|Cristobal Huet turned in a first-star effort against the Hurricanes, turning aside 35 shots.
MONTREAL – Those expecting Cristobal Huet simply to roll out the red carpet for Carey Price
to take over the Canadiens' crease got a rude awakening on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
Despite being bombarded by the Hurricanes, who outshot the Canadiens by a 38-24 mark, Huet was brilliant in making a season-high 35 saves. With the ‘Canes throwing everything but the kitchen sink at him, Huet still stood tall, keeping the game close until Carolina added an empty-netter to seal their 3-1 victory.
“I was just trying to do my job. The important thing was that I kept us in the game and gave us a chance to come back,” said Huet, who survived a 30-8 Carolina edge in shots through 40 minutes. “I felt pretty good out there even though they threw a lot of pucks at me. I’m pleased with my performance tonight, but the two points would have been better that’s for sure.”
While Huet did post a season-opening 3-2 overtime win over the Hurricanes 10 days ago in Carolina, he hardly expected a walk in the park this time around.
“They’re a good team, there’s no denying that,” added Huet, the game’s first star. “They’re a lot like the Senators with the way they move puck and they’re not an easy team to play against.”
The Hurricanes did everything they could to rattle the French netminder, including treating Huet like a cozy beanbag. Early in the first period, Eric Staal flopped into the Habs' crease and sprawled over Huet until Patrice Brisebois grabbed Staal by the scruff of his neck.
“They did all they could to get traffic in front of me, but I was still able to get a good look at the puck,” said Huet, whose night’s work included a spectacular save on Scott Walker late in the third to keep the Canadiens within a goal. “[Walker] did a good job out-waiting me there but he just decided to shoot too soon and I managed to get my skate on it.”
Huet’s circus act against the Hurricanes hardly went unnoticed by newly-minted assistant captain Christopher Higgins.
“What can you say, really? He kept us in there all night even though we practically didn’t play the first two periods,” grunted Higgins, whose first goal of the season did little to brighten his mood. “He was at it again the third period when he made that huge stop to allow us another chance to tie the game up.”
With the week’s headlines being dominated by Price’s big debut, it seems not everyone is ready to look past Huet’s own sparkling credentials.
“With his size and talent, Carey is going to be a hell of a goalie, but I still can’t figure out why no one gives Cristobal the respect he deserves,” shrugged Higgins of Huet, who did play in his first NHL All-Star Game last season. “Since he got here, he’s been our go-to guy. The more important the game, the more confident Cristobal gets and the tougher he is to beat. As far as I’m concerned, the No. 1 job is his until he loses it.”Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com