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Halak's shaky start raises questions for Habs

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Halak's shaky start raises questions for Habs
After Alex Ovechkin called Jaroslav Halak’s nerves into question following Game 2 and the goalie was pulled in the second period of Monday’s game, the Canadiens must decide who will start a crucial Game 4.
MONTREAL -- Given the chance to roast his assumed No. 1 goalie, Canadiens coach Jacques Martin not surprisingly chose a different route.

"I don't think it's (a case of) what has gone wrong with him," Martin said Monday night after his team lost Game 3 to Washington, 5-1, and well after he pulled starter Jaroslav Halak before 10 minutes had elapsed in the second period.

Halak gave up three goals on four shots within a span of 7:27 before Martin mercifully pulled the plug on the Slovak's night, replacing him with Carey Price. Eric Fehr's rebound goal at 8:33 was the final straw for Halak, who has yielded nine goals on the last 50 shots he's faced after a sterling 45-save winning performance in Game 1.

There was no way that Martin, mere minutes after Game 3 ended, was going to name a starting goalie for Game 4 on Wednesday. He normally doesn't make those proclamations until the day of the game, so we'll all likely have to wait to find out if he goes back to Halak or sticks with Price, who made 21 saves in less than 32 minutes of relief.

However, you have to wonder if Martin can go back to Halak now.

Halak was caught in a firestorm Sunday after Alex Ovechkin pointed out that a video replay after Washington's first goal Saturday night showed Halak visibly shaking as he squirted water into his mouth. Ovechkin said it showed Halak's nerves, and that was a good thing for the Caps.

Halak was not given the chance to respond later Sunday because the Canadiens did not make him available to the media, saying they didn't want to get into a war of words with Ovechkin and the Capitals.

Judging by his performance in the second period Monday, perhaps Ovechkin was right.

"I don't know about this game," Ovechkin said. "I didn't see a replay if he was shaking or not, but you know, we score three goals and they have to make some changes, the same as we did in the second game. It worked for us but for them it didn't."

Halak received the biggest pre-game ovation from the earsplitting Bell Centre crowd, but after Fehr scored the fans were chanting for Price and cheered when they saw him getting his equipment together to come into the game.

Halak was done after making 10 saves on 13 shots in 28:33.

Price gave up a goal to Ovechkin just over five minutes into his night, but it was a one-timer from inside the right circle that he really had no chance to stop. For some reason the Canadiens left No. 8 wide open within 15 feet of the goal, a bad idea no matter the time.

"It's always tough to jump in in the middle of a game," Price said.

Martin explained that he pulled Halak because he was trying to swing the momentum in the game. Like Ovechkin said, it worked for the Capitals in Game 2 when Bruce Boudreau replaced an ineffective Jose Theodore with Semyon Varlamov.

It did not work for the Canadiens in Game 3.

"If you look at the first goal tonight, it's a shorthanded situation where they get a 2-on-1 and our defenseman backs into him and he doesn't have a chance," Martin said, explaining Boyd Gordon's goal off his own rebound just 1:06 into the second period. "I think he played a strong first game of the series and tonight he made some good saves in the first period when he had to. In the second when we lost our momentum they capitalized."

Trust in Halak is apparently not an issue in the Habs' dressing room. Tomas Plekanec said the Canadiens believe in the goalie because he's the guy that got them to the playoffs.

"We have to do a better job defensively," Plekanec said. "I don't think he played bad. He was good, but on the rebounds we have to do a better job to clear them. You have to help him out. He made the first saves, but the rebounds, that's our job to clear them out."

The problem is that Halak left a lot of rebounds again Monday night, and that did him in.

Will he get a chance to bounce back?

Only Martin knows, and he's probably not going to share that information Tuesday.

"I think we'll meet and analyze the game," Martin said. "When you look at it, it's probably 12 minutes of bad play that cost us the game. There are some things that we did that were good, but it's one game and we have to be prepared to battle Wednesday."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


Quote of the Day

We've got a team filled with captains, that's what I think. With these first two games we got in, we're really dominating and moving the puck really fast, and it's worked out really good.

— U.S. goalie Brandon Halverson after a 6-0 win against Germany in the World Junior Championship on Sunday