RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes were searching for the kind of 60-minute effort that could end a three-game losing streak. They delivered it against the top team in the Eastern Conference.
The Hurricanes overcame two one-goal deficits before Jeff Skinner scored a power-play goal at 12:28 of the third period to defeat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 at PNC Arena on Saturday.
Skinner, who had two goals, knocked in the rebound of Brett Pesce's shot from mid-air to give Carolina its first lead of the night. The goal came six minutes after the Hurricanes missed several chance to take the lead on a power play.
"We hit two crossbars, I missed the net wide on a roller," said captain Eric Staal, who looked to the rafters in disbelief after his miss. "It was great that the other unit went out there and continued on and built off it. Big goal by Jeff. Those are big moments in the game."
After suffering its third straight loss against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, Carolina called up Jaccob Slavin, Brock McGinn and Phillip Di Giuseppe, who made his NHL debut. All three played against Montreal. The message was clear: a better effort was expected.
"The win was big no matter what; we needed the win," Carolina coach Bill Peters said. "We didn't play well our last time out and we needed to bounce back. We did bounce back. Credit the guys."
Montreal struck first when forward Daniel Carr, who also made his NHL debut, scored on his first shift. Carr gathered the puck at the left post, circled the net and stuffed a shot past Cam Ward's left skate at 2:44 for a 1-0 lead in the first period. Carr, a second-year pro, was recalled from St. John's of the American Hockey League on Nov. 29.
"You've got to be pleased about the way he performed," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "He got a goal, so good for him."
Skinner tied the game for Carolina at 13:15. Jordan Staal lugged the puck around the net and passed to Skinner, who deked to the backhand before lifting a forehand over a sprawling Mike Condon. The even-strength goal came just as time expired on a Lars Eller tripping penalty.
Sven Andrighetto put Montreal up 2-1 at 11:19 of the second. Alex Galchenyuk won a faceoff back to Jeff Petry, who carried the puck down to the goal line and centered for Andrighetto alone in front of Ward.
The Hurricanes quickly made it 2-2 on Joakim Nordstrom's first goal of the season at 13:15. He converted a rebound after Condon stopped Andrej Nestrasil's backhand from the high slot.
The goal was Nordstrom's first in 64 games.
Carolina appeared to take a 3-2 lead 16 seconds into the third when Eric Staal tumbled over Condon following his own rebound. But after a coach's challenge, the referee determined that Staal interfered with the goaltender before the puck crossed the goal line.
But Skinner delivered the go-ahead at the right post, using a bit of hand-eye coordination to give the Hurricanes their first lead.
"He battled, he competed. He was real good for us tonight," Peters said. "It's a sign of more good things to come. He's been dangerous offensively without the results."
Skinner, a two-time 30-goal scorer, now has four goals in his past seven games.
"You've got to battle through that," he said. "Bounces come and go, and every team goes through adversity. If you keep getting those chances, sooner or later one of them will go in. That's what happened tonight."
After the Hurricanes took the lead, they withstood a push from the Canadiens. Ward made a strong save on Galchenyuk from the high slot, then turned aside a heavy shot from Tom Gilbert with his left pad. Montreal had a late power-play chance that became a 6-on-4 when they pulled Condon for an extra attacker, but they couldn't get anything past Ward, who finished with 36 saves.
"You've just got to remain calm and in control and not get caught up in the chaos by not moving around too much," Ward said. "Tonight I felt like my rebound control was pretty good and I had good flow. I felt smooth on my skates and felt comfortable."
Therrien didn't think the Canadiens were at their best, but he felt Ward had something to do with that.
"Emotionally, it was a tough game to play. We had a big battle against Washington, and I could see the emotion was not quite there," the Montreal coach said, referring to a 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday. "We got some 'A' chances, but Cam Ward was good. To win in this League, you can't give up three goals. It's too demanding."
The Hurricanes host the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday; the Canadiens return home to face the Boston Bruins on Wednesday.