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Brind'Amour's late goal lifts 'Canes past Canadiens

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Things didn't go exactly to plan for the
Carolina Hurricanes, from blowing an early two-goal lead to giving
up a tying goal seconds after denying a third-period penalty shot.

And that's what made Saturday night's win so satisfying for
coach Peter Laviolette.

Rod Brind'Amour scored his second goal with 1:52 left to lead
the Hurricanes past the Montreal Canadiens 5-3, giving Carolina its
sixth win in seven home games.

Cory Stillman, Erik Cole and Aaron Ward each added a goal and an
assist for the Hurricanes, while Martin Gerber made 24 saves.

Andrei Markov, Michael Ryder and Jan Bulis scored for the
Canadiens, who finished 1-4 on a five-game trip against Southeast
Division opponents.

With the win, Carolina opened an 11-point division lead over
defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay -- the biggest margin for
any division leader.

"Things were bouncing funny out there tonight, it seemed all
night," Laviolette said. "It was a real good win for us because
we had to work for it. We had to keep battling to get the two
points, and I think those kinds of wins make you earn your
stripes."

On this night, that meant fighting through a tough third period
that included seeing Matt Cullen's go-ahead goal disallowed after
officials ruled he kicked the puck while sliding into the crease.
Montreal later tied it at 3 on Markov's goal with 3:24 left after
Gerber had stopped Ryder on a penalty shot 5 seconds earlier.

But Brind'Amour provided a quick answer, taking a pass from Cole
on the left side and tapping it by Jose Theodore for the 4-3 lead.
Ward closed the game with an empty-net score with less than a
second to play.

Brind'Amour also scored in the first period. He sent the puck
toward Theodore on the left side, but it appeared to glance off a
Montreal player's stick and got by the goalie at 7:34.

"It was a good way to end (the year)," Brind'Amour said. "We
deserved that game. I thought we played a little better than they
did. ... It seemed kind of crazy like it wasn't going to go our
way, but (Cole) made a great play to me and I was able to put it
away."

Gerber did his part to preserve the win by stopping Ryder on the
penalty shot. Ryder faked right and tried to go left, but Gerber
sprawled out on the ice and stopped the puck with his right pad.

He also stopped Mike Ribeiro on a breakaway attempt a few
minutes earlier.

"He didn't have to make a ton of great saves tonight,"
Brind'Amour said, "but when he did he was there."

It was a disappointing way for the Canadiens to close their road
trip. They trailed 2-0 after Cole's goal 50 seconds into the second
period, but fought back with scores from Ryder and Bulis to tie it
heading into the final period.

"Sometimes you wonder if you need it to be a roller
coaster-type of game," Montreal coach Claude Julien said. "We got
ourselves back in the game and somehow found a way to let it slip
away."

Game notes
Carolina improved to 2-2 on New Year's Eve at the RBC
Center. The Hurricanes had lost the past two, falling to the New
York Rangers in 2002 and Anaheim in 2003. ... Stillman assisted on
Brind'Amour's second goal, extending his point streak to eight
games (three goals, 10 assists). ... Carolina got a scare when Eric
Staal was injured after being taken down on a breakaway by Francis
Bouillon at 15:48 of the second. Bouillon crashed into Staal's
right knee, and the two slid into Theodore into the net. No penalty
was called and Staal hobbled to the locker room briefly before
returning to the bench late in the second.