Canadiens Saku Koivu puts it past Panthers goalie Alex Auld in a shootout. (CP PHOTO/Ian Barrett)
The Montreal goaltender made 36 stops, including a spectacular save on Mike Van Ryn in overtime, as the Canadiens won in a shootout for a 1-0 victory and spoiled a 39-save performance from Auld. Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu scored for Montreal in the shootout, but only Ville Peltonen could beat Huet as Montreal (14-6-3) posted a fourth win in its last five games. Until then, the goalies matched each other save for save.
"It's not a direct competition between us, but at the same time, I don't want to be the first one to give up a goal," said Huet, who has been on fire in the past month.
"You try hard to be as good as the other goaltender."
The Panthers (8-13-5) have only two wins in their last 11 games, including a 5-1 win over Montreal last week in Florida.
Both goalies were credited with shutouts - Huet's second of the season and 13th of his career and Auld's first of the campaign and second overall.
Auld became only the second goalie to post a shutout through three periods and a five-minute overtime only to be beaten in a shootout. Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff suffered the same fate in a 1-0 shootout loss to Philadelphia on Dec. 6, 2005.
"I never thought I'd get a shutout without a win," said Auld. "It's kind of crazy."
The Panthers were coming off a 1-0 loss in regulation time Saturday to the Atlanta Thrashers in which Auld made 27 saves.
"I've been feeling good and I have to keep that going," added Auld, now 4-8-3 for the season. "I think the wins will come if we keep working hard.
"We ran into some great goaltenders in the last couple of games. Sometimes, that happens."
Huet had won his last six starts, in which he has allowed only eight goals. His goals-against average has fallen to 1.93 and his save per centatge to .943 - both best in the NHL.
"I don't look at the past, I only look at what's ahead," added Huet, who had seven shutouts in a breakout 2005-06 season. "Right now, we're moving up the standings."
The Canadiens' 71st consecutive sellout crowd of 21,273 saw the home team struggle through the first 30 minutes before picking up the pace and matching Florida's chances.
In the shootout, Kovalev scored first on a deke to the backhand, but Peltonen matched it with a high shot from in close. Koivu deked to the forehand to score, but Olli Jokinen was stopped in a bid to go five-hole.
Michael Ryder and Joe Nieuwendyk were both stopped on their teams' final chances.
"We haven't scored in the last two games, but Alex gave us a chance to win," said Jokinen. "If he keeps playing like that, we'll win a lot of games this year."
Auld and Huet both heard the ping of pucks hitting their goalposts.
Four minutes into the opening period, Guillaume Latendresse drilled a shot off the post on a rush, while Panthers' players Stephen Weiss and Rostislav Olesz hit pipes in the second frame.
And both goalies made their share of big saves, as Florida outshot Montreal 13-8 in the first frame and the Canadiens had an 18-11 advantage in the second.
Both teams went all out for goals in the third, as Chris Gratton ripped a shot that went off Huet's glove and over the net and Tomas Plekanec was stoned by Auld on a solo rush to the net.
Michael Ryder, who has one goal in his last 14 games, backhanded one just by the post late in the third. Sergei Samsonov had several chances, but went a 13th game without scoring.
The save of the night came in overtime, as Huet shot out a blocker to stop Van Ryn's drive from the slot.
"We all though that was the game right there," said Auld.
On Thursday night, the Panthers will try to get a goal in Ottawa while Montreal plays at Carolina. Montreal, beaten 4-2 at home by Philadelphia on Saturday, has not lost two games in a row this season.
Notes - Olesz returned for Florida after a four-game stint with AHL Rochester, while F Rob Grobke was also recalled. F Juraj Kolnik (groin) missed a fourth game. D Joel Kwiatkowski and D Ric Jackman didn't play. . . Montreal sat out D Janne Niinimaa and F Aaron Downey.