Stillman, Cullen provide offense as Ward shuts door on Canadiens

MONTREAL (AP) -- The Carolina Hurricanes are still reaping the benefits of their biggest offensive explosion of the season.

Cory Stillman and Matt Cullen scored power-play goals and Carolina spoiled the Montreal Canadiens' home opener with a 3-1 win on Saturday night.

Cam Ward made 23 saves for the Hurricanes, who have won three straight road games in Canada since losing the opener of their current six-game trip. Carolina routed Toronto 7-1 on Monday, and beat Ottawa 5-3 on Thursday.

"Sometimes when you score seven goals in a night, obviously the other team didn't play well but it gives guys confidence and you can see that we took advantage of it for the remainder of that road trip," Stillman said.

Carolina, which flew home after the game, plays Friday in Pittsburgh before closing out its longest trip of the season Saturday in Philadelphia.

Montreal's Chris Higgins scored his first goal of the season 1:12 in to kick off the Canadiens' 98th home opener.

Stillman quieted the sellout Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 when he scored from the right edge of the crease during a 5-on-3 advantage at 15:52.

"They came out firing," said Ward, who improved to 4-0-1 in five starts. "We knew that it was their home opener and that they were going to have a lot of energy to start the game, and that's exactly what happened.

"I thought after that first goal against we really responded well and took over the game from there."

Carolina outshot Montreal 38-24, including a 13-4 margin in the first, and 17-4 in the second.

"That's an eyesore," Higgins said. "We came in after two, that was one of the main things we talked about. We didn't generate many chances at all, and eight shots after two, you're not going to win too many games with Cam Ward, who's a pretty good goalie."

Cristobal Huet, whose record fell to 1-1-1, stopped 35 shots for Montreal, including a left pad save 13:00 into the second to deny Eric Staal's deflection and keep it tied at 1.

Huet had little chance on Cullen's go-ahead goal with 34 seconds left in the middle period.

Cullen was left unattended in the slot and he leapt in celebration after beating Huet with 33.6 seconds remaining in the period for his third of the season.

"It was a big goal and this is a really big game for us," Cullen said. "It felt good to get that one, and it was an important time for us."

Chad Larose scored into an empty net at 19:44.

"Their transition game is very good," Huet said. "They're a little bit like Ottawa and they had some chances on the rush, some 2-on-1s, 3-on-1s ... that's a very dangerous team."

Canadiens defenseman Patrice Brisebois was cheered loudly during pregame introductions. Brisebois, a frequent target of Bell Centre boo birds during his first tenure with the team, returned to Montreal after signing a one-year, $700,000 free-agent deal on Aug. 3.

"That's something that was not expected and that was very, very, very nice and I'm going to remember this night for sure," Brisebois said. "Too bad we didn't win. I would have really liked to give them a big win tonight but we didn't play 60 minutes tonight.

"If you don't play 60 minutes in this league, there's no way you're going to win."

Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau also received a lengthy ovation when he was introduced.

Game notes
The Hurricanes lost their season and home opener to Montreal, 3-2 in overtime, on Oct. 3. ... Carolina began its current trip with a 2-0 loss in Washington on Oct. 6, its only defeat in regulation in six games. ... The Canadiens have not opened a season at home since 1999-2000.