Carolina, coming off a 3-1 road trip, was 7-4 in its last 11 games to inch back into the playoff mix. But the Hurricanes, opening a four-game homestand, were shut out at home for the third time.
Montreal jumped on top 1-0 midway through the first after Rucinsky tipped in his 17th goal off a nice feed from Trevor Linden.
The Hurricanes appeared to have tied the game 1-1 with 10:22 left when Martin Gelinas batted the puck out of the air and it slid past Theodore during a wild scramble in front of the net. But referee Kerry Fraser ruled that no Carolina player touched the puck with a stick before it trickled across the goal line.
``I thought I touched it with my stick,'' Gelinas said. ``I didn't see the replay so I can't really tell.''
Linden sealed the win for the Canadiens, scoring his ninth goal with 5:36 left. Rucinsky added his 18th less than three minutes later.
``We've got to pull one from the top end now against one of the good teams,'' Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. ``The pucks have to start going in.
``There are no system changes that we're going to make,'' Maurice added. ``We can sit there and say we've got to play harder, but we don't have to play harder, we've got to play better. There's a difference. We have to be able to make a 10-foot pass.''
``If we could have gotten a 2-0 lead, all of the sudden the confidence is there and the legs are a little lighter and the sticks are a little lighter,'' Gelinas said. ``We haven't scored key goals lately and that has been the difference.''
Carolina was 0-for-2 on the power play as Montreal has killed 35 of its last 37 short-handed chances in a 10-game span.
Maurice's 375th game moved him past Jack Evans into first place in games coached for the Carolina franchise.
CAROLINA HEAD COACH PAUL MAURICE:
On the game:
“Montreal’s got a very simple system. They stack four at the blue line and rely on the goaltender and wait for you to make a mistake. That’s the game. We have opportunities to put the puck in the net, we just can’t do it. That’s a one-goal game, then we’re forced to open up the game. That gives you a little indication of why we don’t play a wide-open game. When we do that we give up too many chances to score. It’s very frustrating for everyone.”
On the disallowed goal:
“I don’t get much of a replay in this building so I don’t have much of an answer for whether it was a goal of not. I couldn’t tell from what I saw but I didn’t see all the camera angles on it. I don’t know whether it was a goal or not.”
“There’s an answer there I don’t know. Too tight. Not tight enough. Skill, no skill. Take whichever one you want. We just have not been able to (score) the last two games, which was especially frustrating tonight against this team. When a team sits back like that, you’re going to have to be sharp.”
MONTREAL CANADIENS COACH ALAIN VIGNEAULT:
On the game:
“I think that it was under very tough circumstances. Both teams have played three games in four nights. We traveled last night. Without a doubt they took this game as a very important game and so did we. I think what happened tonight was Theodore played outstanding. He gave us a chance to get our legs and get our execution. Our D’s were off with their passing off the bat and that created a lot of chances for them, but he gave us a chance. From there I felt that we got a little bit of momentum and better execution. They had to open up and they opened up. We were fortunate to get a couple odd number situations and score some goals after that.”
On scoring first:
“I think it always is very important. You talk about energy, believing that you have a chance to win.”
“In thought both goaltenders played well, but he made the bigger saves. We didn’t really challenge Irbe that much off the bat. Theodore was very challenges. He had to make some game-savers right off. I think he gave us a lot of confidence right there.”
REFEREE KERRY FRASER
“I saw Marty Gelinas swing at the puck with his hand. If he is able to touch the puck with his stick and it crosses the line, it’s a legal goal. If, however, it deflects off another player – goalie, defensive player – it is no goal. Upon video replay, it clearly showed Gelinas batted the puck didn’t touch it with his stick. It went off Theodore’s pad, and crossed the goal line. Therefore, not a legal goal.”
1st 2nd 3rd TOTALMontreal 1 0 2 3Carolina 0 0 0 0First Period: Scoring: 1, Montreal, Rucinsky 17 (T Linden, Stevenson), 11:14. Second Period: Scoring: None. Penalties: Karpa, Car (slashing), 0:10; T Linden, Mon (holding), 9:06; Bouillon, Mon (high sticking), 18:17; S Corson, Mon (unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:13; Oneill, Car (roughing), 18:13.Third Period: Scoring: 2, Montreal, T Linden 9 (Stevenson, Rucinsky), 14:24. 3, Montreal, Rucinsky 18 (Stevenson), 17:17.SHOTS ON GOALMontreal 7 6 9 --22Carolina 13 6 7--26
Power-play Conversions: Mon - 0 of 1, Car - 0 of 2. Goalies: Montreal, Theodore (26 shots, 26 saves; record: 11-11-2). Carolina, Irbe (22, 19; record: 21-21-7). A:16,416. Referee: Fraser. Linesmen: M Pare, Sericolo.