MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens' rookies have played like seasoned veterans during the push for the playoffs.
The Canadiens won their second in a row following a 3-2 victory over Toronto on Saturday in which rookie Andrei Kostitsyn scored in regulation before delivering the shootout winner.
Montreal, which has eight games remaining, is in a three-way tie with Toronto and Carolina for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
"We knew there weren't going to be a lot of goals and it was a tight game, so when I scored that goal, I knew it was going to be important," Latendresse said.
The Canadiens have 80 points, one more than the New York Islanders, who hold two games in hand. The Hurricanes and Maple Leafs have each played one fewer game than Montreal.
Latendresse scored his 16th goal with 1:00 remaining in the second on the only one of 32 shots to beat Boston goalie Tim Thomas.
Halak topped Thomas' performance with his second straight win since he was benched after losing four in a row. The 21-year-old Slovak stopped seven shots in the first, nine in the second and 14 in the third for his first shutout in nine games since being recalled from Hamilton of the AHL.
"When he came up, everything was new to him and he just wanted to have fun and play well," Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. "Then he won three in a row and maybe, sometimes you start to feel the pressure and you think differently and you act differently, not because you're cocky but just because of the pressure and the accolades.
"I think for him to sit back and see where he is and what's going on around him, I think now he's better prepared."
Halak gripped the game puck -- which Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek collected and gave to him -- while he spoke to reporters.
"I'm going to keep it," Halak said. "It's going to be a good souvenir for me."
Latendresse slid the puck past Aaron Ward before stepping around the Bruins defenseman. The 19-year-old rookie then put a shot in over Thomas' left shoulder, setting off a huge ovation from the sellout crowd of 21,273 as he was mobbed by teammates.
"It was a good shot," Thomas said. "He shot it from in close to his body where it's not really a shovel, but to get it up from there it's hard to do. When he does, it surprises you. You try and take away as much of the net as you can and then react, and he put it in a hard place to get to."
The Bruins lost their second in a row, including a 7-0 road defeat to the New York Rangers on Saturday, and fell further out of the playoff picture with 73 points and only 10 games remaining.
"That mistake's a killer," Ward said. "I got surprised by a pass, but it's unacceptable to have a guy just kind of walk like that. I got caught in my momentum going to the outside and it was a good play on his part, bottom line."
Montreal outshot Boston 13-9 in the second, yet couldn't solve Thomas, who caught a bit of luck on a glorious scoring chance by Steve Begin.
The Canadiens forward had a wide-open right side, and fired a shot past Thomas' lunging attempt at a glove save. The puck struck the right post before the Bruins goalie covered it up 15:35 into the second.
Thomas got a glove on another scoring chance by Alexei Kovalev moments later, but was finally beaten late in the period after Latendresse put himself in scoring position with a nifty move.
|Jaroslav Halak dives for one of his 30 saves en route to his first NHL shutout. (AP)|
|Montreal (37-31-6) «||0||1||0||1|
Save Pct.: 1.000
Save Pct.: .969
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|19:00||Guillaume Latendresse (16), Slap Shot - Assists: Andrei Kostitsyn, Mike Komisarek|
|12:29||Savard: Hooking - 2 min.|
|16:41||Latendresse: Hooking - 2 min.|
|18:00||Kobasew: Holding - 2 min.|
|05:18||Savard: Slashing - 2 min.|
|08:57||Ference: Hooking - 2 min.|
|SHOTS ON GOAL|
|Attendance - 21273|
|Referees - Kevin Pollock, Don Van Massenhoven|
|Linesmen - Pierre Champoux, Michel Cormier|