MONTREAL (CP) - Frantisek Kaberle's regular-season debut was a memorable one.
Kaberle scored the winning goal in his first game since undergoing major shoulder surgery in September, giving the slumping Carolina Hurricanes a big 2-1 win Tuesday over the Montreal Canadiens.
"We won, I got the game-winning goal and my shoulder feels fine," Kaberle said. "So yeah, it was a pretty good comeback."
Justin Williams also scored and Cam Ward made 25 saves for the defending Stanley Cup-champion Hurricanes (26-22-7), who won for only the second time in eight games.
Ward first made a name for himself by leading Carolina to four straight wins after falling behind 2-0 against Montreal in the first round of the playoffs last year, and he said Tuesday's win in the same building could prove a turning point for this year's team.
"It's always exciting coming into Montreal, especially with what took place last year," said Ward, who made several spectacular saves with the game tied 1-1. "This was a very big game for our hockey club, and we did our best to treat it like it was a playoff game.
"The crowd sure made it feel like a playoff atmosphere. It was a big confidence-booster to get this one and hopefully we can start to go on a roll now."
Alex Kovalev scored the lone goal for the Canadiens (29-20-6), who have lost three of their last four
games. David Aebischer got his third start in the last four games for Montreal and was solid in making 32
stops, but he was not happy after the once-mighty Canadiens' penalty-killing unit allowed two more goals. The last five goals the Canadiens have allowed over the past two games have come on opposing power plays.
"We played well, but our penalty killing hurt us again," Aebischer said. "We need to cut those goals in
Kaberle missed the first 55 games of the season recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum, and
he made a grand entrance by scoring the winner at 10:52 of the third on the power play.
"He moved the puck really efficiently and did a super job," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette. "It's good to get players back and healthy. Certainly getting (Kaberle) back, he brings something different as far as his offensive instincts go."
Canadiens owner George Gillett attended the game but did not speak to reporters after Tuesday morning's announcement that he and Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks are purchasing Liverpool FC of the English Premiership.
There was no evidence of a sudden turn of allegiance to Liverpool by the sellout Bell Centre crowd of
21,273, many of whom came dressed in Canadiens jerseys.
But the crowd did remember to boo Williams every time he touched the puck - and also when he was named the game's first star - as Montreal fans haven't forgotten his high-stick that hit Canadiens captain Saku Koivu in the eye in Game 3 of that first round playoff series last year. Koivu's vision remains impaired because of the injury.
"Montreal fans are very emotional, very vocal, and that's a good thing," Williams said. "I'm just happy
they know my name. When every time you touch the puck you get booed, it's on your mind."
The Canadiens played their second straight game with wingers Sergei Samsonov and Alexander Perezhogin sitting out as healthy scratches. Samsonov - who signed a US$7.05 million, two-year contract with Montreal in the off-season but has only seven goals and 15 assists in 52 games - was placed on waivers Tuesday by the Canadiens after his agent Neil Abbott went public with a trade demand.
With the game tied 1-1 midway through the third period, Koivu took a hooking penalty in the offensive
zone that proved costly for the Canadiens. Kaberle used a perfect Williams screen to beat Aebischer with a shot from the point for his first of the season and Carolina's second power play goal of the game.
"It doesn't really matter if you only score one goal," Koivu said when asked about the penalty. "That's not enough."
After a scoreless first period with very little action, Williams opened the scoring on the power play early in the second when he walked out from behind the net and rifled a wrist shot over Aebischer's glove
hand for his 27th goal of the year at 2:26.
Kovalev tied it up 1-1 just over two minutes later, one-timing an offensive zone faceoff win by Tomas
Plekanec past Ward for his 13th of the season and first in seven games at 4:45.
Notes: Hurricanes winger Cory Stillman did not come out for the third period with what the team called a lower body injury. Laviolette had no update on his status after the game. ... Canadiens D Andrei Markov missed his second game with a knee injury. Janne Niinimaa took his spot in the lineup. ... Canadiens C Radek Bonk played his 800th career NHL game.