Having already set a franchise record for wins, the Carolina Hurricanes try to maintain the best record in the NHL and sweep a season series from the Boston Bruins for the first time when the teams meet at TD Banknorth Garden.
Carolina is one point ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for the best record in the league, and two points in front of Ottawa for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Whitney and Williams scored in the second period before Montreal cut the deficit in half just over 4 minutes into the third. Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette called a timeout after the Canadiens’ goal, and 4 1/2 minutes later, Williams tallied to again give Carolina a two-goal advantage.
“The crowd came into it a little bit more when they scored the goal to make it 2-1, and our coach called a great timeout, told us to settle down, calm things down and really not play the scoreboard,” said Williams, whose 24 goals are a career high. “We came out, got a two-goal cushion again and took the game over from there.”
Hurricanes center Eric Staal had a goal and an assist Thursday, giving him one goal and five assists in his last four games. Staal scored his team-leading 40th goal on a 5-on-3 power play.
“It doesn’t come by yourself, it comes with other guys that you play with and teammates,” Staal said of reaching the 40-goal plateau. “It’s been a good year so far and obviously we need to finish strong, and I would like to finish strong and be ready for the playoffs.”
While Carolina has two more wins than the previous team record set in 1986-87 when the club was based in Hartford, the Bruins are battling for the last playoff spot in the East.
Patrice Bergeron scored in the first round of a shootout and Tim Thomas stopped all three shots he faced as the Bruins ended a six-game losing streak with a 3-2 win over the Senators on Thursday night.
Thomas made 31 saves through overtime and then denied Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza to give the Bruins their first win in seven shootouts and move them within eight points of eighth-place Montreal.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Thomas said. “It’s nice to know what the teams that have been beating us in the shootouts feel like.”
The Hurricanes have recorded three 4-3 wins in as many meetings with the Bruins this season.