AP Sports Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Eric Staal scored in the shootout to lead the Carolina Hurricanes past the Montreal Canadiens, 2-1 on Thursday night.
Chad LaRose scored a power-play goal, and Cam Ward made 30 saves before stopping the Canadiens cold in the tiebreaker to give the Hurricanes their second straight victory and first win in a shootout this season.
Blake Geoffrion scored, and Peter Budaj stopped 28 shots for the Canadiens. They were 0 for 7 on the power play before a shootout in which Ward stuffed Lars Eller and David Desharnais and former Hurricane Erik Cole rang the right post on his attempt.
Staal then ended it when he chipped a wrist shot over Budaj's glove.
The Hurricanes improved to 9-0-2 in their last 11 games against Northeast Division opponents, and handed Montreal to its seventh straight road loss. The victory also helped Carolina in its bid to avoid its first last-place finish in the Southeast Division since 2003.
Ward came up with several spectacular saves after giving up the goal to Geoffrion.
Among them: He dove across an open net to barely deflect Desharnais' point-blank wrist shot with his blocker late in the second, about 3 minutes before he used his right pad to stuff Tomas Plekanec's short-handed breakaway attempt. Then, Ward stopped a breakaway by Andrei Markov with about 5 minutes left in the third.
A flurry of penalties in a wild final 3 minutes of the third left the Canadiens with a 4-on-3 power play for 72 seconds and a 15-second 5-on-3 advantage in the closing seconds. Despite that, the Hurricanes had the best chance to win it in regulation but Budaj stuffed LaRose on a breakaway with about 5 seconds left.
LaRose tied it at 1 with 9:58 left in the second when he stuffed a loose puck between Budaj's pads, giving the Hurricanes a power-play goal in two straight games. It came after Geoffrion scored the opening goal by collecting the rebound of Mike Blunden's shot from the circle and slipping a pretty wraparound past Ward 4:32 into the second.
Geoffrion's score came during a 15-minute stretch in which Carolina put just two shots on Budaj _ mostly because so many Hurricanes were parading to the penalty box. Montreal's fourth power-play chance came in opening minute of the second period, and the Canadiens came up empty on all four.
NOTES: Canadiens D Tomas Kaberle returned after missing nine games with an upper body injury, and made his first visit to Raleigh since the Hurricanes traded him to Montreal on Dec. 9 for D Jaroslav Spacek. Spacek was in the starting lineup after a lower body injury cost him eight games. ... The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame said it will honor the Hurricanes' 2006 Stanley Cup championship team as part of its "Great Moments" series. ... Staal was named team MVP and D Jay Harrison won the Josef Vasicek Award for cooperation with the local media after a vote of the Carolina chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
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