RALEIGH, N.C. -- The nerves were at their worst during the national anthem, Charlie Lindgren said. And it didn't help when the first shot he faced in the NHL wound up in the back of the net.
But Lindgren, making his NHL debut for the Montreal Canadiens just two weeks after finishing his college career, settled down and stopped 26 shots in a 4-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Thursday.
Lindgren, who was an undrafted free agent, signed with Montreal on March 30 after completing his career at St. Cloud State. He was at his best in the final minute, stacking his pads to stop Victor Rask near the left post, before smothering a close-in chance from Jeff Skinner in the same spot.
"I just kept thinking, during the game, about getting that first NHL win and what it would mean," Lindgren said. "Just thinking about the people in the stands and my teammates back at St. Cloud State who were able to watch the game."
Video: MTL@CAR: Lindgren stands strong in 2nd period
Lindgren's story overshadowed the achievements of another 22-year-old rookie. Defenseman Darren Dietz, playing his 12th NHL game, scored his first goal and added an assist for his first two-point night.
"There aren't too many teams that have this many rookies making their debuts and sharing this together," Dietz said. "This is something we have together, and something we won't forget."
Max Pacioretty had a goal and an assist for the Canadiens (37-38-6). Montreal's captain reached the 60-point plateau for the third straight season.
Cam Ward stopped 27 shots for the Hurricanes (35-30-16), who have lost two of three.
Carolina scored on its first shot of the game at 1:34 of the first period. Skinner won the puck along the boards and centered to Nash, who scored with a wrist shot for his ninth goal of the season.
"That's definitely not what I wanted to happen," Lindgren said. "Once that first goal went in, I really wasn't rattled. I had to put it behind me and worry about the next shot."
Video: MTL@CAR: Dietz collects his first career NHL goal
The Canadiens tied the game when Dietz scored at 19:50. He took a pass off the boards from Pacioretty and skated into the right circle before blasting a shot past Ward. Brendan Gallagher, who carried the puck over the blue line before screening the goaltender, earned the second assist.
"It was a special moment," Dietz said. "I was waiting for a net-front presence to get there. Gallagher was getting to the net, and you don't score in this league without net-front presence."
Noah Hanifin made it 2-1 Carolina at 5:11 of the second period. Jordan Staal worked the puck up the wall then passed to Hanifin, who sent a slap shot past Lindgren for his fourth of the season.
Pacioretty made it 2-2 with a wrist shot from the top of the slot at 13:12. Ward fought off the shot with his blocker, but the puck went over his head and trickled into the net.
Video: MTL@CAR: Pacrioretty's wrister beats Ward
"Just a lucky one," Pacioretty said. "It happens every now and then when you shoot heavy, you get some bounces. Approaching the 1-on-2 there, I didn't have much room to go outside so I tried to shoot through the defensemen."
The parade of rookies wasn't over. Forward Daniel Carr gave Montreal its first lead at 16:51. Tomas Plekanec's wrist shot from the slot was partially blocked by Brett Pesce, and the puck went to Carr, who redirected it at the top of the crease to make it 3-2.
Lars Eller made it 4-2 with 4:01 remaining in the third period when he scored off the rebound of Dietz's shot from the right wing.
For the remainder of the game, the Canadiens' defense jumped on every loose puck. The task grew tougher when Andrei Markov was whistled for high sticking at 16:12, the only penalty of the game. But even with Ward off for the extra attacker for most of the penalty, Montreal did not allow a shot.
"I thought that was the best game for our young defensive corp with good recoveries," Pacioretty said. "It seems like they if they got beat through them, the defensive partner bailed them out with a stick. It could be that everyone wanted to play a little harder to get the first win for Lindgren."
Video: MTL@CAR: Lindgren preserves lead in final minute
Hurricanes coach Bill Peters agreed that Montreal's defense was the difference.
"They were tight," Peters said. "They were good in the neutral zone and we couldn't get through. Then they took off in transition on odd-numbered rushes. I thought we made it hard on ourselves and turned a lot of pucks over."
For a game that had no Stanley Cup Playoff implication, it will be remembered for making a special memory.
"This is what the sport is all about," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "You got a kid that two weeks ago was in college, and in his first game in the NHL, his family was there tonight and he got the win. So this is a good moment."
Lindgren's parents and younger brother were on hand, along with his girlfriend and her father. Even his goalie coach. All for a moment that comes just once in an NHL career. The one relative who couldn't make the trip from Minnesota was his grandfather, but he will get the game puck so he can put it in a case and display it in the family's home.
"My grandpa has been there since Day 1 for me," Lindgren said. "I'm sure he was watching at home and he's probably very proud."
Video: Pacioretty, Dietz, Lindgren power Canadiens in win