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Halak to start in net for Canadiens

by Dan Rosen
WASHINGTON -- He might have trouble convincing the massive fan base in La Belle Province, but Montreal center Glen Metropolit said Friday morning that the Canadiens collectively believe they should beat the Washington Capitals because they're playing better than them in this series.

"You watch the games. We're probably winning two out of every three periods, but that one period is the difference," Metropolit said. "We have to play better for 60 minutes and if we do we will beat them. We feel like we're the better team."

If that's the case, the better team is making a goaltending switch for the second time in a series that Washington leads, 3-1. Jaroslav Halak will be back in the Canadiens' net for Game 5 at Verizon Center (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN) for the first time since he was pulled halfway through Game 3.

Halak has allowed nine goals on 50 shots since a scintillating effort in Game 1, when he made 45 saves in a 3-2 overtime victory. He's given up seven goals on the last 27 shots he's faced dating to Nicklas Backstrom's goal late in the second period of Game 2.

That one started the Capitals' comeback from a 4-1 deficit and they haven't slowed down since. Halak was pulled after giving up three goals on four shots in a span of 7:27 early in the second period of Game 3.

"Your goaltender has to be your best player," Metropolit said. "I think he'll be ready. He wants to take over again tonight."

Carey Price allowed four goals on 36 shots in Game 4 and then let his frustrations get the better of him when he committed a pair of unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties after Washington took command of the game in the third period.

Montreal coach Jacques Martin said Price's penalties had nothing to do with the decision to go back to Halak.

"When you look at Jaro's record in the last stretch after the Olympics, we had to win some big games and he came through," Martin said. "I pulled him the other night not because he was bad, but because I wanted to change the momentum of the hockey game. This gives him another opportunity. He won the first game for us in here so it's a good opportunity to come back with him."

Halak was 9-3-3 after the Olympics, but he won only three of his last nine starts.

"We're confident in his ability to come back and have a big game for us," Michael Cammalleri said.

The Habs also have to help him out by clearing the area in front of him. Washington has made a point of crashing the net to frustrate the goalies and even hit them on occasion. And with Halak, Alex Ovechkin believes that's magnified because, "he leaves lots of rebounds."

"We can't allow crease crashing," Cammalleri said. "If they want to get to our goalie they should have to go through a healthy dose of synergy to get there."

Cammalleri was especially honest when asked about the team's confidence heading into Game 5.

"I think that is to be determined," he said. "I'd like to see us get a good start and put some doubt (in the Caps) and show we're here to battle and win a game."

Washington understands the kind of desperation the Habs are going to play with. They were down 3-1 in the first-round in each of the past two seasons. They managed to force Game 7 both times, and won it last season against the New York Rangers.

"We have to stay focused and we have to learn how to close a series, I think," Backstrom said. "That's our biggest goal tonight. I think we have been doing good, but it's so important right now to close it."

It's up to Halak to make sure that doesn't happen.

"It's do or die," Metropolit said. "We have had a long year together and we don't want it to end like this."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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