RALEIGH - In what was a crazy night in Carolina to say the least, Michael Ryder scored a pair of goals - including the overtime winner - in a thrilling 6-5 victory over the Hurricanes to give the Canadiens a 2-0 series stranglehold in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
Ryder brought an end to the most electrifying game of the 2006 playoffs to date, converting a nifty tic-tac-toe play from linemates Saku Koivu and Chris Higgins only 2:32 into the second overtime period.
Overtime was the furthest thing from either team's mind once the Canadiens jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead on goals from Jan Bulis, Ryder and Radek Bonk. But a subsequent Carolina goalie change from Martin Gerber to rookie Cam Ward helped trigger four answered goals from Rod Brind'Amour (2), Matt Cullen and Ray Whitney to give the Hurricanes a 4-3 lead early in third.
The rollercoaster ride continued with the Canadiens responding with tallies from Alex Kovalev and Richard Zednik coming 36 seconds apart to pull Montreal ahead 5-4. Then, with less two minutes to go in regulation, 'Canes coach Peter Laviolette rolled the dice by pulling his goalie in favor of an extra attacker, setting the stage for Cory Stillman to tie it up with exactly 90 seconds to play and force the extra frames.
But it was not meant to be for the second-seeded Hurricanes, who now find themselves in the unenviable position of heading to Montreal needing four wins in five games to stay alive. In five attempts, the 'Canes have yet to ever fight back to from a 0-2 series deficit in franchise history.
'We had played such a great game, there was no reason to quit,' said Kovalev after picking up a goal and an assist, giving him a team-leading five points and three goals so far this postseason. 'We know how good we played, we know how many chances we got. It was about capitalizing on one of them."
Kovalev's linemate Mike Ribeiro was also impressed with how the Canadiens refused to let this game get away.
'We stuck with the same plan and we kept believing,' Canadiens center Mike Ribeiro said. 'It was a great game to watch, I'm sure, for everyone.'
On the heels of making 42 stops in Game 1, Huet once again hit the 40-save mark Monday. The French netminder kicked aside 41 shots, including 16 in overtime, while his counterpart for the better portion of the night, Ward, made 20 saves in 67 minutes.
The Canadiens are 4-0 all-time after taking a 2-0 series lead over the Hurricanes/Whalers. Montreal is now 7-3 lifetime versus the Hurricanes/Whalers in playoff overtime games.
Bob Gainey's troops will try to make it three in a row over the Hurricanes when the series shifts to the Bell Centre beginning Wednesday night.
NOTES: Gainey dressed the same lineup as the series opener, leaving Mark Streit, Todd Simpson and Aaron Downey as the scratches...The Canadiens were forced to play with five defensemen for the majority of the game after an injured Sheldon Souray left the game before the end of the first period...Andrei Markov led all Canadiens blueliners, logging a hefty 38:19 of ice time... The Canadiens are now 7-0-0 when Bonk scores in 2005-06... Montreal is 7-0 in the second game of a playoff series against Hartford/Carolina... The Canadiens' last playoff overtime victory also came against Carolina back on May 7, 2002, when Donald Audette sealed a 2-1 win at the Bell Centre. The last time these two former Adams Division rivals needed double overtime to decide a game was back on May 1, 1992, when Russ Courtnall scored in Game 7 to eliminate the Whalers at the Montreal Forum... The Canadiens are 2-0 to start a series for the first time since 1996 when Montreal took the first two first games at Madison Square Garden against Mark Messier and the Rangers.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com; AP files were used in this report.