PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference quarterfinals; Canadiens lead 1-0.
It took the Montreal Canadiens just one game to show why as the owners of an NHL-best 23 Stanley Cups, they can never be overlooked as postseason contenders.
The seventh-seeded Canadiens look to take a 2-0 lead over the second-seeded Carolina Hurricanes when the teams meet again at the RBC Center.
Montreal was swept 4-0 by Carolina during the regular season, but scored six unanswered goals Saturday en route to a 6-1 victory. The Canadiens’ six goals matched the combined total from their last three losses to the Hurricanes.
Montreal scored six goals in a postseason game for the first time since a 6-2 victory over the Quebec Nordiques on April 28, 1993, which was also the last year it won the Stanley Cup.
“It’s playoff hockey,” said Francis Bouillon, who had a goal and an assist for Montreal. “We could’ve won 2-1, or 3-2 in overtime. It just so happened it was 6-1. We just need to forget about this win, and we need to come back and play our style of game.”
“It’s good to get the win, first, and for me to have a good game, it is nice,” said Huet, who won the starting job over midseason acquisition David Aebischer. “I try to do my best, and sometimes it’s not working, sometimes it works. You just forget if you get scored on, and try to bounce back.”
The Canadiens bounced back with two goals in each period and went 2-for-3 on the power play. Alexei Kovalev had two goals and an assist for the 22nd multipoint game of his playoff career. Kovalev’s teams are 20-2 in those games.
Carolina, which has never won the Stanley Cup, has won just one postseason series against the Canadiens in six tries in franchise history dating back to its days as the Hartford Whalers. The Hurricanes have not historically rebounded well from an opening loss, going 1-6 in series where they dropped the first game.
The Hurricanes couldn’t break out of their recent slump. Carolina finished the regular season with losses in four of their final five games, getting outscored 20-12 in those contests.
The Hurricanes are 0-for-17 on the power play in the last three contests, including a 5-on-3 opportunity Saturday.
“That was a huge turning point,” Hurricanes captain Rod Brind’Amour said. “You’ve got to score on your 5-on-3s. That’s very, very important. We didn’t do it. Generally when you don’t score on those, that’s a telltale sign of what is going to happen.”
Carolina goalie Martin Gerber stopped just 15 shots in the first postseason start Saturday and allowed six goals for the first time in his career. Hurricanes forward Ray Whitney continues to be day-to-day with a lower-body injury while the Canadiens have been without Steve Begin (knee).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Canadiens - 93 points; 7th seed. Hurricanes - 112 points; 2nd seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Kovalev, 2 goals and 3 points; Tomas Plekanec and Niklas Sundstrom, 2 assists; Sundstrom, 4 PIM. Hurricanes - Cullen, 1 goal and 1 point; Eric Staal, Doug Weight, Justin Williams and Gerber, 2 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Canadiens - Power play: 66.7 percent (2 for 3). Penalty killing: 100 percent (5 for 5). Hurricanes - Power play: 0 percent (0 for 5). Penalty killing: 33.3 percent (1 for 3).
GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Huet (1-0-0, 1.00 GAA); Aebischer (no record). Hurricanes - Gerber (0-1-0, 6.00); Cam Ward (no record)
LAST MEETING: Saturday; Canadiens, 6-1. At Raleigh, N.C., Kovalev scored twice and Huet made 43 saves in his first NHL start to lead the Canadiens to victory.