 30 points (9g, 21a) would match up on paper with the Habs accordingly.

In the end, when it looked like Montreal netminder Carey Price’s performance would add another win to his total on the season, Carolina’s dominance of the final regulation period eclipsed his 37-save effort.

At the other end of the rink, Carolina goaltender Cam Ward couldn’t match Price’s early effort over two periods, but managed to shut down his net in the third period and in overtime to finish with 21 saves and the victory.

As both teams were coming off losses on Sunday, they both had the same thing in mind – to win going into the second half of the season.

After practice on Monday, Pacioretty and the Canadiens talked about the same thing.

“It’s just another game, but you obviously want to end the year with some momentum,” Pacioretty said.

“It’s no different than any other game. We’re looking for our game and hopefully we can find it.”

Not necessarily a squad that was producing a lot of goals coming into the match-up with Carolina, it didn’t take Montreal long to get on the board as Lars Eller was left open in front of the net to score his ninth goal of the season past Ward just 80 seconds into the opening period.

Eller made no mistake on a play that started with a pass from behind the Carolina net that Alex Galchenyuk slid to him after taking advantage of a Hurricanes defensive turnover.

Carolina continued to struggle to maintain puck possession and control of it, and the Canadiens made them pay for it again with 12:14 left in the period.

Pacioretty was all alone in front of Ward to complete a tic-tac-toe passing sequence from David Desharnais and Andrei Markov that put Montreal ahead 2-0.

Down by two goals and being outshot 6-1 at the time, the Hurricanes picked up their pace and showed a more spirited attack during the final 10 minutes of play before the first intermission.

With 6:02 remaining, the Hurricanes had a two-man power play for 32 seconds, but could not beat Price who continued to stonewall them.

Both teams took their share of penalties throughout the game – 16 total between them.

Even though they killed off their first three penalties, Carolina went scoreless on the power play early on and allowed Montreal to carry its 2-0 lead into the second period.

The Hurricanes continued to have had an abundance of power play opportunities to get closer throughout the first 10 minutes of the second period.

However, it was Price who maintained Montreal’s lead as the Hurricanes were unable to penetrate the defensive box that the Habs established in front of their netminder.

At the other end, Ward came up with a pad save on a breakaway attempt from Brendan Gallagher at 11:27 and kept Carolina to its two-goal deficit at the time.

The Hurricanes were afforded another two-man advantage with 9:38 to play in the period as Montreal was penalized for too many men on the ice.

Heavy choruses of boos rained down from the stands as Carolina took few shots on goal allowing Montreal to eventually return to even strength with its two-goal lead still intact.

With 5:36 remaining in the period, Subban set up Pacioretty to score his second goal of the game that extended the Canadiens lead to three goals.

Desharnais beat Manny Malhotra off the draw back to Subban who then carried the puck along the side boards and into the corner to Ward’s right.

Subban then threaded a pass to Pacioretty who managed to redirect the puck past Ward even with defenseman Andrej Sekera draped over him.

After two periods, Carolina’s lack of scoring punch saw them come up empty-handed, going 0-for-8 on the power play, and with Montreal in firm control of the game, still leading 3-0.

However, early in the third period the Hurricanes were afforded a 4-on-3 power play that culminated in Skinner finally breaking Price’s shutout.

On his own, Skinner picked up a rebound, raced around the Montreal net, dodged a diving Habs defenseman, and spun around to beat Price high over his trapper-hand shoulder.

Just 37 seconds later after Montreal was penalized again, allowing Carolina to maintain its 4-on-3 man advantage, Skinner picked up a pass from Sekera and snapped another shot high over Price’s other shoulder to cut the Canadiens lead down further to 3-2 with 17:45 to play.

Staal then tied the game up 3-3 just under two minutes later after Skinner’s feed from behind the net deflected off a Montreal skate that left the Hurricanes captain time to jump on it and jam the puck past Price.

With a brand new game in play, the Hurricanes maintained their pressure on the Montreal defense and four minutes later Malhotra set up and tallied Carolina’s fourth unanswered goal of the period.

Malholtra won a faceoff deep in the Montreal end to Price’s right and after a few cycles of the puck around the Montreal net with linemates Tuomo Ruutu and Zach Boychuk, he connected to beat Price and gave the Hurricanes their first lead of the game, 4-3.

“It’s nice to get one and then get the second one too,” Skinner said.

“Then everyone followed it up. It’s a big goal by Manny, a big goal by Staalsy. It was nice because everyone contributed.”

The lead was short lived as Subban evened the score at 10:16 with a point shot on the power play that came about as the result of Ruutu taking an interference penalty.

For the final 10 minutes of play, both teams challenged Price and Ward to maintain their stamina as they turned pucks away to keep the score tied.

However, with 3:29 remaining, Staal was penalized for boarding and assessed an additional two minutes for arguing the call, giving the Canadiens the power play for the remainder of regulation time.

Montreal pressed throughout on the power play, but the work of Carolina’s penalty-killing units managed to fend off every effort that the Canadiens made to score the go-ahead goal.

Both teams headed into the overtime period still tied 4-4, and earning a point in doing so.

Still shorthanded to begin the extra period, Carolina killed off Staal’s penalties and then both teams pressed their opportunities on one another to win the game during the final four minutes.

Then with 1:33 to play, Semin scored the game-winner by threading a shot between Price’s pads to seal Carolina’s comeback victory.

“They all jelled together and went for it,” Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said of his team stealing the game from the Canadiens in such a dramatic fashion.

“That’s what the season is all about – team bonding, building and finding ways (to win). A lot of guys in that room probably feel really good about themselves. It was a big win for them individually and as a team. That’s a huge win to build some momentum going into the New Year.”