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Stillman, Cullen goals lift Hurricanes past Canadiens 3-1

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MONTREAL - The Carolina Hurricanes have swept eastern Canada's three NHL teams.

Cory Stillman and Matt Cullen scored power-play goals and the Hurricanes held off a third-period comeback attempt to defeat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 on Saturday night.

In a five-day span, the 4-1-1 Hurricanes blew out Toronto 7-1 and handed Ottawa its first loss of the season 5-3 before spoiling the Canadiens' home opener before a full house of 21,273 at the Bell Centre.

"We did a good job of taking it one game at a time," said Carolina goaltender Cam Ward, who made 16 third-period saves after seeing only eight shots through the first two. "It's been a tough, long road trip, but we're really happy with the way we're playing."

Chad Larose added an empty-net goal for the Hurricanes in the final minute.

It was a first regulation time loss for 2-1-1 Montreal, which got an early goal from Chris Higgins, but then needed spectacular goaltending from Cristobal Huet just to stay in the game.

"It's tough for the goaltender when you're not facing many shots, but when you see your counterpart, like Huet, playing so well, you do your best to rise to the occasion," added Ward.

"It could have been different, but Huet had an outstanding game."

The Canadiens came out flying, as Saku Koivu's shot was blocked by defenceman Tim Gleason, then was tipped to Higgins for a second shot that got past Ward 1:12 into the game.

But Mathieu Dandenault was sent off for cross-checking and Bryan Smolinski got it for hooking, allowing Stillman to tie the game from a scramble during a two-man advantage at 15:52.

By then, the Hurricanes' relentless, puck-pursuit checking had overwhelmed Montreal. They outshot the home side 13-4 in the first period and 17-4 in the second before Montreal reversed the flow of pressure in the third. Final shots were 38-24.

"I just tried to do my job and make sure we had a chance to win the game," said Huet, who is under pressure from rookie Carey Price to keep the starting job. "That's a dangerous team."

After a brief early flurry by Montreal, the puck rarely left the Canadiens' end of the rink in the second.

But only Cullen's power-play marker at 19:26 from the slot got past Huet, although Craig Adams dinged a goalpost midway through the period.

Huet made another brilliant save in the third, sprawling to stop Scott Walker in alone, but Ward was just as sharp as Montreal swarmed the Carolina net.

"The game is scary when you do all the right things for two periods but the score is still close," said Carolina coach Peter Laviolette. "But when Montreal picked it up, our guys did a lot of the little things - blocked shots, Justin Williams making a play in the slot to prevent a scoring chance."

Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau was irked at "penalties, a lack of concentration, a lack of details."

The Hurricanes played the fourth of a six-game road trip, but will get to spend a few days at home before their next game Friday in Pittsburgh.

Winger Erik Cole said his club doesn't want to get too excited about their strong start in which they have looked much like the team that won the Stanley Cup two seasons ago.

"We're not patting ourselves on the back just yet," he said. "It's nice to have a good start, but there's still a long way to go.

"We're getting a couple of days of rest now and then it's back out on the road."

Montreal, which opened with three road games, stays home to face Florida on Tuesday night.

The pre-game introductions saw the sell-out crowd of 21,273 give defenceman Patrice Brisebois, their former whipping boy who returned to Montreal after two years in Colorado, a long ovation.

Notes - An assist moved Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour into a tie for 56th in career NHL points with former L.A. King Dave Taylor, with 1,069 . . . Brisebois played his 794th game for Montreal, tied for 18th in franchise history with J.C. Tremblay. The club record is 1,256 by Henri Richard.. .Dennis Seidenberg sat out for Carolina while Andrew Ladd (ankle) and Mike Commordore (torso) were injured. Josh Gorges, Mikhail Grabovski and Garth Murray were healthy scratches for Montreal.

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