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Carolina
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game preview

Hurricanes-Canadiens Preview

Wednesday, 04.26.2006 / 7:00 PM

Associated Press

GAME: Carolina Hurricanes at Montreal Canadiens.

PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference quarterfinals; Canadiens lead 2-0.

TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EDT.

After struggling to score against the Carolina Hurricanes in the regular season, the Montreal Canadiens have ridden an offensive surge to take a commanding lead in their playoff series.

Now, the scene shifts to Montreal as the Canadiens try to take a 3-0 advantage over the second-seeded Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

Carolina outscored Montreal 25-9 in winning all four meetings in the regular season, but the Canadiens ended that skid with a 6-1 win in the opener of this series on Saturday. In Game 2 on Monday, Montreal blew a 3-0 lead after the first period before earning a 6-5 victory in double overtime.

The Hurricanes had the best regular-season home record in the East at 31-8-2, but lost consecutive games on their own ice for just the second time all season.

Michael Ryder scored his second goal of Game 2 at 2:32 of the second overtime and Cristobal Huet made 41 saves for Montreal.

"We stuck with the same plan, we kept believing," Montreal center Mike Ribeiro said. "It was a great game to watch, I'm sure, for everyone."

The Canadiens scored three goals in the opening 15 minutes of Monday's game, forcing Carolina coach Peter Laviolette to bench goalie Martin Gerber after he faced just 13 shots. Gerber has allowed nine goals on 34 shots in this series.

"That was one of the plans, to challenge Gerber," Ribeiro said. "He was shaky first game. But a lot of times, when you change a goalie, the momentum switches sides."

The Hurricanes scored four straight goals after Cam Ward replaced Gerber, but couldn't hold their lead in the third period. Alex Kovalev and Richard Zednik scored 36 seconds apart in the third to give Montreal a 5-4 advantage before Carolina forward Cory Stillman scored with 90 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.

"Both teams had their moments where they had to fight from behind, and it was decided by a good, clean goal in overtime," Canadiens coach Bob Gainey said. "It's very easy to recognize the will of the players on both teams to play with everything in the tank."

Ward stopped 20 of 23 shots in his first postseason game.

"I just tried the best that I could to step in and help out as much as I could," Ward said. "Unfortunately, we fell a little short."

Carolina has been down 0-2 in the playoffs five times in franchise history, and has never come back to win the series.

The Canadiens closed the regular season by winning seven of their last 10 home games, but have won just five of their last 13 playoff contests at the Bell Centre.

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Hurricanes - 112 points; 2nd seed. Canadiens - 93 points; 7th seed.

PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Rod Brind'Amour and Matt Cullen, 2 goals; Eric Staal, 4 assists and 4 points; Doug Weight and Justin Williams, 6 PIM. Canadiens - Alex Kovalev, 3 goals and 5 points; Mathieu Dandenault, Tomas Plekanec and Niklas Sundstrom, 3 assists; Francis Bouillon, 6 PIM.

PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Hurricanes - Power play: 23.1 percent (3 for 13). Penalty killing: 72.7 percent (8 for 11). Canadiens - Power play: 27.3 percent (3 for 11). Penalty killing: 76.9 percent (10 for 13).

GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Gerber (0-1, 7.22 GAA); Ward (0-1, 2.67). Canadiens - Huet (2-0, 2.53); David Aebischer (no appearances).

series schedule/results
DateScoreW. Goal
May 02 '06CAR 2 at MTL 1 - OTC. Stillman
Apr 30 '06MTL 1 at CAR 2M. Cullen
Apr 28 '06CAR 3 at MTL 2R. Brind'Amour
Apr 26 '06CAR 2 at MTL 1 - OTE. Staal
Apr 24 '06MTL 6 at CAR 5 - OTM. Ryder
Apr 22 '06MTL 6 at CAR 1R. Bonk
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%