RALEIGH, N.C. - Tonight's Flyers opponent, the Carolina Hurricanes, weren't having a very jolly holiday break.

While the Flyers were savoring a 5-2 win over Tampa Bay on Wednesday, the Hurricanes were bandaging their wounds from a listless 5-1 loss to Montreal the same night.

As a result, the Hurricanes went into the two-day Christmas layoff with two straight home losses.

Adding a little spice to tonight's game in Raleigh is the fact that new Flyers coach Peter Laviolette guided Carolina to the Stanley Cup in 2006 but was fired by the Hurricanes early last December after a 12-11-2 start.

During the early moments of the second period during the Montreal drubbing, one Carolina fan in the upper deck could be heard chanting, "We miss Lavi!" referring to Laviolette.

For the Hurricanes, those halcyon days of Stanley Cup glory must seem like an awfully long time ago. They are now 9-22-6 with an NHL-low 24 points.

The Hurricanes weren't even helped by the weight of history on Wednesday. The Canadiens were playing under the spectre of a so-called pre-Christmas curse because they had not won a game on Dec. 23 since 1945.

However, after Montreal raced out to a 4-1 first-period lead, it was clear who would be cursed that evening, and the strain of still another impending loss was evident on Carolina.

Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice declined his usual TV interview between the first and second periods. And 20-year-old center Brandon Sutter, who had scored the 'Canes lone goal on a first-period power play, also became unavailable for a player interview after initially putting on the headset.

In the first period, Carolina goaltender Cam Ward didn't last the first 10 minutes. After allowing three goals on seven shots in the first 9 minutes, 32 seconds, Ward headed to the bench as Manny Legace took over in net.

Not that it slowed down the Habs (18-18-3). Montreal, the NHL's best power-play team on the road, added its second power-play score of the period against Legace and then another in the second period - both by Glen Metropolit.

While some Carolina players are calling the situation desperate, their coach says they aren't necessarily playing that way.

"We can talk about that, but until you see it on the ice, I would say no," Maurice said. "The words are all nice, but it happens on the ice."

The 'Canes were grim-faced as they returned to the ice for the second period against Montreal. Their intensity level was higher, pumping up the crowd, but Carolina couldn't gear up a comeback.

Carolina center Eric Staal, dropped to the second line in the second period, had an early breakaway but was stoned by the Habs' Jaroslav Halak. That turned cheers to groans.

Soon, there were some boos. The 'Canes couldn't score on a 5-on-3, despite using their time-out to organize, then were penalized for having too many players on the ice.

"We've got to start climbing the ladder. It's Christmastime, and we dug ourselves a big hole," Legace said after the game. "There's tons of hockey left. . . . It's possible. The only problem is, we have to grab the same rope and pull at the same time."