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Hurricanes leave plenty of damage in Montreal

by John Kreiser

Carolina Hurricanes' Erik Cole scores against Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price Saturday, Dec. 8, 2007.
If the Carolina Hurricanes continue to struggle at home -- they’re just 8-6-1 at RBC Center this season after Wednesday’s 6-0 loss to Ottawa -- maybe they should consider moving to Montreal. The ’Canes are enjoying a run of success in Montreal that’s unprecedented in NHL history.

The Hurricanes’ 5-1 victory at the Bell Centre last Saturday was their sixth consecutive regular-season win in Montreal, a feat accomplished by only one other opponent in NHL history. The Toronto Maple Leafs won six in a row at the Forum from March 6, 1938, to Feb. 12, 1939. Carolina has swept its two visits in each of the last three seasons and hasn’t lost in Montreal since a 1-0 overtime defeat on Feb. 28, 2004. The last time the ’Canes left Montreal without a point was Dec. 6, 2003, when the Canadiens beat them 3-1.

Add in Carolina’s 3-0 record at Montreal in the 2006 Playoffs and the Hurricanes have won nine in a row in Montreal, something no other rival has ever accomplished. Buffalo went 7-0-0, winning five regular-season games and two playoff contests, from March 19, 1983, to March 6, 1984, and was 7-0-2 from April 1, 1996, through Oct. 17, 1998, going 5-0-2 in regular-season contests and 2-0 in the second round of the 1998 Playoffs.

The longest undefeated streak by any opponent in Montreal predates World War II: The New York Rangers went 6-0-5 at the Forum from March 19, 1938, through Jan. 4, 1, 1941. Montreal ended the streak with a 6-2 win on Feb. 11, 1941, after which the Rangers won their next three visits. After that, the Canadiens began a home domination of the Rangers that largely continues to this day. Montreal reeled off a 10-0-2 streak against the Rangers at the Forum, lost once and won the next 10. Beginning with the start of the 1950-51 season, Montreal went 21-0-4 against the Rangers at home, lost a 2-1 decision on Jan. 30, 1954, and won the next 21 regular-season games against the Blueshirts at the Forum.

Shootout success -- If it weren’t for shootouts, the Edmonton Oilers might be in deep trouble. Instead, they’re still in the playoff hunt in the Western Conference.

Edmonton has won nine of its 10 shootouts this season after edging Detroit on Thursday night, a pace that would shatter the mark of 12 set by Dallas in 2005-06, when the Stars went 12-1. The Oilers have already broken the team mark for shootout wins -- seven, in 2005-06. Without the shootout wins this season, the Oilers would be just 6-16-1.

The Oilers are succeeding on both ends of the shootout. Their shooters are 15-for-31, a .484 percentage that’s well above the League mark of .336. Meanwhile, their goaltenders have stopped 27 of 32 attempts, an .844 save percentage. Mathieu Garon leads all goalies with a 5-0 mark and has stopped 15 of 16 attempts; his .938 save percentage is the best of all goalies who’ve taken part in more than one shootout.

Sharpshooter -- Pittsburgh rookie defenseman Kris Letang scored the game-winning goal in the Penguins’ shootout wins at Calgary on Dec. 6 and at Vancouver two nights later. It was his first two career attempts in an NHL shootout. He’s the first player in NHL history to score game-deciding goals in his first two shootout attempts, and only the fourth to score the game-winner in the shootout in back-to-back games (the others: Slava Kozlov, Olli Jokinen, Brian Rolston, all forwards). He’s already halfway to the mark for most shootout-deciding goals by a defenseman in a season (four by Dallas’ Sergei Zubov in 2005-06) and by a rookie (Boston’s Phil Kessel in 2006-07).

Stifling -- The Detroit Red Wings continue to be the best in the League at making life easy for their goaltenders. They’ve allowed fewer than 20 shots a League-leading 11 times in their first 31 games, and opponents have managed no more than 16 shots on net in eight of those games. In contrast, the Wings have had at least 25 shots on goal in every game and have been held under 30 just five times.

Shutting 'em down -- Speaking of holding down shots on goal: Columbus and Colorado limited each other to 16 shots in the Blue Jackets’ 4-1 victory at Nationwide Arena Wednesday, the fewest shots on goal by two teams in a game this season. The Jackets had been involved in the previous low-shot contest -- they had 18 shots and limited San Jose to 17 in a 2-1 victory on Oct. 27.

Kristian Huselius smiles after scoring the first of three goals Friday night.

Goal-fest -- There were 15 goals scored Thursday night at the St. Pete Times Forum, where the Calgary Flames beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 9-6 in their first visit since Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. It’s the most goals in a game since Toronto beat the New York Islanders 9-6 on Dec. 19, 2005, and the second time in a week that a team has gotten nine in a game -- something that hadn’t happened all season until Colorado did it in a 9-5 win over St. Louis on Sunday.

The 15 goals were more than half of the total the teams combined for in seven games in the 2004 Final.

Six is enough -- There were only two six-point games in the NHL in all of 2006-07 -- Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby did it against Philadelphia on Dec. 13, 2006, and Florida’s Olli Jokinen had six against the Islanders on March 17, 2007. There were none in the first 10 weeks of the season, then two in three days. Colorado’s Milan Hejduk had three goals and three assists against St. Louis on Dec. 9; Philadelphia’s Joffrey Lupul did the same two nights later against Pittsburgh.

Along for the ride -- The Islanders took their dads along on their recent swing through the Southeast. Referee Dan O’Rourke made the trip as well. In an officiating oddity, O’Rourke worked all three games of the trip, teaming with Mark Joannette in Atlanta on Dec. 5 and working with Dan Marouelli at Florida on Dec. 7 and Tampa Bay the next night. It’s the first time in the past two seasons that any referee has worked three consecutive games involving the same team. The string ended in Buffalo on Wednesday when Brad Meier and Dean Morton worked Buffalo’s 5-3 win.

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