MONTREAL -- Frantisek Kaberle picked up right where he left off last season.
Kaberle, who scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal last spring, scored midway through the third period in his first game of the season, helping the Carolina Hurricanes end a four-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.
Activated earlier in the day after missing the Hurricanes' first 55 games following shoulder surgery on Sept. 11, the Czech defenseman drove a slap shot from the point past David Aebischer 11:52 into the third for Carolina's second goal in three power-play opportunities.
Kaberle scored the Hurricanes' second goal in Carolina's 3-1 win over Edmonton on June 19 in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final.
"He just gets it done. That's two game-winners in a row for Frank -- Game 7 and tonight -- so we'll take him every game," said Eric Staal, who assisted on Justin Williams' power-play goal early in the second. "He's got so much poise and talent back there. He takes a shot when it's there, and it was there tonight."
Carolina won for just the second time in eight games (2-4-2).
"It's kind of nice," Kaberle said. "I'm happy we won tonight. My shoulder felt pretty good, so I'm pretty satisfied with this night."
Cam Ward stopped 25 shots in the Hurricanes' first game in Montreal since they eliminated the Canadiens in six games in the first round of their run to the Stanley Cup last season.
"I think this is one of those games that you circle on the schedule, especially with what happened last year and knowing what kind of atmosphere the fans bring to Montreal," Ward said. "We were really excited and we knew that this was a kind of do-or-die game for us. We needed this win really bad and we were just fortunate to come out on top."
Ward stopped Christopher Higgins' backhand attempt 8:20 into the third to keep it tied before Kaberle gave Carolina its second and final lead.
"It's just not going in right now," said Higgins, who has gone without a point in 10 straight games. "When you get situations like that, you have to score. There's no excuse. I'm a guy that's supposed to score on plays like that and I didn't. It's definitely wearing on me. It's frustrating. I think if I was confident in that situation, it would have been in the net. I didn't make the right move, I guess."
Alex Kovalev scored his 13th goal directly off a faceoff 4:45 into the second for Montreal's only goal.
The Canadiens have lost four of six, including three in regulation (2-3-1). Montreal is 8-12-1 since a season-high five-game winning streak from Dec. 12-21.
"It's this time of the year and it's the same thing every year," Canadiens captain Saku Koivu said. "This league is very competitive. There are maybe one or two teams that seem like they'll make the playoffs, but from the third spot to the 12th or 13th spot, everything is open. Tonight's game, those are two very valuable points and now it's even tighter."
The Hurricanes' power-play unit connected on its first opportunity after Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek was sent off for tripping 1:30 into the middle period.
Williams, who accidentally high-sticked Koivu last spring and knocked him out of the playoffs with a left eye injury, was booed often by the sellout crowd of 21,273, particularly after he combined with Staal and Rod Brind'Amour for his team-leading 27th goal.
"Anytime you touch the puck and you get booed, it's on your mind," said Williams, who was also booed loudly when he was named the game's first star.
Kovalev drew Montreal even again moments later.
Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec won a faceoff to the left of Cam Ward and drew the puck directly back to Kovalev, who quickly drove a one-timer past the Hurricanes goalie to even it at 1.
|Cam Ward makes a fine pad save on a point-blank shot from Mark Streit. (AP)|
|Carolina (27-22-7) «||0||1||1||2|
Save Pct.: .962
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|02:26||Power Play - Justin Williams (28), Wrist Shot - Assists: Eric Staal, Rod Brind'Amour|
|04:45||Alexei Kovalev (13), Slap Shot - Assist: Tomas Plekanec|
|10:52||Power Play - Frantisek Kaberle, Slap Shot - Assists: Ray Whitney, Rod Brind'Amour|
|19:38||Ryder: Hooking - 2 min.|
|19:38||Stillman: Holding - 2 min.|
|01:30||Komisarek: Tripping - 2 min.|
|09:02||Koivu: Hooking - 2 min.|
|13:34||Tanabe: Holding - 2 min.|
|05:58||Williams: Holding - 2 min.|
|09:27||Koivu: Holding - 2 min.|
|14:55||Rivet: Fighting - 5 min.|
|14:55||Ladd: Fighting - 5 min.|
|SHOTS ON GOAL|
|Attendance - 21273|
|Referees - Gord Dwyer, Dave Jackson|
|Linesmen - Steve Barton, David Brisebois|