RALEIGH, N.C. -- With four unanswered goals and a solid performance by goaltender Carey Price, the Montreal Canadiens carried out coach Michel Therrien's directive that they avoid any distractions in the final game before the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
David Desharnais scored twice and Price stopped 31 shots to lead the Canadiens to a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Saturday.
With a third straight win, Montreal (32-21-6) has 70 points, good for third place in the Atlantic Division. The Canadiens are one point behind the second-place Tampa Bay Lightning. The Toronto Maple Leafs also have 70 points but Montreal has played one fewer game.
The win was a painful one, though; forward Max Pacioretty, who is slated to represent the United States at the Olympics, left the game with 7:30 remaining in the first period after being checked into the goal post. Hurricanes defenseman Brett Bellemore hit Pacioretty as he tried to cut from the goal line to the front of the net.
The 25-year-old forward immediately grabbed his arm and remained face-down on the ice for a couple minutes before slowly making his way to the dressing room under his own power. After the game, however, Pacioretty had recuperated enough to give pronounce himself OK and said he will be going to Sochi..
"It's a play I make often," said Pacioretty, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals. "I went in a little bit awkwardly. I banged up my arm and my hip. I was very worried at first. It was tough to breath and I was having (back) spasms. Once that went away, I was feeling a lot better. I got a lot of treatment during the game and I'm feeling a lot better."
Pacioretty didn't hesitate when asked if he was certain to be ready for the Sochi Games. He expected some lingering bruising, but otherwise felt he avoided a more serious injury.
"I think I got lucky," he said. "It could have been a lot worse."
Carolina struck first at 5:42 of the second period when Drayson Bowman one-timed a shot from above the right circle past Price.
Montreal countered with two goals 85 seconds apart to take the lead. Desharnais drove to the net before starting a give-and-go with Rene Bourque, who found Desharnais on the back door at 17:52.
In the final minute of the period, Ryan White pounced on a rebound in front of the net for his second of the season, both coming in the past two games.
Desharnais extended the lead to 3-1 at 6:15 of the third period. Brendan Gallagher skated up the left wing and feathered a pass to Desharnais, who beat Anton Khudobin over the glove. Gallagher finished with two assists.
Brian Gionta finished the scoring with a wraparound goal into an empty net with 2:17 remaining.
Desharnais, who plays on a line with Pacioretty, says he changed his mentality after the injury.
"(Pacioretty) is a big part," he said. "He's shooting the puck and doing a lot of things. When he's not there, somebody's got to do it. I got set up pretty well. I was just thinking shoot out there a little bit more."
Down the stretch, it was Price's turn. He made several good stops, including a point-blank glove save on Bowman to secure his 26th win of the season.
"Carey Price gives us a chance to win every time he's out there," Therrien said. "One thing for sure, he's ready for the Olympics. He plays with a lot of maturity. He's confident, he's calm. He was phenomenal again tonight."
The Hurricanes (26-22-9) go into the break after alternating wins and losses the past six games.
"I thought we had some guys tonight who played well, but we didn't have everybody on board," coach Kirk Muller said. "That doesn't cut it in this League. It was disappointing because some of the guys didn't bring their 'A' game tonight."
The Hurricanes will send four players to the Sochi Olympics, while seven Canadiens will make the trip. Price, speaking as Pacioretty's NHL teammate but an Olympic competitor for Canada, was relieved that the night ended well.
"If he was to miss that, it would be a terrible loss," Price said. "It's a very cool life experience to take part in."