MONTREAL - On a night when everyone's thoughts and prayers were with the Geoffrion family following the passing of legend Bernard Geoffrion earlier in the day, Cristobal Huet and the Canadiens did "Boom Boom" proud by blanking the Rangers 1-0 Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
In their first home game in exactly a month, the Canadiens (31-23-9) won their second straight to move into seventh spot in the Eastern Conference ahead of Tampa Bay with 71 points. The Rangers (36-18-9) dropped their fourth in a row and now only hold a slim one-point lead over the Flyers atop the Atlantic Division.
In a fitting way to cap off "Boom Boom" Geoffrion's big night, Craig Rivet scored the game's only goal when he unloaded a slap shot that would have made Geoffrion - the inventor of hockey's most feared shot - proud with less than three minutes to play in the first period. Rivet blasted a one-timer past Henrik Lundqvist for the veteran defenseman's sixth goal of the season, leaving him just two shy of his career high set in 2001-02.
The Canadiens' leapfrogging over the Lightning is no accident according to the author of the night's lone goal.
"Our attitude, for a while now, has been to look up at the teams ahead of us instead of worrying about who's behind us," said Rivet. "We're playing really solid hockey and we're just a confident group right now."
Rivet believes that the source of that swagger can be traced directly to the Canadiens' crease.
"Huey has just been outstanding and the confidence he's playing with is oozing into the rest of the team," explained Rivet. "We go into every game knowing that he'll come up with the big saves."
Having now strung together back-to-back shutouts since the Canadiens acquired David Aebischer just prior to the trading deadline, Huet couldn't have chosen a better time to catch fire. Despite appropriately picking up his fifth shutout of the season on the night Geoffrion's No.5 was raised to the rafters, Huet made it clear that he doesn't want any part of a goaltending controversy.
"Abby is a great goalie and a competitor too," said Huet after stopping all 26 shots he faced on his way to registering his third shutout over his last six starts. "Right now, I played this game but I know that I'm going to have to earn my job. And besides, I'm sure he's going to be ready to play and that can only be good news for the team."
The Canadiens' penalty killers also did their part in not only helping Huet extend his latest shutout streak to 131:19, but also in muzzling NHL scoring leader Jaromir Jagr. With the Canadiens clinging to their 1-0 lead, the Rangers began the third period with a 5-on-3 advantage that lasted 1:42. With penalty-killing workhorse Steve Begin and Radek Bonk sitting in the box, the Canadiens still survived the Rangers' threat and never looked back.
Lundqvist stopped all but one of Montreal's 24 shots in a losing cause for the visitors.
Next up for the Canadiens is a showdown with the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday night at the Bell Centre.
Notes: "Boom Boom" Geoffrion Night drew a capacity crowd of 21,273, marking the Canadiens' 28th consecutive sellout of the season and 51st straight overall packed house dating back to 2003-04... Not in the Canadiens lineup were D Mark Streit, RW Aaron Downey, former Ranger LW Garth Murray and D Todd Simpson, who was acquired from the Blackhawks on Thursday in exchange for a sixth round draft pick...D Andrei Markov left the game in the second period with back spasms and did not return.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com