Two days before training camp opened, Arturs Irbe was a goaltender without a team. Discarded by the Vancouver Canucks after last season, the Carolina Hurricanes signed Irbe and have watched him become an All-Star.
Irbe was in top form Saturday, when he made 44 saves to lead the Hurricanes, who managed a franchise low 10 shots, to a 3-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens.
"In Vancouver, I didn't really get a chance to become the No. 1," Irbe said. "I don't think Mike (Keenan, then the Canucks coach) believed in me. My winning record didn't mean a thing."
"I was really worried about what was going to happen after last year."
Irbe's performance Saturday made believers out of the Canadiens. He made several big stops early to keep his team in the game.
"We played 30 minutes of impeccable hockey," said Canadiens coach Alain Vigneault. "We weren't able to put one past him."
After being outshot 14-2 in the first period, Carolina scored two power-play goals in 48 seconds in the second period.
Paul Coffey opened the scoring at 9:07 when he beat goaltender Jeff Hackett with a hard slap shot on a two-man advantage. Sami Kapanen, who has 11 points in 11 games, and Ron Francis, who as eight assists in seven games set up the goal.
With a one-man advantage, Robert Kron scored his first by deflecting defenseman Marek Malik's point shot to make it 2-0.
Kron extended the Carolina lead to 3-0 at 15:01, when he took a cross-ice pass from Ray Sheppard and went around Stephane Quintal before beating Hackett with a high wrist shot.
"There are games where you have 10 shots and you can't score," said Kron, who has eight goals. "And there are some where you are in the right spot at the right time and it works."
From there it was all Irbe, who stole the win for the Hurricanes after they were outshot 18-0 in the third.
Martin Rucinsky broke Irbe's shutout with his 12th goal on a third-period power play.
"Sometimes as a goaltender you have to win one for the team," Irbe said. "And you have to give credit to (Montreal). They were flying and forechecking really well. We haven't seen a team like that in a while. But our guys scored when we had the chances."
The 10 shots allowed set a franchise low for Montreal. Frederic Chabot replaced Hackett to start the third period and didn't have to make a save.
Montreal has lost three of its past four, scoring only four goals in those games.
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