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Canadiens break 'Canes hex with 7-2 win

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens have never had this kind of an offensive outburst under coach Jacques Martin, but Saturday night's 7-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes came with an ominous end.

With 5:10 to play and the Canadiens cruising with a 5-2 lead, star defenseman Andrei Markov was helped off the ice with an apparent right knee injury after getting tangled up with Carolina captain Eric Staal.

"I don't know what the issue was, I haven't been able to see yet," said Carey Price, who had another stellar game in goal for the Canadiens for his 10th win of the season. "But that's definitely a worry of ours."

When a team scores seven goals in a game, it's not often the first person the coach will give credit to is the goaltender.

But that's exactly what Martin did after watching his team score seven goals for the first time since March 24, 2008, a few months before he took over as coach.

"Turning point?" Martin asked in his post-game comments. "Carey Price."

Price made 28 saves, 15 of them in the first period to allow his teammates to grab a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes despite being largely outplayed.

"We weren't happy with the way the first period went," Price said. "We were up 2-0, but they carried the play for the majority of the first period. We came back here and re-grouped and knew we had to bring a better game."

Tomas Plekanec had a goal and 3 assists and Brian Gionta scored for the third time in four games as the Canadiens put an emphatic end to a curse that lasted nearly seven years with the victory -- Montreal's first in regulation over Carolina at the Bell Centre since Dec. 6, 2003.

Michael Cammalleri , Maxim Lapierre, Benoit Pouliot, Andrei Kostitsyn and Mathieu Darche also scored for the Canadiens, winners of four of their last five.

Anton Babchuk and former Canadien Tom Kostopoulos each scored on plays set up by Staal for the Hurricanes (8-9-0), who lost their second straight and have been outscored 15-3 over that span.

"We made some simple mistakes on puck control and some reads," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. "We made some, I wouldn't say young mistakes, but we have some consistency issues we need to sort out."

Babchuk and Kostopoulos erased Montreal's two-goal advantage midway through the second with goals 2:13 apart. But Montreal struck back just as quickly with Gionta and Lapierre scoring a minute apart and Pouliot adding another by the end of the second to give Montreal a 5-2 lead.

Kostitsyn and Darche each scored on late power plays for the Canadiens.

"When it became 2-2 our role players had a couple of shifts that put us back in the tempo of the game," Martin said. "They may not have scored, but they gave us some momentum by getting pucks deep and outworking them, which some of our skill players weren't doing."

Markov went down when he collided awkwardly with Staal going after a loose puck. He crumpled to the ice in the corner and threw his glove in the air, a near-mirror image of his reaction in last spring's playoffs when he tore the ACL in his right knee in Game 1 of the second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Markov was helped off the ice, putting no weight on the knee as he left.

Martin provided no update on his status after the game, saying the team will provide news "in the coming days."

Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward has always had a special relationship with the Bell Centre, but his recent struggles continued in this game.

It was here in 2006 that he stole the starting job from Martin Gerber in Game 3 of the Hurricanes first-round series against the Canadiens -- and went on to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as a 22-year-old by leading Carolina to the only Stanley Cup in franchise history.

That game, on April 26, 2006, was Ward's first in Montreal, and he had compiled a 9-0-1 record at the Bell Centre with a 1.48 goals against average and .950 save percentage in the regular season and playoffs.

That dominant run came to a crashing halt Saturday night, as Ward allowed four goals on 22 shots in 35:31 before being yanked by Maurice for the second straight game. In those two starts, Ward has allowed eight goals on 35 shots.

"I'm the first one to be direct and honest with how this guy plays," Maurice said of his goalie. "He played exceptionally well at the start of the year for us. But you have to be careful when you start assessing average goaltending as terrible goaltending. He was just average."

On the opposite end of the spectrum Price was fantastic for the Canadiens, especially on a dazzling diving glove save on Chad LaRose at 10:03 of the third period. It drew a standing ovation and chants of "Carey, Carey" from the usual sellout crowd of 21,273, but just a subdued explanation from Price himself.

"I found my way across the net, I just led with my glove and he shot it right into it," Price said.

Offensively, the line of Plekanec, Cammalleri and Gionta came alive for the Canadiens, combining for 10 points as all three players extended their points streaks to four games.

"I've played with (Cammalleri) last year and this year, so I know how things go with him," Plekanec said. "Playing with (Gionta) is not that hard. He's a great player, he does all the little things well and I always know where he's going and what he's doing. It's not really hard to play with those guys."

The Canadiens power play that began the season 3-for-47 went 3-for-5 on the night, and now has scored six times on 14 chances over the last three games.

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