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Hurricanes 2, Canadiens 1, OT @NHLdotcom

MONTREAL (AP) - Carolina felt like it finally caught a few breaks and the Hurricanes can only hope they came soon enough to get their playoff run back on track.

Eric Staal scored a power-play goal 3:38 into overtime Wednesday night to give Carolina a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens as the Hurricanes avoided falling into an 0-3 hole in their first-round playoff series.

Montreal's Tomas Plekanec was sent off for hooking 2:35 into overtime and Staal won it with a drive from the point that went through traffic and past goalie Cristobal Huet.

Huet said he lost sight of the puck and knew it was bad news when the raucous Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 suddenly went silent.

"We needed the win," Staal said. "I didn't get as much wood on it as I would have liked, but I found the back of the net with a good screen in front."

Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour tied the game 11:27 into the third period with his third goal in two games.

"At least it got us in the game and gave us a chance to win it," Brind'Amour said. "We didn't play great, our power play wasn't too good but we were fortunate enough to get another one in overtime and make that one work."

Rookie Cam Ward stopped 27 shots in his first career playoff start as the second-seeded Hurricanes recovered from two home losses to draw within 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

"I was thinking before the game how exciting it was to have my first playoff start in Montreal and what the atmosphere was going to be like," Ward said. "It only would have been fitting if we won and fortunately we were able to rally in the end."

Game 4 is Friday night in Montreal. The Hurricanes have never come back to win a playoff series after losing the first two games.

"We're playing against a good team and I don't think we ever dropped our understanding of that or respect for their team," Candiens GM-coach Bob Gainey said. "We know that they're a good team and that we're going to have to play as well as we can for as many minutes as we can. I thought our team played well tonight. It was a good playoff game."

Montreal's Saku Koivu left early in the second period, bleeding from a cut in the area of his left eye after he was clipped by Hurricanes right wing Justin Williams' stick while cutting past Carolina's net. Koivu, who wears a visor, was taken to a hospital with a facial injury and did not return.

Gainey said Koivu was cut around his left eye and had an undetermined eye injury and will be examined by team opthalmologist Dr. John Little.

"I really don't know any specifics and I wouldn't know how to explain it to you if I did," Gainey said. "When it's around the eye I think it's wise and prudent that all caution be taken."

No penalty was called on the play.

"You can sit here and talk about the refereeing and whatever, but they're not going to see everything and there have been questionable calls probably all year long," Canadiens defenseman Sheldon Souray said. "It's black, white and gray this year, the refereeing. You can't blame them but is it frustrating? Yeah, sure it's frustrating.

"They certainly missed it, but stuff happens during the game. You don't want to blame the referees for anything."

Huet made 34 saves after stopping a total of 83 shots in the first two games. Richard Zednik scored his second of the series on a power play 9:07 into the second.

Brind'Amour, who scored twice in Game 2, poked a loose puck past Souray and steered a shot along the ice and between Huet's pads to tie it at 1.

"I just wanted to give us a chance to get back in the game and win somehow and it was a lucky break," Brind'Amour said. "I was able to get by one defenseman and then flicked it at the net and it went off their defenseman's stick as it was going in. It was a fortunate bounce but they've had a couple too so I think we were due for one like that."

Carolina had a 4-minute power-play opportunity late in the third when Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek was given a double minor for high-sticking at 15:26 after he clipped Cory Stillman.

Ward made his postseason debut when he replaced Martin Gerber midway through Game 2.

Whipped into a frenzy when the Canadiens took the ice after a pre-game projection of film highlights of the team's 1976 sweep of Philadelphia in the Stanley Cup final, the sold-out crowd got an early opportunity to begin chanting "Huet! Huet!" when the Montreal goalie made a pad save on Staal 38 seconds in.

Huet stuck out his right pad again moments later to deny Brind'Amour.

Montreal broke through in the second when Hurricanes defenseman Aaron Ward swiped the puck from Zednik as he drove across the goal mouth before Ryder - who scored the overtime winner for Montreal on Monday - passed the puck back to Zednik, who flipped it past Ward into the left side of the net for his 16th goal in 40 career playoff games.

Otherwise, Ward proved hard to beat, making a sensational glove save to deny Mike Ribeiro on a power play 11:14 into the second. He made another huge stop 52 seconds into the period when he thrust up his glove to grab Plekanec's slap shot from the slot. Ward stopped Francis Bouillon on a breakaway 14:40 into the second period.

Notes: The Hurricanes won seven of nine overtime games in 2002 when they reached the Stanley Cup finals in their last playoff appearance. ... D Bret Hedican assisted on both Carolina goals. ... Souray assisted on Zednik's goal as he returned to the lineup after leaving Monday's game early with a lower-body injury.

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