Halak pulled, but hardly the lone culprit in defeat

PHILADELPHIA -- The Montreal Canadiens are fully aware that Jaroslav Halak can be better than the performance he put forth on Sunday night.

More importantly, they know he was far from being the lone culprit.

Just like his teammates, Halak struggled in the opening game of the Eastern Conference Final. His night ended prematurely as he allowed four goals on 14 shots and was pulled 9:53 into the second period of Sunday night's 6-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wachovia Center.

Halak was replaced by Carey Price, but that doesn't mean a goaltending controversy is brewing in Montreal. Everyone in the Habs' dressing room is fully confident that Halak will return to solid form when the teams meet for Game 2 on Tuesday night at the Wachovia Center.

In the end, not a single player on Montreal's roster played to his capability. To put the blame solely on Halak's shoulders would be unfair.

"That's the last guy you pin it on," Canadiens center Scott Gomez said. "We're here because of him. We'll never blame him in here."

In a performance eerily similar to Game 1 in the second round against Pittsburgh, Halak was the victim of poor play from both himself and his teammates. He allowed five goals on 20 shots in that 6-3 loss to the Penguins, who went 4-on-4 on the power play and perhaps thought they solved Halak after he denied 131 of the final 134 shots he faced the Round 1 against the Washington Capitals.

But less than 48 hours later after the series-opening loss to the Pens, Halak made 38 saves in a Sunday matinee to help the Canadiens even the series with a 3-1 victory. It's for such reasons that the Flyers know they haven't won anything yet.

"He got pulled in the two other series and he came back pretty strong, so I don't think so," Philadelphia forward Claude Giroux responded when asked if his team got in Halak's head.

The woes for Halak and the Canadiens began early on Sunday night. After the team was whistled for two penalties in the first 2:22, the Habs fell behind when Braydon Coburn whacked a loose puck over the goal line at 3:55 to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead.

Montreal escaped the first period without any further damage, but James van Riemsdyk notched his second goal in as many games just 30 seconds into the second before Danny Briere fired a rocket from the left circle past Halak at 4:23.

Philadelphia made it 4-0 just four seconds before a boarding penalty against Andrei Kostitsyn was set to expire, as Simon Gagne ripped a wrister past the Canadiens' goaltender at 9:53. Looking for a spark, coach Jacques Martin replaced Halak with Carey Price, who allowed a pair of goals in a 73-second span during the third period.

"There's more than just one player on this team," Habs defenseman PK Subban said. "Everybody else could have played a little better today. I'm sure, individually, that guys want to step up and play better. But as a team, we didn't execute the way we wanted to.

"There's a lot of hockey left to be played. It's a good character group in this room and we'll be better for next game."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL