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Canadiens overpower Hurricanes, 7-4

by John Kreiser /
Alex Kovalev scored his 338th career goal in his 1,000th NHL game as the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 7-4 on Friday night. 
Unfortunately for Alex Kovalev and the rest of Montreal’s power-play unit, the Canadiens don’t come back to Carolina again this season. For whatever reason, the Habs’ man-advantage unit has been unstoppable in its two visits to the RBC Center.

Montreal scored on all four of its first-period power plays and finished with five man-advantage goals Friday night in a 7-4 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canadiens also scored three times with the man advantage at Carolina in a 3-2 overtime victory on opening night – meaning they have eight of their 16 power-play tallies in their two visits to the RBC Center.

“There are no secrets to it,” Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said of his team’s success on the power play. "We have guys that can move the puck and make plays. You can pass it around for two minutes, but you can't score if you don't shoot it. That's all we did. Just by shooting the puck a lot, it opened other options.”

One of the power-play scorers was Alex Kovalev, who scored his 338th career goal in his 1,000th NHL game. Ironically, Kovalev made his NHL debut on Oct. 12, 1992, against the same franchise, then based in Hartford – and scored in that game as well.

“I didn’t realize it until someone told me,” he said of the similarities between his first and 1,000th games.

Kovalev became the first Russian to be picked in the first round of the Entry Draft when the New York Rangers chose him 15th overall in 1991. He made his debut a year later. A lot has changed since then.

“I came up at 19, and when you’re that age, you don’t worry as much,” said Kovalev, the third Canadien to play his 1,000th NHL game this season – Roman Hamrlik and Bryan Smolinski are the others. “These days, I have to watch what I eat, watch my sleep and stay away from injuries.”

Kovalev’s goal was the Canadiens’ second of four power-play tallies in Montreal’s five-goal first period.

“They were just teeing them up and they just happened to find the net,” Carolina captain Rod Brind’Amour said about Montreal’s power-play onslaught.

It was just the second regulation loss for Carolina in 11 games. The four power-play goals allowed in the first period were a franchise record – one that coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t very happy about.

“We were not doing the little things like blocking shots,” Laviolette said. “We didn’t try to get in the shot lanes. I thought we were trying to do other people’s jobs out there. A penalty kill, above all things, is about a system, and being willing to pay a price with hard work. We had been pretty good with that, but we did not execute tonight.

“From the drop of the puck we were late to the battles. We didn’t have a lot of jump in our stride. It was work ethic.”

After Kyle Chipchura’s even-strength goal opened the scoring 3:18 into the game, Tomas Plekanec got his first of his two power-play goals at 8:40. Jeff Hamilton’s goal cut the margin to 2-1, but man-advantage goals by Kovalev, Saku Koivu and Mark Streit left the Hurricanes’ penalty-killers shell-shocked.

“They moved the puck about as well as a power play can move it,” Carolina defenseman Mike Commodore said. “We weren’t great on the penalty kill, but you have to give them credit. Their passes were right on the tape, and when they had a chance to shoot, they shot. It was like Maurice Richard and Guy Lafleur out there.”

Carolina’s Eric Staal beat Cristobal Huet on a penalty shot at 14:46 of the second period, but Plekanec’s second power-play goal just 1:34 later restored Montreal’s three-goal lead. Ray Whitney and Brind’Amour scored third-period goals before Mathieu Dandenault hit the empty net with 51 seconds remaining.

Carolina will have to make some adjustments before visiting the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

 “We don’t have time to really sulk about this one,” said Cam Ward, who entered the game with a stellar 1.85 goals against average but was pulled after the first period. “It’s disappointing, but we have a chance to redeem ourselves soon. You never want to sit on the bench. You always want to be out there helping out.”
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