Red-hot Hurricanes, Ward invade Montreal

MONTREAL — The Carolina Hurricanes are coming in hot.

After a first month of the season that featured more lows than highs, the Hurricanes ride a five-game winning streak into Thursday night's contest against the Montreal Canadiens. It's their most successful stretch since December 31, 2013 to January 9, 2014.

“Better contributions throughout the lineup,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said after his team's practice in Montreal on Wednesday afternoon. “Before, we had one or two lines going; now we've got all four going. We're playing the game the right way, we're playing hard, unselfishly and for each other, and we've been receiving good goaltending, and that's a recipe for success.”

Goaltender Cam Ward is the key to the Hurricanes' success, enjoying a strong November between the pipes. The veteran netminder is 6-1-2 this month, allowing 14 goals and recording a 1.53 goals-against average and .946 save percentage. It's a notable drop from his October stats, when he won once in five starts while averaging 3.64 goals-against and recording an .869 save percentage.

“Outstanding. He's been very good,” Peters said of Ward. “He was good early in the year, too. We've tightened up defensively a little bit and that makes our goaltenders look better, whether it's Eddie (Lack) or Cam in net. They're making some timely saves when we've needed them to.”

It's shown on the scoresheet, with Peters' squad allowing a mere five goals against during their current streak.

The Hurricanes and Canadiens face off for the second time in less than a week. The two met last Friday in Carolina, with the home side skating away with a 3-2 victory. Montreal dominated the first two periods and held a 1-0 lead in that contest but the Hurricanes pushed through with a strong third period, scoring three times in six minutes in the first half of the frame.

Montreal is coming off a strong effort in a losing cause to Ottawa on Tuesday night. The Canadiens held three separate one-goal leads but defensive miscues and unlucky bounces handed the Canadiens their fourth loss in their past five games since a 13-1-1 start.

The top line of left wing Paul Byron, center Alex Galchenyuk, and right wing Alexander Radulov has been the catalyst of Montreal's offense. Galchenyuk and Radulov each scored again versus the Senators, giving the trio eight goals in six games as a unit.

“Yeah, we scored two goals and got some chances but it's not all about scoring goals,” said Radulov, who is tied for second on the team with 17 points and tied for second in assists with Galchenyuk (13). “We got that second goal and were up 2-1 … but then we come back on the ice and give them a 2-on-1 break, and tie the game.

“That's something we have to work on — not just our line but the whole team. When we score a goal we know that the opponent is going to come hard to try to get that back so we have to be ready.”

Montreal's power play has been finding the back of the net over the last two weeks, converting at least once in five of its past six games. It struck twice against Ottawa on Tuesday but left others on the table with seven opportunities at their disposal. The Canadiens are in tough against the Hurricanes, who lead the NHL and are 22-for-22 in their last 10 games.

The Canadiens will be without defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, who will miss at least one game after taking a shot to the throat/neck Tuesday night. The team called up Mark Barberio from the AHL's St. John's IceCaps while sending blueliner Joel Hanley back down.