The goaltender who sprang seemingly from nowhere last season to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a playoff spot made 36 saves Wednesday in a 4-2 victory over the injury-riddled Minnesota Wild. After an indifferent start to the season, the French goalkeeper has posted wins in his last four starts, in which he allowed only seven goals. "It's a question of time and work and doing the little things," said Huet, "They were missing some good players but they came on in the second period really hard.
"I tried to keep the team in the game and make them work hard to get a goal."
Radek Bonk scored the game-winner at 12:33 of the third period to break a tie and Mike Komisarek added an empty-net goal with 24 seconds left to play to give Montreal (12-5-3) it's fourth win in five games.
The Wild (12-8-1), who played without injured stars Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik and speedy forward Wes Walz but still outshot Montreal 38-35, are 3-7-1 in their last 11 games after starting the season 9-1-0.
"With the injuries, everybody has to step up," said Wild forward Stephane Veilleux. "We did that, we had a great effort, but the bounces didn't go our way in the third period."
The Wild disputed Bonk's game-winner, in which he pushed the puck in while it lay under goaltender Niklas Backstrom's glove. The Wild felt the play should have been whistled dead.
"It was a really bad call," said Backstrom. "I thought the puck was under me. I couldn't see it, but nobody else could either."
Alex Kovalev and Steve Begin scored in the first period for Montreal, but the Wild outshot Montreal 22-7 in the second and tied the game on goals from Vielleux and Pascal Dupuis.
The game featured only the second ever NHL meeting between Saku Koivu, the Canadiens captain, and Wild sophomore Mikko Koivu, who was called for interfering with his older brother in the first period but didn't figure in the scoring.
It also saw referees Wes McCauley and Mick McGeough hand out three diving minors - one to Montreal and two to the Wild.
"I looked at the video 10 times and I know (centre Tomas Plekanec) didn't dive," said coach Guy Carbonneau. "But at least when they saw theirs, they called it.
"I know they want to get rid of (diving), but it's tough. There's a borderline there. We'll just have to live with it."
Huet did some diving to make spectacular saves, including three in succession during a Wild power play in the second period that had the crowd of 21,273 in full roar. Many fans feel Huet has become one of the league's top goaltenders.
Bonk says it is too soon to tell.
"He's playing like one of the best, but I don't think you can say that after only a couple of seasons (as a starter in the NHL)," said Bonk. "But he's establishing himself as one of the best."
Coach Guy Carbonneau has been loathe to name a No. 1 goalie, but with Huet having to come on in relief in David Aebischer's last two starts, he's likely to see the bulk of the work.
"He's good now, that's all I can say, and he's probably going to be in the net again in Buffalo (on Friday night)," Carbonneau said of Huet.
Huet and Bonk were obtained in a trade with Los Angeles for goalie Mathieu Garon and a draft pick in 2004. Huet had been mostly a back-up in L.A., and became a starter only when Jose Theodore faltered before Montreal traded him to Colorado last season.
Huet led the NHL with a .929 save percentage and had seven shutouts for Montreal in 2005-06.
Kovalev opened the scoring during a two-man advantage 11:36 into the game when he finished a three-way cycle with Saku Koivu and Michael Ryder.
Begin tipped Mathieu Dandenault's point shot past Backstrom at 14:04.
The Wild finally got one past Huet when Veilleux's shot from the right circle went in off Komisarek at 13:31 of the second period.
After a long run of pressure in the Montreal zone, Dupuis put a wrist shot inside the near post to tie the game at 18:27.
Plekanec, reunited on the second line with Kovalev and Sergei Samsonov, was called for diving in the first period. He gets an automatic US$1,000 fine for his second diving offence this season. A third call brings a hearing with the league and a possible suspension.
The Wild's Mark Parrish and goaltender Backstrom were both hit for diving and will get warning letters from the NHL.
Benoit Pouliot, the fourth overall pick of 2005, made his NHL debut for Minnesota. He was called up Tuesday from Houston.
The Wild, 5-3 losers in Ottawa on Monday, completed a two-game Canadian swing and return home to face Phoenix on Friday.
Notes - Demitra, who suffered a head injury from an Anton Volchenkov check Monday in Ottawa, sat out along with Walz, who has a bad hip and Gaborik, out since Oct. 21 with a groin injury. Tough guy Derek Boogaard is on injured reserve with a bad ankle. . . Montreal defenceman Francis Bouillon returned from a knee injury for his first game of the season. He played the first period on right wing before moving back to defence. Janne Niinimaa and Aaron Downey were scratched.