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The desperate Hurricanes, who trail the Rangers by 3 points for the final playoff spot, kept their post-season hopes alive with a convincing 6-2 win over a defensively inept Canadiens squad. Rookie sensation Jeff Skinner offered a superlative performance, contributing 2 goals and 1 assist in the win. Former Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward was also solid, stopping 38 shots in the win.
The game started at a torrid pace, with both teams trading quick offensive rushes. While Montreal outshot Carolina by a 17-13 margin in the opening stanza, the Canes nonetheless managed to build a 2 goal lead after twenty minutes. Midway through the frame, Brent Sopel turned the puck over to Jeff Skinner, who beat Price five-hole with a low shot. About four minutes later, another giveaway allowed the same Skinner to head to the net virtually unopposed and he lifted a nifty backhander over a sprawling netminder.
Early in the second period, Montreal managed to cut Carolinaís lead in half thanks to a man-advantage. James Wisniewski made a clever pass to Mike Cammalleri, who accepted the puck in front of the net and placed it past Cam Ward. Unfortunately for Jacques Martinís group, Jamie McBain responded with a tally of his own mere seconds afterwards. The young blueliner wired a shot from the near boards and put it over Carey Price, who was visibly searching for the puck. Another defender, Joni Pitkanen, padded his teamís lead further with a blast from between the circles three minutes later.
After allowing 4 goals on 26 shots, Carey Price was relieved by Alex Auld for the third time in six games. Although P.K Subban gave his team a glimmer of hope with a powerplay goal at 9:01 in the third, Jamie McBain would restore the Canesí three goal lead with less than five minutes left in the contest. Cory Stillman eventually added a 6th goal for Carolina during a late man-advantage. In the end, Alex Auld made 7 saves in his period of work.
HW 3 Stars
1. James Wisniewski : With the team being offensively challenged of late, James Wisniewski did his best to correct the recent goal shortage. He joined the rush with regularity, contributed two assists and obtained some good point shots. Evidently, Jacques Martin liked what he saw as Wisniewski led all defensemen in ice-time.
Statline: 0 G, 2 A, -2, 5 shots, 2 blocked shots, 24:01 TOI
2. Mike Cammalleri : One of the few top-6 forwards to consistently generate offensive chances in the game, Cammalleri was a dynamic presence, especially in the first period. Hopefully, his tally will help him snap out of his recent slump.
Statline: 1 G, 0 A, -1, 4 shots, 19:34 TOI
3. Mathieu Darche : Crashing the net with regularity, Darche obtained many quality chances in spite of his limited ice time. Truly, itís unfortunate that not everyone is blessed with his level of effort and desire.
Statline: 0 G, 0 A, -1, 4 shots, 12:44 TOI
Final Thought :The recent rough patch for the Canadiens must be eerily reminiscent for Carey Price. Much like last year, when he received minimal offensive support in many of his starts, the young netminder must play virtually mistake free hockey and cannot afford any lapse in concentration. Simply put, the team in front of him seems unable to steal a win for their star goaltender. Has Price had weaker moments in recent weeks? Certainly. But, for all the weaker moments that Plekanec, Gionta, Cammalleri, Gomez and Kostitsyn have had over the season, it would be nice to see these offensive players give the effort needed to compensate for one Priceís infrequent mediocre outings. Unfortunately, that is something we have not seen nearly enough of this year.
Louis Moustakas can be reached for comments, questions, cross-checks and, of course, fan-mail at email@example.com