MONTREAL -- The Carolina Hurricanes stayed focused on Montreal, even with a game against the NHL's best team looming less than 24 hours later.
Whitney, who also assisted on Erik Cole's goal in the first, scored a power-play goal with 33.8 seconds remaining in the middle period. He added another goal -- his 14th of the season -- 6:28 into the third against Jaroslav Halak, who replaced rookie Carey Price to begin the period.
"It's never a great feeling going in to face them in Detroit, regardless, but certainly the way we played tonight was much better than we did the other night in Tampa Bay," Whitney said. "It certainly gives us something to build on going into (Sunday) knowing that we're going to have to be even better than we were tonight to be competitive with them."
Andrei Kostitsyn scored a power-play goal in the second, the lone tally by Montreal, which has lost six of eight (2-5-1).
"They played hard tonight," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "They were going stride for stride at the beginning. We scored a couple in the first and got a jump, but they showed up and played."
Price stopped 26 of 30 shots through the first two periods.
"I think he knows he needs to be better but he's a 20-year-old who's still learning a lot, and on that he's probably ahead of the curve," Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. "But unfortunately, in the situation we're in, we need him and everyone to play well."
Booed throughout the third period, the Canadiens lost their fifth straight at the Bell Centre.
"Toward the end of the game I was booing from the penalty box for the fans, just trying to start something for them," Cole said. "We addressed it. You can get the crowd turned on them a little bit but it's different than in other arenas. Here, you've got to put one in the net. In other places you can slow the game down and you can lose the crowd but here it takes a little more, that's for sure."
Carolina held an 18-8 shooting margin in the first period as Cole and Staal combined to give the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead.
Cullen made a fine centering pass from the left side to set up Cole's opening goal at 3:51.
Montreal appeared to have tied the game at 8:58 but a video review determined that Canadiens forward Mark Streit had kicked the puck over the goal line after Ward bobbled Francis Bouillon's point shot and dropped it behind him.
Staal made it 2-0 when he got credit for his 15th goal on a power play at 12:13.
Montreal's Mike Komisarek spent most of the second sitting in the penalty box.
Komisarek fought Scott Walker 37 seconds in after he was checked headfirst into the boards by the Carolina right winger. The Canadiens defenseman was given a minor for instigating, a major for fighting, and an automatic misconduct for a total of 17 minutes in penalties.
Price stopped Justin Williams' shot on a short-handed breakaway at 8:56, and Kostitsyn drew Montreal within 2-1 moments later. He redirected Alex Kovalev's centering pass 9:36 into the second to finish off a fine passing play begun by Tomas Plekanec.
Brind'Amour deflated the sold-out crowd of 21,273 at 11:46 when he took Chad LaRose's centering pass from the left side and beat Price from the slot to restore Carolina's two-goal lead at 3-1.
"Every time you get a goal scored on you, obviously you hear about it and you want to get that next one right away and we were fortunate enough that we did," Brind'Amour said. "We kind of got the game back to where it was just our game, we didn't have to do too much, just keep them to the outside and not give up too many good chances, and we pretty much did that."
- The Hurricanes, who also have a five-game road trip from Feb. 2-12, went 3-1-2 -- including a 3-1 win against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Oct. 13 -- on their season-high, six-game trip from Oct. 6-20.
- Halak, who was recalled from Hamilton of the AHL on Monday, made his season debut and stopped six shots in the third.