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Canadiens can't solve Khabibulin

Wednesday, 18.10.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
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Canadiens can\'t solve Khabibulin
Habs' first loss in regulation is first in Chicago since 1999


It was another tight battle for the Habs who, for the fifth time this season, were involved in a one-goal game.

CHICAGO (AP) - Two of Chicago's key offseason acquisitions came through Wednesday night.

Martin Havlat and Bryan Smolinski scored to help the Blackhawks beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1. Havlat and Smolinski were acquired from the Ottawa Senators in a three-team deal in July.

Smolinski put Chicago in front 2-1 just 2 minutes into the third, scoring from the slot after taking Tony Salmelainen's centering pass from behind the net. Jeff Hamilton set up the play by forcing Montreal's Janne Niinimaa to turn over the puck.

"It was a great game and they're a good team that had their chances," Smolinski said. "It doesn't matter who scores, it's still two points."

Havlat recorded his seventh goal and NHL-leading 13th point for Chicago (4-2-0), but was held to one point in a game for the first time this season. He's tied for the league goal-scoring lead with Buffalo's Chris Drury and the Rangers' Brendan Shanahan.

"I think every win gives you more confidence," Havlat said. "We're were very happy to get the second goal. Tony Salmelainen made a great play and 'Smoke' was in the right place at the right time.

"Then we controlled the game defensively, which was pretty good."

After Smolinski scored, the Blackhawks held on and handed the Canadiens (3-1-2) their first regulation loss. Nikolai Khabibulin had 28 stops for Chicago.

Christopher Higgins, the Canadiens' leading scorer, recorded his fourth goal and David Aebischer made 21 saves for Montreal.

The Blackhawks survived the final 1:58 of the third playing short-handed. Aebischer was on the bench for a sixth attacker for the final 57 seconds.

"I think at the end we had a couple of good chances to tie the game," Aebischer said. "I mean it's 2-1 and we had a power play there.

"I had to make a couple of good stops to keep it close and give us a chance to tie the game."

Havlat put the Blackhawks in front just 49 seconds in. Carrying the puck down the right wing, he skirted past the Montreal defense and cut toward the net. Havlat then slid an off-speed backhand shot between Aebischer's legs.

"I was trying to get it on the forehand and it slipped," Havlat said.

Higgins tied it with 2:04 left in the first, just two seconds after a Montreal power play expired. After Khabibulin stopped Higgins' first shot from the left circle, he fired in the rebound from a sharp angle.

"I think we had more quality chances than they did," Higgins said. "But we didn't bury our chances early."

The Canadiens outshot the Blackhawks 9-4 in a scoreless second and forced Khabibulin to make several close-in saves.

Notes: Higgins has points in five of Montreal's first six games. .. The Canadiens, who defeated Calgary 5-4 in Montreal on Tuesday, didn't hold a game-day skate Wednesday morning. .. Montreal D Mathieu Dandenault missed the game with a thigh injury. Canadiens F Aaron Downey sat out with a concussion. Both are out indefinitely. .. Chicago forwards Denis Arkhipov and Reed Low were healthy scratches.

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