The Carolina Hurricanes blew a big chance to gain ground in the Eastern Conference standings when Andrei Kostitsyn scored on the power play with 3:53 left in the third period to give the Montreal Canadiens a 4-3 win in Montreal Saturday night.
Carolina was playing without their captain and leading scorer, Eric Staal who suffered an upper body injury against the Penguins on Friday. Staal is expected to return to the lineup in time for the Canes next contest on Tuesday night.
The red hot Jussi Jokinen gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead when he scored on a the rebound of a Brandon Sutter shot. The play was set up by a strong forecheck and pretty pass by Jiri Tlusty from behind the Montreal net. It was Jokinen’s 100th career NHL goal.
Mike Cammalleri evened the score at the 13:48 mark of the first period on a hard, high wrist shot set up by a strong forecheck by Jeff Halpern. Lars Eller gave the Habs a 2-1 lead just 3:05 later off another Canes turnover set up by a strong Montreal forecheck.
The Hurricanes evened the score at 2-2 on Tuomo Ruutu’s 15th goal of the year just 2:10 into the second period but Tomas Plekanec snapped a low shot past Cam Ward on the glove side to give Montreal a 3-2 advantage just 3:03 later.
The Canes didn’t quit and the recently reacquired Corey Stillman made it 3-3 midway through the middle stanza on a low snap shot from the left circle.
Carolina took only one minor penalty in the game but the Canadiens made them pay for it. With Jeff Skinner in the penalty box for holding, Kostitsyn deflected a shot by Roman Hamrlik from the point to give the Habs the lead 4-3.
Skinner had the Hurricanes best chance to even the score late in the game but Habs’ goalie Alex Auld made a pad save on the rookie’s low wrist shot and Montreal earned a big two points.
The loss was a tough one for Carolina Coach Paul Maurice to deal with. “That hurts,” Maurice admitted. “You’ve got to be able to play a smart game on the road and we got one [penalty] at the wrong time and it’s in the net.”
The Canes are still in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 67 points, just two points ahead of the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo has two games in hand, however.
The Hurricanes return to action Tuesday night when they host the Florida Panthers.
About the Author
Written by Brad Kurtzberg
Hockey writer for more than 10 years. Has been published on Fox Sports, MSG Network, Huffington Post and Inside Hockey. Wrote the book, "Shorthanded: The Untold Story of the Seals, Hockey's Most Colorful Team" on the old California Golden Seals and is presently working on his second book.