Ward plays spoiler against Canadiens
Hurricanes goalie makes 34 saves in 2nd start since return from back injury
Tied 1-1 entering the third period at home with a huge shots advantage and a playoff berth as motivation, fans of the Montreal Canadiens had to like their team's chances.
But whether it was their frustration at the sterling play of Carolina goalie Cam Ward or something in the water in the Montreal dressing room, the home side showed little urgency in the final 20 minutes.
Well, at least until the final 60 seconds when goalie Carey Price was pulled for an extra attacker. That's when the Canadiens pushed for the equalizer but were denied by Ward, who shone in the final seconds for a 2-1 Carolina win on Wednesday night.
Ward, making just his second start since returning from a back injury, did his best to hurt Montreal's post-season push with a 34-save performance to raise his career record versus the Canadiens to 10-3-2.
He was at his best in the first period, stopping 11 of 12 shots, including several quality scoring chances.
Ward also made a game-saving pad stop on Brian Gionta with only 10 seconds to play in regulation.
After being outplayed for much of the first 40 minutes, Carolina turned it on in the third, helped greatly by a boarding penalty to Mike Cammalleri at the 38-second mark.
Staal scores 24th
Moments after the penalty expired, Erik Cole spun and shot one from the slot. Price made a skate save, but Staal was all alone on the doorstep to score his 24th of the season at 2:55 of the period. It stood as the winner and moved the 33-35-9 Hurricanes to within seven points of Boston for the final playoff spot in the East.
Carolina continued its dominance in Montreal, improving to 11-0-2 in their last 13 games at the Bell Centre, including playoffs.
Brandon Sutter had the other goal for the Hurricanes, his 20th of the season. Sutter could become the first player in 10 years to reach 20 goals with no penalty minutes. He had six points in 50 games a year ago.
At 37-32-8, Montreal sits eighth in the NHL's Eastern Conference with 82 points , two more than ninth-place Atlanta in the NHL's Eastern Conference, and have one win to show for their last six starts. Sixth-place Philadelphia and No. 7 Boston also have 82 points but own a game in hand on the Canadiens.
Montreal's Marc-Andre Bergeron opened the scoring at 8:04 of the first period on a one-time blast that beat Ward to the glove side as Carolina's Jay Harrison sat in the penalty box. It was the defenceman's 11th goal of the season and seventh on the power play.
Montreal's No.2-ranked power play, which has struggled mightily of late, had not scored in its previous 11 chances on home ice.
The Canadiens finished 1-for-7 with the man-advantage on Tuesday night and no doubt felt the loss of forward Glen Metropolit, who leads the team with 10 power-play goals. He will miss the next six to eight weeks with a shoulder injury.
Kostitsyn hurt in 1st period
Canadiens winger Sergei Kostitsyn came away limping after taking a hit later in the first period and did not return to the game. The team said he had a lower body injury.
It was yet another hard-luck loss for Price, whose record dropped to 13-20-5 on the season despite stopping 25 of 27 shots. In his last five losses, the Canadiens have scored a total of eight goals.
Price was especially good in the third period, when Carolina outshot Montreal 17-10 but only managed to get one past him.
Prior to the opening faceoff, Canadian gold medal moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau, silver medal mogul skier Jennifer Heil and freestyle ski coach Dominick Gauthier were introduced to the sellout crowd of 21,273 and received a rousing standing ovation.
Montreal visits Philadelphia Friday for a 7 p.m. ET start against the Flyers, who sit sixth in the East with 82 points but have a game in hand on the Canadiens.
With files from The Canadian Press