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MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens combined some unexpected goal production with a stifling penalty kill and timely goaltending to maintain their slim cushion atop the Northeast Division.
Jeff Halpern scored his first goal in more than a year, and Carey Price made 18 saves in his 300th regular-season game to lead Montreal to a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night.
Andrei Markov drew the Canadiens even at 1 with a power-play goal 15:03 into the first period. Less than two minutes into the second period, Halpern put Montreal ahead 2-1 when he beat Justin Peters from the slot for his first goal in 42 games.
"It's almost embarrassing," said Halpern, who hadn't scored since Feb. 25, 2012, when he helped the Washington Capitals earn a 4-2 win in Toronto. "It probably brings more attention to the fact, but it's a frustrating thing. You know, one game turns into two games, and then weeks go by and months go by, so it feels good to contribute."
Montreal's Max Pacioretty scored twice in the third. He made it a 3-1 lead 10:58 into the period. His second of the game and 11th of the season went into an empty net with 29.4 remaining.
Pacioretty had one goal in his previous 12 games.
"Obviously, things weren't going in for me," he said. "It takes a bounce, and that's how it goes. Different people step up every night for this team, and I guess tonight was my chance."
Jordan Staal scored 3:38 into the game for Carolina, which fell to 1-6-1 in its last eight games. Peters stopped 25 shots.
The Hurricanes went 0-for-5 on the power play.
"Yeah, it hasn't been good for us for most of the season," Staal said. "It's got to have that killer instinct, that when games are there and we need that big goal, the power play has got to step up, including myself and the guys on it, we've got to find a way to score goals. We're making good plays, but we've got to find a way to put it in the back of the net."
The Hurricanes remain tied for 10th in the Eastern Conference with 34 points, three points out of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Montreal (23-7-5) leads the Northeast Division with 51 points, three ahead of the Boston Bruins. The Canadiens, who swept the three-game season series against Carolina, are second overall in the East, five points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"Carey made some key saves," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "We only allowed 19 shots, but there were some quality scoring chances, and certainly Carey was really good again tonight."
Halpern got his first point in four games with Montreal. The veteran center had one assist in 30 games with the New York Rangers when the Canadiens claimed him off waivers on March 23.
"It's a great feeling being part of this team right now," Halpern said. "It's obviously a team that's used to winning and finds ways to win. We probably didn't play as well we would have liked tonight at times, but it's fun to be a part of this group and kind of carrying that winning attitude."
Nathan Beaulieu, who made his Canadiens debut Saturday, assisted on Halpern's goal for his first NHL point.
Jiri Tlusty put a shot off the right post for the Hurricanes (16-16-2) in the opening minute of the third.
Canadiens right winger Colby Armstrong had to be helped off the ice 4:47 into the third period after an open-ice collision with Carolina's Patrick Dwyer. Armstrong did not return.
Staal opened the scoring while a delayed penalty was signaled against Montreal. Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin lost his stick when he hooked Dwyer, who was driving to the net.
Price stopped Dwyer's shot, but Emelin crashed into the Montreal goalie and knocked him out of position as Staal put away the rebound for his ninth goal of the season.
Markov tied it with his seventh goal 11 seconds after Drayson Bowman was called for hooking at 14:52. The veteran defenseman drove a one-timer past Peters from the right point on a pass from P.K. Subban.
NOTES: Hurricanes forward Tuomo Ruutu missed the game because of a groin injury he suffered in Saturday's 3-1 win in Winnipeg. ... Subban was named the NHL's Second Star for the month of March. Subban had 18 points in 14 games during the month, including seven goals. He led the NHL with 11 power-play points in March, including four goals. ... Montreal's Rene Bourque missed his 18th game in a row because of a concussion. Bourque and Ryan White, who is recovering from an ankle injury, took part in an optional skate with some of their teammates earlier Monday. White missed his fifth straight game.