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FLA@MTL: Awesome Antti

A spectacular performance from Antti Niemi led the Canadiens to victory on Tuesday night

by Olivier Beauregard. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski. @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

MONTREAL - A power play goal, favorable bounces and the brilliance of Antti Niemi between the pipes helped the Canadiens pick up two more points against the Florida Panthers.

And, when we say that Niemi was brilliant, we really do mean it in every sense of the word.

The 35-year-old Finnish netminder put on a clinic, making one highlight-reel save after another.

Needless to say, Niemi was more than satisfied with his performance on Tuesday night.

"In the last few years, this game is definitely in my Top 10," said Niemi, who made a career-high 52 stops. "I don't think I've ever heard the fans chant my name so loud. It was special. It's good after having some ups and downs to be able to play games like these."

Video: FLA@MTL: Niemi sets career high with 52 saves in win

Head coach Claude Julien was definitely impressed by Niemi's effort, giving him plenty of credit following the final buzzer.

"He was extremely solid tonight. He played a great game. He made good saves at key times. It was because of him that we were able to win the game," said Julien. "For the first two periods, we showed some signs of mental fatigue. There were a few more giveaways tonight, and it was Niemi who saved us."

According to Max Domi, Niemi was without a doubt the top player on the ice.

"It's a huge win. Nemo was by far our best player. He works so hard in practice. He's always the last one to get off the ice, so I'm happy for him," said Domi, who scored his 15th goal of the season in the win.

Video: Antti Niemi on his peformance against Florida

"I think Nemo was a little better than usual," cracked Jesperi Kotkaniemi. "I'm just kidding. He was incredible."

A big win during a tough stretch

Amidst a rather difficult schedule, Julien's troops managed to pick up another win and collect some more precious points.

It was a crucial game, mentioned the Habs' bench boss.

"They're a good team that's having some trouble this year, but it was up to us to be ready tonight," said Julien. "If we lost this game, it would have taken something away from that win in Boston. We want to be as consistent as possible during this second half of the season to earn a playoff spot."

Video: FLA@MTL: Danault buries carom off end boards

"I think all of the goals tonight were important. They're a good team that's fighting to get into the playoffs like we are, and we know that," stressed Domi. "We play hockey to be involved in these types of games."

A jam-packed calendar, though, shouldn't serve as an excuse for coming up short, according to captain Shea Weber.

"Every team has a tough schedule, but you have to find a way to win games. We knew they were going to come out hard in the first period, and we played the night before, too. It took us time to get our game going, but we found a way to win," explained Weber, who scored a power play goal during the contest.

Kotkaniemi just keeps on impressing

Kotkaniemi's goal during the third period really was something special.

Domi's reaction on the bench to the young Finn's sixth tally of the season was a good indicator of that. 

"It's ridiculous. He has so much skill," praised Domi. "He looked like [Pavel] Datsyuk with the way he held the puck. It was a great goal."

Video: Niemi sets career high in 5-1 win over Panthers

Kotkaniemi described the marker as "pretty mint."

"I don't know what happened on the play," said Kotkaniemi. "I had a lot of space and I just put the puck on net."

The Canadiens will be back in action on Friday night in Columbus, before returning home to battle the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

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