ANAHEIM, Calif. – Jean-Sebastien Giguere has played in tense situations throughout his career, especially while leading Anaheim to two Stanley Cup finals.
But for a kid from Montreal, there still can’t be as much pressure as there is playing against your boyhood team.
Giguere made 20 saves Sunday night in the Ducks’ 3-1 victory over the Canadiens, winning for the 10th time in 12 starts after losing each of his previous five. He’s 3-2 with a tie and a 2.64 goals-against average in six career games against them.
“It’s always special to play against the Montreal Canadiens,” said Giguere, who felt even more at home because of the large contingent of Montreal fans wearing Canadiens jerseys. “I’ve watched them all my life, every game they played, and I still watch them as much as I can when I’m not playing.”
The Ducks’ victory kept Montreal a point behind New Jersey in the race for the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens will face the Devils on Tuesday night at Montreal, having won the last two meetings by one-goal margins after losing 4-0 at New Jersey on Nov. 30.
“I think we dominated the whole game tonight against a really good team, so it was a good sign,” Giguere said. “It’s a bit of a measuring stick for us, obviously, because they’re battling for first place in the East, and we wanted to know what we could do against that conference.”
Chris Kunitz scored the go-ahead goal with 7:24 remaining and Samuel Pahlsson added a short-handed goal 33 seconds later, helping Anaheim win its seventh straight home game and tie a franchise record. The defending Stanley Cup champions were coming off consecutive shutout losses at Chicago and Colorado.
Alex Kovalev scored his 30th goal and Carey Price made 34 saves for the Canadiens, who are 9-17-0 with five ties against reigning NHL champions since winning their last Stanley Cup in 1993.
Anaheim right wing Corey Perry saw his consecutive game streak in the regular season end at 193 games because of an injury that will sideline him for about 4-6 weeks. The Ducks’ leading scorer underwent surgery late Thursday night, just hours after the tendon above his right knee was lacerated by the skate of Colorado goalie Jose Theodore.
The Ducks finished 5-0 against Northeast Division teams. All of those games were played in Anaheim. They allowed a total of three goals in those games – all in the first period.
Defenceman Kent Huskins helped set up the deciding goal by keeping the puck alive at the left point. He dumped it around the boards, and Ryan Getzlaf got possession behind the net before passing it between the legs of Montreal’s Maxim Lapierre and right onto Kunitz’s stick at the left of the crease.
Anaheim’s Rob Niedermayer was sent off for boarding Josh Gorges just 14 seconds later, but it all worked out well for the Ducks as Pahlsson finished off a 2-on-1 break with Scott Niedermayer by beating Price to the glove side with a one-timer from 35 feet. It was Pahlsson’s ninth career short-handed goal, and only the third allowed this season by Montreal.
“It’s tough to give up a goal in the third period. It’s even tougher to give up two, because you know you were so close the whole game,” Price said.
Marchant opened the scoring just 21 seconds after the opening faceoff with a goal that wasn’t official until after a lengthy video replay. Kovalev tied it at 8:44 of the first, reaching the 30-goal mark for the fourth time in 15 NHL seasons while referee Ian Walsh had his arm raised to call a delayed penalty against Scott Niedermayer.
The Canadiens brought the NHL’s most efficient power play into the game against an Anaheim squad that was averaging a league-worst 19.3 penalty minutes. They had four power plays, coming up empty each time. It was just the third time in 15 games that the Habs didn’t get a power-play goal.
The Ducks were 0-for-8 on the power play, making them 2-for-45 against Montreal in their 10 meetings since the start of the 1998-99 season.
“We gave them eight power plays. That means you have to spend a lot of time in your zone and you have to use the same guys all the time,” Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said. “I think we were really hard on Carey by taking those penalties, but he really stood strong. Five-on-five, I think we were pretty close to being better than them.”
Notes: Montreal has been outshot 113-64 in its last three games, but beat Phoenix 4-2 and Los Angeles 5-2 in the other two contests. … Habs C Tomas Plekanec missed his first game this season because of the flu. … Anaheim RW Bobby Ryan, the second overall pick in the 2005 draft, began his third stint with the club this season after getting recalled from Portland of the AHL to replace Perry.