MONTREAL – Cristobal Huet stopped two of three shots in the shootout and Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu converted their opportunities against Florida’s Alex Auld, leading the Montreal Canadiens to a 1-0 win over the Panthers on Tuesday night.

Both goalies kept the game scoreless through regulation as Auld recorded his second career shutout, and first in more than three years, despite losing the game.

Kovalev shot first for Montreal, beating Auld with a backhander. After Ville Peltonen scored on Florida’s opener for the only shot to get by Huet all night, Koivu scored on the Canadiens’ second shot.

Huet stopped Olli Jokkinen and Joe Nieuwendyk on the Panthers’ final two shots, drawing a huge cheer from the sellout crowd of 21,273.

The French goalie recorded his sixth straight win and his second shutout of the season, reducing his goals-against average to 1.93 and raising his save percentage to .943, both NHL bests.

Huet, who won 4-0 in Carolina on Nov. 2, made 36 saves overall, including 13 in the first period, 14 in the third and two in overtime.

Auld earned his first shutout with Florida and the Panthers’ first of the season. Auld, who made his fourth start in five games, had gone 90 games since recording his first career shutout on March 23, 2003, with Vancouver against Washington.

He stopped all 37 shots he faced in regulation, including 18 in the second, and two more in overtime.

Montreal, which lost 4-2 to Philadelphia on Saturday, has yet to lose consecutive games this season.

Florida has lost four straight and nine of 11.

Michael Ryder, who missed the Canadiens’ third chance in the shootout, had several good chances during the game, including a backhander that beat Auld but went just wide of the left post with just more than 1 minute remaining in the third and a shot wide of the right post in overtime.

Stephen Weiss had the Panthers’ best scoring chance in regulation early in the second.

Huet made a pad save on Weiss’ backhander on a partial breakaway, then caught a break when the Panthers’ center recovered his own rebound in the right corner and circled back in front before hitting the right post 3:15 into the middle period.

Notes: Panthers RW Juraj Kolnik did not accompany the team for its two-game Canadian trip because of a groin injury. … Florida D Mike Van Ryn returned to the lineup after missing two games because of the flu. … Panthers D Bryan Allen and Montreal’s Garth Murray fought midway through the first. … Canadiens D Janne Niinimaa was a healthy scratch for the fifth time in six games. RW Aaron Downey didn’t dress for the fifth game in a row.

AP-ES-11-28-06 2226EST


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