Montreal Canadiens' Sergei Kostitsyn (74) slips the puck past Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward (30) with Hurricanes' Brett Carson (27) nearby during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Karl B DeBlaker)
Glen Metropolit and Andrei Markov are putting the power in Montreal's power play. Not that the Canadiens really needed that much offence - not with Jaroslav Halak stopping pucks like this again.
Metropolit scored two goals with the man advantage after Markov had his third in three games, Halak made 46 saves and the Canadiens routed the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 on Wednesday night for their third straight victory.
Andrei Kostitsyn and Sergei Kostitsyn added goals, while Tomas Plekanec and Scott Gomez had three assists apiece for the Canadiens, who led 4-1 in the first period.
"We stuck to our game plan - we got pucks in deep, our power play was key right away," Metropolit said. "A team like that, they've been playing hard, but you get them down a couple goals, and maybe they're pressing a little too much, and we took advantage of it."
Montreal, which entered with the NHL's second-best power-play unit, scored three times with the man advantage and is 8-for-13 on the power play through the first three games of a season-high seven-game road trip.
And in this one, there certainly was no shortage of Canadiens putting up impressive numbers.
Plekanec, who assisted on Montreal's first three goals, pushed his three-game point total to nine, and his 36 assists rank second in the league. Halak, who was one save shy of matching the career high he set last time out against Atlanta, has stopped 133-of-137 shots in his last three games.
"You've got to be lucky for us to win these games. I got lucky tonight, I got lucky the night before and before (that)," Halak said. "Hopefully it's going to stick with me."
But the most significant contributions of late may have come from Markov, who missed two months with a leg injury. He has four points in three games - all wins on the road - while providing instant offence since his return. He was inches from a fourth goal, ringing the crossbar with an early slapshot while this one was still undecided.
"He's a great asset for us on the power play," Plekanec said. "He can make the pass. He can do anything."
Brandon Sutter scored for Carolina, which pulled starting goalie Cam Ward after he allowed three goals on seven shots in nine-and-a-half minutes.
Manny Legace made 16 saves in relief for the NHL's worst team, which has lost two straight, is 2-5-1 in its last eight and is the only team that hasn't cracked double digits in victories. And while the players are calling the situation desperate, their coach says they aren't necessarily playing that way.
"We can talk about that, but until you see it on the ice, I would say no," coach Paul Maurice said. "The words are all nice, but it happens on the ice."
The Canadiens dominated this one almost from the first drop of the puck, putting two of their first three shots past Ward and all but ending matters at the first intermission.
After Carolina's Aaron Ward went off in the opening minute for boarding, Markov slipped through the back door, took a pretty feed from Plekanec and scored 89 seconds in. Just 2:13 later, Montreal made it 2-0 when Andrei Kostitsyn slipped out from behind the net to score his 11th.
Sutter briefly made it a one-goal game midway through the first before Sergei Kostitsyn chased Ward two minutes later and Metropolit beat Legace on the power play with roughly three minutes left.
During the early moments of the second period, one Carolina fan in the upper deck could be heard chanting, "We miss Lavi!" referring to Peter Laviolette, whom the Hurricanes fired a year ago. That fan will see him again soon enough; Laviolette brings his new team, the Philadelphia Flyers, to Raleigh on Saturday.
"We've got to start climbing the ladder. It's Christmas time and we dug ourselves a big hole," Legace said. "There's tons of hockey left. ... It's possible. The only problem is, we have to grab the same rope and pull at the same time."
NOTES: The Canadiens scratched D Paul Mara (left wrist) and D Roman Hamrlik (left knee). ... D Niclas Wallin was back on the ice for the Hurricanes after missing eight games with an upper body injury. Before the game, they sent D Jay Harrison to their AHL affiliate in Albany to make room for him.