Cristobal Huet didn’t start the season as a No. 1 goalie, but he’s transformed himself into one of the best netminders in the league.
Huet recorded his sixth shutout of the season Tuesday, stopping 36 shots in Montreal’s 2-0 win over the New York Islanders. The victory was the fourth straight for the Canadiens, who are tied with Tampa Bay and New Jersey for sixth in the Eastern Conference, five points ahead of ninth-place Atlanta.
Montreal won five in a row from Oct. 31-Nov. 8.
“He’s just been incredible for us. What else can you say really?” said rookie Chris Higgins, who scored his third goal in two games. “Huey is seeing the puck so well it’s like he’s stopping a beach ball out there.”
All six of Huet’s shutouts have come since he earned the starting job on Feb. 2 over Jose Theodore, who was traded to Colorado for David Aebischer earlier this month. Entering Wednesday’s games, Huet ranked second in the NHL with a 2.09 goals against average and first in the league with a .930 save percentage.
“I certainly didn’t expect this from Cristobal at the start of the season,” coach Bob Gainey said. “At one point I thought he was simply overachieving, because we really didn’t know all that much about him. But his recent performances have proven exactly what he’s capable of.”
Radek Bonk added his fourth goal in three games with an empty-net score for the Canadiens, and Koivu picked up his sixth assist in four games.
“Things are really clicking for us,” said Higgins, who has four goals and two assists in his last four games. “It was great to see it (Higgins’ goal) go in, but I never thought it would have stood up. The way Huey’s going right now, I shouldn’t be so surprised.”
The Capitals beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 on Wednesday, winning consecutive games for the first time since March 6-8. Washington also beat Carolina on Saturday, and will face the Southeast Division leaders three more times in a span of five days next week.
Matt Bradley scored his first two goals since Jan. 13, and Alexander Ovechkin got his 48th goal, moving within three of the third-best total for a first-year player (Joe Nieuwendyk, 1987-88). Teemu Selanne holds the NHL rookie records with 76 goals and 132 points, set in 1992-93.
“It’s just one of those things,” Johnson said. “They get a lot of shots to the net, and they crash and you’ve just got to keep their rebounds away from their guys going to the net.”