Montreal, in the midst of five straight games against Southeast Division opponents, opened December with a 3-2 victory at Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
Jan Bulis scored a power-play goal with 77 seconds left in regulation and captain Saku Koivu had a goal and an assist for the Canadiens, 2-0-1 in their last three. Montreal opened the season with a season-opening three-game win streak.
Jose Theodore stopped 25 shots for his 100th victory.
“It feels good, but it’s more the two points,” Theodore said. “I was aware of it the last couple of games—I saw it on TV—but it’s not something I was really looking forward to. I was looking at the standings and we needed two points.”
Although he may not be able to match the form he displayed in 2001-02 when he won the Hart and Vezina Trophies, Theodore is having a much better season than he did in 2002-03, when he finished with a 2.90 goals-against average. His current GAA is 2.39.
Koivu, sidelined the first four weeks of the season with a knee injury, scored his first goal in his 12th game.
“I think I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t care if I didn’t score,” Koivu said. “The bottom line is that one of my jobs is to bring the offense and produce. I don’t think that I’ve played that bad, but I haven’t been able to get the results.”
Carolina gained a point for the third time in four games with 2-1 loss in overtime to surging Nashville on Wednesday.
“We’re still upbeat,” captain Ron Francis said. “We went out and played a good game, but that’s going to happen on certain nights. You’ll play well enough to win and you don’t.”
Francis scored in the third period for the Hurricanes, 2-1-0-1 following a five-game winless streak.
While production from Koivu is imperative if the Canadiens are to succeed this season, the same can be said for Jeff O’Neill and the Hurricanes.
O’Neill, coming off three straight 30-goal seasons, has no goals in seven games and just two in 25 contests.
The Canadiens and Hurricanes meet again Saturday at Montreal.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 3): Canadiens - 25 points, 5th place, 8 PB, Northeast Division. Hurricanes - 22 points, 3rd place (tied), 6 PB, Southeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Richard Zednik and Sheldon Souray, 8 goals; Mike Ribeiro, 12 assists and 15 points; Craig Rivet, 36 PIM. Hurricanes - Josef Vasicek, 9 goals; O’Neill, 13 assists; Erik Cole, 16 points; Jesse Boulerice, 57 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 3): Canadiens - Power play: 14.0 percent (14 for 100), 24th in NHL. Penalty killing: 78.3 percent (72 for 92), 28th. Hurricanes - Power play: 12.3 percent (14 for 114), 25th. Penalty killing: 83.5 percent (91 for 109), 18th.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Canadiens, 2-1-1.
LAST MEETING: March 31; Canadiens, 4-0. At Raleigh, N.C., Garon stopped 33 shots in a rare start and Koivu, Francis Bouillon and Zednik scored first-period goals for Montreal.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 5-5-0-1 on the road; Hurricanes - 5-3-4-1 at home.