Cristobal Huet earned his first shutout of the season and his 10th in a Canadiens uniform.
MONTREAL – A quiet man of few words, Cristobal Huet's message was loud and clear. Unhappy with his performance Saturday against Toronto, Huet returned to the net with a vengeance Monday night, much to the dismay of the Buffalo Sabres.
Huet turned aside all 29 shots that came his way, earning his first shutout of the season. In keeping the Sabres at bay, the Canadiens’ netminder lowered his goals-against average to 2.08 and improved his save percentage to 0.929, moving him into the top 10 in the league.
It was the 10th time Huet has blanked the opposition as a Canadien, making him the 14th goaltender in franchise history to reach that mark.
“I had a good feeling,” said Huet. “I wanted to send my teammates a message and let them know that I could rebound after feeling like I let them down last game.”
He proved just that in the first period, denying the Sabres as they held a 9-1 shot advantage midway through the frame and 16-8 after the first twenty minutes. While he was working his way toward first star honors, Huet – as he always does – was quick to give credit to the guys in front of him.
“[The Sabres] got a lot of shots but there was always one of our guys there to clear any rebounds before they could get a second chance,” explained Huet. “The guys played well in front me. I saw the puck well tonight.”
And while he’s not one to pat himself on the back, his teammates are more than happy to do it for him.
“That’s Cristobal. He wants to be perfect every night,” pointed out Patrice Brisebois. “He always wants to make a difference in the game. Even if he didn’t play badly on Saturday against Toronto, I think he wanted to make up for one of the goals he let in. That shows his character.”
He wasn’t the only one to show character. As the game drew to a close, the Canadiens held on for their goaltender, pushing aside the memory of the Oct. 16 game against the Panthers, when Huet lost his shutout bid with 10 seconds remaining in the third period.
“It’s not something you necessarily think about in the heat of the moment, but we definitely tightened up the game to hold on to that one-goal lead,” admitted Brisebois. “We got into the shooting lanes. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice your body to win.”
Some may have questioned Guy Carbonneau’s decision to return to his veteran goalie for the matchup, but those critics were quickly silenced.
“He did exactly what we were hoping he would,” said Carbonneau. “There were plenty of skeptics when I said yesterday that I was going with Cristobal again. It’s great to see that the right decision was made. I think I’ll give myself a little pat on the back before going to bed tonight.”
Huet certainly earned the right to do do as his coach. Asked if he felt it was his best performance of the season so far, the answer was simple.
"I haven't taken notes of my past games," he said with a laugh.
While that may be the case, this is one he likely won't soon forget.