Nice re-Ward for 'Canes

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- If you missed the Carolina Hurricanes' overtime winner in Game 3 because you couldn't stay up late, Eric Staal demonstrated it again last night -- early in the game this time.

And then, just to make doubly sure the concept was clear, Matt Cullen provided a replay.

The formula is simple. When you've got a power play, you establish traffic in front, then you blast a shot from the blue line -- but it must be high because Montreal Canadiens goaltender Cristobal Huet likes to drop when he senses a shot.

The one from Staal opened the Carolina scoring. The one from Cullen finished it.

But that was all the Hurricanes needed to squeeze out a 2-1 victory over the Canadiens in Game 5, giving Carolina a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final as the series heads back to Montreal.

It was the first win for a home team in the series.

Even though it's clear the Hurricanes are shooting high on Huet, Staal was a bit coy when asked if he put the puck where he wanted it.

"I was just trying to get the puck by the first guy coming out," he said.

Cullen however, was much more forthcoming.

"I sure did," he laughed.

Staal went on to justifiably praise Cory Stillman for making the pass that set him up for a clear shot.

"I got a little more time and got a good look at the net and tried to get it by the guy coming out in front of me and it found its way into the back," Staal said.

"We found a way to get our shots through. We had two great screens in front of Huet. You need that."

But even though the Hurricanes beat Huet twice, he certainly was not the cause of the Canadiens' problems. In fact, he was their best player.

Huet stopped two excellent chances before the game was 12 seconds old, then repeatedly kept the Canadiens close enough to have a chance to win.

Alex Kovalev brought Montreal to within one late in the second period, and in the third, as the Canadiens pressed, Huet was repeatedly required to make brilliant saves.

Rod Brind'Amour and Justin Williams, among others, can attest that he answered the call.

But other than Kovalev's effort, the Canadiens couldn't get anything done at the other end as Hurricanes rookie goaltender Cam Ward once again produced a brilliant game.

And once again, as he always does, he shrugged it off.

"It's just a matter of trying to see the puck," he said. "Sometimes, you've just got to get yourself in good position to get hit by the puck and I stopped a couple of shots I didn't see."

"I can't say enough about (Ward)," Staal said. "It's a good feeling for the guys in front of him. He's so composed back there, he makes everyone feel good."

Cullen agreed with that assessment.

"He so calm," he said. "He's so poised. He doesn't seem to get rattled and that's what you need from a goalie, especially at playoff time.

"He has been unbelievable, and the thing of it is, he's making it look so simple, which I think is the sign of a great goalie. When they make it look easy, that's great because it's not easy and he's stopping everything."

But at the same time, Ward is making the Carolina offence more effective and helping to keep the pressure down at the other end.

"He has been huge," Cullen said. "When you see a guy who's making such big saves for us and he's so calm back there, it makes it easy for us. We're allowed to take a few more chances or be a little more aggressive and that's what we need."

So now, the Hurricanes are out of the hole they dug themselves and one win away from advancing to the next round. They have a whole new mindset.

When asked what the win last night meant to the team, Aaron Ward said, "It means we're not afraid to play at home now."

They may not have to do so before the next round.


Videos

Photos