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Pacioretty okay after scare as Canadiens beat Hurricanes 4-1

The SportsXchange

RALEIGH, N.C. - The Montreal Canadiens had the perfect response after they lost their leading scorer to an injury Saturday night and then they received even better news after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes.

Left winger Max Pacioretty is going to be OK after a scary crash into the net in the first period.

His teammates did their damage later, with center David Desharnais scoring two goals and goaltender Carey Price making 31 saves as the Canadiens defeated Carolina 4-1 at PNC Arena.

"X-rays were negative," said Pacioretty, who'll play for the U.S. Olympic team in Russia next week. "I was having some (back) spasms there. I think by the time I settled down, I think the doctors wanted to play it safe. I don't feel that bad right now."

Desharnais and center Ryan White scored in an 85-second span in the waning minutes of the second period as the Canadiens wiped out a 1-0 deficit. Desharnais scored again in the third period before right winger Brian Gionta's empty-net tally closed out the scoring.

Montreal takes a three-game winning streak into the Olympic layoff.

"It was nice to finish before the break with another win," Price said. "I think confidence is a big part in hockey and to be able to finish strong before the break is important."

Pacioretty departed in the first period after he bowled into the net amid contact from Carolina defenseman Brett Bellemore. Team officials initially reported the ailment to be a lower-body injury.

Pacioretty said he has a bruised hip. He said he expects to be fine for the Olympics.

Even Price, who'll play for Canada in the Olympics, expressed relief.

"It was definitely scary for him," Price said. "If he were to miss (the Olympics), it would be a terrible loss."

Pacioretty said he appreciated Price's concern. "He's the enemy now," Pacioretty said.

Pacioretty leads the Canadiens with 37 points, including 26 goals. He scored a total of three goals in two previous games against Carolina, while he was coming off a hat trick two nights earlier against Vancouver.

"I went in awkwardly," he said of Saturday night's incident.

Desharnais was ready to come to the rescue in the final two periods.

"Obviously, he saw an opportunity when I went down and really stepped up," Pacioretty said.

Hurricanes left winger Drayson Bowman scored less than six minutes into the second period for Carolina, which lost for the third time in five games heading into the Olympic break. Two of the losses came to Montreal.

Carolina goalie Anton Khudobin, playing in his 17th consecutive game, stopped 20 shots.

Price, who shut out the Hurricanes with 36 saves Jan. 28 in Montreal, owns a 10-5-2 career record against Carolina.

"We were playing a game that we were fine, and our breakdowns cost us," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said.

Bowman's first goal in 15 games came with a slap shot after the Hurricanes reversed the puck.

The Canadiens pulled even with precision passing, leading to Desharnais's goal with 2:08 remaining in the second period. Desharnais, who delivered a pass to right winger Rene Bourque before getting the puck back for the shot, has four goals in 12 games.

White was in front of the puck when he was struck by the puck and then turned to deposit the puck into the net.

The outcome assured the Canadiens that they'll be in the upper-echelon of the Eastern Conference playoff mix when the season resumes.

"Going into the break, you want to pick up as many points as you can," Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban said. "You always want to end on a strong note."

The Hurricanes didn't have a consistent enough attack despite producing 32 shots on goal for the second night in a row.

"Our fourth line was our best line," Muller said. "We had some guys who played hard, but we didn't have everyone on board."

NOTES: Hurricanes D John-Michael Liles sat out with a lower-body injury suffered a night earlier. It was the first game he missed since arriving in a Jan. 1 trade with Toronto. ... Montreal has seven Olympians, with G Carey Price (Canada), D P.K. Subban (Canada), LW Max Pacioretty (U.S.), C Tomas Plekanec (Czech Republic), G Peter Budaj (Slovakia), D Alexei Emelin (Russia) and D Andrei Markov (Russia). ... Carolina is sending D Justin Faulk (U.S.), RW Tuomo Ruutu (Finland), D Andrej Sekera (Slovakia) and RW Alexander Semin (Russia) to the Olympics. ... The Hurricanes announced a crowd of 18,680 for their second home sellout of the season. ... The Hurricanes resume play earlier than originally scheduled after the Olympic break, playing a make-up game Feb. 25 at Buffalo. ... Montreal picks up its schedule Feb. 26 at home against Detroit.
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