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While the Canadiens were out-shot in a 3-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday night, they weren’t necessary out-played.

Cristobal Huet eliminated any doubt that he wasn’t the team’s number one goalie by stopping 36 of the 38 shots he faced. Yet, Montreal’s inability to capitalize on their chances left the netminder without a win to show for the effort.

It would be easy to cast blame on the Habs’ offense for failing to take enough shots and score more goals, but truth be told, I thought the team was good enough to win tonight.

The Canadiens started off strong in this, their first home game of the season, with Christopher Higgins scoring his first marker of the season just a 1:12 into the first frame.

However, the team allowed the ‘Canes to get back into gear as the game progressed late in the first and into the second period.

Cory Stillman, who missed the season opener against Montreal with a torso injury, put Carolina on the board at 15:52 in the first period when he tapped in a rebound just to Huet’s left side after some confusion occurred in the goal mouth.

The goal was scored on a 5-on-3 powerplay with Mathieu Dandenault and Bryan Smolinski in the box for cross-checking and hooking respectively. Rod Brind’Amour and Jeff Hamilton drew assists.

The second period was the most difficult to watch. It was here that the Hurricanes won the game by frustrating the Canadiens throughout.

Penalties were the theme for the second, with both teams combining for seven minors. It was Carolina who made the most of their opportunities with their second powerplay goal of the game.

Center Matt Cullen fired in a shot that found a way through Huet with just 34 seconds remaining in the period. Eric Cole, who was shadowed perfectly by Francis Bouillon all night, snagged an assist on Cullen’s goal, as did Justin Williams.

After two period of play, the teams headed into their dressing rooms with Carolina leading 2-1 and out-shooting the Habs 30-8.

It’s not hard to guess what Guy Carbonneau and the rest of the coaching staff preached during the second intermission: more shots and fewer trips to the sin bin.

If Montreal is going to win games in what’s still referred to as the “new” NHL, they need to play a more disciplined brand of hockey. No matter how good your penalty-kill units are, you can’t afford to be taking more than five penalties a game.

Good news is, the team responded in the final period with 16 shots and zero penalties. Sadly, it was too little to late and goaltender Cam Ward shut the door on the revived Montreal offense.

The Canadiens would pull the ‘tender with about a minute left in the game, but it did little good as Chad LaRose used his speed to bring himself close enough to score into the empty net with 16 seconds left to play.

As I mentioned earlier, I do not believe the Habs were outplayed tonight. They began the game hard and their passing game was there. Though, the game plane started to fall apart late in the first and it took Montreal too long to right the ship. However, the team finished strong and will need to carry that into Tuesday’s match against the Florida Panthers where fewer penalties and more shorts will be on the agenda.

HabsWorld 3 Stars:

1. Cam Ward – Shut the door when it mattered most.

2. Cristobal Huet – Allowed two goals only a better defensive effort could have prevented.
3. Rod Brind’Amour – Faceoffs, Faceoffs, and more Faceoffs.