Stempniak scores twice, Hurricanes down Canadiens 4-1
MONTREAL (AP) — Trying to keep pace in the postseason race, the Carolina Hurricanes took care of business in an arena at which they haven’t had much luck recently.
Lee Stempniak scored twice and the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Thursday night to extend their point streak to nine games and keep their playoff hopes alive.
Carolina had not beaten the Canadiens in Montreal in seven games (0-6-1), dating to Feb. 13, 2012. The Hurricanes had scored just four goals over that stretch.
“We’re a confident group and we think we can get into the playoffs,” Stempniak said. “We’re getting better as the season is going along. We’ve been on a good run here. We’re playing complete games and we’re not giving up much.”
Elias Lindholm and Jeff Skinner also scored for the Hurricanes, while Eddie Lack stopped 21 shots.
Carolina, undefeated in regulation time in nine straight games (6-0-3), is five points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 10 regular-season games left.
“The guys know what’s on the line,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said of the playoff picture. “This is the most important time of the season. We still believe and we’re going to keep going about our business.”
Alex Galchenyuk scored the lone goal for Montreal, which had its lead atop the Atlantic Division shrink to one point over Ottawa. Carey Price stopped 19 of 22 shots.
“Our effort and focus were unacceptable,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. “We weren’t on our game. We were chasing the puck all night. Hard to win games when that happens.”
The Hurricanes took a 2-1 lead with 39 seconds remaining in the second period when Stempniak’s seemingly harmless backhand shot took a big deflection off Alexei Emelin’s skate and skipped past Price.
Stempniak got his second of night at 5:11 of the third as he cashed in a 2-on-1 pass from Skinner. The goals were Stempniak’s 13th and 14th of the season.
Despite being one of the league’s best third-period teams, Montreal took only five shots in the third.
Julien juggled his lines, demoting Galchenyuk from first-line center to third-line winger. That move paid off just minutes into the game when Galchenyuk scored his first goal in 10 games at 6:46. Andrew Shaw and Galchenyuk moved in on Lack on a 2-on-1. Shaw completed a perfect pass to his new linemate, who scored his 16th of the season. The play got started when defenseman Jordie Benn served a big hit on Jacob Slavin in the neutral zone to force a turnover seconds earlier.
Lindholm extended his point streak to nine games when he scored his 10th of the season at 16:10 of the first, on the power play, to make it 1-1.
Skinner scored his team-leading 29th goal of the season into the empty net at 17:57 of the third.
“Our execution wasn’t there tonight,” said Phillip Danault, who centered the Canadiens’ first line between Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov. “We have to find some extra motivation. This kind of performance won’t cut it in the playoffs.”
NOTES: Montreal’s Nathan Beaulieu was a healthy scratch for the second time in the last five games.
Hurricanes: At New Jersey on Saturday night.
Canadiens: Host Ottawa on Saturday night.