Jaroslav Halak continues to save the day for the Montreal Canadiens.
The hottest goaltender in the NHL not only notched his fourth victory in a row, but he had to make 40 or more saves for the fourth consecutive game to keep his streak alive.
This time around, Halak made a career-tying 47 saves to earn a 3-2 overtime victory against the rival Toronto Maple Leafs before 19,250 fans at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday.
Montreal's Andrei Kostitsyn played the role of overtime hero with a shot from the slot 34 seconds into the extra period.
But if not for Halak, the Canadiens never would have reached overtime. The Leafs outshot their opponents 49-23 overall and 33-13 in the final two periods of regulation time.
"Usually in games like this, you try to run out of the building," said Montreal centre Scott Gomez, who gave his team a 1-0 lead on the power play early in the first period. "What can you say, [Halak's] in a groove.
"You don't want to see your team give up that many shots, but at the same time you'll take it."
Halak has surrendered only six goals in his past four games.
His save totals in this stretch read: 40 against the New York Islanders in a 3-0 win on Dec. 19; 47 saves in a 4-3 come-from-behind overtime victory against the Atlanta Thrashers on Dec. 21; 46 at the Carolina Hurricanes in a 5-1 win last Monday; and another 47 against the Leafs.
This gives Halak a .968 save percentage (180 of 186).
"As long as we keep winning, I don't care how many shots I face," the 24-year-old said. "I don't care if we get outshot."
How long can Halak keep this up? After all, whispers this month suggested that Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey has been shopping Halak around because he becomes a free agent in the summer.
"We'll see how long," Halak said. "I don't know."
The Leafs had a glorious chance to win the game in the dying seconds or regulation, but Phil Kessel drove his shot from in close wide of the goal.
"Maybe we got a little lucky with that shot," Halak said.
Kessel has gone five games without a goal after scoring 13 times and piling up 21 points in his first 22 games in a Toronto sweater.
The victory propelled the Canadiens back among the top eight in the Eastern Conference standings.
This Montreal streak coincides with the return of defenceman Andrei Markov, who was injured in the third period of the season opener at the ACC, when a tendon on his left foot was sliced by the skate of Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
Markov especially has boosted the Montreal power play. The Canadiens added another man-advantage goal in the first period against the Leafs and now have gone 9-for-15 on the power play since Markov's return.
After the Gomez goal on the power play, the Canadiens went up 2-0 just 54 seconds later when Andrei Kostitsyn scored on a breakaway. It was the 18th time this season the Leafs fell behind 2-0 in a game.
They also have gone 0-for-7 in overtime this season.
"Obviously, [Halak] played a great game," said Leafs coach Ron Wilson, whose team visits the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. "He kept them in there after the first period."
The two-goal lead was not enough for the Canadiens. After the Leafs failed to score during a 78-second 5-on-3 advantage in the first period, Toronto defenceman Ian White drifted in a shot from the point in the middle period and Jason Blake was credited for a goal-mouth scramble goal early in the third period.
This was fourth of six games between Montreal and Toronto this season and the 700th all-time regular-season meeting between the long-time rivals. This season, Canadiens have won each of their three games in extra time.