RALEIGH - Back on the Hurricanes' ice, the Canadiens were unable to reproduce the magic of the first two games of their quarterfinal series. Despite Steve Begin's return to the lineup, Montreal fell 2-1 in game 5 at the RBC Center.
The Hurricanes' special teams were the difference Sunday night, scoring identical goals on the power-play. Using Rod Brind'Amour as a screen and with traffic in front of the net, Eric Staal got his team on the board, taking a shot from the blue line to beat Cristobal Huet at the 4:27 mark of the first period.
Successful on their first attempt, the Hurricanes went with the same strategy for their second tally in the second period. With traffic once again in front of Huet, it was Matt Cullen's turn to light the lamp with the man advantage. Huet ended the night having stopped 26 of 28 shots.
Alex Kovalev cut the home team's lead in half with just 28 seconds left in the middle frame. While Garth Murray swarmed around the net, Kovalev sent the puck behind Cam Ward for his fourth goal of the series and the 37th of his career. Sheldon Souray picked up an assist, earning a point for a third straight game.
That would prove to be all Ward would allow the Canadiens as the rookie goaltender picked up his third straight win since replacing Martin Gerber. Making his third start, Ward ended the night with 30 saves. Mike Ribeiro and Richard Zednik were among several of the 22-year-old's victims during the Canadiens' power-play opportunities in the third period.
After missing eight games with a knee injury, Steve Begin was back on the ice. His night began with Garth Murray and Aaron Downey by his side, but it wasn't long before Begin found himself between Chris Higgins and Michael Ryder, ending his return with more than 13 minutes of ice time and two shots on goal.
The Canadiens now trail for the first time in this series and are facing a 3-2 deficit in a best-of-seven series for just the 24th time in club history. Montreal is familiar with the situation, however, having forced a seventh and deciding game on 10 occasions. The Boston Bruins were the Canadiens' most recent victims when, back in 2004, the Canadiens rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to claim the series in Game 7 in Boston.
Montreal will look to use home ice to its advantage and force that seventh game when the series shifts to the Bell Centre Tuesday night.
NOTES: Aaron Downey and Steve Begin made their 2006 playoffs debuts. Begin returned to the ice for the first time since suffering a sprained knee on Apr. 8...Niklas Sundstrom was scratched for the first time in the series, joined by Mark Streit and Todd Simpson as the other healthy scratches...The Hurricanes topped the Canadiens in blocked shots 23-6...
Heather Engel is the Site Assistant for canadiens.com