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Canadiens 2, Panthers 0 @NHLdotcom

MONTREAL (AP) -Jaroslav Halak came up with the performance the Montreal Canadiens needed to avoid their longest home losing streak in nine years.

Halak made 38 saves for his second shutout, and Montreal beat the Florida Panthers 2-0 on Thursday night for its first home win in a month.

Halak recorded his sixth NHL shutout and improved to 6-1 in his last seven starts, including a 5-4 win at Florida in his previous outing one week earlier. He is 4-0 overall against the Panthers.

"We've got four games at home and we knew that this was a big game for us because this team was following us and we need to keep them there," Halak said. "Every game we play at home we need to play better, as we did tonight, because at home we're not even a .500 team" (10-10-2).

Benoit Pouliot, who scored the winning goal in Florida, netted his fourth in six games late in the first. Brian Gionta scored into an empty net with 35.9 seconds left, moments after Halak stopped Jordan Leopold's shot from the slot.

"Jaro's been playing outstanding for us lately," Pouliot said. "He gets so many shots on net and he finds a way to stop everything."

The Canadiens, who have scored three times in their last three home games, ended a four-game losing streak at the Bell Centre, avoiding their longest skid in Montreal since the 2000-01 season.

Tomas Vokoun stopped 37 shots for Florida, which has lost five of six, including a 3-2 defeat at Toronto on Tuesday despite taking an early 2-0 lead.

"You don't get points in this league for playing good games," Panthers center Stephen Weiss said. "We've got to find a way to put the pucks in the net and get results and get points. The effort was there. We played well enough to at least get a point and maybe win the hockey game but we just couldn't pull it out."

The Canadiens took a 1-0 lead with 12.1 seconds remaining in the first. Pouliot fired a wrist shot from the left circle past Vokoun's glove into the top left corner. Pouliot had taken a pass from Scott Gomez, who had carried the puck down the left side.

The Canadiens had a potential goal waved off midway through the first by referee Brad Meier, who announced that linesman Brad Meier had signaled a delayed offside. The whistle blew, stopping play after the puck took an odd bounce toward the net on a dump-in.

Mike Cammalleri put a rebound off the end boards just wide of the right post earlier in the opening period while the Canadiens held a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:40.

Vokoun kept the Panthers within one in the second when he stuck out his left pad to get a piece of Glen Metropolit's shot, which caromed off the right post. Vokoun gloved Cammalleri's wrist shot from the right circle earlier in the second.

"He's a good goaltender and he gives us a chance to win every night," forward Nathan Horton said. "We didn't help him out."

NOTES: Weiss, who leads the Panthers with 18 goals, failed to score for a sixth straight game. ... Vokoun was drafted 226th overall by Montreal in 1994. He appeared in one game with the Canadiens on Feb. 6, 1997, allowing four goals in his NHL debut before he was pulled after the first period of a 9-5 loss in Philadelphia. ... Montreal, which hadn't won at home since a 3-1 victory over Philadelphia on Dec. 7, avoided its longest home losing streak since losing seven in a row from Oct. 28-Nov. 25, 2000. ... Canadiens D Ryan O'Byrne missed his third straight game because of family matters.

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