Halak, Habs blank Panthers
Montreal, QC (Sports Network) - Jaroslav Halak stopped all 38 shots that he faced to pick up his second shutout of the season, as the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Florida Panthers, 2-0, at Bell Centre.
Halak recorded the sixth shutout of his career for the Canadiens, who had lost their previous four home games. Benoit Pouliot and Brian Gionta each lit the lamp for Montreal, which snapped a brief two-game skid.
"It was a big game for us. Looking at the standings, we need those points," Gionta said. "Halak kept us in the game with a couple of key saves which really helped us out."
Tomas Vokoun turned aside 37-of-38 shots for the Panthers, who have lost two straight and five of six overall.
The Canadiens scored the only goal they would need with 12.1 seconds left in the first period. Scott Gomez led a rush down the left side of the ice and passed off to Pouliot at the Florida blueline. Pouliot's wrister from the left circle found the upper left corner of the net.
Halak made 15 saves in a scoreless second frame, while Vokoun stopped 18 shots.
Gionta scored an empty-net goal in the final minute of regulation. Halak made 12 saves over the final 20 minutes to secure the victory.
"We came out short but it was a good hockey game. It's a game that you hate to lose. Their goalie played great but we weren't able to get anything past him. That will happen sometimes," Vokoun said.
Montreal won at home for the first time since a victory against the Flyers on December 7...The Canadiens beat the Panthers, 5-4, in Florida on December 31 and have won nine of the last 15 meetings between the clubs. The Panthers have lost three straight and six of their last nine in Montreal...The Canadiens were without forwards Sergei and Andrei Kostitsyn due to lower-body injuries. They were also without defenseman Ryan O'Byrne due to a family issue...The Habs started a four-game homestand on Thursday.