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Skinner scores 2 goals, Hurricanes keep playoff hopes alive with win over Habs

Carolina Hurricanes' Tuomo Ruutu (15), of Finland, controls the puck as Montreal Canadiens' Brian Gionta (21) chases and P.K. Subban falls to the ice during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, March 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

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Carolina Hurricanes' Tuomo Ruutu (15), of Finland, controls the puck as Montreal Canadiens' Brian Gionta (21) chases and P.K. Subban falls to the ice during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, March 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

RALEIGH, N.C. - Jeff Skinner has made scoring look easy at times during his first season with Carolina. For a change, so did another of the Hurricanes' rookies.

Skinner had two goals and an assist, defenceman Jamie McBain had his first career two-goal game and Carolina beat the Montreal Canadiens 6-2 on Wednesday night to continue its push for a playoff spot.

"Looking back at the beginning of the season, I don't think I would have predicted (myself) to be here," said Skinner, who leads all rookies with 58 points and has 29 goals. "I look back and don't predict a lot of things that have happened, so you just sort of just try to roll with it, and hopefully we can keep it going."

Cory Stillman had a goal and an assist and Joni Pitkanen also scored for the ninth-place Hurricanes, three points behind Buffalo and the New York Rangers in the race for one of the eight Eastern Conference playoff spots. Carolina has won six of its last eight.

"We're playing really well. We're playing with some confidence, and that's what you need to do, especially at this time of the year," said Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, who made 38 saves. "You can't play with fear of the what-ifs. You've got to take care of your business and enjoy the challenge that we have in front of us."

Mike Cammalleri and rookie P.K. Subban scored power-play goals for Montreal, which held a 40-35 shots advantage yet lost for the fifth time in seven games.

"We knew they were going to be desperate. They're fighting for the playoffs," Canadiens defenceman Roman Hamrlik said. "We just were not ready mentally. ... I don't think we competed, and they outworked us tonight."

Carey Price stopped 22 shots but allowed four goals in two periods for the Canadiens. Alex Auld replaced him to start the third and finished with seven saves.

"I can't blame the goalie," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. "I think it was more tonight where our defence, we made some mistakes that cost us."

Carolina never trailed and was in control all night, scoring twice in each period en route to its highest-scoring game since a 6-4 win over Toronto on Jan. 24.

When Montreal briefly made it a one-goal game in the second, the Hurricanes used a pair of goals from their defencemen to pull away and improve to 7-11-1 in the second games when they play on back-to-back nights.

Cammalleri pulled the Canadiens to 2-1 when, after some nifty stickhandling in front of Ward, he chipped the puck over the goalie's shoulder.

But 47 seconds after that goal, McBain restored Carolina's two-goal lead when he uncorked a slap shot from behind the circle that beat Price high, and Pitkanen made it 4-1 with a slapshot with 10:57 left.

"Any time you can respond after a shift like that, when they had just scored, is big," McBain said. "It brought the momentum back on our side, which obviously we wanted and were able to carry forward."

Carolina got off to got off to a fast start, courtesy of their 18-year-old budding star who certainly has been on a tear lately.

Skinner scored the Hurricanes' first two goals, striking first with 8:59 left in the opening period when he beat Price with a pretty snap shot. Roughly four minutes later, he made it 2-0 when he beat Price with a backhand. Skinner had the secondary assist on Pitkanen's goal, giving him his fourth three-point game of the season.

That came after the NHL's youngest player came up big a night earlier at Washington. Skinner scored a third-period goal and added a score in the shootout to help the Hurricanes claim a win over the Capitals, and has five goals in six games.

"We knew what he can do," Martin said. "Both goals that he got, there were mistakes that we made and gave him good opportunities."

NOTES: Montreal C Tomas Plekanec and D James Wisniewski each had two assists. ... Plekanec has nine points in four games this season against Carolina. ... Carolina RW Tuomo Ruutu added two assists. ... Play was stopped for 12 minutes early in the third when Ruutu's hit on Montreal D Hal Gill near the Hurricanes' bench shattered the glass, showering it on Carolina equipment manager Bob Gorman, who did not appear to be hurt.

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