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Canes spank Habs, move atop overall NHL standings

MONTREAL (AP) -- Justin Williams and the Carolina Hurricanes got
their game back on track after their coach gave them a timely
breather.

Justin Williams and Ray Whitney each scored twice and Eric Staal
got his 40th goal as Carolina moved atop the NHL's overall
standings Thursday night with a 5-1 win over the Montreal
Canadiens.

Martin Gerber, making his sixth straight start, stopped 28 shots
as the Hurricanes moved ahead of Detroit for the overall league
lead with 96 points.

"I think it's one of the fastest-paced games that we've played
this year," Williams said. "The teams battled hard for position
out there but we were able to close the game out and save our best
for the third period."

Canadiens defenseman Mathieu Dandenault scored his second of the
season at 4:17 of the third to ruin Gerber's shutout bid and draw
Montreal to within 2-1.

Right after the goal, Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette called a
timeout.

"It was real positive and the guys responded really well," he
said. "They went right out and down in their end and gained
scoring chances. I just wanted to remind them of what makes them
successful."

Williams, who also had two assists, scored his 23rd goal late in
the second and restored Carolina's two-goal lead when he scored his
24th -- his second of the game -- at 9:47 of the third.

"The crowd came into it a little bit more when they scored the
goal to make it 2-1, and our coach called a great timeout, told us
to settle down, calm things down and really not play the
scoreboard," Williams said. "We came out, got a two-goal cushion
again and took the game over from there."

Whitney opened the scoring early in the second on a shot that
went in the goal just before the net was dislodged. He added a
power-play goal in the third to make it 4-1 before Staal scored on
a 5-on-3.

"It doesn't come by yourself, it comes with other guys that you
play with and teammates," Staal said of reaching the 40-goal
plateau. "It's been a good year so far and obviously we need to
finish strong, and I would like to finish strong and be ready for
the playoffs."

David Aebischer, Gerber's teammate with Switzerland's Olympic
team, made 36 saves as he lost his Montreal debut. Acquired from
Colorado in the March 8 trade that sent Jose Theodore to the
Avalanche, Aebischer backed up Cristobal Huet -- who ended a streak
of 14 straight starts Thursday -- for his first two games with the
Canadiens.

"It doesn't really matter who you're facing," Aebischer said.
"It's great to have an opportunity to play against a team like
that and unfortunately we came up short tonight but that's one
game. We have to put it behind us and look forward because there
are a lot of tough games coming up."

Montreal's grip on the eighth place in the Eastern Conference
was cut to one point by ninth-place Atlanta, which won 4-2 over the
New York Islanders.

The Hurricanes improved to 6-1-2 since the Olympic break.

After a scoreless first, Whitney opened the scoring 5:24 into
the second when he put Williams' rebound past Aebischer just as the
Canadiens' goalie knocked the net out of place. Referee Mike
Hasenfratz immediately signaled a goal, which was backed up by a
video review.

Williams scored at 16:02 to make it 2-0.

Game notes
Gerber made a season-high 10 starts in a row from Dec.
6-28. ... Huet was 8-3-3 over the course of his streak, registering
points in 11 of 12 games (8-1-3) at one point. ... Canadiens D
Andrei Markov missed his second straight game because of back
spasms. ... A third member of Switzerland's Olympic team took part
in the game. Montreal D Mark Streit, the Swiss team's captain,
replaced Markov in the lineup for the second game in a row.