Halak makes 45 saves to help Habs hold off Canucks

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Jaroslav Halak made 45 saves to help the Montreal Canadiens hold off a swarming Vancouver offense and record a 3-2 victory on Tuesday, the hard-fought triumph bringing an end to the Canucks' seven-game winning streak.

The visitors trailed 3-1 before Ryan Kesler scored at 14:10 in the third but Halak stopped 19 shots in the period to allow the Habs to hang on and pick up a first win in four games.

Halak was given a rare start following a loss and made the most of his opportunity.

"I knew that was my first start after I lost a game this season and I didn't change anything," Halak told reporters. "I just wanted to prepare for the game the same way as for the game before and just try and do my best."

Montreal winger Sergei Kostitsyn opened the scoring in the first but Mikael Samuelsson tallied for the Canucks to cancel out the lead.

The Canadiens (26-25-6) took control with 1:56 left in the first on a wrist shot from Maxim Lapierre and Tomas Plekanec doubled the advantage when he scored at 9:14 in the third.

Vancouver (34-19-2), playing their second of a record 14-game road trip to allow for this month's Winter Olympics, dominated the play with a 47-28 shot advantage but were unable to capitalize.

NHL points leader Henrik Sedin attempted four shots but failed to convert any of them, while goaltender Roberto Luongo, who was pulled on Saturday for allowing three first-period goals, conceded another three goals from 28 shots.

Without leading scorer Mike Cammalleri, who is expected to miss six weeks with a knee injury, Montreal got additional help from left wing Benoit Pouliot.

He finished with two assists and has notched 11 goals in 19 games since being traded to the Canadiens from the Minnesota Wild on Nov 23.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien)