Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Montreal Earns 5th Win After Toppling Panthers

Does Montreal have a bonafide starting goaltender? If you believe it's Carey Price, someone is begging to differ. His name? Jaroslav Halak.

Halak was sensational in goal as the Habs went on to defeat the Panthers by a score of 3-1. He made 35 saves including some highlight reel desperation grabs and kick saves to limit the Panthers surging offense to just a goal.

The Habs goaltending tandem has been simply STELLAR to open the season, and the stats don't lie.

Halak improved his save percentage to .967 on the season while allowing a single goal in both his starts. He's been a perfect compliment to Price, who has a .939 save percentage and a 3-0-1 record thus far.

''It was one of his best games (with the Canadiens), and it's not easy for him because it had been several days since he played,'' Habs coach Guy Carbonneau said of Halak. ''It's fun for a coach to have two guys like that who you can send in there against anybody.''

Francis Bouillon made his first start of the season, and wound up scoring the game's winning goal. The goal was scored by Bouillon on a slap shot through a screen from the point. But the point is not where Bouillon started this game. He was slotted in at wing on the fourth line to begin the contest, eventually moving back to his natural position at defense.

''That's a little weird, it's really tough doing both,'' Bouillon said. ''As you could see, I'm not too comfortable playing forward.''

Saku Koivu scored in his third straight game and Tomas Plekanec scored into an empty net for the Canadiens while Andrei Markov extended his points streak to six games with an assist on Koivu's goal.

Montreal took the lead at 2:07 of the second period when Markov found himself behind the Panthers defence and whiffed on a shot attempt but then blindly dropped a pass to Koivu, who tucked it inside the far post for his third of the season.

''Half the players in this league couldn't even imagine making the plays he makes,'' Koivu said of Markov, who has nine assists in six games. ''It makes the forwards jobs so much easier playing with him. Like on my goal tonight, there's only a handful of players who can miss a shot and recover in time to find a guy and get him the puck.''

Florida tied it up on a Keith Ballard goal that came off a Cory Stillman rebound. It was Ballard's first as Panther. Ballard was traded along with Nick Boynton from Phoenix for then-captain Olli Jokinen.

Plekanec added a short-handed empty netter with 22 seconds remaining. Maxim Lapierre was in the box serving a 2-minute minor for holding-the-stick, taken with 2:17 remaining in a one-goal game.

Ryan O'Byrne had a particularly disappointing outing. He logged just under 9 minutes of ice-time, and had 3 giveaways. Alex Kovalev didn't have too many negative stats, as he finished with an assist and a +1 rating, but he looked out of place on the ice and seemed to be fighting the puck. To his credit, Florida had a steady presence of defensemen all over Kovy throughout the game, proof that teams have taken notice to Kovalev's standout season last year.

Montreal was 0-for-5 on the powerplay, and killed off both of Florida's man-advantages.

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