Canadiens 6, Hurricanes 1

0

RALEIGH, N.C. – So much for those earlier results. The Montreal Canadiens had no trouble this time with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Cristobal Huet made 43 saves, 12 players recorded points and the Canadiens made up for four lopsided losses to Carolina during the regular season with a 6-1 victory in the opener of the Eastern Conference series.

Alex Kovalev had two goals and Francis Bouillon, Radek Bonk, Chris Higgins and Sheldon Souray each added one for Montreal, which ended the regular season with four losses in its past six games.

The Hurricanes earned the second seed in the conference with the best year in franchise history, a run that included a 4-0 record against Montreal. None were really close, with the combined margin of the final three 20-6.

And when Matt Cullen scored only 50 seconds into the first period, it appeared the domination might continue. But the Canadiens soon began controlling the action and stymied Carolina’s high-powered offense for the rest of the game, with Huet having the biggest role.

The latest in a long line of French-speaking goaltenders for one of the NHL’s marquee teams – he’s from France, not the province of Quebec – surprisingly got the nod over David Aebischer for the start in Game 1. Huet lost his final two starts of the season while Aebischer started four of Montreal’s last six games and went 3-1.

His performance made coach and general manager Bob Gainey look like a genius – and made Montreal the second No. 7 seed to take a 1-0 lead in the playoffs. Colorado won at second-seeded Dallas earlier Saturday.

The Hurricanes took nine of the first 10 shots and held a 35-14 advantage following two periods. One stretch was particularly frustrating, when they failed to score during three Montreal penalties in a span of about 31/2 minutes.

That included 55 seconds of 5-on-3, but Huet stopped everything with the help of his defense as the Canadiens finished with 22 blocked shots. When the third penalty on Niklas Sundstrom ended, the standing-room-only crowd at the RBC Center unleashed a chorus of boos.

They quickly turned to anguish when Montreal scored 10 seconds later. As Sundstrom left the box, Saku Koivu lunged to get the puck to his teammate. Sundstrom went straight to the net and drew a delayed penalty on Carolina’s Frantisek Kaberle before shooting.

Higgins tried to stuff in the rebound, then chased down the puck after it scooted behind the net. He sent it toward the crease, where it bounced in off the back of goaltender Martin Gerber. That made it 4-1, and when Kovalev added another midway through the third period, the game essentially was over.

Souray tacked on his with less than 2 minutes remaining.

The Hurricanes finished 0-for-5 on the power play and clearly missed Erik Cole and fellow left wing Ray Whitney, both of whom sat out with injuries. Cole missed the final 22 games with a fractured vertebra – Carolina won only 10 of those – and Whitney didn’t dress for the final six with a lower-body ailment.

Each are valuable on the man-advantage, and their absence was glaring for this one.

Notes: Whitney is day to day. … Canadiens C Steve Begin was out with a knee injury.

AP-ES-04-22-06 2143EDT

Advertisement
SHARE