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Canadiens 1, Panthers 0, SO @NHL

MONTREAL (AP) -Alex Auld waited a long time for his second career shutout, and was left with a hollow feeling afterward.

Cristobal Huet stopped two of three shots in the shootout and Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu converted their opportunities against Auld, leading the Montreal Canadiens to a 1-0 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

Both goalies kept the game scoreless through regulation as Auld recorded his first shutout in more than three years despite losing the game.

"I never thought I'd get a shutout without a win," Auld said. "It's kind of crazy."

Auld joined Miikka Kiprusoff, the only other goalie to record a shutout in a loss. Kiprusoff was the loser in Philadelphia's 1-0 shootout win over Calgary on Dec. 6, 2005, the first scoreless game in NHL history to be decided in that manner.

"It's frustrating, I guess, but at the same time we're playing better and we're that close, and we've got to keep that in mind and realize that a goal here and there can really make a difference for us," said Auld, who lost 1-0 in Atlanta on Saturday.

Kovalev shot first for Montreal, beating Auld with a backhander. After Ville Peltonen scored on Florida's opener for the only shot to get by Huet all night, Koivu deked Auld before scoring on the Canadiens' second shot.

"After Kovy went, I was kind of able to see how he played it," Koivu said. "I had a chance to go either backhand or bring it back to my forehand, and he slid across after my first move so I just decided to come back."

Huet stopped Olli Jokinen and Joe Nieuwendyk on the Panthers' final two shots, drawing a huge cheer from the sellout crowd of 21,273.

"You don't think about the shutout because it's so tight," Huet said. "You think about the win."

The French goalie recorded his sixth straight win and second shutout of the season, reducing his goals-against average to 1.93 and raising his save percentage to .943, both NHL bests.

Huet, who won 4-0 in Carolina on Nov. 2, made 36 saves overall, including 13 in the first period, 14 in the third and two in overtime.

Auld earned his first shutout with Florida and the Panthers' first of the season. Auld, who made his fourth start in five games, had gone 90 games since recording his first career shutout on March 23, 2003, with Vancouver against Washington.

"We ran into some hot goalies the last couple of games and sometimes that happens," Auld said.

He stopped all 39 shots he faced in regulation and overtime, including 18 in the second.

"The goalies played well and even if there were over 30 shots for both teams," Koivu said, "I don't think either one of the teams really had that many great chances. We had two posts and they had two posts, but other than that I think it was a pretty even-up, tight-checking game for both teams."

Montreal, which lost 4-2 to Philadelphia on Saturday, has yet to lose consecutive games this season.

Florida has lost four straight and nine of 11.

Michael Ryder, who missed the Canadiens' third chance in the shootout, had several good chances during the game, including a backhander that beat Auld but went just wide of the left post with just more than 1 minute remaining in the third and a shot wide of the right post in overtime.

Stephen Weiss had the Panthers' best scoring chance in regulation early in the second.

Huet made a pad save on Weiss' backhander on a partial breakaway, then caught a break when the Panthers' center recovered his own rebound in the right corner and circled back in front before hitting the right post 3:15 into the middle period.

"We just couldn't buy one, again," Weiss said. "We're doing some good things, we just have to keep at it and eventually they'll start going in."

Notes: Panthers RW Juraj Kolnik did not accompany the team for its two-game Canadian trip because of a groin injury. ... Florida D Mike Van Ryn returned to the lineup after missing two games because of the flu. ... Panthers D Bryan Allen and Montreal's Garth Murray fought midway through the first. ... Canadiens D Janne Niinimaa was a healthy scratch for the fifth time in six games. RW Aaron Downey didn't dress for the fifth game in a row.

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