Christopher Higgins got the Habs off and running just 1:12 into the game. After a failed attempt by Carolina to clear the defensive zone, Montréal had a great chance and they cashed in on it. Saku Koivu had the lone assist.
At 15:52, Demolition Derby Stillman tied the score at the tail end of a five-on-three power play. He was on the doorstep and easily tucked in a rebound of a Rod Brind'Amour shot. Eric Staal got the secondary assist.
During the period, Carolina's penalty kill looked really good, and they even had a few quality shorthanded chances. Better, though, was Cristobal Huet. He very calmly and adeptly handled all but one of the shots fired his way.
The second period was more of the same. Carolina had the majority of the scoring chances, and Huet was incredible. At roughly 13:00 of the second, he made a remarkable save on Eric Staal, who had a beautiful give-and-go scoring chance on the front porch.
Carolina chinked Huet's armor at 19:26 at the end of a power play. While utilizing the five-forward system, Erik Cole found Matt Cullen all alone in the slot for a quick shot that made it to the back of the net. It was Carolina's second power play goal of the night, and their seventh in the last three games.
In the third period, the home team came to life and they had the majority of the scoring chances. After mustering just four shots in each of the first two periods, the Canadiens fired 16 shots on Cam Ward in the third stanza. Meanwhile, they cracked down defensively, and only allowed the Canes 8 SOG in the third after allowing 13 in the first and 17 in the second.
At around 15:00 of the third, Huet took a sure goal away from Scott Walker, keeping the Habs in the game.
On the other end, Ward made dazzling save after dazzling save while Frantisek Kaberle, Bret Hedican and Nic Wallin "manned up" in front of him. Hedican was especially good, blocking a ton of shots. There is a marked difference in Ward's mobility this season, and one has to assume that it comes from his 20-pound weight loss and his attention to diet and training over the summer.
At 19:44, Chad "Sharpie" LaRose finally got a goal. Sure, it was an empty net goal, but they all look like highlight reel goals in the boxscore. He has worked exceptionally hard this season, and has been denied by posts and crossbars, and impossible saves. It's about time he got rewarded for his effort with an easy goal.
FSN South gave the three stars to Matt Cullen (third), Cristobal Huet (second) and Cam Ward (first). The "official" three stars went to Bret Hedican (third), Matt Cullen (second) and Cristobal Huet (first). I see it a little differently. The RBH three stars:
THIRD STAR Bret Hedican, CAR --- 6 blocked shots
SECOND STAR Cristobal Huet, MTL --- 35 saves
FIRST STAR Cam Ward, CAR --- 23 saves (16 in the 3rd), win
Without the Frenchman, this game would have been a runaway for Carolina. Huet deserves high marks for his heroic effort.
With help from his friends, Ward was able to win his fourth straight game, and now has a GAA of 1.80 and a save percentage of .943. With four wins, he stands behind only Martin Gerber in that category. And oh yeah, he beat Gerber on Thursday night.
Carolina has now won eight straight games in the
Tampa and Washington both lost tonight, which means that Carolina has increased their Southeast Division lead to three points. Obviously, it's WAY too early to think about playoff pictures, but the boys are off to a very good start.