Ward stops 30 shots as 'Canes push Habs to brink of elimination

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Cam Ward single-handedly tilted the ice in
favor of the Carolina Hurricanes with his play between the pipes.
He won't take the credit, of course, but that's not a problem.

His teammates gladly sent it his way.

"Whenever we lapsed a little, he was there," center Kevyn
Adams said. "You need those big saves, and we got them. He was

The 22-year-old former backup stopped 30 shots to win his third
straight start, Eric Staal and Matt Cullen had power-play goals and
the Hurricanes beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on Sunday night to
take a 3-2 advantage in the Eastern Conference series.

In each of the first four games, the visiting team came out on
top, with two going beyond regulation. Carolina became the first
host to take a two-goal lead before the Canadiens rallied, and now
the teams head back to Montreal for Game 6 on Tuesday night.

The Hurricanes were 31-8-2 at the RBC Center this season,
trailing only Nashville (65 points) in the NHL for most points at
home. Calgary tied Carolina with 64.

"We're not there yet," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said.
"There's still a lot of work, and this is not going to be an easy
task going up to Montreal. To be honest, we're going to have to
play better than we did tonight."

Ward took over for usual starter Martin Gerber in the opening
period of the second game, and even though the Hurricanes
eventually lost in double overtime, he was solid enough to give
them a chance. Ward had 50 saves in his first two playoff starts
and Carolina won both to even the series. He was just as good in
this one.

"I feel really comfortable," Ward said. "I'm just enjoying
the moment and having a blast doing it. It's only fitting when
you're winning, because winning's always fun."

And for the first time, the Hurricanes were able to play from

They looked in charge from the opening faceoff, when Staal and
Josef Vasicek both took shots in the first 12 seconds. Cristobal
Huet turned away both, but he couldn't do the same when Carolina
went on the man-advantage 4:18 into the period.

Nine seconds later, Staal had the first goal, taking a backhand
pass from Cory Stillman and sending a slap shot from the point past

"Stiller made a great play getting it through their
fore-checker, who was kind of collapsing down on him," Staal said.
"I got a little more time and got a good look at the net."

Cullen made it 2-0 in the second period when Montreal again was
short-handed, after defenseman Andrei Markov sent the puck in the
crowd. Another shot from the top got through Huet, with Cullen
using a screen from Stillman for his third goal of the series.

"It comes down to the same things we've been talking about,"
Canadiens right wing Alex Kovalev said. "We're still, in this
series, better 5-on-5. They've scored a lot of goals on the power
play. If you take those away, it would be a different game."

Kovalev then brought the Canadiens to 2-1 with a beautiful goal
in the final minute of the second. Moments after Ward stopped him
from right in front of the crease, Kovalev carried the puck into
the zone, then held it smartly to force defenseman Niclas Wallin
back on his heels.

Kovalev wound up and sent a shot through the legs of teammate
Garth Murray, and Ward nearly gloved it before it found the net.
That cut the margin in half, but Ward and the Hurricanes did enough
down the stretch to hold on.

"I know the second half of the game, we started to make some
head roads and we spent time in the offensive zone," Montreal
general manager and coach Bob Gainey said. "We were able to win
pucks and control the play and control the puck in the offensive

Still, it wasn't enough, thanks mostly to Ward, the 25th overall
selection in the 2002 draft.

"He's a No. 1 pick, he's supposed to be a pretty good hockey
player," Laviolette said. "Experience always helps young players.
He's been real good for us."

Game notes
Carolina D Glen Wesley left the game in the second period
after a shot glanced off his wrist. He stayed on the bench for a
short time and iced the injury, then headed back in the game. ...
Montreal C Steve Begin saw his first action of the series after
missing the first four games with a knee injury. ... The
standing-room-only crowd of 18,887 was even louder than normal,
thanks to thousands of thunder sticks given away. It was so loud
none of the players heard the whistle when Hurricanes D Bret
Hedican was called for a penalty in the first period, and play
continued for a few seconds.