RALEIGH, N.C. -- Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust didn't have a ready answer when asked if he recalled his last three-point night.
"Pee Wee?" he guessed."Maybe the minors? I don't know."
Known for his rugged play and willingness to drop the gloves, Prust was both a playmaker and a finisher in a 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night at PNC Arena.
Prust staked the Canadiens to a 2-0 first-period lead, first by cleaning up a rebound in front of Carolina goalie Justin Peters, then lofting a long backhand pass to Josh Gorges on the back door, a set-up that will certainly go on Prust's career highlight reel.
"Backhand sauce, my specialty," Prust said, lighting up at the idea of describing a beautiful goal. "I saw [Gorges] streaking in and I knew he had his guy beat, so I threw it to an area and he was able to bury it."
For Prust, whose best NHL season was 29 points for the New York Rangers in 2010-11, there were no illusions about taking on the mindset of a scorer. But he admits that hitting the score sheet is a fickle proposition, even for a grinder.
"It by far wasn't one of my better games tonight, but the puck goes in for you sometimes," he said. "Sometimes you have the best games of your life and you get nothing. But we got some good bounces and guys were burying the puck when they got the opportunity."
The Hurricanes answered, owning a period of their own in the second. Jordan Staal connected on a shot through traffic, followed by a Drayson Bowman blast streaking down the left wing. Carolina dominated the period with a 21-5 advantage in shots. It attempted a total of 38 in the middle frame, although Montreal goaltender Carey Price dismissed the notion his team was on its heels.
"I kicked out a lot of rebounds, but the guys were there," said Price, who finished with 42 saves. "[Carolina] got a lot of chincy shots, I would say -- the stat-padders. On their chances, they buried a couple, but overall I thought we played fairly solid."
Price needed a strong outing after giving up 12 goals on 59 shots in consecutive losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. He stopped Eric Staal on a penalty shot in the second period, but his best of the night came against Justin Faulk in the first. With Faulk charging into the slot, Price snagged a wrister labeled for the top shelf.
"Those are the types of saves I felt I wasn't making over the last two games," Price said. "That was definitely one to help out.
"I came in with a different attitude today, as opposed to Long Island. I got a few lucky bounces. I got hit in the face with one I did not see. Some nights they hit you, and other nights those are the ones that squeak by you."
Prust wasn't the only offensive star of the night for Montreal. In fact, his linemates were both noteworthy contributors. In addition to a goal and an assist from Gorges, Lars Eller had three points, including the go-ahead goal at 6:09 of the third period. Gorges sent a pass to Eller at the far post. Fittingly, Prust started the play to earn his third point.
"He's a very versatile player," Eller said of Prust. "He can play a gritty game, but he's got a lot more to his game. He can hold onto the puck, and he can make plays like you see. He can score. He can do it all, so he's very important to this team."
P.K. Subban gave the Canadiens a two-goal cushion, ripping a hard slap shot past Peters for a power-play marker at 7:56. The strong third period was proof that Montreal had responded to a strong message from coach Michel Therrien, one Price said "We received loud and clear."
"The players have to realize that we are a vulnerable team if we are not working hard, if we don't compete," Therrien said. "We ended up packing our bag in the second period, so Price deserved a lot of credit for our win."
Gorges echoed Therrien's sentiments.
"We knew they were going to come at us hard in the second," Gorges said. "I think we caught ourselves on our heels. We didn't respond the right way. We did a great job of regrouping in the intermission and having a solid third period and finding a way to get two points."
For the Hurricanes, the loss snapped a four-game winning streak. The Canadiens shut down the red-hot line of Jiri Tlusty, Eric Staal and Alex Semin, who had combined for nine goals and 24 points in the prior three games.
"We said before the game that [Montreal] was not going to give you many opportunities," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "It was a tough first period for us, but our guys responded, and it was probably our best period of the year in the second.
"We pushed. I thought our guys played hard. We threw 40-something shots at the net. Price came up big. It happens."