Canadiens' Garon leaves Caps empty-handed in 2-0 defeat

He earns 25 saves

team winless in 5 vs. Montreal

Hockey

February 10, 2003|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Montreal goalie Mathieu Garon, playing in his first game of the season and only the 17th NHL game of his career, didn't want to do too much last night. His team had lost four straight and he didn't want to contribute to the skid.

"I just kept telling myself to keep it simple," said Garon, who made 25 saves in a 2-0 victory over the Washington Capitals at MCI Center. "I looked out on the ice and I saw [Peter] Bondra and then [Jaromir] Jagr coming at me. You can see it right away at the beginning of the game that every shot is going to be pretty dangerous."

Garon, 25, had been the third man out in Montreal, where two top-of-the-line goalies, Jeff Hackett and Jose Theodore, were enthroned. Though he had had a record-setting year last season in the American Hockey League and this NHL preseason was 3-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage, he could not break into the rotation.

At least not until Montreal traded Hackett to Boston and Theodore lost four straight games.

"I hadn't played a game in three weeks," said Garon, whose shutout moved Montreal within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. "But then I made the first save and that was key. I felt better, felt like I could give the team a chance to win. Then, every time I made a another save, I felt my confidence growing and then my guys played a simple game in front of me and when they got a chance to score, they did."

A very simple game, unless you were the Washington Capitals, and even then, in post-game analysis it was simple to see what happened.

The Southeast Division-leading Capitals, who have a five-game winless streak against Montreal, saw opportunity knocking. The Canadiens, playing their third game in four days, were a tired team, without several key players including Patrice Brisebois, who was sent home due to chest pains after Saturday night's loss in Toronto, and a team relying on an inexperienced goalie.

"Their game is skating and puck handling," said Capitals coach Bruce Cassidy. "We didn't get them out of their game. We didn't do a lot physically against them and we needed to have something happen - a big hit or something. But it just didn't happen."

The Capitals broke down on several plays, giving Montreal's quick forwards free rein for several offensive attacks. A turnover eventually led to Canadiens leading scorer Saku Koivu's blast that cleared Olie Kolzig's right shoulder for the game's first goal with 2:06 left in the second period. Then former Capital Jan Bulis scored at 6:20 of the third.

"It was a tough night for everyone," said Jagr. "The passing [was off], a lot of bouncing pucks. ... I had the feeling if we got one, we'd get the second one and win. ... But [Garon] was good. He stopped everything."

On his way out of the building, Koivu smiled.

"In our last three or four games we haven't been at our best physically or mentally," he said. "Tonight, we played smart ... kept our third man high. It was a pretty easy game. And it was inspirational to have Garon, a young backup goalie, in there. It was one of the best games I've seen a goalie play. He stood up with an answer for everything they shot at him."

Montreal 0 1 1 - 2

Washington 0 0 0 - 0

First period - None. Penalty-Zubrus, Was (holding), 15:40.

Second period - 1, Montreal, Koivu 16 (Zednik, Petrov), 17:54. Penalties - Gilmour, Mon (ob.-hooking), 1:03; Miller, Was (cross-checking), 6:47; Dackell, Mon (interference), 13:33.

Third period - 2, Montreal, Bulis 11 (Gilmour), 6:20. Penalties - None.

Shots on goal - Montreal 10-6-8-24. Washington 10-9-6-25. Power-play opportunities - Montreal 0 of 2; Washington 0 of 2. Goalies - Montreal, Garon 1-0-0 (25 shots-25 saves). Washington, Kolzig 22-16-5 (24-22). A - 16,814 (18,277). T-2:07.

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