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The Montreal Canadiens finally stopped the bleeding tonight, defeating the
Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2.  The game got off to a slow start, as neither
team scored in the first period.  Jaroslav Halak, playing his first career
NHL game, didn’t let the nerves show, stopping all 11 shots he faced in the
period.  The best scoring chance came when David Vyborny of the Jackets
missed a wide open net on a rebound.  Habs fans got a scare when Steve
Begin left the ice after blocking a shot with his leg.  Though he was
unable to continue the game, he is not expected to miss any significant time.

The Habs came out strong in the 2nd, as Michael Ryder scored 18 seconds in on
a power play the carried over from the 1st period.  Later in the period,
Ryder struck again as he put on a brilliant move around the Columbus defender
before feeding the puck to Saku Koivu for an easy goal.  Just minutes
later, the powerplay came through once again, as Francis Bouillon wristed a
perfect shot through traffic and into the back of the net.

The Jackets, however, would not die quietly.  Midway through the 3rd
period, the Jackets struck twice.  The first Columbus goal was scored by
Nikolai Zherdev, who skated into the slot and put a nice shot past Halak. 
Minutes later, Gilbert Brule scored an almost identical goal.  Both goals
appeared to be the result of a poor defensive lapse, as the team let two strong
shooters skate into open space right in front of the goal.  With under a
minute left, the Jackets almost pounded in the tying goal, bringing the crowd to
its feet during a battle in front of the net.

Who to Watch Recap:

Jaroslav Halak:  He made the most of his NHL debut, as he stopped 31
of 33 shots in a winning effort.  He made a number of impressive save in
shutout efforts for the first two periods.  Though he let in two goals in
the third period, he could not be faulted too much for either goal, as his
defense certainly was not doing him any favors.  Halak was awarded the
second star of the game.

Gilbert Brule: Gilbert put in a solid effort
in limited ice time.  Despite playing less than 12 minutes, Brule was able
to put 7 shots on Halak, including the Jackets’ 2nd goal.  Brule was
awarded the third star of the game.

Saku Koivu: This is the Koivu that Habs fans have come to love. 
Though he had a couple mental lapses, Saku created a number of scoring chances. 
He assisted on Ryder’s goal and netted one himself on a nice pass from Ryder. 
This game will hopefully restore much of Koivu’s confidence, which seems to have
been lacking as of late.

Nikolai Zherdev: Nik put the puck in the net
for the first time since January 6th.  Despite the goal, Zherdev continued
one habit that he will need to change before he can reach his potential. 
On numerous occassions, he tried his patented inside-out deke, which he has had
little success with since his rookie season.

Scoring Summary:

1st Period:  
– None  

2nd Period:
– Montreal at 0:18: Michael Ryder 17 (power play) (Saku Koivu, Sheldon Souray) 
– Montreal at 6:02: Saku Koivu 17 (Michael Ryder, Christopher Higgins)   
– Montreal at 8:37: Francis Bouillon 3 (power play) (unassisted)   

3rd Period:
– Columbus at 8:05: Nikolai Zherdev 8 (Alexander Svitov, Ron Hainsey)   
– Columbus at 11:08: Gilbert Brule 6 (Sergei Fedorov, Dan Fritsche)

Three Stars:

1st:  Michael Ryder
2nd: Jaroslav Halak
3rd: Gilbert Brule