The Montreal Canadiens were unable to solve Ed Belfour Tuesday night in Montreal. Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester’s goal with only four minutes left in the second period proved to be the winner of the 1-0 contest.
Belfour made 29 saves, including 16 in the third period, for his 76th shutout of his career. Cristobal Huet also played a strong game by making some big saves and allowing only a single goal on the 25 shots he faced.
It was Florida’s defensive play that made the difference in this game. They illustrated that the trap can still survive in the “New NHL” as long as you have a good goalie to back it up. Including the shootout tonight, Florida limited the Habs to only two goals in four matches this season. Montreal managed only a single win in those four matches, a 1-0 shootout win.
The Montreal Canadiens killed off all five of their penalties tonight. However, they were unable to capitalize on their four power-play opportunities. Florida played well disciplined hockey early in the game, and were only assessed their first minor midway through the second period.
Eight minutes into the third period Aaron Downey was on the ice looking for a fight. He believed he had found a taker in Bryan Allen, so Downey through off his gloves and got into position. To his surprise Allen merely shrugged and skated for a line change. The referees smacked Downey with two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct, but a sell out crowd at the Bell Centre wanted Allen to receive two for wussing out. In his defense, Allen had been hit relatively hard a few minutes early by Guillaume Latendresse and likely wasn’t in the best of conditions to fight.
Three regulars sat out for the Habs. Alex Kovalev missed the game with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Defenseman Craig Rivet missed his third straight game with pneumonia. Meanwhile, Mike Johnson missed his first game of the season with flu-symptoms.
With the three players out of the line-up, Carbonneau was forced to rework his lines. Sergei Samsonov played his first game of the season on the Habs’ top line alongside Saku Koivu and Chris Higgins. This bumped Michael Ryder down to the second line with Tomas Plekanec and Guillaume Latendresse, who was replaced by Alexander Perezhogin later in the game. Steve Begin, Radek Bonk, and Garth Murray made up Montreal’s third line while Alexander Perezhogin, Maxim Lapierre, and Downey skated on the forth. Mark Streit was moved back to defense and Janne Niinimaa was a healthy scratch for the 28th time this year.
Not only was the loss the forth straight for the Habs who haven’t won since February 4th against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it also dropped the Habs down to eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The Carolina Hurricanes beat the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 Tuesday pass the Canadiens by a point. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay also increased their lead over Montreal with a win over the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Canadiens will also be looking over their shoulders with several teams closing in on the eighth and final spot. The New York Islanders beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, providing both with enough points to put them only two back from Montreal. Meanwhile, both still hold a game in hand on the Habs.
Montreal will play in New Jersey Wednesday in what is yet another must win game. They will close out the week back home against the Carolina Hurricanes in an important four point game.