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Recap: Stempniak, Lack Help Canes Stay Hot

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

Analysis from Montreal

→ Spurred by two goals off the stick of Lee Stempniak, the Carolina Hurricanes topped the Montreal Canadiens, 4-1, and extended their point streak to nine games (6-0-3).

"It's a good win for us. Eddie played real well and made some huge stops, especially when the game was tied. The PP was good to get that one and a huge kill by the PK," Jeff Skinner said. "Everyone contributed, and it's a good feeling when that happens. Hopefully we can keep this thing going."

"We're just playing a complete game," Stempniak said. "We're not making mental mistakes, and we're working hard. I think there's some confidence to our game."

"It was a total team effort. I felt like I had to step up with a couple big saves, but other than that, I felt like everyone was contributing and feeling good," Eddie Lack said. "It was a huge two points for us, and we just want to keep rolling here."

Video: Stempniak, Lack power Canes past Habs, 4-1

→ Stempniak, a veteran forward, came up huge in crucial points during the game tonight, en route to his first multi-goal game since Oct. 18 in Edmonton.

His first goal gave the Hurricanes' a one-goal lead and momentum heading into the second intermission. It was an innocent enough looking rush, but Stempniak made the most of his scoring opportunity. With just 39 seconds left on the clock, Stempniak fired off a backhand shot from in between the circles that skipped off the leg of defenseman Alexei Emelin and beat Carey Price to give the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead after two periods.

"There wasn't much going on offensively for us in the second. I thought we struggled to move the puck at times," head coach Bill Peters said. "That's a big goal, kind of a ricochet."

"It was certainly a broken play," he said. "I just tried to take the ice that came to me. I just tried to get a backhand on net, and it was a fortunate bounce."

In the third period, Stempniak made an odd-man rush count, as he finished off the pass from Skinner to pad the Canes' advantage.

"It was a great pass. He made a great pass. He's an exceptional offensive player. He's got great instincts and a knack for scoring goals. I think he's an underrated playmaker, too," Stempniak said of Skinner. "I just went to the back post with my stick down. It was right on my tape and in the open net."

"The goal that was huge … [was the] goal to give us a little bit of breathing room, and then we were fine," Peters said.

Elias Lindholm continues to be a difference-maker offensively.

Tonight, Lindholm netted a goal on the Canes' first power play of the game - the third straight game in which the team has notched a goal on the man advantage - to draw the score even at one before intermission. Sebastian Aho twice threaded the needle through a stick-less Max Pacioretty to Teuvo Teravainen to set up the play. Meanwhile, Lindholm set up alongside the net and then accepted a cross-ice feed from Teravainen, kicking it to his stick and whacking at it a couple times to knock it in.

Lindholm now has points (4g, 6a) in a career-long nine games.

→ Coming into tonight's game, Lack had stopped 104 of the last 110 shots (.945 save percentage) he had seen in his last four starts, and he was just as sharp tonight in his first career game against the Canadiens.

"It's a classic building," Lack said. "There are a lot of good goalies who have played here. It was fun."

"Outstanding. I thought he was real good, especially in the second. He made some big saves," Peters said of Lack. "He's been real good for us and has had a real good stretch here. He's healthy and really doing a good job."

Lack made 21 saves on 22 shots, and there wasn't much the Swedish netminder could do when Montreal struck first, as Andrew Shaw fed Alex Galchenyuk on an odd-man rush. Just minutes earlier, Lack had turned away a breakaway chance off the stick of Jeff Petry, and Derek Ryan slid to deny Galchenyuk on the rebound opportunity.

So, he owes Ryan a beer, right?

"Well, he actually doesn't drink, so I don't know what to get him. But yeah, I'm going to have to get him something for sure," Lack joked. "And then he blocked one in the third, too, that seemed to hurt a lot so I guess I owe him two."

→ Skinner scored an empty-net goal with 2:03 left in tonight's contest, and he's now just a goal shy of reaching the 30-goal mark for the third time in his career. Skinner has six goals over his last four games.

→ Tonight's victory snapped a seven-game winless streak for the Hurricanes in Montreal, where they hadn't won a game since Feb. 2012 (0-6-1).

"Tonight was a good test," Skinner said. "Obviously that's a good team over there. Coming on the road you want to try to have a good game, and it's nice to get a win."

→ The Hurricanes, now five points out of a playoff spot with 10 games to play, close out their four-game road trip in New Jersey on Saturday before returning home for a back-to-back against the Red Wings.

"We're still a confident group," Stempniak said. "We're excited for each game."

"The guys are real smart. They know what's on the line, and they know that it's very important for them moving forward," Peters said. "If you can't play at this time of the year, you're probably not going to fit into our organization moving forward. That's really what it amounts to. This is the most important time of the season. Teams are playing very hard, physical and dialed in."

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